My Love Affair With England
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
I am not sure when this love affair began. As with so many love affairs, I was in the middle before I knew I had begun. And also as with so many love affairs, I was seduced by words. It was the words that pulled me in, the words describing a world, lifestyle and frequently, a time period far removed from my own. Through those words I followed along as Lord Peter punted down the river in Oxford with Harriet. I danced at the assembly in Meryton and watched as Elizabeth was dismissed as negligible by Darcy. I leaned against a fence beside Lord Emsworth and gloated over his prize pig. I learned the phrases and manners of Regency England. I lived through the war years in Barsetshire and reveled in the minutiae of small town life. I traveled to a farm in the Yorkshire Dales with James Herriot and watched as a newly delivered lamb clambered to its feet.
And then I started another love affair, a love affair with a man who was almost as obsessed with England as I was. I think I fell in love with him when I asked him if he liked to read and he said yes and then recommended James Herriot's books. I might have swooned. A man who read and who liked some of the same books as me. Dreams do come true.
When we had been married for a couple of years we went to London on vacation. It was like having a history book and a novel come to life. So many things seemed familiar because I had read about them. It was as if I recognized everything but I just hadn't been there in a while. It created this strange sense of belonging. I felt like I had gone home to a place I had never been. But I had been there before. I had been there in all the books I had read.
Why do some places catch our imagination? Why do some places feel right when we first arrive? I don't know the answer, I just know England is that place for me.
I relate to a culture where being private and reserved is acceptable. I love a culture where drinking innumerable cups of tea a day is normal. I love a country where 80 degrees is considered a heatwave. I know England is a country like any other with its problems and problem people. I know it isn't perfect. But I also know that in the US I frequently feel slightly out of step with the world around me. In England I feel like that hesitation in my step, that out of sync rhythm, is gone.
I am sure there is someone reading this and shaking their head and thinking "It is just because she is on vacation. Life is always better on vacation." I have been on a lot of vacations and I always play this little game with myself. Would I live here if I could? Frequently the answer is no. It is a fantastic place to vacation but I know I would never want to move there. With England the answer is always yes. I would live there in a heartbeat.
My husband and I are in England right now. It is our ninth visit together, my husband's tenth. We go back because it makes us happy, because, at this point, it is familiar. We will wander through stately homes, admire the gardens, and browse through the book stores. We will sit in coffee shops, do a little shopping and visit a few museums. We will enjoy ourselves in our own quiet way.
And then we will come home to our everyday life. We will come home to kids and bills and work and responsibilities. We will feel a little homesick for a place we have never lived.
My love affair will go on. I was seduced by the words in the beginning and I will still have the words. I can find the secret garden with Mary Lennox. I can cope with the vicissitudes of everyday life with the provincial lady. I can travel down the river with three men in a boat (to say nothing of the dog.)
I can do all of this because my love of books and my love of England and my love of a man are inextricably entwined.