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.