England My England

June 23, 2011, by Christie Healey

Leave the pomp and circumstance behind, and take a walk on the wild side with Christie

I just returned from my first visit to the UK in five years. Nothing much has changed as far as I could tell. The nation was a bit tired from celebrating Kate and Wills wedding bash, but most seemed to agree it was a superb demonstration of British pomp with a liberal dash of the moderne. The unexpected day off courtesy of more PR conscious royals and a wobbly coalition government cheered the nation; and everyone was appreciative of Beatrice and Eugenie’s efforts to incorporate vaudeville into the day.

Clever Cat, who is about to visit the Sceptered Isles herself, asked if I saw any theatre during my trip. Hah! I visited my family. Now honestly, isn’t a visit with your family the best theatre ticket in town? Comedy, drama, mystery, it’s all there. Not that my family is any different from anyone else’s; a group of people thrown together through biology and desire, well-practiced in their eccentricities.

I spent a glorious few days with my sister in her new Cornish home. I really envy her retired life with all the conveniences and benefits of a social welfare system that is ailing but not yet dead. Baby boomers across the Pond are quietly enjoying their “golden” years trying not to feel too badly that they are probably the last generation to experience these joys.

My sister and I indulged in our favourite pastime, walking and talking. We set off on Monday morning to stroll a cliff-top footpath along the gorgeous Cornish coast. As we arrived in the parking lot, a threatening black cloud appeared. The attendant noted the impending storm and asked if we had waterproof trousers. My sister keeps hers in the boot (trunk) of her car as naturally as I keep an extra quart of oil in mine. The attendant immediately lent me his. Instead of seeking shelter, we set off. Still within sight of the car the storm hit. Rain pelted us in the face, wind ripped at our clothing, but we braced and struggled forward like abandoned women in a silent movie. My sister never wears hats and her hair was plastered into unflattering clumps and swirls. I turned into a menacing creature with two hoods tightly squeezing my ruddy face into gruesome contortion, the too-large waterproof trousers pulled up high were flapping and snapping like the sails on a shipwrecked yacht.

The tempest finally blew through and we continued our journey. From the looks we received from other walkers we must have resembled aging prisoners on work release who had given their guard the slip, English people pretend never to care about what other people think but engage in behaviour that is guaranteed to cause comment. We met the enquiring stares of the less foolhardy with insouciance, calling cheery “Hellos” as they hurried past us muttering.

I am as much a visitor in England as any other American; I have been gone too long to think of myself as “native.” But, I find it remarkable how easily I slip back into my Britness. My language becomes more pithy, my humour more acute. I am a big admirer of the English broadcaster and writer, Clive James. He has coined some of the most devastating comments on things and personages I have ever read. For example, he once wrote that Arnold Schwarzenegger looked like “a condom filled with walnuts.”

I may have more to write about my visit as this by no means captures all my adventures and experiences. I hope you will indulge me.

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10 Responses to “England My England”

  1. Conz Says:

    If “Schwantz”enegger would have filled his condom with walnuts instead of his penis, we’d all be better off. Do tell more, Christie dear. I need more British humour in my life.

  2. Zoe Says:

    Recently back, too, and can relate: especially the re-boot of Britness in all its pithiness… And I find that I have an internal soundtrack of Kate Bush’s “Oh England My Lionheart” every time I go there (yeah, go figure…happens every time), alternating with the oh-so-early dawn chorus which is such a different combination of bird-ly voices than here.

  3. christie Says:

    My Lady Conz, I lay them lines down and you pick ‘em right up. Fab riff, your Conzness.

    And Zoe, don’t you just love the Brit kids with their little quacky duck voices?

  4. Wendy Says:

    More, please!

  5. Conz Says:

    England swings like a pendulum do, bobbies on bicycles two by two, Westminster Abbey, the tower of Big Ben, the rosy red cheeks of the little children. Now why, oh why, has my brain stored that little tidbit?

  6. dearpru Says:

    Thanks for the peek into a far wittier and far wetter world. I can scarcely wait for the next installment!
    Until then, ta!

  7. Carine Says:

    Going back home (when you’re from another country) is always fascinating. Last time I went back to Haiti, post-earthquake, for the first time I felt like I actually wanted to move there for an extended period. Very strange…

    Just LOVE that Schwarzenegger condom visual. Perfect. Just perfect!

  8. Cathy Says:

    I so enjoyed my time across the pond recently. Hanging out with little boys with lovely accents (4-yr-old Benjamin) and his dads and brother playing Auntie, while picking out uniforms for public school. Then off to Sheffield where on a field trip to the Peaks District, we had the Brit checklist a countryside bounty including: sheep, pheasant, a man and his black lab, goats, ivy covered cottages, lush green hills, castles and quaint towns. Lovely! The juxtaposing of the proper Brits and their acerbic tongues – love it! Thanks Christie, I too ask, Can I have some more? (said, like Oliver Twist).

  9. Possum Says:

    “English people pretend never to care about what other people think but engage in behaviour that is guaranteed to cause comment.”
    …brilliant combination of words that absolutely hit the nail on the head!

  10. Mellimel Says:

    As far as I know only Brits would carry on a walk/hike
    in the rain and wind. I would’ve found the nearest
    Pub with a fireplace and a Toddy.

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