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December 1, 2011 / annakpf11

British Blog—The Things We’ll Miss

“At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor
fleshless; neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance
is, but neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance…
The inner freedom from the practical desire,
The release from action and suffering, release from the inner
And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded
By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving,
Elation without motion…”  
                                  *  *  *
From “Four Quartets,” by T.S. Eliot (1888—1965)    
  

We fly home today. I will miss the Beech tree woods, a “still point in the turning world.” Their complexion has quite changed since our arrival; where once was a mass of green-gold russet leaves, now great swathes of sky show through.

Dave and I will both miss the conviviality, convenience and ease of the quasi-communal life we’ve been leading here in the flat adjoining Phil and Jenny’s house. I’ll miss leaning out the open window every morning, mug of tea in hand, gazing across our view of pasture and woodland, inhaling the damp leafy odor of the garden. Dave will miss the “vroooom” of Phil’s Audi S4.

We’ll both miss the hedgerow-lined lanes leading to impossibly picturesque villages, the mere sight of which fills us with contentment and continuity, as if all has somehow been made right in the world. Half-timbered houses, walls bulging with age, tile roofs squiggly and sagging. And how every dwelling has a name: “Vine Hill,” “Shepherd’s Croft,” “Robin’s Nest,” “Beech Manor, and “Rose Cottage (there must be thousands of these).”

Dave will miss “popping ’round to the pub” for a pint of bitter. In the workplace, he’ll miss the camaraderie and the intensity; the laser focus on doing a good job while having a good time. He’ll miss the uncensored communication style; the ability to speak one’s mind freely without overemphasis on a tightrope of political correctness. We’ll both miss British humor—funnier, sharper and more ironic than its American counterpart.

I’ll miss the way everything feels like a new adventure, even grocery shopping and doing laundry. I’ll miss the way villages and towns are discreet entities, surrounded by vast green fields and woods. I’ll miss riding the train to yoga class at Julie Bealey’s gracious home in Amersham.

I’ll miss the way Brits young and old seem to take real pleasure in socializing and being together with family and friends, more so than we time-pressed yanks who seem to be more interested in our autonomous selves and achievements, even if only the latest iteration of our “to do” list.

I’ll miss learning new colloquialisms such as “bog-standard,” “with knobs on,” “bubble and squeak,” and “feeling peckish;” along with place names like “Lower Oddington,” “Buttocks Point,” “Beacon’s Bottom,” “Happy Bottom,” “Bishops Itchington,” “Foul End,” “Great Snoring,” and “Hogpits Bottom.” (I did not make these up.)

Before we close this post, a disclaimer of sorts: our impressions of Britain and the British—our thin slice of the people we’ve been fortunate enough to encounter and the places we’ve been lucky to stumble upon—reflect our personal bias; our particular state of mind filtered through our accumulated personal experience at this particular moment in time.

“I envy those
who live in two places…
There is always the anticipation
of the change, the chance that what is wrong
is the result of where you are. I have
always loved both the freshness of
arriving and the relief of leaving. With
two homes every move would be a homecoming.
I am not even considering the weather, hot
or cold, dry or wet: I am talking about hope.”  
                           *    *    *

From “Where We Are (for Edward Field),” by Gerald Locklin


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