“Only Connect” is the name of a notoriously difficult quiz show aired on BBC. Contestants have to find connections between all kinds of seemingly random people, events or pictures. I feel really dumb when I watch it. But the title got me thinking about how we connect to places and people.
This is our fifth England Term. I have spent more than 15 months, scattered over 26 years, traveling through the United Kingdom. Traveling so often to many of the same places creates a different dynamic than being a tourist passing through for the first time.
But yet I never really belong either. I don’t have a home or a job in these places. I’m just a’passin’ through.
So I treasure those connections we do make. When we stay again at the same guest houses we did in 2015 (and sometimes in 2009 or 2000), we love to talk over with our hosts what has changed since we were last together. In Lindisfarne, in Stratford, in Sligo, in Salisbury, we begin to get to know our hosts’ personalities and even families. We connect.
One constant for us is our London hotel, owned by Mrs. Marazzi and family. When we first arrived at the hotel she owned in 1991, right off Russell Square, we had two little boys, ages 6 and 8, in tow and a baby in arms! She still remembers our children and asks about them. Her hotel is now in a slightly different location but still off of Russell Square. And our connection still remains. This year she was thrilled to see the photos of our grandchildren!
Last week when I was doing laundry in London at my local laundromat (see post “Of London and Laundry”) I had a chat with a woman about politics — and how it is always easier to look at another nation’s problems more dispassionately than at your own nation’s. The next day I was walking near High Holborn Street, doing a few errands, when I heard someone call after me. I was a bit afraid to turn around but there was the woman from the laundry! She just wanted to greet me, having recognized me as she was also out shopping. We talked just a bit but I left feeling something different — as if I had actually connected with someone in the great city of London!
We meet so many people who guide us, help us, serve us, host us, and drive us. Some we don’t remember and some stay in our memory forever. Perhaps part of being on pilgrimage is bringing home this same desire to connect — only connect — with those we can easily pass by every day.