I went to England in November to look at cottages to rent for our grand holiday, which is coming up this summer. I was going to show my girls the exquisite beauty of the English countryside, and we were going to stay in a quirky little eighteenth-century cottage with crooked stairs and bathrooms carved out of the rock (or something). And I did indeed have a wonderful time, staying in one of these cottages myself and visiting a few others.
Thing is, like any vacation you try and plan well in advance, things changed.
[Breathe releases in 9 days! In it a British expat living in Boston has to decide where her home really lies. Kind of like someone else I know. Welcome to Part Two of my musings from last November’s trip to the U.K., written while I was there.]
This trip had a main purpose, but it also scratched an itch I’ve been feeling for a long time. When one emigrates to the land of one’s love, especially if one does it when one is young, one leaps into that life with both feet. Oh, I might have insisted on my cups of tea in the morning and squeed with joy whenever I saw chocolate digestives at the store, but I had a reason for leaving the U.K. and a million reasons to love and commit to the U.S. I am also a linguist, so the U.S. kind of committed to me. My words changed and my accent followed. I noticed this but could do nothing about it. I think one of the turning points was when I came back “home” after about five years and couldn’t switch back to English the way I used to. It gave me pause, I can tell you.
[I recently got to spend a whole week back in Blighty all by myself (well, almost). I had a wonderful time in a beautiful town and did a lot of thinking and some writing, while I celebrated the imminent release of my first novel. Fair warning: my next couple of blog posts might be a little contemplative.]
When you think of the quintessential English village, what comes to mind? Quaint old crooked houses, leaning into narrow lanes? Hedgerows around fields dotted with sheep placidly chewing among medieval ruins? A church that’s existed since before America was born or thought of, surrounded by gravestones dating back to the 1600s? Rolling hills in the background, fringed with copses you could imagine walking up to for a picnic and a spectacular view?
Well, then, you could do no better than to visit Chipping Campden, a little spot in the northern reaches of the famously beautiful Cotswolds. Chipping Campden, like so many of its friends here, is just about perfect. I just came back from spending a week there and I miss it already—though that could also be because I didn't have to feed or do laundry for anyone but myself for once.
It’s mince pie season. Apparently there are other celebrations of some sort going on as well, but mostly, it’s mince pie season. I’ve made eighty-four mince pies and eaten about forty-eight of them. They’re going in lunch boxes, being foisted on friends, and form part of my mother-in-law’s convalescent diet after being in hospital for several weeks. Such is the power of mince pies.
Okay, so we get it: I like mince pies. I like many other things about Christmas (parkin anyone? Anyone?) but there’s something about a well-made mince pie that says Crimble is a warm and happy place and we are loved.
Unfortunately, in the U.S., there’s been some kind of miscommunication.
Rate My Tea is my new home. Every time I go on Facebook I feel like I’m sitting down to a lovely cuppa with a few hundred of my friends from all over the world. We hold gentle debates about milk in first or last (it’s last, just to be clear.)
(Unless it’s made in a pot, then it’s first.)
(Just to be clear.)
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
I know what you’re going to say: euw. Kimberley, they’re nine and twelve, for God’s sake. Why are you trampling all over this lovely innocent book that brightened my youth and taught me the value of gardening?
I am not advocating anyone getting any ideas about the kids as portrayed in the book (which is arguably my all-time favourite, by the way). But I put it to you that you know that I know that you know that Dickon only needed a couple more years, and perhaps a job standing next to horses in the manor stables, to turn him from happy-go-lucky scamp to serious rustic hottie. And Mary is going to fall for him like a stone into a well just as soon as she grows some hormones.
I know, I know. Yesterday's rugby result was dismal. But despair not! There are still things the English are good at! Words, for one!
"Stonehenge, Condado de Wiltshire, Inglaterra, 2014-08-12, DD 09" by Diego Delso. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons -
Now I didn’t want to do this so early, because this blog is going to be light and entertaining and not controversial in any way (unless you’re going to tell me Lipton makes good tea, in which case, pistols at dawn, sirrah). But there comes a time when even a cynical Englishwoman must make a stand. And I’ve decided to do it over chocolate. Which is funny because I’m not even that much of a chocolate eater. Ah, the irony. Well, if they start trying to ban PG Tips you can all watch me really let loose.
Kimberley Ash is a British ex-pat who has lived in and loved New Jersey for twenty years. When not writing romance, she can usually be found cleaning up after her two big white furry dogs and slightly less furry children. Her first novel, Breathe, is now available from Crimson Romance. Her trilogy, The Van Allen Brothers, was released by Tule Publishing in 2019.