During our recent stay in London the Doc and I found out the “fun way” just how the English compare to Americans through the antidotes of a gregarious, cockney-accented taxi driver named Kevin.
Kevin picked the Doc and I up outside our hotel in London and adjusted his rates so that he could escort us around all day. He must have seen that we needed guidance — and guidance was his middle name.
The first thing we learned from Kevin was that a true Cockney was born within hearing distance of the Bow Bell. He and his family still live in the area and he knew just where to find the best fish and chips in London.
We wanted to visit as many water garden centers and koi farms as possible so Kevin mapped out a course of action which included a stop at his father-in-law’s favorite place to buy koi. It seems everyone in the UK either has a pond himself or has a close relative that does.
As luck would have it we passed by Big Ben just as he struck noon. Then off we went to the township of Kent where we found our first water garden center called World of Koi. I think I enjoyed that particular place the best because the people were so friendly and made us feel at home. They had excellent koi health facilities and some very pretty koi for sale.
The Doc and I were whisked off to another place just miles away that was known for its high quality koi and we could definitely see why. The koi were grouped by variety. There were literally hundreds of stunning shiro utsuris,showas, sankes, kumonrus — you name it — they had it. We’ve never seen anything like it here in the states.
The traffic in London was horrific — but it gave Kevin an excuse to continue our education of the Londoner’s insights on life. Kevin, surprisingly, had never seen the movie, “Austin Powers, The Spy Who Shagged Me” and said that it wasn’t as big in the UK as the US. Plus the title is considered in poor taste to the Brits.
I was further surprised to learn that the British population was divided with their opinion of Princess Di. We loved her here in the US but about half the Brits, including Kevin, thought she was a nag and took Charles’ side in their marital arguments. The debate was as hot and divided by public opinion as the issue of abortion is in the US. Although everyone in the UK was greatly saddened when it happened, even her death did not put an end to the Brits’ favorite soap opera and it is still a point of contention between them today.
Politics was not a forbidden subject within the walls of our taxi cab. Kevin took stabs at his own politicians. He refers to their Prime Minister, Tony Blair, as “Bush’s Boy”.
Later in the afternoon and after being in traffic too long for my comfort we arrived at Kevin’s father-in-law’s favorite water garden center. This one was a bit less of a koi place than it was a water garden place. It did have a big selection of fancy goldfish and tropical fish displayed inside the building in aquariums.
The Doc and I concluded that basically the water garden centers around London were comparable in design and function to those in the states. Just like here, one might specialize in beautiful Japanese koi, another might excel at koi health and another might be more plant oriented. The vortex filter is more popular in the UK than the US where bead filters are taking a bigger market share. The Brits are, however, beginning to sell more and more of them. Professionally designed plumbing systems have always been the staple in British pond building. The US probably uses more quick-to-install-but-aggravating submersible pumps — but that too is changing.
Our thanks go to cockney Kevin for his insights on modern day London. We now know that the people of the UK and the US are the same. We all gossip, have political opinions and love ponds.