For the past few years, well more like 15 years, I have written a column entitled Englishman in Dubrovnik. This one however, could well bear the title of Englishman in England. Yes, I am back in the land of my forefathers. Back in the land that shaped me. Back in the land that educated me.
It’s a little bit of a flying visit, and “end of season” week in the rolling green hills of the English countryside. I feels a little like being in the middle of an episode of Midsummer Murder, in fact I believe they filmed the serial in very similar surroundings. Every village has its pub, its church, its Post Office and its pond. And every village looks like it has been cut from the pages of a nature calendar.
Of course the local pub is the hub. It’s a place to meet friends, exchange gossip, even exchange recipes…yes this is medieval Facebook. In fact, the pub in my mother’s village has recently been sold. And this highlights the prices of real estate in England, well away from London, and Dubrovnik. The building is a 17th century pub on two floors with around 450m² plus a large garden area, another building in the garden which serves as a café/club/cinema and parking. It has a large kitchen, bar area, small restaurant and lounge as well as two apartments upstairs for Booking.com guests, plus an apartment for the owners to live in.
So the new owners basically bought a working business, or several businesses, a pub, a restaurant, a café and two apartments. And the final price was…£280,000 or about 315,000 Euros. Not bad! Just work out the price per metre squared and you’ll be in tears. OK, the same pub in London would be twice the price, but it still puts Dubrovnik’s prices in focus.
The weather has been unusually mild, dare I say actually hot, which has meant that the locals are out pruning their gardens and the farmers are busy collecting crops. Away from the hustle and bustle of London, or in fact any city with a population larger than Dubrovnik, I feel as close to Europe as Boris Johnson. I think it’s fair to say I’m in the very heart of Brexit country. And although I think anyone who voted for Brexit is a complete imbecile, I can kind of understand why they did it in this corner of the Queen’s land. You really get that island feeling. Far away from continental Europe. Brussels seems like light-years away and the policies from the EU just as distant.
So as I often do when I travel to a foreign land (ok, this one isn’t a foreign one) I have been comparing and contrasting the situation with that of Dubrovnik. Parking has been a delight. We have only paid once for parking and that was 5 Kunas for 2 hours, everywhere else it’s been free-of-charge. Entrance into attractions is pretty much on a par with Dubrovnik. The price of a cup of coffee is pretty much the same, although the measures are considerably larger, and I should have added that tea is really the beverage of choice.
Punctuality is a big thing. If you book a table in a restaurant for 12.30 then you had better turn up at 12.25. There is none of the Croatian time flexibility. Where timetables are merely guidelines and schedules are treated as loose proposals. People queuing for a bus, and yes they do queue, know that at 11.49 the bus will be there, not at 11.50 or 11.48. As both my wife and I have a much more liberal approach to timekeeping, mainly thanks to Dubrovnik living, getting back into the English groove has been interesting.
And then after buying our teas and coffees we have been waiting patiently for the bill. But when we were greeted with the option “would you like your bill or not” we were left scratching our heads.
By the time you read this I will be back in the Pearl of the Adriatic and showing off my bronzed English suntan. It’s been extremely satisfying to get back to my roots for a week, to catch up with my nearest and dearest and to enjoy some home comforts. It felt like rebooting myself in the English sunshine. For as Helen Keller once wrote ““Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows.”