As soon as you become engaged to a British person, or perhaps even before, you begin researching the process you will need to go through in order to move to the UK to live with your beloved. A key phrase that soon crops up and begins to invade your every waking moment is “a genuine subsisting relationship”. Unfortunately, because we live on the top of a ridge with a steep, winding road that we have to drive down in order to get to the M4, I often pass by a sign which reads: Road liable to subsidence. As a result, my brain has come to twist the visa term into one with a very different meaning. I have to keep reminding myself that we need to demonstrate a genuine subsisting relationship, not a genuine subsiding relationship. Continue reading
“Afternoon tea should be provided, fresh supplies, with thin bread-and-butter, fancy pastries, cakes, etc., being brought in as other guests arrive.” ~ Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management
Several years ago, when I was still toiling away every working day in an office, chained to a desk and a telephone by a headset cord and staring at a computer screen with dry, unblinking eyes, I was delighted to learn that the office space next door to ours was being turned into a tea room. Continue reading
It was the best of teas; it was the creamiest of teas…
In America, when we think of tea in the sense of it being a meal rather than just a beverage, what we think of is the elegant repast known as afternoon tea. Images of the grand afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC spring to mind. We think of liveried waiters winding through a sea of chintz fabric and polished wood, bearing aloft silver serving trays laden with delectable pastries, exquisite miniature sandwiches and pots of steaming hot tea. That, for us, is tea. And so it is slightly baffling when we first arrive in this country to see signs hanging outside tea shops in nearly every village and town advertising something mysteriously called a cream tea.
What, exactly, is a cream tea? We know that most British people take milk in their tea, something that is still not as common in America. Is that what they mean by a cream tea? Does it just mean tea with some cream in it instead of plain milk? Is it the tea version of that naughty but delicious American invention, the Caffe Breve? No, it is not. A cream tea, sometimes also called a Devonshire cream tea, refers to a cup, or a pot of tea served with scones, cream and jam. As simple as that.
Or is it?
“Some days are enchanted, as everybody knows. Every detail of the day, even the most trivial, falls into exquisite juxtaposition with the next. Commonplace things take on significance and beauty. Perhaps it’s a matter of timing. Perhaps for once one walks in sympathetic vibration with the earth, disturbing nothing as one treads. However that may be, this was one of those days.” ~ Louise Dickinson Rich, We Took to the Woods
This passage from a dearly loved book is followed by a description of a perfect day in the author’s life, a description so vivid and rich with vibrant word pictures that I am left wildly jealous and convinced it’s time for me to give up the dream of writing and leave it to those who practice the art with true craftsmanship. But beyond my feelings of inadequacy, this short passage from “We Took to the Woods” makes me think back over some of the delightful days my husband and I have shared since we began our life together. Continue reading
I go my way
Back in the saddle again”
Last summer I gained some insight into the psyche of the British driver. I was standing on the main road that runs through our village waiting to catch the bus. As I watched, a large articulated lorry (a semi, for my American readers) passed the bus stop, executed a U-turn at a mini-roundabout, returned to the bus stop – only now going the opposite direction – and proceeded to back into the narrow alley between the small grocery store and a stone house that sits flush with the pavement. With just inches to spare thanks to a Mercedes that was parked where it should not have been, the driver of the lorry had to reverse, then straighten out and go forward, then reverse some more as he tried to squeeze into the narrow space without causing any damage to Merc, store or house. I was impressed by the skill of the driver and his nerves of steel as a queue of cars formed in both directions, waiting for him to get out of the way and stop blocking traffic.
While all of this was going on my fellow bus shelter companions, two elderly gentlemen leaning on canes, had their heads together cracking jokes which were apparently too hilarious not to share, for when the man next to me caught my eye he leaned my direction. His eyes were twinkling and he could barely suppress his laughter, but then he hesitated for a moment and looked more closely at me.
“You’re not from Bulgaria, are you?” he asked. Continue reading
Driving Miss Lizzie, Part I
“Why has the car stopped?”
“Ah!” I said with manly frankness that became me well. “There you have me.”
You see, I’m one of those birds who drive a lot but don’t know the first thing about the works. The policy I pursue is to get aboard, prod the self-starter, and leave the rest to Nature.” ~ P.G. Wodehouse, Very Good, Jeeves!
“I bought a car.”
I didn’t know it at the time, but with those four little words my world tipped on its axis. It was just over a month until our wedding, and Mr. H was calling from England to let me know that after weeks of searching he had finally found a car he liked. After a decade of relying primarily on public transport he had once again taken the plunge into the expensive realm of car ownership. Since there would soon be two of us it was finally more cost-effective to own a car, and oh, such fun places we would travel to together. I could hardly wait. Continue reading
Mr. H and I have just returned from another camping trip in the Lake District, and once again it was a memorable experience. At long last I fulfilled my teen-age wish and dream to walk the hills and take in the breathtaking scenery of this ruggedly beautiful part of the country. As some of you may know from my previous blogs, I was unable to go walking last year due to a bum ankle, but this year I was able to go out four days in a row, and a blog about that experience is in the works.
In the meantime, here is a visual essay of this corner of England which now holds a very special place in my heart.
I hope you enjoy it.