I am an Anglophile. I can’t help it and I’m not sorry. My knowledge of England resides in a beloved tapestry woven from the colorful threads of fiction and non-fiction, accurate or not. What I think I know, but probably don’t, flavors all my perceptions of most any place in the United Kingdom.
Recreational reading, to me, is curling up with a thick book filled with words like the moors, heather, crumpets, and of course, Scotland Yard. Favorite authors have taken me back to the horror of coal mining when children were forced to work in small spaces underground, and poor families barely subsisted; where the “Da” often imbibed more than a half pint on payday, leaving his raggedy children begging on the streets while rich families lived in grand homes with maids and butlers and “Fatha” rode in the hunt or discussed important political subjects with other men of means.
My fantasy, drawn from those hundreds of hours spent absorbed in stories about life across the ocean, is probably as far from reality as the absence of first-hand knowledge can make it. Nonetheless, I yearn to believe when I finally make that longed-for trip I will thrill to Big Ben’s bonging, be mesmerized by the stoic changing of the palace guards, and experience a delightful ride on a double decker that will deposit me at Herrod’s front door for some serious shopping-- notwithstanding my ignorance of pounds and tuppence.
I look forward to a cuppa tea but not to a kidney pie; to touring the country, but not on the wrong side of the road; and to ambling through Hyde Park, even in the rain. I have little interest in meeting the fictitional Richard and Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Boo-K, she says) but I want to think Lionel and Jean Hardcastle are real and will welcome me for a chatty visit. It makes me happy to pretend they reside in London and can’t wait for my arrival.
Also, I have some burning questions for the Queen: Why does she carry a purse if she needs no money and certainly isn’t going to comb her hair? Speaking of which, why has she had the same hairdo for over 60 years? I guess it really doesn’t matter, since she always wears very fetching hats. Something else puzzles me. If she has any royal authority at all, why does she let the outrageous behavior in the House of Parliament disintegrate into such terrible manners between the parties? Maybe they should be dismissed for recess to play a rousing game of Rugby and get that pent up energy out of their systems. By the way…what’s Rugby?
There are other concerns that Her Highness may know nothing about. Why are fried potatoes called chips, while potato chips are called crisps? If a biscuit is a cookie…then what is that baked item one has with eggs and gravy in the morning? If pudding means any dessert, then what is real pudding called? (I do not consider the Yorkshire or plum variety worth acknowledging).
If the trunk of the car is the boot and the hood is the bonnet, what’s all the stuff in between called? Why are refrigerators always short and placed under the kitchen counters in British TV shows? If the back yard is the garden, what is the place where carrots and spinach are grown? If my friend is my mate, what is my spouse?
I’m still a little confused about why they sent London Bridge and The Queen Mary--the ship, not Elizabeth’s ancestor--to America. I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t give them the Brooklyn Bridge or Old Ironsides.
My imagination wallows in a fantastical mixture of bowler hats and umbrellas, enchanting Cockney accents, elevators called lifts, trucks called lorries, the Tower of London, and Piccadilly Circus—a place that has nothing to do with tents or elephants or flying trapezes.
I’m convinced that everything across that big pond is mysteriously wonderful and totally intriguing, including playing darts in a Pub and having a lovely spot of Squash--the non-alcoholic drink made with an orange or lemon base (certainly not the yellow vegetable or the game).
In preparation for speaking the Queen’s English to the natives someday, I’ll practice saying, “Ta-ta, Cheerio, pip-pip…” and all that.
And finally, I hesitate to admit an embarrassingly serious gap in my British literacy, but I must confess: Cricket may be a national obsession over there, but to this girl, it’s still a chirping bug named Jiminy.
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