14 June 2014

Reflecting On England

What can I say...
so much we have learned 
and so much we will miss

Thank you for joining my journey!

I am so thankful you have read and commented on my blog
which in turn encouraged me to keep documenting our time here in words and images

As I start to look at England from a rear-view mirror perspective,
here's some of my thoughts about this wonderful country
we have been lucky to call 'home'...


Enabling green grass and lush landscapes year around,
rain is an important fiber of the English culture

Providing not only a conversation starter,
rain has created a hearty crew who holds events rain or shine
and 'just gets on with it'

Molding fashion,
you find adorable wellies and umbrellas at the ready for rain
and the sweater-scarf-leggings-boots combo is put to work 
at least 9 months of the year

With rain comes rainbows and
the probable cloud cover provides soft lighting for photos
The mild weather is predictable with occasional 'sunny spells'

Fog has been infrequent
but always a treat
as it drops a totally different lens to a wintry landscape

Wintertime is short but very dark,
and later we're rewarded by insanely long hours of daylight in summertime

In general
the clouds and rain are like a cozy blanket
It makes me say, 'Ahhh, that's my England'


With all that rain and mild temperatures,
this island has the most wonderful conditions for growing things

Dancing wildflowers are left to grow along the roadside
and walls of greenery guide you down the lanes 
in the form of hedgerows and tree tunnels

Picture-perfect crop fields are just as beautiful
as the countless public gardens that dot this verdant country

Garden nurseries sell not only flowers and plants
but pots of tea, lunch and dessert

With public footpaths zig-zagging the country,
there is no shortage of local hikes
and dogs can frolic off-leash to their waggy-heart's content

Without the danger of bears, mountain lions, or poisonous snakes
children can run around more carefree than we are accustomed to
(there are venomous adders, but rare)

Oh, how we will miss... 

being woken up at 5 o'clock by birdsong
old car horn sound of a pheasant call
bike pump sound made by the Great Tit
skinny little legs on the sweet and revered English Robin

wandering solitary fox
spinning tail of a newborn lamb
gorgeous haze of bluebells in Spring
shocking acid-yellow rapeseed

rich blue of a British summer sky
fairytale-like toadstools in autumn
magical hoar frost in winter


Like many Americans,
I am quite smitten by the English accent
and surprised how it varies greatly
depending on class, education, and location

I've started to notice which type of accent is spoken in radio commercials
which provides a whole different level of information to the listener
as to what the advertiser wants to convey

While the English are not boastful,
they'll remind you of their original ownership of the English language

And yet
they have pronunciation inconsistencies that make me look like a real heel
such as Cliveden - should be Clive-den but is pronounced Cliv'den -
and other pronunciation rule derailments such as Thames and Leicester

I imagine the English use a larger percentage of their dictionary than Americans
and they have an impressively extensive vocabulary for landscapes such as
moor, tor, fen, fell, dale, vale, copse, lea, common, green, heath, and beck

There is even a wordsmith game show on BBC radio

I love that the public will correct grammatically incorrect signage

How I wish I had taken a photo of a notice placed in an elevator/lift I saw a few years ago
Someone had used a pen to make about 4 grammatical corrections on the sign
It was taken down that night

But I did get a photo of this one at my local post office...

Someone attempted to scratch out the 's'

On a side note,
I find it fascinating that the French has an official authority (Académie française)
determining the usages, vocabulary, grammar, and dictionary of the French language


Let's cut the the chase:
man, how we will miss our country pubs

Imagine a 17th-century pub with a warming fire in the fireplace
and board games stacked nearby just waiting to be played

A warming drink may include 
a pot of tea
hot chocolate
(warmish) pint of beer
Winter Pimms
or mulled wine

Happiness is sitting outside on a sunny day at a pub
while the kids play on equipment or hide-and-seek

'Quiz Night' is on Fridays
Sunday Roast each week
Dog and family friendly

Pubs are the heartbeat of many villages
and there simply is no equivalent in the US
or possibly elsewhere in the world outside the UK/Ireland region

With so many cool pubs to discover,
you never have to go to the same one twice

While England gets a bad rap for food,
delicious Indian take-away is as common as Chinese take-out in the US

The London food scene is amazing, delicious and diverse
and is constantly evolving with clever new ideas

From liquid nitrogen ice cream
to Alice In Wonderland tea,
from pay-per-minute cafes
to sushi on conveyor belts,
London has it all
and we're spoiled for choice

Our sweet tooth will be missing a lot of British favorites:

millionaire shortbread bars
lemon drizzle cake
treacle tart
sticky toffee pudding
honeycomb crunch ice cream
first of the season British strawberries

And those unforgettably named dishes
Toad In The Hole, Bubble & Squeak

In place of syrup,
who knew squeezing lots of lemon juice and sprinkling sugar
all over pancakes would be a new breakfast favorite?

Tipped off by a French friend who knows her food, we found another love
good local bread
- so soft, so light, with lots of holes inside to capture the butter -

Aside from rain, tea also is an obvious integral part of England
Offered in homes and schools, by hairdressers, and at medical appointments
'a nice cup of tea' is another emotional cozy blanket in England
to either welcome or soothe

'cream tea' is more regional than I would have expected
with its clotted cream and scones
When I stumble upon one, I bring out my happy dance


As intimidating and silly the driving exam seemed at the time,
I actually am thankful I had to go through the process
or shall we call it 'a right of passage', hmm?

I definitely became a much better driver
thanks to the exam, the driving lessons,
and fellow drivers who honked at my missteps

I love the continuous driving enabled by
roundabouts and yields (no stop signs)

And I appreciate 'creative parking'
in any direction on sidewalks
made possible by low kerbs/curbs

Speed limits that change on digital signs 
are a brilliant idea on the highways/dual carriageways

You gotta love the single lane roads that call themselves a double lane
- smile if you know what I'm talking about -

And I can just hear the crowd go wild
when I totally nail one of those challenging parallel parking spaces
- that is some serious satisfaction, my friends -


While we have the same number of school days as our American counterparts,
our holiday breaks are much longer


In the US, it felt like nine months of solid school

In the UK, 
it feels like we are on break, just finished a break, or about to have a break

Consequently, English schools finish the school year in late June or July
making the summer holiday quite short

And with two magnificent international airports nearby,
many destinations are just a direct flight away

Due to our location,
many countries are in a nearby timezone
meaning jet lag often is of no concern

Travel is affordable-ish
with discounted airlines and most hotels open to some bargaining

We will definitely miss all the mental breaks from school
allowing us quality family time even when we didn't travel

Feels like healthy living


A few other oddities I will miss:

For portable toilets, that slogan is priceless!

* on/off switch on wall outlets

* Panto season at Christmastime

* LBC and BBC talk radio - giving me more insight into the English mind

* contest radio winners who respond with a simple 'thank you' or 'I'm. so. happy.' 

* upcoming Scottish independence vote and UK General Election
Refreshingly, voting happens with little fanfare and no endorsements signs
I'm sorry to miss feeling the pulse!

* English synonyms for so many American words
My vocabulary has definitely expanded

* little things such as the European '7' with a line through it,
the date written in a different order,
writing in upper case letters almost exclusively,
formally beginning emails with 'dear' and ending with 'kind regards'

* the density of so much to do, see, learn, and photograph
so close to home

While the time is right on many fronts for us to leave,
we are returning to the US as new, improved 'us'

I'm definitely a lot smarter having absorbed English history and culture
and grateful to learn a different way to do life and raise a family

Would I live in another foreign country again?
Although it has its challenges, yes, definitely yes

- all images my own -


Wendy said...

I have loved your blog posts in regards to England and I will miss them. It is definitely a greener country and just seems a bit more laid back in comparison to the U.S. I hope and pray your move goes well and that y'all are able to settle back down in the U.S. without too much anxiety and culture shock.

joanold said...

It's been lovely reading about my country through your eyes. You have managed to capture everything that makes me proud to be English. Your photos are superb and really capture the essence of our countryside. I'm so glad that you have enjoyed your stay here, and hope that your move back to the U.S. is uneventful.

Joyce said...

We were in the UK six years and have been back in the states five this summer. Some days it feels like a lifetime, others like we only left yesterday. Re-entry is a bit of a roller coaster, so be kind to yourself. You obviously grew to love England as we did, and the depth of that emotion is powerful some days. There's a great book called-The Art of Coming Home by Craig Storti, that helped me feel less crazy : ) Best of luck with your move, and the settling in back 'home'...a word you will now see in a whole new way.

likeschocolate said...

Food has come a long way in England over that last 20 years with cooks like Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, and Gorden Ramsey to name just a few. I think they got tired of the jokes. Still can't eat baked beans with eggs though. Have a safe journey home.

Sandra said...

It sounds as if you've really enjoyed your time in England, Laura. I'm wondering if your children will be returning to the US with English accents?!
Travelling and living in other countries widens our horizons and makes us more accepting of the differences and even enjoying them.
I wish you a wonderful journey home and an easy transition into life in your home country!
All the best! Sandra

ann said...

I have enjoyed your posts about England and your life there. While I only spent a few short weeks there, I came understand my one country better and appreciate our history and what our founding fathers wanted to accomplish. You mention elections. Yiu will be returning just in time for our wretched election process with all the ads ads and telephone calls. I do hope you let us know where you land and that you write about your new surroundings.

Egretta Wells blog said...

I have enjoyed your posts so much from UK and especially this one. The photos are superb and your comments excellent...I will be going back to this one more times. Best wishes and hopefully you will blog about other adventures to come!! Egretta

Kathy said...

Though I've been following your blog for a while, I don't think I've ever commented. It's one of my favorites! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. England is at the top of my list of places I'd love to visit. I'm looking forward to reading about your transition back to the U.S. Wishing you safe travel.

Belinda @ Wild Acre said...

I have absolutely loved seeing my country through your fresh eyes and cameral lens, and am challenged by your get up and go - driving about exploring so many places that I have never got round to! It was great meeting you at the bloggers' tea in London and I wish you every happiness wherever your travels take you! Belinda x

Eileen T said...

I too have loved reading about my country on your blog. I love your photography and seeing the many places you have visited during your stay here. I hope you continue to blog when you return to the USA.

Mrs Crumpet said...

A beautiful love-note to this island. I've valued reading your blog and learned so much from your posts. These leaver's posts are almost hard to read in their bittersweet affection Thank you!

Iota said...

Wishing you well, Happy Homemaker!

Yes, I think our "year round school" does make for healthy living. The American school year feels relentless, and then that long, long summer break. Always felt unbalanced.

Amy at love made my home said...

I am so glad that you had such a great time in England and that you have many happy memories to look back on. I hope that you will be able to return for some more visits one day! xx

Katherine said...

I love this post dedicated to our green and pleasant land. I shall miss your posts introducing me to places I've never known about and I was born here! I do hope you continue to blog as I love the way you write. Have a safe journey x

He Who Loves an Old House said...

What a lovely post! To see just how you experienced your time abroad is a great window into a real life fairytale. Thank you for sharing.

Though a substitution is not quite the real thing, we have many such "pubs" (taverns, here in New England) that seem very similar to the feel of the country pub you described. These early American taverns almost always have a crackling fire, warm drinks, hearty meals, and (sometimes) pet friendly, though always family friendly!

And there is always year round school that is similar to the schedule you mentioned, though like the pubs, a substitute, leaves you missing the original a little less.

Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful journey.



He Who Loves an Old House said...
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He Who Loves an Old House said...
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Karen Sargent said...

Please keep blogging when you move back to America! Your blog has inspired me so much and although I've wanted to move to england for a long time now, your blog just fills my heart with a lot of joy. Your pictures are gorgeous, as well. I came into your blog a little late and it feels like I was just beginning to read your blog and then you moved back to America! I would love to read more of what you write :)

Pom Pom said...

Aw, Laura! I'm kind of sad.
Where will you live in the USA?
Great post!

Kym Hamer said...

Wonderful photos Laura - reminds me why I love living here!

Joy said...

This post made me very homesick - its only been 48 years since I emigrated to Australia!! Time I made another visit "home". Particularly the dog-friendly environment is so refreshing. One almost has to apologise for being a dog lover here. Thank you .... Joy

Dee Shockley said...

P.S. When you publish all your UK experience blogs in a book, I definitely want a copy! :)

Pondside said...

The opportunity to live in a country not one's own is really a gift. I enjoyed reading about your appreciation for all your saw/heard/ate and experienced! I do hope you'll keep on blogging from the USA.

Beth said...

Oh Laura you have captured it all beautifully. It is wonderful that you can hold so many memories of your trip through your blog and will be able to read back over your time in England.
I was smiling then grinning than chuckling reading this post!
Safe travels,

Always wear your tiara said...

I'm thrilled to be here now with my family but I have to say once we return to the States I'm really going to miss your posts from here. Although you often made me horribly homesick I loved knowing you were hiding down the fort and keeping me topped up.
Safe travels back and I'm rely happy that you've loved your stay here.

lisaroyhandbags said...

I've really enjoyed following along as you lived your life in England and all the beauty it has had to offer. Though some things are similar to our time in Ireland, so many things are different as well which has been so interesting. Dubai has many British expats and I've seen glimpses of England mixed into all the other nationalities there. I'm sure you feel the same way we do returning to North America, enriched with everything you've absorbed, yet excited to return to what's familiar. Best of luck!

Laura said...

Aww - what a lovely post about my beloved home. I'm so happy you enjoyed your time in England. I've lived in the States 10 years now, but anyone entering my home would think they'd walked into an English house (visitors always comment that it's so 'English'). I offer tea to all that visit and the solution to missing English treats... I bake them myself. It doesn't have to be goodbye, introduce whatever you can into your American life. Safe travels. Lx

Privet and Holly said...

What a grand adventure
and it makes me smile
that a tiny piece of me
was woven into it when
we had our sweet lunch
together!! Just sad that
you won't be there when
we return again this
Thanksgiving. That said,
I'm excited for you and
your next chapter--enjoy
it all!

xo Suzanne

The Snowdrop Project said...

Hi Laura, have so enjoyed reading your lovely blog about our little country. i know we all take it for granted and so its refreshing to see it through anothers eyes.
It was also a pleasure to meet you in person at the bloggers tea a couple of years ago.
Wishing you well for the future,
Liz x

Janey and Co. said...

Oh Laura,

I knew this was coming. Bitter sweet. I am not surprised that you say goodbye with such class. You will do great with re-entry....like someone said ......we don't expect the move home to be trying. I lived abroad over thirty years ago...so I have been there. Your positive attitude will carry you through!
Please post again ....on this post, so we will know where to find you,...I think you have hooked us all.
Safe travels.....Janey

Art and Sand said...

Today is my first visit so I don't know why you lived in England and why you are leaving, but I envy you. We lived/taught school in Jamaica and I loved learning a new culture. My husband turned down a transfer to London once which turned out to be a good thing, but I was so disappointed.

Now I am going to read backwards to understand the whys.

The Plaid Pig said...

I'm going to miss your posts too! Beautiful country and I miss it terribly, however, so happy to have this post when I want a reminder of such a wonderful time in our life. Good luck with the move! Hope to catch you soon on this side :)

Tina in CT said...

What a beautiful goodbye. I hope you will continue with blogging at your new home.

My daughter moves to London in a little over a week from Moscow. I look forward to many trips to England to visit the family and can't wait to explore the countryside and villages along with all London has to offer.

I will need to go back to start your blog from the beginning.

Hope your move goes smoothly.

Gesci said...

Yes to so much of this!!
We miss England every day, it seems, for the weather, the food, the views, the ease of travel, the ability to go up to Scotland for the day on a whim (since it was 3.5 hours from us)… it's heartbreaking, honestly.

Well done post, and I hope your move goes smoothly and unbrokenly!!

(and you will definitely miss pantos- every Christmas I can't stop telling Paul how much I want to go to another panto!!)

Daydream Living said...

Just finished reading the last posts, truly an end of an era. Loved your 'in between' post, the potty photo, the correction of language, it's all truly lovely to read! Hope your journey back to the US and in your new place will be smooth. Take care, and hope to see your name pop up soon again! Hugs, Maureen x

Linda Metcalf said...

You have been very fortunate indeed. Most people will only ever dream of being able to live in the UK...a country so rich in history and culture. It's been a dream of mine for so many years. It's been lovely to see this country thru your eyes. Thank you!