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.
Some of you may have seen a recent article on NJ.com listing the 12 worst things about living in New Jersey. As a member of a country where self-deprecation is the law, I approve. But the article has prodded me to a defense of my adopted state, prodded me so successfully I even want to write it down and post it (and spell defense the American way even though it makes my teeth hurt). It’s like a letter to the newspaper, only I am the newspaper and there are about three readers. But still.
I feel I am uniquely qualified to defend the Garden State because:
Yeah, I thought that title would get your attention.
I’ve just spent two amazing weeks in France and England; two weeks that have taught me so much about being an ex-pat, and the concept of home, that I’m having a bit of an identity crisis. So while I deal with that, here are some other things I learned. This week, from our Gallic friends:
1. It is possible to eat every croissant a bistro has.
2. Pretty much every single street in Paris is gorgeous. Even the one with all the sex shops on it.
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.