I’ve been to the UK more times than I can remember. My first visit was when I was 14 with a student group. I looked the wrong way crossing Piccadilly Circle and became one of approximately 300 tourists to have done so , ending up in getting hit by a car . I will tell that story here some day. I thought I was going to die and as I was rolling in the street, wondered how my body would return to California or maybe I would be buried in England. Funny things go thru your mind when youre in shock.
My last time was 2011, I was with my sister and my mom to visit my older son Jason, a grad student at the London School of Economics. Jason had won the housing lottery and had gotten a room right on the Strand, a 4 minute walk to Covent Garden.
Some of my visits to London were more memorable than others. July 2005, was the trip when we brought our 2 younger kids to Amsterdam & London to share how much we loved both cities. We unexpectedly ran into family friends at Heathrow airport upon arrival which seemed like a good omen and then, we caught our connecting flight to Amsterdam.
On 7 July 2005, four bombs were detonated in the centre of London, in the morning rush hour. Three exploded in Underground stations and the fourth on a bus. It was the day after, on the 8th, we flew back into London . We had hotel reservations and lots of plans to show the city to our kids. I went into an Internet Cafe at the Airport to read my email. I found a HUGE number of email from friends and family . UK Friends wrote “DON’T COME!” and our family had sent “Are You OK?!” and “Where the HELL are you?”. Family remembered we would be arriving in London, but they didn’t realize it was to connect to the flight to Amsterdam. That trip wouldve always been memorable because it was our first international vacation with our children. It is extra memorable though, for the shock on the faces of the people, the nonstop wail of sirens.
One of the best trips was when Scott and I threw all sense out the window 2003 and joined up with a group of European Deadheads to follow the band “Ratdog” across England in a pair of vans. The first show was in a small theater in London. We met so many people from all around the UK and made it as far North as Manchester where we had the hardest time understanding the thick Northern accents.
Other times, I was in London on my way to someplace else. A friend and I arrived in London with several days before embarking on a true journey thru Western Europe. My friend set out to view the museums but I already had seen ALL of them and instead spent a couple days just going to matinees of the musical play “Jesus Christ Superstar”.
I was always an anglophile . Before the Beatles, England was already in my head as a young child. I lived with my grandparents who were freakishly in love with England. Their den had a large portrait of a Beefeater (the classic soldier in red with the tall bear hat that don’t smile or speak as hey guard the palace) and other clues like a beer stein tha mightve come from the Olde Curiosity Shoppe. My grandfather’s family had lived in London but moved to South Africa before Grandpa was born. When my cousin Larry came back from spending a year in Africa, we celebrated him at the same time Prince Charles was being invested or whatever it was played on TV in the background- a double celebration! I have no idea if my grandfather had ever even been to London though most of his siblings were born there. There’s a rumor he was in the RAF before joining the US Navy (for citizenship) I know from records that my great grandmother Rebecca Solomons was born in Whitechapel, London in 1875. If you had heard how my grandfather’s family spoke of England, you’d expect we are all somehow related to the British monarchy. The sad truth is, one I don’t speak about to my mom is that there’s not one drop of British blood in us. London like NYC, like Boston, like many places where my family and maybe yours, landed after violence, disease and pogroms was the promised land. The records show my family living impoverished at Spitalfields though, my great aunties who were born there, grew up to be gorgeous, fashionable, very refined and like my grandpa ended up in the United States but claiming England as the ancestral home.
With all that in my background, I was sad to only find a 1% of my DNA is from the UK and it’s from Ireland.
Even without all of the above influences, I genuinely love those British isles. From Sticky Toffee Pudding to the Scottish hills covered in Heather. From doing my babies nurseries in Laura Ashley to shopping online at Fortum & Masons, From Jane Austin to David Bowie, it’s in my soul England.
I married young like Lady Di. I watched the Royal Wedding and all the little Royals growing up. Prince William almost the same age as my Jason. The Royal divorce arriving long after my own not royal at all divorce. Unlike Poor Diana, I’m still here and calmly carrying on. I will miss that Queen, The QE2 worshipping part of my family have been waiting a very long time to meet her and maybe now, in some sort of Spirit world they shall.
Fare Thee Well and if you read this thanks, it’s all been in my mind as I’m stitching and listening to the non stop reporting on the Queen’s funeral.