After 5 years living in Britain, my wife has decided it’s time for her to go back to her home country of Greece. And take me with her.
But, before we depart these shores for the last time, she tells me she wants to be taken on a grand tour of the whole country, to see all the places on this island she hasn’t seen before, to feel like she’s really embraced Britain and Britishness. To feel a real Briton.
After 40 years of living here, I realise I hardly know a thing about this country either.
Why go to Greece when there are parts of Reading you haven’t seen yet? Or ANY of Reading, come to that.
So I agreed. And then began to wonder just what I would see on the tour.
Even in its duller moments, it would surely still be of interest, what with the knowledge that the backcloth to the journey, Britain, having contributed something, somewhere, to who I am. But would I find it frustrating? Never living up to my idea of what the country should be, what I hoped it would be?
Would seeing many of these places in my home country for the first time plus through the eyes of my accompanying Greek Passepartout give me a unique view into the land of my birth? Or would it leave me as dispossessed and disoriented as my travelling companion?
We all know the clichés of the character of the country: drink tea, walk dog, talk weather, turn up, muck in and form orderly queue. But is any of it true? And would meeting my fellow countrymen, alongside Passepartout, give me a new insight into this chimerical idea of Britishness? Or would it leave me as clueless as before?
Well, we shall find out.
So with no real set plan aside from a vague idea of an orbit of the UK – taking in all these places we’ve heard of, made assumptions about, but never really bothered to visit – we set out to see this kingdom by the sea. This isle of noise. This land of Yorkshire terriers, Lancashire Hotpot, London Pride and the Glasgow kiss.