All the world‘s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts. Shakespeare
England and America are two countries separated by the same language. George Bernard Shaw
Y’all are so cute and y’all talk so proper over here. I love England. Beyonce Knowles
England, one of my favorite countries (let me keep saying England instead of UK please). During all those English history classes, and gazing at multiple Life Magazine photos of the Queen, and sitting up all night with a friend in a dark cabin in the north woods weeping through Diana’s funeral, it’s always been England. I’ve visited a few times, the first with my friend Sue in 1984, the last with granddaughter Teresa in 2016. In between there was a road trip from Farnborough near London up into Scotland with my British lover and several visits to dance festivals and gatherings. All good…and now as a bonus there are the pretty young royals…and Netflix and Acorn to share The Crown and the best, or is that the worst, of crime from all over the UK. Not to mention a number of good histories and novels of British origin.
And for this splendid moment in time—there’s Harry and Meghan, the handsome prince and the beautiful princess, just as life was intended to be—and I’ll be there through it all, loyal royal groupie that I am. I’m prepared for the wedding: Signed onto Hulu Live so I can access CNN International; purchased the Pimms (still need the ginger ale, strawberries and cucumbers); found that tin of stale Fortnum and Mason lemon biscuits in the back of the cupboard; and discovered there’s a bit of lemon curd left in the back of the frig. I’ll be up most of Friday night so as not to miss any gushingly silly comments from the media or a single wave of Princess Charlotte’s chubby baby-queen hand.
Last weekend I was introduced to Childish Gambino’s “This is America,” next week it’s Paul Simon’s farewell tour—in other words the sad present here in Gunistan juxtaposed with a musical album of my life from Bridge Over Troubled Waters through Graceland and beyond.
THIS WEEK however it’s all England, all royalty, all of the time. I don’t actually have anything new to write that a few thousand people haven’t already shared these past weeks so, instead, I’m going to post some bits and pieces of essays from the last few years. I’ll start at the beginning…that first life-changing trip.
Part 1: The Mother
England was, for a few hundred years, the most studied foreign country in American high schools and even in colleges if poetry and literature are included. It’s the source of my language and many of my governing institutions and, more importantly Shakespeare, the Beatles, and Downton Abbey. And all those Englishy things like beans on toast and warm beer and damp greenness. My England of several visits is like those photos from that trip you just never got sorted; there they are, still in a heap in the shoe box; a heap I’m about to paw through.
The photos from that first visit in 1984 are at the bottom looking a little faded compared to my bright digitized pictures from these later years. But here we are; 1984 and Sue and I all bright-eyed, curly-haired and eager. What was playing in the background as we boarded out plane in NYC and deplaned at Heathrow? Probably, in both cases, Phil Collins inviting us to take a look at him now or Stevie Wonder calling to tell us he loved us—pop culture criss-crossing the Atlantic with the speed of light it seemed.
Look away from the photos for a minute, Marjorie—remember how heart-stoppingly excited you were to be landing in England! More than crossing into Mexico; stepping out of the plane into the Philippines; more than getting married or starting a new job; in fact damn close to bearing children but much less painful. Gertrude Stein said “Let me recite what history teaches. History teaches.” Maybe history had taught me, more thoroughly than I realized that England was the mother ship.
Sue and I proceeded to a proper sight-seeing of our Merry Old Heritage: Buckingham Palace and that grand array of beautiful buildings all about; Stonehenge, Brighton with its kipper breakfasts and colorful beach huts; even spending a scandalous few hours with two ex-military Brits we met at Shakespeare’s Pub who took us to the Royal Tournament where, it was announced, Princess Anne was in the audience. Our brush with Royalty. Well there was one more. Here’s Sue standing next to the Royal Guard at the Queen Mother’s residence; she looks so surprised because he had just ever so politely pinched her butt.
Here we are posed in front of Fleming’s Hotel on Half Moon Street in London.
On the beach in Brighton.
Of course, in all of the pictures we’re both smoking, me Marlboros, Sue? Salems I think. Yeah, well, back in the day we were bad…