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A Tapestry of Memories - From London and Britain

14/03/2003, By Candice Caster

Reader Rating: 2.9 from 13037 votes


I suppose it could be said that memories are what we retain of life’s experiences – brightly colored threads woven together to create a tapestry of one’s life. Some of these resonate with an exceptional poignancy, and such are these memories of mine of trips to Britain. They mostly represent brief moments, moments when the emotions were so strong that I knew at the time I would never forget:

· Standing in the Churchill War Rooms in sheer fascination while reading a letter from King George VI, written in his own hand, telling of the bombing during World War II of Buckingham Palace

· Watching the peacocks in Holland Park, one of London’s smaller but more fashionable parks, against a backdrop of vine-covered brick walls

· Thrilling to the strains of “Dancing Queen” at a performance of Mamma Mia as the music soared to the rafters of the theater and feeling like I could too (exhilarating at the time, but just try to get it out of your head the next day!)

The British Library

· Approaching, on a bright, sunny day, the broad sweep of land in front of the ancestral home of Longleat House, a multitude of white sheep dotting the grass

· Waking up in London for the first time

· Being captivated by the presence of the original manuscript of George Eliot’s Middlemarch in a glass-covered case at the British Library

· Noting, with astonishment and delight, in a guest book at our bed-and-breakfast in the lovely Wales-England border village of Church Stretton, Shropshire, an entry reflecting current guests from our own hometown – and then realizing that they were our travelling companions!

· Going to sleep in London for the first time

· Finding, at twilight, a distinguished old owl perched on a fence on a winding country lane near Upper Slaughter in the Cotswolds

· Recognizing a face on the London theatrical stage and that face belonging to the great Dame Judith Dench

· Discovering Alice’s Shop while riding a tour bus in Oxford and imagining the young Alice Liddell (whom we all know as Alice in Wonderland from Lewis Carroll/Charles Dodgson’s famous book) there with her mother, as this was – once upon a time – her favorite shop

Harlech Castle

· Experiencing absolute terror on the Snowdon Mountain Railway in Wales as the tiny train shook its way up the mountain on the most wildly windy day in my memory

· Ordering black pudding salad to go with our pheasant at Rules, London’s oldest restaurant, and, surprisingly, enjoying it

· Encountering Mary Poppins, the character I remember from those much loved books I devoured as a child, in every park, by each iron fence, and among all the chimney tops of London

St. Martin-in-the-Fields

· Taking immense pleasure in our carriage ride through the well-sculpted gardens of Hampton Court, the palace where Henry VIII once dwelled

· Looking out at a black and rolling sea and leaning into the wind, an ominous sky overhead, on the cliff bearing the fortress that is Harlech Castle

· Being enchanted by the sight of Jane Austen’s little table by the window in her beloved Chawton House where she penned many of her celebrated works

· Enjoying the most superb dinner prepared by the charming hostess of our bed-and-breakfast in Blockley in the Cotswolds in a special effort to make the last night of our first trip to England a memorable one

· Getting lost in Bloomsbury on a dark, drizzly afternoon while searching for the elusive Dickens House, the only one of 15 of Charles Dickens’ London homes to survive

· Luxuriating in the peace and serenity of a candlelight classical concert at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church, London’s “musical church”

· Savoring the elegance of taking tea at the Ritz in the Palm Court

Wedding at Bourton

· Standing beneath the Tower of Big Ben for the first time

· Taking great joy in the sight of a wedding party in Bourton-on-the-Water – bride in flowing white dress, groom in military uniform – crossing a delicately arched bridge over the poetically named River Windrush

· Trying to swallow the lump in my throat, overwhelmed as I was from a first-time visit to St. Paul’s Cathedral, while listening to the voices of the visiting choir from Westminster Cathedral echo throughout that magnificent place

· Facing the inevitability of the dreaded moment when I must say goodbye to London, to England, to Britain, sustained only by the hope that someday, God willing, I will be back.

Candice Caster

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Re: A Tapestry of Memories - From London and Britain

By Judy P. King 02/04/2003, (Rating: 2.9 from 12325 votes)

What a lovely tribute to a fascinating city & country! Although my experience consists only of 3 brief days & 2 nights in London, I remember it with deep affection & pleasure. Hampton Court is one of my favorite memories---the dinner-plate sized roses in the gardens & the fun my 18-yr-old daughter Melanie, her 17-yr-old friend Joy & I had trying to find our way out of the maze! Actually, I was beginning to lose patience, but the girls finally got us out (but only after we boosted Joy up so she could see over the top of the hedges!). And what a thrill it was to sit quietly in the same chapel where Henry VIII had sat. How satisfying it was for 3 art lovers to wander thru the many, many halls of the National Gallery. We will always remember sitting high up in the little theater where Agatha Christie's "Mousetrap" has played for so many years. Tho we had read the novella from which the play was taken, none of us could remember exactly "who did it" so we thoroughly enjoyed it. Our visit to the Tower of London was also very enjoyable. To read the words scratched into the stones of the prison so many years ago by those unfortunate enough to be held there was sobering to say the least. But on a lighter note, the Crown Jewels were stunning, & the Beefeaters (especially ours) very entertaining. There's so much more, but still we only scratched the surface. My daughter, lucky duck, will be spending 3 months in London next fall on a Study Abroad program at her college. If I'm very, very good, maybe she'll let me visit her & maybe I'll actually get to see some of the beautiful English countryside other than London. There's something so special about England---as soon as I looked out the plane window & saw it, I felt like I'd come home even though I'd never been there before. It must be a genetic memory, but whatever it is, I just hope God blesses me with another opportunity to "go home" to England!

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Re: A Tapestry of Memories - From London and Britain

By Pat 16/04/2003, (Rating: 2.9 from 12095 votes)

It was so good to read your memories Candice. I am English and was in the tourist industry before I retired and have to say how refreshing it was to find that you had ventured out of London. So many tourists just visit London and Windsor Castle and Stratford-on-Avon and think that they have 'done' England. I am 57 and was a Londoner but lived in other places too and frankly the London that the tourists see is not the one we remember. So many good shops have gone to be replaced by tacky gift shops and burger bars (shudder!). I would recommend to anyone that they get a coach or a train and get out into the countryside if they want to see the real England. I love Oxford and Bath and the countryside and villages around them, in Oxfordshire in particular.

A little tip though. I have noticed over the years (and have read recently on this website) that some Americans talk about visiting other countries and 'helping' their economy. This is not something that goes down well over here or indeed in any European country. (I can’t speak for other continents.) When we holiday in Italy, France or wherever in Europe we do not think in terms of 'helping' their economy, it doesn’t occur to us, we think in terms of 'we're going because we want to enjoy the special things that these countries have to offer.' We are not doing them a favour, though of course there is a knock-on effect. I suspect this year that the numbers of Americans visiting will be down a lot, which is a shame, but then... a lot of Europeans will be staying put too so they will be holidaying in their own countries, so it’s swings and roundabouts.

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Re: A Tapestry of Memories - From London and Britain

By Richard Wyland 17/04/2003, (Rating: 2.9 from 12143 votes)

Can't speak for all Yanks... But I go to "Blighty" to help ME... to enjoy gorgeous,glorious Britain...
Norfolk is lovely with the "Broads", the shallow rivers to have a lovely float... Oxford a must... Hastings where Duke William and his Frenchy mates landed was great... What isn't enjoyable?

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