Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Close your eyes and think of England...

A scene from Oliver!
"Please sir may I have
some more?"
Hi, my name is Julie and I’m an unapologetic Anglophile. I fully admit to being enamoured (British spelling) of all things that find their source in the British Isles.

It all started on my eighth birthday when my parents took me and a few friends to see the movie musical Oliver! at Oxford’s once beautiful but now shabby Art Deco movie house The Orpheum. (I think it’s a law office now!) The majority of this film is set in the grimy end of Industrial Era London, so... not pretty... But I couldn’t get enough of those little boys and their accents. I had to see it again. And again. I think that began my habit of viewing movies over and over.
The hot guys in Braveheart

And I have carried this love for Albion around with me ever since. I love Elton John, the Beatles, Van Morrison, U2, The Who, The Jam, Elvis Costello, Robyn Hitchcock, Julian Cope, and so many other of Britain’s musicians. I suck in movies from Braveheart to Trainspotting; Circle of Friends to The Field; Much Ado about Nothing to The King’s Speech. I drink deep of British television... Monty Python, Doctor Who, Torchwood, Luther, The Hour, Downton Abbey... I love Kenneth Branagh, Colin Firth, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman... I have read Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, Stephen Lawhead (not British, I know, but his books are full of Britain's mythic history), Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens... 
If only the Doctor could
take me there now!

A while back I was fortunate to visit England. I took a bus tour around from London, out to Wales, up to Edinburgh, down to Cambridge. I loved the patchwork quilt of fields, the omnipresent sheep, the quaint little cottages with their wild, fantastic gardens. Amazing how much a constant drizzle will do for flowers, right? And the history... going to Holyrood Castle and seeing where the private secretary of Mary Queen of Scots was murdered... In the U.S. we think a building is old if it's been around for, say, a century. "George Washington slept here" is a great boast around here. In England, there are (working) bars that go back to the 1100s!

Why the sun never sets on it: The red areas show
places that are or were British.
On another trip, I stayed in London for a week. I basically spent the entire time just walking around looking at stuff. And everywhere I went, there was stuff to see... Walk down nearly any street and you’ll see a marker, like... “this is where Charles Dickens wrote 8 books” or “this is the grave of Charles Wesley” or “Jane Austen used to live here”... I went to Buckingham Palace, Harrod's, the V&A Museum, John Wesley’s house, the British Museum, where they have, among other things, the manuscript of Yesterday (AKA Scrambled Eggs) in Paul McCartney’s own hand, a Gutenburg Bible, mummies and the Rosetta Stone.

No caption needed!
Sometimes I wonder why it is all so appealing to me... my heritage? Is it calling out to the WASPy blood that runs through my veins? Or have I just read too many fairy tales? I know Britain has its problems – all through history... I mean, they said at one time, “The sun never sets on the British Empire.” What was that all about? Such a tiny island... and it climbed so high...? Of course, this makes for some really good movie villains... Bill Sykes in Oliver!, Longshanks and just about any English soldier in Braveheart, Colonel Tavington in The Patriot, Voldemort in the Harry Potter films and Alan Rickman in just about anything!
The last word.

And, really, I don’t even mind the food terribly much. You just have to choose carefully. If the blood pudding grosses you out, don’t eat it! Eat the good plain food they have, fresh grainy breads, creamy, rich dairy products... and the sweets. You gotta love a country where the wait person serves you a delicious dessert, then, unless you tell them not to, ladles pure, sweet cream all over it. As Rachel Ray would say, “Yum-o!”

And if you are still not convinced on the beauty and magic of the British Isles, I have one last word for your consideration: GUINNESS.

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