Tag: Nostalgia

This England!

This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,—
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.
– Shakespeare

So!  Flew in to Heathrow on the morning of Christmas Eve, met at airport by Dad and Snickers, drove home to Suffolk.  Day spent hugging, talking, and trying to stay awake.  Christmas Eve feast was superb.  Went to bed.  Woke up Christmas morning (siblings showed infinite patience and let us sleep in longer than I’d ever imagine they’d be able to) and tore into both presents and breakfast.  Rest of day spent in rest and relaxation.

The adventures begin on December 26th, also known as Boxing Day.  It’s part of the Christmas holiday in England and most people keep holiday hours on it, but this was the day chosen to go to London to show J. the sights.  We checked online and it appeared some things would be open, so off we went.

Mum, left in red. Me, middle in red. Gio, right of me in red. Dad, right of Gio in red. Buddy...in black. Snickers, hidden. J., behind camera.

Never trust the internet.  The Tower, which really is the historical base of the city (thanks, William the Bastard/Conquerer) was closed.  Luckily Westminster Abbey was open.  Some of you may recall my raptures at visiting it two years ago?  Well, it was nothing compared to this time.  I was so obnoxiously happy to be back in England that I had a hyper litany of sheer enthusiasm trilling through my head as I forced myself to walk somberly through its hallowed naves.  The Shakespeare alone was particularly thrilling, I may or may not have muttered the St. Crispin’s Day speech as I meandered past Henry V.  Anne of Cleves got a nod and a, “Well done.  Better off without him.  Much,” Congreve got a cheeky grin, Elizabeth I another critical glance over (still not as pretty as she thought she was).

After Westminster we tried for the Tower but that as you know was a fruitless effort.  So we traipsed across the city!  I didn’t make it over to Kensington where I lived but I did stare longingly at the High Street Kensington and Gloucester Road stops on the Tube for a while.  We walked through Trafalgar Square (scene of many a late night revel with Marie, Elizabeth, and AbFab so long ago), made our way to Leicester Square where, completely out of other ideas, we massacred three hours by watching Avatar.  An observation: don’t see this movie in 3D from the second row of the theatre.  Your inner ear thanks me.  After that we saw Stomp and made our way home at a ridiculous hour of the evening.

Sunday we tried to recuperate a bit and celebrated Buddy’s birthday with a quiet family evening at home.  The next day we celebrated it by scampering around the misty wet fields with nearly fifty people, shooting each other with paintballs.  I had only been paintballing once before and been shot in the mouth, so I didn’t have a high opinion of the activity (this time I was shot at point-blank range while guarding a little girl, but it was during our mad dash for glory in a game of capture the flag and we were welcomed to the splotched sidelines like heroes).  The boys loved it.

No, it's not the camera angle, the house really looks like that.

Tuesday we went to Lavenham, which is without question the most charming country village outside of the Lakes District.  I’ve written about it before, but allow me to gush a little bit more!  It’s just delightful, the crooked Tudor houses always make me grin like an idiot.  I rummaged through my favorite antique store (trying on an Edwardian hat, drooling over Victorian jewelry, and rifling through letter boxes and cupboards) and we ate lunch at The Swan.

Wednesday J. and I basely ditched the family and hopped on the train from Cambridge back down to London so he could actually see things.  The train was a necessity because, according to the news, a truck of pigs had gotten into a wreck on the M11 and, far from turning the passengers into bacon, a dozen or so had escaped and were wandering across the highway, grazing on things, and generally causing a bad time of it for the drivers who were backed up for hours waiting for the porcine perils to be rounded up.

We hit the Tower and the British Museum.  Going through it was like visiting an old friend.  J. seemed to especially love the awful imperialism it represented.  “I mean, these guys just showed up and said, ‘I like that wall.  I think I’ll take it!'” he said going through the Parthenon exhibit.  During the evening we walked from Tottenham Court Road to Oxford Circus so I could get in some much needed shopping before we made our way back to Liverpool St. and hopped back on the train to Cambridge.  Then, the next day, back to the States.

I’m going to be honest and admit that as we were driving back from J.’s parents house and I was looking across the valley and snow-covered mountains…I burst into homesick tears.  When we got home I was absolutely howling with misery (or lack of sleep, one of the two).  “I want to live two hours outside of London!” I sobbed, “I want to live where it’s green even in the winter!  I hate the desert!  I don’t want to go back to work on Monday!  I don’t want to live here for two and a half more years while you finish school!  I want my dog!”

J. just hugged me and promised to get me back there someday if he could, and he meant it.  I calmed down, went to bed, and woke up feeling alright about leaving England behind for a while.  In the meantime, I’ll just be here.  Missing it.


“I have never let schooling interfere with my education.”
-Mark Twain

Realizing that I’m about to brand myself a hopeless nerd, I have to admit I am horribly jealous that J. gets to go back to school this fall.  This is really the first autumn in nearly twenty years that I’m not going to be in school (I don’t count last year’s because I was still whirling from the dizzying feeling of freedom) and it’s a little odd to realize how sad I am over the thought.

I really loved school, especially university where I got to immerse myself in a topic for months at the time and come out feeling like I really did know something about the subject.  I got to study things I genuinely loved and had an interest in, so major projects and papers were seldom a chore (unless I procrastinated horribly).

And believe it or not, I’m wretched over the idea of not buying armloads of books this fall!  Maybe those of you who currently attend my Alma Mater are stretching your eyes incredulously over such a lapse in financial judgement, but unlike lots of my friends I seldom had to eat Ramen for a month in order to pay for my books.  The majority of my classes relied on novels, primary sources, history books, anthologies of writings from every conceivable century, essays, etc. and I absolutely refused to sell most of them back to the campus bookstore (except for one semester when I was well and truly starving and had to sell back a book on classical Greek civilization from the earliest city-states through the Persian Wars.  I nearly cried, and when I saw how little I was going to get back for it – compared to what I’d originally paid – I nearly abandoned the plan…but I needed food).

I was talking to MyFavorite a while back and when he asked me what it’s like working full time instead of being in school, I told him all of the above.  We also discussed the oddness of being in charge of one’s own continuing education.  Lots of people seem to finish school and never tax their brain again, I live in fear of mine starting to atrophy!  I swear the process has already started!  It takes effort to get home from work, cook, clean, manage bills, make future plans, and still pull out a book instead of turn on the TV.  Instead of someone else teaching me, I’m entirely responsible for what goes into my head from here on out.

Frost wasn't entirely correct, it's more like "Two million roads diverging-" at times.
Frost wasn't entirely correct, it's more like "Two million roads diverging-" at times.

In that same vein, it’s not just the stimulation I miss about school, it’s also the framework university sort of set up for life.  Each semester had a distinct beginning, middle, and end so you always felt as if you were actively moving through life instead of just being pushed along by the current.  Now, instead of this handy, cyclical way to make a year pass, post-graduate life by comparison seems like one long line stretching off into the distance.

That seems depressing…I don’t mean it to be, but it’s the best metaphor I can find.  What I mean to say is that instead of having an Outside Force set up my life’s structure and passage of time, I’m now the only person who can do that.  If there are to be any interesting breaks, sideshows, or detours in that long line, I’m the person who must take the prerogative of creating/finding/following them.  And while the adventure of doing so is almost always fantastic, sometimes I do miss having that Outside Force doing it for me because I feel (looking back) that being ignorant of that Force meant I could simply live life and enjoy the ride.  It’s no simple thing to be almost entirely in charge of your own destiny!

*Image (C) by Martin Liebermann, http://www.martin-liebermann.de, original found here http://www.flickr.com/photos/liebermann/580181284/