I have a strange (according to Rupert) and enduring love of England, and more specifically an England that I suspect no longer exists.
It is an England full of nice middle-class people drinking tea on lush lawns and playing tennis as the sun sets while someone mixes the Pimm’s and everyone behaves like they’re in a PG Wodehouse book. It is an England that you probably only see in films like Howard’s End. But nonetheless I get a glimpse of it every now and again and I am filled with longing to be there.
I had a tearful and terrible longing on Friday as I watched the Household Cavalry perform the famous Musical Ride. The music was emotive; I vow to thee, my country; the Black Beauty theme; Land of Hope and Glory. The Horses and men in perfect synchrony and the buckles all so shiny you could have plucked your eyebrows in them. I was unaccountably happy that the children were witnessing this. Even if it broke my heart that they knew none of the words to any of the songs.
The other thing that is heartbreaking is that much in the same way that I have a terribly romantic view of Blighty, they have a rose-coloured view of France. Everything that is bad here is followed by a “that wouldn’t happen in France”, every time any holidays are discussed all the talk is of going back to Sainte Cecile.
I wonder if this is a symptom of any child taken from a country at an early age? And I also wonder if by the time they grow up, the France they long for will still exist?
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2009
It is actually exactly as you describe where I live in Hampshire Dwarling 🙂
I think you tend to remember the good things and forget the bad. We have a need for longing as well, it helps us forget the present drudge and when things go against us it is nice to think that they might be different. The trick is to try to live in the present not the past or the future or we will end up like the Swedish poetess Karin Boye described it: all those days that came and went, I did not realise that was life…
The other man’s grass is always greener, yet on my travels abroad, any desire to move to exotic and foreign climes, is dismissed by the realisation that the greenness of Britain is what I would miss most. Tennis and croquet on the lawn with a jug of Pimms notwithstanding.
Dear Snusmormor, you are absolutely right. But…Helena is a writer. Feeling nostalgic is part of a writer’s emotional makeup. A writer constantly feels the need to answer the question “What if?”. That is how a story comes to life.
The thing is for us writer, our life is just not enough. We need to make up stories. It’s actually a very healthy way not to become a compulsive liar.
Helena, I suspect your nationality make-up is possibly more complex than mine but friends in Britain never fail to tell me that I’ve acquired a deeper love of the country since I’ve been gone than I ever had when I lived there.
Maybe (and excuse the pun) it’s a case of the grass always being greener? Maybe it’s because our lives here in the Gulf are so radically different from what we experienced back in Belaity? And can there be a greater contrast?
This “oh to be in England feeling” hits me each and every summer with the opening of the Chelsea Garden Show. I love sitting behind drawn curtains, a/c blasting away watching coverage of cool, damp Ascot and then, the following week, Wimbledon. I weep when I read Proms’s programmes. Sit mesmerised by Test Match Special via the Internet on steaming hot summer nights in Dubai.
It’s an association of ideas and for many expats it reminds them of their youth, growing up, family, old friends in a familiar environment in which they generally (tho’ not always) feel at home. For it IS home (for many of us). And no matter how long we’ve been gone or how far we travelled, we will never loose that. Thank goodness.