Oh, Green and Pleasant Land!

England is playing on my mind today. In just 11 weeks I will be back, and as much as I love New York and America in general, there are certain things I long to see, hear and taste again, and cannot wait to be reunited with. Such as:

After the rain smell. It’s not as potent or earthy smelling here.

Proper tea. Served with milk as a matter of course, without me having to ask for it.

Crumpets drenched in butter. Sarabeth thinks she makes good ones. She doesn’t. You can’t beat a Warburton’s crumpet on a Sunday afternoon. Or at 3am when you need to soak up the alcohol you just consumed on a night out.

Roast dinners with Marks and Spencer’s Yorkshire pudding and Bisto gravy, with rhubarb crumble and custard for dessert. Sigh.

Manual transmission cars. I hate driving automatics.

Hedged-in country lanes where you genuinely can’t see anything coming and rounding each bend is a near death experience.

Red buses. The MTA buses are not exactly a substitute.

The view of the Houses of Parliament from across the Embankment. The New York skyline may be impressive, but that view of faux Gothic towers rising above the early morning mist that gathers on the Thames is unutterably beautiful, timeless and quintessentially English.

Proper pubs. Calling yourself by a fake Irish name and serving warm beer in a dingy New York shop front doesn’t make you a pub.

Being called ‘love’ by strangers.

British swear words, such as ‘blimey’, ‘bloody’ and ‘bugger’.

National Trust days out.

Victoria sponge cake. Cupcakes just can’t take the place of sponge, cream and jam in a delectably delicious sandwich.

Orderly queues where no one complains about being in a queue.

The word queue. Every time I ask ‘Where does the line start?’ in a shop, I grow a little more disappointed in myself.

Streets of 1930’s semis.

Fish and chip shops.

Pebbly beaches.

Dingy bookshops on the Charing Cross Road.

Inane conversation about the weather and when exactly one thinks it is going to start to rain.

The print edition of The Sunday Times.

Be prepared for a similar list in two months’ time, rubbishing all things English and praising all things American after I’m back in London and am missing Shakeshack, the Empire State Building, amazing buskers on the subway, being able to get anything I want at any time of day and night, the word ‘awesome’ and people fawning all over me just because I opened my mouth and an English accent came out.

 

56 comments

  1. Oh, Bright and Brilliant Rachel! What a splendid post. I am laughing so hard tears are streaming down my face! I too am horribly homesick for England and when I come for a good long visit in October 2012, we MUST meet for proper tea.

    Charles

  2. What a lovely post. although they usually are.

    Have you read Watching the English by Kate Fox? If not, then you really must. It’s a socio-anthropological study of the English and their love of queues and queue etiquette, talking about the weather, tea etc (basically everything you have listed!)

    It would be lovely to meet up for tea and crumpets once you are home and re-acclimatised.

    1. Thank you Claire!

      No I haven’t, but I’ve heard of it – I must get hold of it because I have always heard it praised highly.

      Yes! We will do that. Tea and crumpets and CAKE!🙂

  3. Ah yes – one of life’s greatest frustrations – that we cannot be in more than one place at any one time.

  4. I miss all those things too, and I’m not even English. I watch an English film, read one English novel after another, eat what is supposed to be a scone, and feel an inexplicable nostalgia for the England I wasn’t born in. Explain THAT, if you can!

    1. I know – I will always have my memories and the ability to get off a plane and launch in without having to check a map is a great asset in New York! Thank you – I’m so glad!

  5. Oh Rachel, you’ve made me all nostalgic for England now. Like Leticia, “I miss all those things too, and I’m not even English.” And I second Claire’s book rec.

    A truly awesome post, love (how’s that for mixing the languages?!)

  6. What a lovely lovely post. One thing living abroad does to you is enable you to appreciate the wonderful, unique things about Britain that you just moan about when you’re here…I guess moaning is quintessentially English as well!! Ah hah!

    1. Oh thank you! Yes indeed – I took all of these things for granted before and now all these simple pleasures will bring me waves and waves of delight when I return! Yes – us Brits can moan for an Olympic sport!

    1. Thank you, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Any trip to England is always a wonderful experience…I am going back in a few weeks for a quick visit and I cannot WAIT!

  7. I miss the Houses of Parliament too, weirdly and often. I miss having a little picnic on that green space by the London Eye and looking over the top of my book at the Houses of Parliament. Sigh. I wish I could come back to London in September and just start living there. :p

    1. Oh I love that bit of green by Southbank…I had my 21st birthday picnic there actually! We reallt are two peas in a pod!

      Well you will always have a place to stay when you do come over!🙂

  8. Great post. I cannot believe you’ve already been here nearly a year. America will be sad to lose you, but I’m so thankful for the internet that will let us continue to follow your adventure. I, of course, would be one of those goofballs “fawning all over” your English accent if I could hear you – as would my 4 kids..🙂 Enjoy your remaining 11 weeks!

    1. Thank you Susan! I know, I can’t either. It has been such a wonderful experience and I’ve loved sharing it with you all. Hahahahaha! I love being fawned over – I don’t think it’s goofy at all!🙂

  9. Those longings for home can be mighty strong, can’t they? What marvelous stories your will have to tell your nephews as you hug them – and as you return to all your favorite places and tastes and smells and such. The fun thing is that wherever you are, Rachel, we will still get to read your reviews and about your your adventures. Isn’t that grand? AND you have reacquainted or introduced us to so much wonderful American literature in your time here. Aha, but time is not up yet, so, off you go for another good read and good write-up to feed my literary soul.

    1. Yes! I didn’t realise how much I would miss the little things. I know – I can’t wait to cuddle them and tell them all about Aunty Rachel’s time in New York…their faces are the ones I have missed the most! Isn’t it just! I love how the internet can connect people across the world and enable us to share our different lives. I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed my adventures.🙂

  10. A lovely post and it makes me appreciate even more – if that were possible – how lucky I am to live in England and in one of the loveliest parts, too: the coast in Devon. I’ve never seen the Houses of Parliament through the mist, but I know they’re there and only a train ride away if I feel the urge to see them thus … I, too, love crumpets, and the garden (never a ‘yard’, that’s concrete!) after rain (it’s actaully raining now), and tea with milk (and made in a tea pot and allowed to brew), and a Victoria sandwich with jam and cream, and to the list I’d add marmalade (Wilkin & Son Tiptree Orange is the best) on toast at any time of the day or night (we even enjoy toast and marmalade at bedtime with a cup of tea), and oh yes, National Trust days out … we visited Saltram, near Plymouth, yesterday (that’s Plymouth, UK) and I learned that visitors are now permitted to take photos inside NT properties provided they don’t use flash. Also, they had removed a lot of the barriers so you could wander in the rooms unimpeded, but of course, this also means (a) that the fabric of the building will wear out all the quicker, with thousands of feet trampling all over the place and (b) there are now fewer objects on display because, of course, they could be damaged if within the range of clumsy visitors (or even, dare I say it, half-inched in Cockney rhyming slang!) And I was also surprised to find that in some areas visitors are positively encouraged to sit on the sofas and chairs and spend time looking at some of the books they had left open for them.

    1. Oh, Devon! I spent all my childhood summers there, and my sister married a Devonshire lad! How lucky you are indeed to live in such a beautiful spot. That National Trust experience sounds marvellous…my favourite visit was to the newly acquired Tyntesfield near Bristol a couple of years ago…they allowed visitors in while they were restoring this amazing Victorian gothic pile that still had all the family’s possessions in it – it was an absolute treasure trove. I can’t wait to resume my visits when I return!

  11. Blimey, Rachel, but it will be good to have you back on English soil! While your adventure on this side of the pond has been a fascinating one I look forward to you reclaiming that blessed list! Just imagine how hard it is for those of us, through no fault of our own, to be stranded on this side of the pond with only short and expensive holidays to look forward to every now and then! And thank you, I can’t stand bloody automatic cars either and drive a stick. So there…and bugger. A little less homesick now?

    1. Oh Darlene! I know it’s tough for you being so far from your rightful native land! You have all the right lingo though and you can drive a proper car so you really could fit right in! Much less homesick, thank you very much!🙂

  12. I say bugger at work often and they look at my like I’m a weirdo. It’s just so satisfying. How I’d give my right arm to go back with you and STAY in England. If when you are home, and decide to take an Illyrian holiday, DO let me know as I’ll be in Italy from September on….

    1. It is such a great word isn’t it?! Well Daniel I may take you up on that…and likewise…if you want a sofa in London to sleep on, you know who to call!

  13. “Hedged-in country lanes where you genuinely can’t see anything coming and rounding each bend is a near death experience.” This is the reason I am so afraid of planning a driving trip in the UK. We have driven in Spain, Italy, and France with no problem. But the hedges in England! I don’t know how it is done. The only other thing that scares me more is the Amalfi Coast road.

    1. Well Thomas some of them do have little mirrors attached so you can see around the bend, and there are passing places. And people tend to beep their horns as they come to the corner as well. So it’s not as bad as it seems. Though I have certainly had a few close calls. It’s all part of the adventure of a day out in the country!!😉

  14. This is why I’m amazed you went to NYC at all. How could you leave Victorian Sponge Cake? Although I heard they have a good version at Tea and Sympathy. Though I’ve never actually had it, so what do I know?

    1. Well, New York has its charms!🙂 Tea and Sympathy is a travesty and I won’t go there – outrageously overpriced and very mediocre I’m afraid!

      1. I have never been to T&S, but I have their cookbook which has a pretty good Victoria Sponge recipe that I make fairly often. Although it calls for buttercream instead of cream which is still delicious, but decidedly not the same thing.

      2. Buttercream is an acceptable alternative for a shop bought cake because of the difficulties of storing a fresh cream cake etc but whenever I make it myself I always use fresh whipped cream that I put icing sugar and vanilla essence in, and then lashings of jam/fresh fruit depending on the time of year and how expensive raspberries and strawberries are.

        The key to a good Victoria Sponge recipe is equal amounts of everything – you never go wrong. Apparently the best way is to weigh your eggs first and then use the same weight of flour and sugar and butter, but I always go with the 250g of everything and 3 eggs method and it has not failed me yet!

  15. Are you coming back for good/the foreseeable future? That is a cracking list. I like your Singer Sargent btw, it was one of my favourite paintings for a long time. It has since been ousted but I am still very fond of it. x

    1. Yes. My visa was just for a year so I have to reluctantly return in September.😦 Thanks! I love that painting and in the flesh the lanterns really do glow! I have been experimenting with my headers today…it may make a reappearance! x

  16. Oh Oh Oh – Rachel, you have made me so homesick – and I’ve only just come back from a week in England! Perhaps that’s why it sort of hurts to read your post.

    This morning I thought I might do a post on my blog with pics showing things like our gorgeous garden room hidden in a mass of trees ( in La Borne, I mean) and so many other small things that are delightful here. I was planning to say, ‘how could I leave all this?’ but NOTHING can make up for missing my own country. However, we have to work,so on we go.

    I don’t know anyone who puts things I think into a nutshell so well as you do. I suppose I should thank you for writing ‘Oh green and pleasant land’ – better go and find a hanky!

    Thank you though!

    1. Oh no Chrissy! I’m sorry!

      I am sure your surroundings in France are just divine, and France has its beauty and culinary delights….though of course there will never be anywhere quite like home, will there?

      Thank you Chrissy! You are too good to me🙂

  17. Love your list. My US based relatives would add clotted cream, English strawberries and blackcurrant licorice sweets. I can get the sweets to them though not the other two items. Bugger.

  18. I can’t believe your year is almost up already–time really flies! I hope you had a great experience and a positive one as well. It is nice to think of returning to the things that are so familiar, though! People really don’t complain about being in a queue in England? You are indeed very patient!🙂

    1. I know, you’re telling me! I have had a wonderful time – it really has been the happiest and most fulfilling experience I have yet enjoyed and it’s been a pleasure and a privilege to be in America for such a projected length of time. No we don’t – we all just grin and bear it – that’s us Brits for you!😉

  19. There is a lovely Children’s book called Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say. I may have mentioned it to you before. Grandfather came to America as a young Japanese man and loved it until he started missing Japan. He returned to Japan and was living happily but missed America. There were some dark times during WWII described but the book goes on to describe a man who loves two countries as the does author who follows the same pattern. It reminds me of you. Of course, you love and miss your homeland, but I know you will always have a place in your heart for our country too. I wish you had time to spend in the midwest. You might see a slower pace and no one cares too much who is first. There are no stoplights in my small town and many one lane roads. It smells very “earthy” here after a rain, even a little wormy.

    1. I shall try and find that book, Janet – it sounds truly lovely. I think I will always love America and England and it is a joy and a privilege to have got to spend time in the US and be welcomed as I have been.

      I would love to come to the Midwest and one day I will – I haven’t got to do as much travelling as I would have liked due to lack of time and money but I will definitely be coming back to see more of this beautiful and diverse country in the near future. I have plans to visit Utah and Nevada and California and New Mexico and Maine and who knows where else?!

  20. "Hey what's all that commotion, what the, who let you in here??" I'M COMING IN - IT'S ME, BOP! says:

    Humour.

    Withnail and I.

    ’nuff said.

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