Last night I was at a Boxing Day party. One of the guests and I got to talking about England. She said she went to school there when she was young, at a campus in Sussex. It was called something like the American International School. The school building has since been converted into a hotel. The hotel was the site of a poisoning of a Russian spy not long ago.
One thing of note is the British ability to re-purpose and maintain buildings. It's a fantastic quality and it means that ancient structures from the 6th century are still in use today. I'm not a huge fan of London, but I do really enjoy standing somewhere like along the bank of the Thames and looking at the skyline. There's such a mix of architecture in London. One of my favorite spots is near the business district where you can see skyscrapers including inside-out Lloyds Bank building with the piping on the outside and the Gherkin right up against an old flint church--St Mary's? Looking at St. Paul's cathedral from the bleak factory shape of the Tate Modern. The ornate, Gothic look of houses of Parliament across from the heavy, formidable columns of County Hall, and the gigantic spoked wheel of the London Eye.
Anyway, this party guest went on to talk about the school, her fond memories, and how awesome it was that their address was actually the name of the woods in which the building was located. They have the longest address, she says. It's true. Sometimes they're five lines. I've always found it charming that houses have names and that you can send something to a name of a place. How does anyone find that? Well, they also have this cool postcode system which I'm sure helps. (Speaking of post, I love the iconic red post boxes and that you can tell what time period their from by a symbol on the box.) I want to know if the house name has to be old, inherited, passed down from a certain time, or if you can name new houses.
One word she used to describe England stuck out because it's been a word I've that keeps popping up in my own head: Magic. England is magic. Maybe that's just for us yanks, but I don't think so. Certainly that it's 'foreign' gives it a certain mystique, an allure. That is added to by the way it's painted in our heads from early ages through nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and history. In many ways it feels like the home country. None of my ancestors are British -- okay, my grandfather was born in Manchester amidst a move from Poland to the US, but he's 100% Polish -- I have no claim to citizenship, no English, Scottish or Welsh blood in my veins. So maybe it is all through history lessons in elementary school, stories of the founding of the United States, that have produced in me this fictional link to England. Whatever the reason, it still exists. And it exists along with a familiarity and curiosity about the language and the literature, art, personalities, rock music, and movies. I dreamed of England as a little girl. It might have been due to Shakespeare but probably more likely due to Kevin Costner as Robin Hood. It might have been due to movies or art work or whatever else I was reading. England, the British Isles, is a landscape of my dreams. I longed for that lush green country side, the rolling hills right alongside the ancient forests.
Then this lovely lady went on to talk about England in summer. I've lived in England before and visited several times but never in summer. 2010 might be the year. I look forward to warm, long days and very short nights. I look forward to doing outdoor activities with a single layer of clothing and maybe a pair of flip flops. It'll be a chance to experience England in a new way, in a new light and hopefully a chance to experience more of it. On my list of places to visit: Sherwood Forest, any loch in Scotland, Findhorn Eco-Village, anywhere beautiful, anywhere with walking, anywhere with trees.