Monday, May 16, 2011

Living La Vida...Anglophile

When I got engaged to an Englishman, my mom wasn't surprised a bit. She thinks that when I was just over a year old, I soaked up all the details of Queen Elizabeth's coronation as she listened to the entire event, glued to the radio while I toddled around the apartment. At my bridal showers, I was inundated with Union Jack-motif gifts (including a metal garbage can), and lots and lots of china tea cups. If my parents could have afforded it as a wedding gift, I think my first sofa would have looked like this:

My first real introduction to all things English coincided with the British Invasion, starting with the Beatles. I was about twelve when I heard "I Want to Hold Your Hand" - my life was never the same after that.

Along with the music, make-up and fashion influences quickly made their way "across the pond." Mary Quant, Twiggy, Yardley, Carnaby Street - anything with a hint of the Brit was huge at that time.

But it didn't stop there. I was hooked on British mysteries, too. I read every book ever written by or about Agatha Christie, and her books led me to others - from Philip MacDonald to Dick Francis to Mary Stewart and John Creasey's Gideon of the Yard series. I'm still a huge fan of British mysteries and police procedurals.

I loved English movies and memorized lines from Shakespeare's plays. I cried over Camelot and read everything I could find about Merlin and King Arthur. I was obsessed.

I met my husband through a mutual interest in music and the Beatles, and a few months later I visited England for the first time. With some difficulty, I finally figured out the money, which was pounds, guineas, shillings and pence back then. We had a fabulous time, cramming lots of sightseeing into a few short weeks. We even had a close encounter with a Beatle. We were walking by Apple's (it meant something different then) headquarters in Savile Row when John Lennon's famous painted Rolls Royce drove past, windows tinted to black.

A few years later we moved to England. I worked at Marshall Field & Company's London office in Regent Street. The windows at the back overlooked the rooftop of Apple, where the Beatles famously performed just a few years earlier. My co-worker was there at the time - she said it was loud and disruptive, all that racket making it difficult to work. *bangs head on wall*

We were young and broke, and lived on the wrong side of the river. Our house did NOT look like this:

We lived there seven years, moving back shortly after my first niece was born. I've been thinking of this a lot lately, since that same niece just became a mother for the first time. Both of my kids were born in this country, but they have lots of family spread across England. Genetically, they are half English, while I was just an Anglo-wannabe. True, my own family tree has roots in England, too, but it's not quite the same.

Here in Ohio, my husband and I regularly have Yorkshire tea and Digestive biscuits, and Heinz Salad Cream and Branston Pickle can usually be found in the fridge door. We toast the New Year with Harvey's Bristol Cream Sherry and when we want a treat we'll pick up wine gums or Turkish Delight.

My husband and I are still fans of the Beatles, individually and en masse, as well as countless other British bands. I still reread my Agatha Christie's on a regular basis, and now I've added a lot of new British authors to the mix. Thanks to PBS, BBC America and Netflix, I get a regular dose of Britcom and other British TV shows - Foyle's War, Midsomer Murders, New Tricks and Inspector Lewis are all favorites. When we get nostalgic, my husband and I rent episodes of EastEnders or Coronation Street, or pull out our worn copies of The Good Life and Yes, Honestly. And, of course, Dr. Who!

My kids have both been to England a few times, and my husband goes to visit almost every year. I haven't been over in so long I'm hesitant to do so now. I know it's changed a lot in the years since I lived there - I see the "new" London on TV all the time - but I'd kind of like to preserve my memories of England as it was in the 1970s and early 80s.

Despite all this, I didn't really get into the Royal Wedding this time around. I was living in England when Charles and Di got married, and even though it ended on such a sad note, it will always be "the Royal Wedding" to me.

My ancestors came to America from England in time for the first U.S. Census in 1770. I'm proud to be American - don't get me wrong! But I'm glad a little piece of England lives on in our Cincinnati home.