England, my England.

“I gaze beyond the rain-drenched streets, to England where my heart lies.”

 Kathy’s Song, by Simon and Garfunkel

I’m only just beginning to feel like myself. I’ve been weighed down with a sense of lethargy for days. I haven’t wanted to write, or read, or do much of anything. I haven’t Tweeted, and didn’t Facebook until yesterday.

It could also be that I’m weighed down by the nine pounds I gained while in England. Damn those Cornish cream teas, Cornish Clotted Cream, Cornish ice cream and Cornish pasties. Damn those sausage rolls, and steak and ale pies, and pub lunches, and fantastic fish and chips. Damn those cream gateaux and fresh cream donuts. And in retrospect I realize Mum put cream in every meal she served; if it wasn’t in the sauces and mashed potatoes, it was in or on the dessert. Damn my lack of willpower!

I wasn’t going to blog about England. People go overseas all the time, it’s nothing new. But a few of you actually requested I write about it. So, I’ve started and deleted this twice. I tried writing in some detail without going into overload and realized I would end up with a novelette. I tried writing impressions, but found I was waxing eloquent and it would still end up a novelette.

So let me just say my hubby and I had a lovely time. The weather was beautiful. We took trains and buses and taxis and walked, a lot. We spent four days with my brother and his wife in Cornwall, where they live in a tiny, isolated village on the edge of beautiful Bodmin Moor. We visited small, ancient coastal towns where houses climb steep escarpments up from the harbor and cobbled streets are too narrow for cars, and Cornish Pasty shops are everywhere.

Then to my mum in Wiltshire; she lives in a picturesque village in the lovely Vale of Pewsey, one of those villages you see on Christmas cards, with narrow lanes, country gardens and old, crumpled-looking thatched cottages. We went to three local towns: Pewsey, Devizes, Marlborough, and discovered the joys of Marshall’s Bakery, and I became addicted to chicken and leek pie. (Yeah, people, it’s all about the food!)

We spent four days with my sister in my old hometown of Newbury, Berkshire, a center for the wool trade in medieval days. Went to some of my favorite haunts: streets of thirteenth-century houses, the old cemetery on St. John’s Road, the Avon Canal with colorful barges gently bobbing at the bank, the town center and market square. And The Plaice – best fish and chip shop in Berkshire! While there, we took the train to London to see my niece, who lives in Crouch End. Horrible name, but the residential area is beautiful: wide, shaded streets lined with gothic houses. We went down into the town and walked around, taking in the fascinating architecture, particularly on the gothic churches, then took the bus to Muswell Hill, and I had an organic cola in a tiny café in the middle of a wood.

Then back to Mum’s for a few days. Finally, we took a taxi to Heathrow: a silver Mercedes Benz driven by a very posh fellow who spoke with a plum in his mouth.

Not a terribly exciting vacation, you may think. But you see, we didn’t go to England as tourists. We’ve been all over England, Scotland and Wales. We’ve already seen the major tourist sites and scores of lesser known but just as fascinating places. This visit was all about family. It was about being with my mother, who since the auto accident which killed my father 12 years ago, and from which she survived life-threatening injuries, has difficulty performing many actions we don’t think twice about. But despite that she soldiers on. My mum personifies “true grit.” She is the bravest, most determined woman I know.

I love you, Mum.

A few random observations:

Driving behind a tanker, one of those which carry liquid, which sported the message: “WARNING. WE MAY BE CARRYING POLITICAL PROMISES.”(Figure it out!)

The local beauty salon: Cut Up and Dye.

Bingo in the village hall, with Mum, where we discovered Bingo cards and the way you play them is nothing like in the States.

Just about every other building in Crouch End is a bakery or restaurant.

As always, amazement at the incredible age of most everything around us. To see buildings in perfect repair still serving as homes, shops and offices and realize they were built in the thirteenth century, or earlier. They just don’t build them like that anymore, do they.

A café in Cornwall where the owner’s West Highland White terrier puppy, Oscar, kept sneaking in and trying to eat our paper napkins.

Granny Wobbley’s Fudge Factory in Tintagel, Cornwall.

The sheer terror of bombing along twisting country lanes the width of a single car and not being able to see if another vehicle is bombing along from the other direction.

Walking across fields to the village shop and ending up with three inches of mud on the bottom of our shoes.

Young people pepper their conversation with “like.” I recall that fad here a few years back. What a shame that when the US leads the way with a trend, it has to be such an annoying one.

A café in Padstow which was nothing more than the tiny living room of a tiny cottage, right on the street. Six tables squashed in there, and the rather top-heavy waitress contorting between them, constantly saying: “Excuse me. Sorry. Excuse me.” That girl deserves a medal.

Pub food – the best food on earth!

Sixteenth-century Bodmin Jail, supposedly the most haunted place in England. Six floors accessed by a very narrow, very steep circular stairwell with uneven steps. The cells are small, dark and dank, some with tiny barred, unglazed windows but most with none. People were hanged for heinous crimes such as setting fire to a hayrick; as criminals, they were buried in unhallowed ground, the jail’s garden.

I’d better stop now or this will end up a novelette.

PS: The first draft of Demon Demon Burning Bright is halfway there!


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