This time of year, I start thinking of my spring or summer trip and, though I have been to many other European destinations and there are places I have yet to see, I always want to go back to England.
I am an Anglophile through and through.
Other than possibly a past life as an English maiden, I blame it on the "British Invasion" and the Beatles, which is just now enjoying it's 50th Anniversary. From that moment on, I wanted to wear clothes from Carnaby Street, drive through the English countryside with Emma Peel and marry a Beatle. I have managed two out of three sans Emma Peel.
Hubby's work used to take him there several times a year, so when I could, I would tag along. Because of that, we have many friends there and have been able to explore England's many nooks and crannies - not just the touristy destinations, but some truly unique and special places and experiences.
I have worn the town crier's hat in Chester,
(I was informed after wearing the hat and doing my "hear ye, hear ye," that "she who wears the crier's hat in nine months will have a brat." Thanks, Town Crier, I wish you had told me that before I donned the hat even though having a brat at this stage would be close to an act of god).
spent a few days in a narrow boat on the Oxford canal,
punted on the River Cam with Hubby and my kids,
Looks easier than it is!
Hubby almost fell off right after this picture was taken when he went under a bridge and didn't duck!
toured Stonehenge alone with my daughter
(it was February and snowing and we had it all to ourselves)
driven through the water splash in Yorkshire that was featured in the opening sequence of the TV show "All Creatures Great and Small,"
found the house in Cark in Cartmel where Hubby's father lived before his family emigrated to the United States,
(We were told by a fellow in the local pub it had been used as an ale house, which is basically an illegal pub)!
and took a picture down the pants of a street performer in Covent Garden (long story)!
So in light of the 50th Anniversary of the Beatles and the British Invasion, an event that greatly influenced my life, I thought I would share with you a little alphabet book on why I love England. Perhaps it will inspire you.
How civilized to take a break around 4pm to have a cuppa tea and some sweets. That will hold you until dinner which in Europe is often after 8pm.
I can remember one visit where an event was planned at a pub for later in the evening (Skittles, the pub game, not the candy), and I stupidly skipped tea. By the time dinner was served at the event I was so hungry I kept yammering on to the person preparing the food while he mumbled "Bloody American" under his breath. (However, I did win the women's prize for playing Skittles).
Tea can be as simple as tea with scones and clotted cream in a village tea house to tea at The Ritz with champagne, sandwiches and assorted sweets - and tea, of course.
I vote for the champagne and the Ritz.
Duh. I could go on and on about them, which I have already done in my blog post, "Why the Beatles Matter."
Suffice it to say, this almost life size poster hangs in my family room as does this Richard Avedon photo of John.
Ignore the Christmas lights!
Stanton, often called the most beautiful village in England.
I have been to most of the Cotswolds villages, and I think Lower Slaughter is the most beautiful.
We spent a wedding anniversary there. When the tourists go home, you have it all to yourselves. I have taken the walk over the stiles, through the sheep pasture, to Upper Slaughter many times and I never get tired of it.
And there are just so many wonderful paths you can take all over England, all by yourself and feel perfectly safe. No guns!
Don't get me started.
I was a huge Diana fan and when she died, a light went out. Like the Beatles, she had that certain something that affected people who didn't even know her. I just liked being in the world knowing she was in it too. I stayed up all night to watch her funeral and her body being taken to Althorp for burial crying all the while.
Paying respects at Althorp is on my Bucket List.
Here is part of the Diana Memorial Walk in St. James Park.
This is a BBC soap opera about the lives of people living on Albert Square in Walford, a fictional part of London's East End, who gather in the fictional pub, The Queen Victoria (aka Queen Vic).
I have been following it since it was first shown on PBS over 25 years ago. Other than the wedding of Luke and Laura on "General Hospital (got hooked while I was home after my son was born)," I am not a person who watches soap operas, but this one not only captured my love of England, specifically London, but captured its "realness." Here there are regular looking people and senior citizens with huge story lines that mirror real life. It's gritty, touching and powerful. It still plays on some PBS stations, but fewer and fewer. I don't think I have ever missed an episode and loved watching it in "real time" whenever I traveled to the UK.
BBC America played it for several years and then abruptly cut us off in 2003 causing fans to go apoplectic, but eventually creating a huge Eastenders community here in the U.S. that exists to this day and many of those folks are my friends.
This Eastenders dish towel hangs in my office as proof that I supported the show when it played on PBS in San Jose.
Fashion and Food
Thanks to Mary Quant, Carnaby Street,Twiggy and the British Invasion, British fashion dominated the 1960's. Everyone seems to think that the 1960's is all about hippies, but that didn't really start until the late 60's and early 70's. The 1960's were all about mini skirts, go go boots, John Lennon hats and cool haircuts.
Today we have Stella McCartney and Victoria Beckham.
Following WWII, England suffered such deprivation that their food got a bad rap for years. But now they have Gordon Ramsay, Nigella Lawson, Marco-Pierre White and more who have changed the face of British cuisine.
Wish I could afford to go to their restaurants!
The Globe Theatre
The theatre associated with Shakespeare. This is as close as this wannabee actress will ever get to appearing there.
Harrods department store is a must, especially the food court. I bought some items there thinking I would eat them in Hyde Park. However, the assumption must be that I was taking it home. The British must think it gauche to eat out of a container, because there were no forks to be had.
I sat on the grass in Hyde Park and ate my tuna salad with my fingers, happy as a clam and pinching myself that I was sitting on the grass in Hyde Park eating tuna salad!
The Isle of Wight
We went to the Isle of Wight on a trip when we didn't have much money or sense. Of course we had heard about it ever since the famous music festivals there where Bob Dylan had his first performance following his motorcycle accident (1969) and Jimi Hendrix performed before his death (1970). We didn't have the money to take the car on the ferry, not realizing there wasn't much to walk to once you had seen the town.
But, hey, we've been to The Isle of Wight!
June Brown is an 87-year-old actress who is probably not well-known in the United States, but she is a national treasure in the UK for her portrayal of "Dot Cotton" on the soap "Eastenders (see above under "E"). Though she had a successful acting career and has appeared in many films, "Eastenders" made her a huge star and she is one of the few remaining characters who starred in the early episodes.
I had the privilege of meeting her when she came to the U.S. to promote the show. The picture above is the picture she autographed for me. You can see that she started to spell my name "Rosie," and my being a cheeky sort, corrected her and you can see she turned the "e" into a "y."
I was going through some stuff at the time and remember almost crying when I went up to her and probably said something stupid like "Can we be best friends?" She was very warm and kind and said something like she hoped I got some help.
Home of Diana and some of the other Royals and now home to Prince William, Kate and baby George.
I remember being in the Kensington Gardens and seeing a woman who looked so much like Diana that I got it in my head that it WAS Diana and I would get to talk to her. Followed the woman until I realized it wasn't she. I finally had to ask myself, what in the world would Diana be doing out walking all by herself without anyone else knowing it except me?
I was (and am) a little nutty about Diana.
A gorgeous part of England.
Home to Wordsworth where he and Coleridge hung out in the Dove Cottage doing a bunch of opium. No wonder Wordsworth "wandered lonely as a cloud," and Coleridge was feeling albatrosses around his neck. Opium was cheaper than tea!
Oh, look, my natural hair color. I had forgotten.
The British Invasion didn't just bring the Beatles. I was gaga over The Rolling Stones, the Kinks, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Zombies and the Yardbirds too.
If they were English, I was a fan and planned to marry SOMEBODY English and move to England!
How else to explain Herman's Hermits!
Imagine six people ranging in age from 20+ to 70, driving and living on a boat on an English canal and nary a cross word was said. Must have been all of that wine!
My Swedish cousin and her husband, my sister, my daughter and Hubby and I rented a narrow boat and drove up the Oxford canal.
We, or should I say Hubby, drove it ourselves, lived on it, took it through many locks, ran into things and it was one of the greatest vacations ever.
City of Spires. Home of Oxford University and my beloved Inspector Morse.
We tried to go to places where Morse had hung out.
We had a drink at the Marlborough Hotel where Morse would do and his author Colin Dexter hangs out (the bartender said Dexter always sits in the same chair and if someone else is sitting there, he waits patiently in the lobby until it is available), lunch at the Trout pub, which figured in early Morse mysteries such as "The Service of all the Dead" and "The Wolvercote Tongue."
While in Oxford, I purchased "The Oxford of Inspector Morse and Lewis" by Bill Leonard, and planned to watch every single Morse mystery with the book to see the places we had been and learn more about them.
Still on my to do list.
A librarian aside: while working as a research librarian pre-Internet someone asked about a quotation in one of the Morse mysteries (Morse is one of your more literate detectives and is forever throwing quotes around under his breath). After perusing countless quotation books (yes, the actual printed page), I decided to write to Colin Dexter and ask him myself. I found his home address, wrote him a letter (this is also pre-email) and several weeks later, he wrote back in his own hand to inform me the quote was from "the greatest book ever written, 'Bleak House' by Charles Dickens." He also said he loved librarians and I should look him up if I was ever in Oxford. Rumor had it he loved librarians to buy his drinks! I was hoping he would be at the Marlborough!
I just love the pub culture of England and, I know what you are thinking. Of course she does. She enjoys the occasional tipple. But that's not why. The pub culture in England is all about the village, the neighborhood, hanging out with your friends, socializing. If they can walk to their "local," there are few old folks living in isolation in England unless they want to. The bartender in the second picture befriended us in London, and when I said, "This is just like the Queen Vic ("Eastenders," see above), we were treated extra special.
Queen Elizabeth II was only 26 when her father, King George VI, died unexpectedly and she was called back to England from her honeymoon to become Queen. She has ruled Great Britain and the Commonwealth realms for 62 years. She only has two more years to go until she beats Queen Victoria as the longest reigning monarch. I think she will go for it and Charles will just have to wait.
Her coronation was the first to be televised and it never ceases to bring out emotion in me as I think of her taking on this daunting task at only 26. No matter how you feel about the Royals, she has certainly taken her oath to serve seriously. How long she has served was brought home to me while viewing an exhibit of her life at the Victoria and Albert Museum. They had erected a timeline with her on one side and all of the heads of state around the world who have come and gone since she became Queen.
The Royal Family
Again, whether you like the Royals or not, Prince William, Princess Catherine and Prince George embody the "It Factor" that was Diana. I will enjoy watching their lives unfold.
And hey, what's wrong with a little pomp and circumstance now and then?
Can't do an alphabet book on England without including Shakespeare.
Fun Fact: On his gravestone, he curses anyone who tries to rob his grave:
"Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbeare, / To dig the dust enclosed here. Blessed be the man that spares these stones, / And cursed be he that moves my bones."
When I am in England, I indulge. I just can't help myself.
Fastest way to get around London. Safe and easy. Sure wish we had something like this in Seattle. However, one thing to keep in mind. When you spend most of your time on the Tube, you don't get a very good sense of where things are.
One time I took it and realized it had only taken me across the street!
Victoria and Albert Museum
ICalled England's Attic (and also the V & A), this museum has everything from teddy bears to mummies to fashion and if they can have more than one of something, they do!
I thought I had big hips!
One of the worst flights we ever had was one that arrived in England at 6am.
Imagine the jet lag! And what is there to do in England at 6am? We couldn't check into our hotel, nothing was open and we were pooped. Hubby's work was about 60 miles west of London so we headed out and made Windsor our first stop.
Besides being home to Windsor Castle, one of the Queen's preferred abodes, Windsor is a lovely little town with Eton nearby. We dragged out weary selves to Windsor, found a little hole-in-the-wall café, propped our eyes open with some toothpicks and enjoyed our cheese toasts and tea. If you have to be jet-lagged at 7am, Windsor is not a bad place to hang out.
You might even run into the Queen!
Now we just have to stay awake for another 14 hours!
Xmas in England
One thing I have not done is spend Christmas in England which is still on my Bucket List.
I want to shop in London and enjoy all of the lights and decorations and then gather my family together to spend the holiday in a lovely little village with the locals and pretend I am English.
Perhaps Father Christmas will make that wish come true some day.
York is a walled city with Roman ruins.
Walking the wall.
An old ruin lying on an old (Roman) ruin in York.
They say "zed" for "z."
I think that's cool.
Thank you for taking this trip with me.
Do you have any fond memories of England?
See you Friday
when I will share some romantic movies for your Valentine's Day viewing -
and, of course, reviews!
Thanks for reading!
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