Wednesday, 4 May 2011

8 Things I Miss About England

In the wake of last Friday's royal wedding it must be said that Britain exports nicely. So, prompted by Kate and Wills' nuptials I am inspired to recount a few things I truly love about England. For, when strangers hear that I lived there, after first asking what it was like (which I answered several weeks ago), I then get, do I miss it? I certainly love and miss parts of it. Four years was long enough for a fascinating culture to creep well under my skin and make me feel that, though I am not officially British, there is still a big part of me that is definitely Britified.

So, without further ado... 8 Things I Miss About England

{Peacock fascinator from etsy shop Head Full of Feathers}

8. Fascinators & wedding hats - On the wedding tip I've got to take my hat off to British women at weddings. Like many Americans I'm obsessed with the creative contraptions placed on top of British women's heads, and even bought myself a hot pink feather fascinator to push the boat out at a friend's wedding (another trans-Altantic couple) during our last summer in London.

7. St.James's Park and other manicured playgrounds - I first discovered St.James's Park one spring evening with a few girlfriends. The grounds were in full bloom and we took our picnic and plopped ourselves right under this out-of-control Magnolia tree that sprinkled petals throughout our time there. It was nothing short of magical.

 {View from the District Line near where we lived, via Mike Searles}

6. Public transport - Sure, British trains might be notoriously late and grind to a halt when the wrong type of leaves fall on the tracks. Buses might require one full hour and two transfers to travel seven miles. The Underground might schedule routine maintenance for peak hours to cause the greatest public inconvenience. But, it IS possible to travel from east to west without a car, which is more than you can say about broad swathes of Seattle. The best aspects of public transport are of course uninterrupted chunks of time for two of my favorite pastimes: reading and people-watching.

5. Specifically, the District Line - It wasn't the most frequent of the Underground lines, but there is something kind of charming about it, with it's soothing green color and posh stops from Richmond to our house. I liked getting off two stops early at Turnham Green in Chiswick and walking home through the cute shops and cafes. Chiswick is considered a "yummy mummy" area, which leads me to believe myself and yummy mummies have quite good taste.

 {Nordic Bakery goodness via Ingrid Design}

4. Various Scandinavian outposts in London - I love the stark Scandinavian aesthetic, so what can be better than bits of the continent's neighbor to the north scattered about London. Of note, I loved the Swedish pub, The Harcort Arms, we frequented every Sunday evening.  And of course the Nordic Bakery in Golden Square near Covent Garden. Every thirty minutes a baker brings up a fresh pan of cinnamon aroma in the form of pastry-like cinnamon buns. I'd smell them from the hard seats that myself and Scandinavia go nuts for but that my husband doesn't fully get behind.

3. Mosob's - This might not seem English at all, but since England was where I was introduced to Ethiopian and Eritrean food, and since London offers an amazing selection, it had to be included. The cream of the Horn of African crop, in my opinion, is Mosob's. Owned by brothers Benjamin and Daniel, this is the only restaurant in the whole of Great Britain that has ever welcomed me in with a hug. And word games to occupy us while we wait for the main course. It's perfect.

{From Julia Speller at Your Tea Time

2. Rounds of tea - At first I didn't understand this concept of rounds of tea. How, in the British office it's not only a kind act but also an unspoken obligation to make, depending on the size, either the whole office or your whole team, a cup of tea at regular intervals. And since it's well known that the Brits can keep a teapot flowing, this is no easy task. Of course the duty is rotated, but whether doing the making or the receiving it interrupts productive workflow zones and "my task list" and forces mid-morning conversation and, wouldn't you know, a sense of being in this thing together. Once I was broken in I got quite used to it and grew to love the moment of handing a colleague a nice warm cuppa and being told, with complete sincerity and mild elation, "You are a star." It's just too easy.

1. Sunday Roast and a newspaper at a cozy pub - It's just got to be done.

And one shameless plug... It goes without saying that by far my favorite English export is my husband Dan. If you're needing a dose of Britishness you should definitely check out his new radio show, Dig Deep, which you can stream right here from I like listening because it sounds like our house, which sounds like a steady stream of funk, soul and electronic music, thanks to Dan. If you're into UK beats then it's definitely worth your time.

What about you? Is there anything you love about England? Have you been? Brits, would you like to chime in with what you miss about home when you leave?

{Royal Wedding Print by Glyn West Designs via etsy}


Laura Anne said...

Love this post!

For me, I'd be leaving Scotland and there's a surprising number of differences between our neighbours in the south!

1. Friendly bus drivers and people saying 'thank you driver' or 'cheers mate' as the exit the bus!

2. Ceilidhs. Wedding hats and fascinators do make appearances, but more common at a scottish wedding is many kilts (worn in the 'true' way ie - nae underpants!) and a very energetic ceilidh. Strappy sandals and high heels thrown to the side, shirts untucked, and lots of sweat, but so much fun!

3. The quickness of going from white sandy beach to city to rolling hills to rugged mountains. My American ex-pat friend says 'It's just as well the weather's so bad in Scotland, otherwise everyone would want to live here'

4. Parks and space to laze, read and people watch in the middle of work days or after a day's shopping.

5. Scottish accents and uniquely Scottish words and phrases. The friendliness of the airports on arrival!

6. Cups of (herbal) tea with people at work! I had no idea that was a 'British' thing.

7. Smoked salmon, scottish tablet, european chocolate, Italian food, digestive biscuits with nutella, unprocessed food...!

8. People being able to pronounce my Highland-origin surname correctly.

Rachel said...

I loved reading this too! My sister is living there now, and I have to say, I get somewhat jealous when I hear about the experiences of others living abroad. It's such a mix of being out of your comfort zone, and learning to love the differences of another country (I'd imagine). Makes me want to move abroad (if I didn't love my Seattle lattes so much...)

Shannon Young said...

I miss the London bridges. Each one is unique and provides a slightly different view of the city. My favorite was the Millennium Bridge that spans the Thames between St. Paul's Cathedral and the Tate Modern. I also miss the British Museum and Regent's Park.

Jenny said...

Funny, jeff and I were reminiscing a little bit about London just today...we heard a coldplay song off the album that was released when we were visiting and it gave me that nostalgic feeling. I loved the tube too and even the buses, public transport is prett rad. I generally love being able to walk around and bump into interesting places, shops, restaurants, etc. And lastly, i miss the many shops with them at the ready, I dont know if it was because I was pregnant but I couldn't get enough and I still sort of crave them!

Jenny said...

btw, love that first print...wish it didn't say william and kate...were did you find it?

alisha said...

Laura Anne, thanks for the Scottish representation! I especially second the ceilidhs - so much fun.

Rachel, I completely agree about the lattes. I'd given up coffee for my first three years in England and think that may have been a huge part of my homesickness. I hesitate to leave Seattle again for Herkimer alone. :)

Shannon, I forgot about Regents Park but that is definitely up there. As for bridges, I agree, and
one of my favorites was Waterloo Bridge. I had the pleasure of walking across it everyday as part of my commute and it's hard to beat that view. :)

Jenny, I remember how much you raved about those sandwiches. I really enjoyed Pret and am looking forward to going there in NY next week! Also, the link to the Kate and Wills print is at the very bottom of the post in small print. I found it on etsy and I think there are other prints as well. She's a Welsh designer I believe.

Heather Rene said...

I must admit, transport IS amazing. Something I realised after a recent trip to NYC. I also adore the charming alleyways and country lanes. There is no-where in the world that has streets quite as charming (except for maybe paris, but we won't go there.)

alisha said...

Yes to charming cobbled alley ways!

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