A Trip Back in Time to England in Spring
“An optimist is the human personification of spring.”
Susan J. Bisonnette.
I don’t get jet-lag because it sounds pretentious – I’m a real traveler, not part of the namby pamby jetset crowd.
Secondly I’m too young and energetic to ever feel tired, let along jet-lagged.
And thirdly I come from strong English stock. We maintain a stiff upper lip and never complain or mention physical ailments until we require urgent hospitalisation.
So it’s with great shame that I tell you most of last week was written off, either because I was either enjoying the inflight entertainment and nibbles on a Qantas airbus, or because I was transformed into a babbling idiot and temporary narcoleptic.
Yes, after flying to and fro between Australia and England twice in two weeks and crossing countless time zones I became the kind of decrepit old woman that dozes off at the dining table or while sitting in the car waiting for the kids to come out of school.
It was embarrassing, especially because I strongly suspect jet-lag was to blame.
But I’m feeling much revived now and ready to report on our adventures in England.
Having left the hubby home alone I was travelling as a single mum with the three kids in tow. The little dears are aged six, nine and twelve now so while I’ve been liberated from carrying endless nappies, wet-wipes and the like I do have to suck up paying full fare for our oldest offspring. Ouch.
But it had to be done because the main aim of our jaunt was to catch up with my long lost family (mum, brother, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunties etc) and since 99% of them live in England there was no way round it.
I was also keen for the kids to experience England as I remember it and see things they just haven’t seen in New Zealand, Costa Rica or Australia. In particular monuments of significant historic and cultural importance like Stonehenge, Warwick Castle and even Cadbury’s World.
Druids, dungeons and dairy milk chocolate promised to be a winning combination and they certainly kept us happy.
Why Visiting England is Like Going Back in Time
While I was born and raised in the English countryside I’ve only visited three times in the last 15 years so everything seems new and fresh when I get there. It’s exciting to visit places I haven’t been to for years but strange to find them basically unchanged.
You see in England it seems that even when they build new houses building restrictions mean that they look almost exactly the same as the old ones.
But those are just the modern buildings. What really sets England apart are its stone buildings, Tudor beams and thatched cottages all of which people actually live in.
Check out this house that straddles a small river. I was surprised to see isn’t a pub or museum but the real life home of a normal English family. Now if that were in Australia it wouldn’t be permitted and the wh0le river would be cordoned off with ugly pool fencing.
Visiting England really is a trip back in time and it seems even the fashions haven’t changed. Hoards of teenagers loiter around in much the same outfits I wore as a teen several decades ago. I guess what I thought was cutting-edge fashion turned out to be more the typical uniform for modern British teens.
While I love seeing the old-fashioned post boxes, phone boxes and Union Jack bunting hung out to celebrate the royal wedding I was less impressed by the old-fashioned British food like shepherd’s pie, pork pie and gammon and pineapple.
I never missed them after leaving school and home when I was eighteen and I’m amazed to find that English people are still eating and enjoying them today.
Food is an important part of any travel or cultural experience and I did eat all my favourite English foods. A small but perfectly formed list which consists mainly of Walker’s crisps (cheese and onion), marmite, twiglets, and Terry’s chocolate oranges.
If you’re not English and have no idea what I’m talking about crisps are chips, marmite is a brown, unctuous salty spread for toast, twiglets are small marmite-favoured crackers and chocolate oranges are divine.
Are you starting to realise why England has been celebrated for many things but never its food?
The Best of England
Spring is lovely in England and, not only were the tulips, wisteria and cherry blossom in full bloom, but the sun even shone on us.
There was not an April shower in sight and it hadn’t rained for weeks which meant we were able to enjoy plenty of lovely country walks (one of my favourite things about England) without getting all wet and muddy.
Apart from Stonehenge, Warwick Castle, Lord Nelson’s ship HMS Victory and Cadbury’s World the Candy kids were interested in those lovely little things which most English people probably take for granted: squirrels, rabbits, pheasants, sparrows, mole hills, a badger’s sett, canals, dandelion clocks and sticky weed.
Memories of England and Takeaways
Highlights for me included being reunited with old friends and family and finding them, like the buildings and fashions pretty much unchanged.
That’s one of the lessons I brought back with me on that long plane journey: people and places don’t really change much. Superficially maybe, but underneath we are still the same. The same people living in the same places, doing the same things and there is great comfort in that.
Although it feels as if we’re in a constant state of flux there is stability in family, old friends and familiar places.
It’s reassuring in funny kind of way and I loved the chance to revisit, catch up with people and share England with my kids.
The other reminder is that big things like Stonehenge are important but don’t discount the free attractions and little things like sticky weed for creating lasting and happy memories.
I bet English kids have been having fun with sticky weed for centuries now and the Candy kids never seemed to tire of pranking each other by sticking it on each others’ clothes and hair.
And finally, while I loved visiting England but I’ve also learnt that, after living here for two and a half years Australia really is home now. We were all happy to finally get back to the new world.
But even if we have been feeling a bit tired, the happy memories of old friends and family and olde world England made it worth it.
I was back in England in April last year , and loved all the things you highlight here ~
I’m so pleased you had brilliant weather – all those quaint cottages and spring flowers do look even more picture postcard perfect in the sunshine :)
I think English people though really do cherish their local idiosyncratic nature – with such distinct seasons they notice every stage of the cycle from bud to bloom to bare, just as they notice every change in the weather –
With such a beautiful April, whatever did they talk about while you were there? LOL
Hi Linda, lol, thanks for almost mentioning how English people are famed for always talking about the weather. It’s still a topic of conversation – even when there’s nothing to complain about they are anticipating bad weather soon. Probably for the entire summer! I expect they’ll be right too!
I’ve been away for coming up 24 years now. Though it’s much easier for me to hop on a plane, my visits have become more infrequent as time has passed. It is like visiting a foreign but familiar country now. There are sometimes mix-ups over currency which has changed, spring flowers are a novelty now, and even rain too. Funny memory from when my kids were little, and we went to visit granddad one summer – they were tucked in bed, and my dad and I idly watching something on tv, when we heard shouts and screams from upstairs. Racing up I found them standing on the beds wafting pillows about. There was a daddy longs legs in the room, and they thought it was a gigantic mosquito!
Hi Linda, lovely to see you here. Love that “like visiting a foreign but familiar country now” and so true.
I was embarassed out shopping as I painfully picked through the coins trying to work out what was what!
Lol, a giant mosquito. I never saw one this time – will have to take the kids back for that and prank them;)
I was lucky enough to get to spend two weeks in London about 12 years ago. I absolutely loved it and didn’t want to leave. The only trip out of the city was to Windsor Castle. It felt like a fairy tale to me. My kids were small at the time. Ages 9, 7, and 2 and the time change was hard to handle but it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. As I watched the Royal wedding I greatly enjoyed it since it brought back great memories. When I went inside Westminster Abbey I was overwhelmed by the history of an almost 1000 year old church. I live in Las Vegas where they blow up casinos if they are more than 30 years “old”. I loved the feel and architecture of London. I would love to go back and see more plus travel outside of the city to more castles and historical places.
Hi Brenda, so glad you appreciated it all and laughing about Las Vegas. I guess they need some decent architects who can design something worth keeping! I really hope you get to go back. I recommend Warwick Castle and Broadway in the Cotswolds. You’d definitely appreciate it:)
I love England. My wife is a Anglophile so all travel itineraries always involve a layover in England. During world war II, Kathy’s mom was a pen pal with a Brit and her family. When Kathy’s mom died we continued the tradition. Kathy and Rita (the Brit) were kindred spirits and became very close. Rita died recently ending a wonderful relationship and treasured experience.
Hi Riley, there is a lot to love about England but I never realised it when I lived there. Love how you carried on being pen pals with Rita even after Kathy’s mum died. Pen pals – now I wonder if kids have those any more or if it’s all texting pals….
I was beginning to wonder if you were alright since it had been so long between posts. Glad it was just jet lag and probably exhaustion.
It’s always interesting to share your childhood memories and places with your children. Gives it a whole new perspective. Seems everyone had fun.
Glad your back!
Thanks Barbara, I’ve got out of the habit of blogging and writing too so need to get back into that with a vengeance;)
Annabel, Your post took me back in time – to the early 80s when I took my two kids, 11 and 7, back home to visit. They discovered Crunchie bars, Marmite, stink bombs, the English sense of humor and tradition , and to treat Daddy Long Legs as honored guests, not pests. Also, guess what? Sticky weed.
You’re right. Things don’t change much there. I went back 3 years ago after an 18-year break and with some notable exceptions mainly in London, once you get into the country, it’s almost the same as when I grew up there. Perhaps more amenities, more modern and upbeat, less drab, but the country lanes, homes, my village are much the same. Unlike you, I was sad to leave. I’ll never go back to live there, but my heart is in my homeland.
Hi Penelope, aw, a trip down memory lane is always fun. I guess I was sad to leave as I know I won’t be able to visit again for a while but definitely glad to get back to my own home!
Thanks for mentioning the British sense of humor. I overheard a woman ask the bus driver what time the last bus was to which he replied dead pan:
“I’ll be asleep.”
I find that amusing but British humor is hard to define or get unless you get it:)
Very refreshing birds-eye view of your English jaunt.
I gleaned some helpful knowledge from your post, like
what the heck twiglets are.
I’m glad your children were able to see your old stomping
grounds. It gives them a unique advantage to maintain
sustainable growth into well-rounded individuals and
to appreciate all that different parts of the world have
Thanks for sharing.
Kevin Tyler Smith
Hi Kevin, oh my you have to try twiglets. They are very healthy too and make a great bar snack to go with your (warm!) pint of beer:)
Annabel. We do have a few similarities about living in England as teenagers. I was back last year and noticed how the food had become more “international” in London. Better bread, more choices, smoked salmon sandwiches at “pret a manger” and also wraps, like in the U.S. In a London pub, I asled for a “Ploughman’s lunch” and was so disappointed. The bread was like sliced bread, not the chunky old-fashioned grainy stuff, and no Branston pickle. Very sad. Perhaps I needed to go to a countryside pub instead. Glad you’re home. You husband must have enjoyed no kids at home for a while. HAHAHA!
Hi GutsyWriter, I didn’t visit London so all my insights are based on rural life:) There is nothing worse than bad bread. I ate some lovely seedy bread (Sainsburys:) but I had forgotten about Branston Pickle! Next time….
It’s lovely to read of your exploits back here in the UK. The first photo of the cherry blossom and the red telephone box really captures the essence of springtime in rural England.
I’ve been to Cadbury World – it’s a chocoholics dream. But, being surrounded by tonnes of chocolate can put you off it for at least a few hours afterwards (I was going to say it could put you off it for life… but that’s impossible!) ;-)
I’m looking forward to reading about more of your adventures.
Hi Scott, I must admit I sent the kids to Cadbury’s World with their granny so sadly I missed that trip. Probably for the best though as I am a chronic chocoholic so I might have ended up falling in the chocolate river like Augustus Glump! Thanks for reading. I have to confess just writing about chocolate made me eat a tonne of it yesterday!
England will always remain my spiritual home… I love the seasons, the history, the dialects, and the indomitable spirit (combined with a truly quirky sense of humour), but, like you, I’m happy to call Australia home these days (although it took me a bit longer). Sounds like you and your children had a fabulous time… thank you for sharing your nostalgic interlude with us.
(Oh, I did the Cadbury place in Hobart a few years back and it does take a while to look a chocolate bar in the face again!)
Hi Cate, wonderful to hear from you! Ah, the seasons are fun. Apart from winter! Maybe I should have done that Cadbury tour to cure me of my addiciton!
Hi Annabel, great memories…I know what you mean by going back in time…but that is not everywhere…but having said that it is great to see History is still being looked after…..when I travel in Europe …it is a great feeling to walk through the old streets and villages and experience it., I think here in Melbourne, we can experience the same feeling in the Lanes of the City…where they are being transformed into lovely cafe’s
Hi Marthese, you’re so right. I never appreciated historical stuff until I got old;) So keen to visit Melbourne properly. I did go there for a blogging conference but all I was was a grotty hotel and 200 bloggers! I need to see the real Melbourne – maybe you can show me round if I ever make it there again!
A lovely trip, since you enjoyed what you found. I was in England a couple of years ago and loved the villages and countryside. They really do seem to belong to the past. Well, they do.
Although I now go back to my native Holland regularly, I remember once returning after an absence of many years, and found things quite “modernized,” although not so much in the small villages in the country. These too are maintained well and treasured. Inside the houses are modernized, but their facades are as they have been for years.
I actually just came back from a visit last week and the weather in April was like summer in the Mediterranean, very unusual, and I was happy to avoid the usual rain and wind. Glad you did too. It can spoil the fun of thing, stiff upper lip or not.
Married to a globetrotting American, I haven’t lived in Holland for decades and although the place is very familiar, I do often feel a bit like a foreigner. Then again. I feel like (and am) a foreigner everywhere, and especially now since I recently moved to Moldova and don’t speak a word of the local languages (Russian and Romanian, yet ;)
Off to discover the main open market . . .
Hi Miss F, loved reading all this and finding out more about your background and adventures. Haha, yes, keeping the upper lip stiff is hard work especially in bad weather! I feel like a foreigner everywhere too but I think that makes things interesting. It is great to see old places with fresh eyes:)
Good luck getting to grips with those languages. Are you planning to be there a while?
Although some of these places don’t seem to change, it’s often us who have changed. While I enjoy visits back to Greece, I find it difficult sometimes to be in that familiar environment and prefer to be out exploring new places!
Hi Hari, I agree, the new and unkonwn is always more alluring. The danger is that if you return to somewhere you loved it will disappoint second time round. Luckily for me with England it’s always a pleasant surprise as I’m generally expecting the worst!
What do you mean you don’t miss the food? English food is great….chinese take-aways, indian dhansak, pie and mash…I could go on haha! My taste buds start watering the minute I think about going back to England. I personally love going to the farm shops and buying lots of lovely country luxuries for a picnic by the canal! England is really beautiful if you can get over the miserable people there now haha
Hi Teresa, so great to hear from you again! Oooh, a picnic by the canal with fresh farm food does sound great:) It is beautiful. The people aren’t so bad – it’s more the weather that kills it for me!
Glad you had such a great time. Your descriptions were wonderfully evocative. Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.
You piece also reminded me of something Frank Sinatra said shortly before he died. He’d invited a small number of friends for dinner. He was unwell, with a nurse in constant attendance feeding him with a spoon.
The conversation turned to the definition of what “home” meant. As all the celebrities were contributing their two bob’s worth, Frank, who’d been very quiet said, “Home is where your friends are” then sank back into his chair.
Make sure you have fun
Ha ha, Annabel… in Scotland we call them sticky willies… an excellent plant, fun for all the family and much missed here in Oz. Ooohhh… chocolate oranges, I ate a whole one after giving birth to my first son in Edinburgh… choc has never tasted so good!
And I loved your wee detail about the house over the water,,, and it WOULD have a pool fence here and how much that tells about our two countries.
I am so enjoying your personal stories.
yes i have to admit i loved reading and being english understand the lamenting thoughts of a terry s chocolate orange aghhhh heaven
we only left england 4 years ago and up to now have not been back but just reading your blog and looking at the places you visited brings back lots of memories good and bad never been a lover of the pork pie i must admit .
The countryside is one of the biggest things i miss the quant little houses the tradition thank you for sharing all this with us love reading your blog