I have always claimed my British Heritage. My mother came to the United States from Crystal City, Manitoba, Canada with her father and younger brother several years after her mother died. Some of her ancestors came from Britian and some from Ireland.
Grandpa Stewart came to Manitoba alone leaving his wife and eight children in Britain until he had a job and was "settled". Grandma had to travel alone across the Atlantic with all of the kids This and other stories made me curious about the United Kingdom, the country of my ancestors.
When I was in my mid-thirties I had the opportunity to go with my friend, Sue from the "UK" as she called it. She hadn't been back for five years and still had financial interests as well as a sister and parents there.
She made reservations for us to stay in a London hotel for two nights before leaving for her parents home about four hours north of London by train. The price of accomodations had gone up since she had been there. Our eighty-five dollar basement room had two cots and a bathroom we had to back into. The view from our window was the garbage dump and ale kegs.
We decided to go shopping at Harrod's, "the" department store in London before jetlag set in. Cabs were plentiful so we hopped in one and found ourselves at Harrod's Door. We walked and looked until we felt tired but it was too early to call it a day so we stopped for a cup of tea to refresh ourselves before returning to our hotel.
Sue showed me the usual tourist sights like the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. She pointed out the queen was in because the curtain was open to the window where she would make her appearance so we waited in the rain. I saw the royal crowns and jewels at the Tower of London and Big Ben and Parliament.
Most awesome was attending worship in Westminister Abbey on Ash Wednesday. We Americans don't have the lengthy knealing habit that British Worshippers have.
Our London visitor's time over, we rode the train to Sue's hometown. Her parent's lived in an "attached" home. We would call it a duplex here. Boggy soil prevents having bsements but it was a two storied brick dwelling. The parlor was small and cozy with its a gas fireplace the only source of heat. The dining room was larger with its own fireplace. The room was well stocked with many sets of china and glassware for formal,lingering dinners which is usual for them especially when guests are present.
Sue's mother went to the neighborhood grocer to shop every day for the day's meals. Her kitchen had little storage and refrigeration was only an under the counter sized ice box.
Dinner meal always began with a coctail, usually gin and tonic and ended with a liquor. In between were delicious vegetables and breads. I know where I get my love of breads. Fish or foul were more often served than red meats. The meal was served with the proper wine. It didn't take me long to realize that I didn't have the capacity for British Booze.
One warm sunny day, they're few and far between in their costal area, we took her parent's car and travelled to Wales to see castles and churches. One stone church had a pointed steeple and a square bell tower, both. It seems the parishoners couldn't decide which to have so they built both.
Narrow streets with businesses and homes built close to the road, driving on the wrong side of the street and stopping for soup and ale at the local pubs would have made my day but there was more. We made our way to the home town of William Shakespear. We spent hours there touring his and other home with thatched roofs. The Shakespearian Theatre and walking along the Avon River where swans swam and muscians strolled along the paths. Ironically, Sue had never been to Stratford upon Avon even though she had lived all of her life within hours of it.
I fell in love with the "UK" and have been back several times to discover more of my ancestor's homeland.
The British have a reputation for being stuffy and strange witted but I love their sense of humor and if I never inherited anything else from them, it would please me to know I get my wit from my British Heritage.
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