During the 2021-2022 school year, Dr. Rich Bodek traveled to London to teach at University of Roehampton as part of the prestigious Fulbright Scholar Program. He wrote a series of wonderful articles for the Post & Courier discussing his experience as an American living & teaching in London, the first of which can be read here:
When I began my adventure in London, England as a visiting Fulbright Scholar, Charleston and South Carolina seemed so very far away. This was especially true on the weekends. For example, I knew that college football season had started, but only the few details one of my sons sent me in an email.
I clearly remember a beautiful Sunday in the London borough of Kew where I lived. I started the day by going for a jog, and then mowed the lawn in front of my flat. Mowing the lawn took all of about four minutes. Even with what I suspect is the world’s smallest electric lawn mower there was little to do.
The lawn itself is about 10 feet by 30 feet. The grass is soft, very different from the grass in Charleston. Indeed, I spent more time cleaning the wheels of the lawnmower than I did pushing it around. Why would I clean the mower? My landlord wanted me to put the mower back into the shed clean.
As he told me, if the grass isn’t cleaned from the mower, the shed will smell like a pig. I have to admit, in my decades of mowing lawns and putting mowers away I’ve never given that or anything like that a second thought. A happy landlord, though, is a good thing, so I wiped the wheels down, even though the smell of fresh grass struck me as wonderful and fresh.
After I mowed the lawn, I went to Kew’s monthly open-air market. There were specialty foods from all over Europe. Indeed, one booth declared itself to be the provider of the best, organic goat cheese in all of Britain. Because I was on my way elsewhere and wouldn’t be able to throw this best goat cheese into the fridge before it spoiled, I can’t give you my opinion; I have no reason to doubt that the cheese monger at least believed the claim.
From the market, I walked to Brentford, the next borough over. I am originally from Pittsburgh, and those who know that city’s sports fans know we strongly pull for our local team and aren’t shy about displaying our fandom. Clemson and Carolina fans certainly understand this, too. Anyway, the Brentford Bees are my local soccer team. Actually they would say football team, but I get ahead of myself. I picked up a Brentford Bees cap, coffee mug, and keychain. I now own the sort of swag that all true fans must have.
On my way to the team’s official store to buy this memorabilia though, I walked by a sign touting the importance of Brentford to London, Britain, and the world. It was in Brentford historians claim that Julius Caesar crossed the Thames River. William Shakespeare is said to have drunk his beer in a Brentford pub. The poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, went to school here. In short, it’s really hard to go anywhere on the small island and not randomly encounter places with a rich past.
Wandering back to my flat after Brentford, I walked past the Kew’s village green where two teams were playing cricket. I didn’t really understand what was going on in front of me, but the players and the fans certainly did.
As cricket took place in front of me, behind me was St. Anne’s Church with its centuries old graveyard. But this was a place for the living, too: The graveyard had tables set up for people to bring tea and baked goods that could be enjoyed with friends. Multi-generational families sat together, enjoying one another’s company chatting, maybe among ancestors who passed from the veil of tears generations ago.
In short, there were no NFL Sundays for me. American sports was a distant, if pleasant, memory.”