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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Citizen Me: Prelude

I remember quite clearly the plane coming in to land at Heathrow in November 1978. It was my first visit to England -- one I had dreamed about ever since I was a small child. It was a grey day and just light enough to see the suburban houses and streets ... those moments were strangely emotional for me and I could feel my eyes welling up. There was absolutely nothing familiar about the houses -- it all looked 'different', 'foreign' and I was enthralled.

I stayed in a Belsize Park Bedsit that belonged to a good friend of mine. London bedsit land was a completely new experience for this American! The room was the width of a bed and about twice as long, with a window along most of the length. At the opposite end of the single bed was a sink and a hot plate. There was no fridge -- there was a box outside the window where you could put a bottle of milk and perhaps some butter. And there were meters: one for gas, one for electricity. Heat was provided by an overhead electric heater that burned 10 pence pieces at a phenomenal rate! The bathroom was down the hall and the toilet was on the half-landing! Home for two weeks! At least the room was small enough to heat up fast and believe me I didn't spend a lot of time lounging around -- I was up and out every morning taking in as much as I could in two short weeks.

I saw plays, including 'Night and Day' with Diana Rigg (I adored her) and John Thaw and 'Coriolanus' with Alan Howard. Six months later I saw Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp in Ibsen's 'The Lady from the Sea'. Harrods became my favourite store -- I think I made my way there almost every day -- I was after all a typical American tourist! My friend, Freya, who did a lot of work with the BBC World Service took me to Broadcasting House and I was able to witness a program being taped. They even used the 'click' of my instamatic camera as a sound effect  -- for what, I cannot remember!

That November, Jim Callaghan was still Prime Minister and during my stay there were many one day strikes -- from one day to the next I was never sure what might affect me. By the time I returned the following June there would be a new Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

England in the Summer is very beautiful. I paid my first visit to Wales and found it to be a wonderful beautiful place -- the sides of the hills were covered in Rhododendron, there were gardens like I'd never seen -- everywhere -- North Wales was my first foray outside of London and I was enchanted. Soon though it was back to London and the end of the beginning of a romance that was to end with my returning to England and The Man!

So, with one thing leading to another, I can heartily recommend row boats on the Serpentine, strolling along the Embankment and long warm evenings in the glow of England at mid-Summer!

18 comments:

  1. You sound like a hopeless Anglophile. And why not?
    So am I.

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  2. I do like your view. You sound as though you had an experience that I've always longed for, going to England that very first time.
    It's on a back burner for now but maybe someday!!!
    Come on - sell lots of books for me Kindle.
    Blessings, Barb

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    1. Hope you make it one day -- after all it's only a plane ride away!

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  3. Dear Broad,
    As Stephen Hayes says, you are a real Anglophie. But we learned that earlier when you shared with us your desire to become a British citizen. I'm happy that you feel at home there,

    Like you, I can remember so well my first visit to English--Salisbury plain, Stonehenge (at that time a visitor could walk among the monoliths), the cathedral there as well as at Canterbury, York, and Winchester; Cornwall; Cambridge. And then over to Wales and up to Scotland and Invernessl. I traveled through history, feeling as if I met kings and queens, masons and carpenters, writers and poets. I fell in land with the isles.

    Peace.

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    1. Cornwall and Stonehenge are still of my list of places to visit :-( -- I hope to do something about that and soon!

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  4. Love at first sight and a story that reads like a prize winning novel! I suppose there is more to come ...?! Martine

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  5. Broad, you recount your memories so vividly that you took me straight back to the 'winter of discontent' and the 3-day week when we had to try to keep the library open during those power cuts! I'm glad your experience then didn't put you off returning soon to discover the beauty of Wales and find a husband. :-)

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    1. I was lucky to be just a tourist and able to fly away from the Winter of Discontent -- What a time you all had!

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  6. A Broad abroad. What a great idea. Thanks for stopping by my place. Ya'll come back now.

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    1. Very nice to see you've dropped by -- Looking forward to more of your posts. Be seein' ya'll!

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  7. I spent two years in England from 1959 to 1961 and will never forget how cold the houses were and all the coins it took to heat up a bath. I'm surprised they still used coins in 1978. Do you still? I agree that England is a lovely country in the summer and Wales a beautiful place. I notices that you still have word verification. I got rid of it over a year ago with no problems since then. With this new word verification Google has come up with, I will not be able to continue to leave comments, something I love to do, on blogs that keep them.

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    1. I don't think there are any coined meters anymore, but I do believe that there are pre-paid utility cards that some households are required to use if people don't pay their bills on time.

      I've taken your suggestion to heart and have changed my settings -- I'm finding two-word verification very annoying, too!

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  8. This is a very interesting blog! I really like reading your writing.

    www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks for dropping by and for your kind words, Gina

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  9. There are many charms, indeed, throughout Britain. I would love to go to Wales some day. (The oral history of my mother's family is that it began in Wales.)

    Your bedsit sounds charming, and just the right size for a working person. Up and out in the morning, back late and to bed. Ah, well.

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  10. My maiden name is welsh, so we share a common heritage! I hope you can go there some day -- it is very very beautiful.

    That bedsit worked a treat in that regard!!

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Receiving comments is a joy and I thank you all for taking the trouble and showing your interest. Makes me feel all gooey and stuff!