Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.


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Wednesday, May 21, 2003  

Oh to be in England

My patient friends, I am home at last, from 14 travel packed days in that womb of American culture, most particularly for a girl from Essex County, VA; the Kingdom of the East Saxons, now capitaled by Chelmsford, England.

Ahh England. I keep hearing the voice of Frank Muir from the old BBC production “My Word”. I keep seeing the green landscape - so much more civilized than my own wild world of exuberant American growth. I keep wallowing in the vision of history that rolls behind my eyelids to reach down into my heart and squeeze it like a sponge, so that it can swell with pleasure once again. There’s still a gasp in my lungs that has yet to exhale adequate words to convey even a general impression of all that I’ve experienced, much less intimate detailed descriptions.

I am somewhat undecided as to how to share my trip, whether via a new blog or some sort or daily application in these pages. I would have liked to post a daily report in situ, but two things held me back:

· We did not have a house sitter for the entire time we were gone, and this is the Internet, after all
· Though my hosts would have gladly and generously offered me daily Internet access, it seemed rude to even consider it on a daily basis. It’s always been my rule that when flesh-and-blood people are in the room, I do not log on. Besides, I was there to experience new things, savor the unknown, give attention to my surroundings.

I did keep a diary cum sketchbook, and BigDarling shot 13 rolls, plus 2 disposable camera’s worth of photos. We were truly snap-happy. Somehow I will find a way to share highlights here, while making every attempt to suppress the boredom factor.

This was our first trip either abroad or to England, though we had each done a bit of traveling before we met. Precious friends were our hosts and made sure each day offered some special English treat. As BigDarling would say, when we were asked what “tour” we were taking, “We’ll have a native guide.” The trip was a long time materializing - for we’d been invited every year for almost a decade. Time, work or money always seemed to interfere, but this year all coalesced into the perfect moment for leaping off into the unknown. I had no fixed plans beyond the desire to walk from one English village to another; there to sit down and have a cup of tea. This, my hosts provided for me on several occasions. BigDarling*, who is an historian, had a few more specific desires, but was, in fact, as willing as I to be led by experts. Fortunately, our host, D, and BigD share an avid interest in the Jamestown settlement era so all desires were fulfilled.

So I sit here, sipping my first cup of Bess’PerfectCoffee in 2 weeks, still buzzing in sensory overload. Imagine a 3 week vacation that begins with Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, climaxes with 14 days in England, makes another little peak with the Random Rovings Dye Workshop at Stony Mountain Fibers, and ends with the extra Monday holiday of Memorial Day.

Be still my heart.

And so I shall end today’s post with these single bits of fiberly, and not so fiberly, interest:

· I could take knitting onboard in Dulles but you can’t knit on British Airways when leaving Heathrow.
· I should have known I wouldn’t want to knit on my first perfectly directed trip to England anyway - there’s just too much to see.
· There are sheep in South East England, but few wool shops
· There are fabric shops everywhere, but they are for curtain fabric.
· Liberty’s of London is worth looking at as architecture - and if you have never seen it, that first surprising view of Medieval glory sandwiched in between trendy high rises is worth the trip downtown. There is almost no fabric left and the store itself has the same look of fading downtown department stores in American cities of the 1980’s.
· It is worth it to have Lunch at Liberty among the Ladies Who Lunch.
· Jordon’s Silks IS worth stopping in - if you are a silk lover as I am - but it is expensive. L50 a meter which translates to $83 for less than a yard. But oh oh oh oh oh that creamy rippling color, cast into motion by a black suited, elegantly spoken, clerk, knowledgeable of all things pertaining to a LadyOfTasteAndRefinement. A treat not to be missed.
· English food tastes rather like American food - at least, it tastes like Virginia food minus the cornmeal - and I think it has been much maligned, though my native guides assured me that it has improved vastly over the past decade.
· If you don’t choose to walk everywhere, expect to put on lots of weight. English Cream Teas are disastrous
· They are thinner over there than we are here, in general, in spite of the aforementioned English Cream Teas.
· They are particularly pleasant people.
· All men and 90% of women wear black. These people have the most somber clothes I have ever seen. I am told this is an improvement over a few years ago when 100% of everyone in London was dressed in black. It’s really a surprising thing to see.
· Teens are everywhere, self-absorbed, but polite, and pierced far beyond what I am used to seeing.
· This is not true in Oxford - at least, the pierced faces are no more familiar than I’ve seen in US college campuses.
· The flowers are as fabulous as the gardening books would lead you to believe.
· They have perfumes there that smell different from the perfumes we can buy here
· It is more expensive in England - and worse yet, since the pound is a decimal currency, you forget that L4.50 for a scone and tea is NOT close to $4.50 but more like $7.65. Back before European Union days, when traveling abroad you often paid for things in thousands of whatever the currency was. I remember buying shampoo in Italy for 27,000 lire!! No possible way to confuse the exchange rate. You have to do the math.
· It is not so much more expensive in England that you can’t have a good time on a modest travel budget.
· East or West, Home is Best. But if I am ever run out of here by sprawl, I think I would like to move to England.

More tomorrow - perhaps some sketches of my visit - but today I must reconnect with my needles, spindles, fleece and dogs.

It’s good to be back.

* Haile, Edward Wright. Jamestown Narratives: Eyewitness Accounts of the Virginia Colony. Champlain, Virginia: RoundHouse, 1998. This collection of primary sources provides an excellent look into the workings of the first English colony in North America to survive.

posted by Bess | 7:05 AM