Friday, October 30, 2015

Looking Back on the Iron Lady

I am watching the biography of Margaret Thatcher.  She’s always been one of my heroes, and has been both reviled and revered by the English for her leadership. 

I lived in the North when Margaret ran the country.  This was a time of great internal tension within England.  The Unions ensured that civil workers, miners, etc. were earning a decent wage at the same time that the cost of the goods delivered by the workers could not support the wages.  You could not mine coal and make money.  Anyone who has watched Billy Elliot will know a little of the story.  The government sent police and military to bust the unions.  In the end, the miners caved and the mines closed.  Government workers also went back to work.  Things ran, but families were put out of work and on the streets.  It was a harsh reality.

Margaret believed in a conservative government.  She was a Tory who didn’t think the government should take on the role of a nanny state.  Children at the time were given free milk for their lunches even though they might be well able to buy the milk.  Keeping true to “only financing the essentials” Margaret backed a bill that had already been in the works to stop the flow of free milk.  For that, she got the nickname “Thatcher the Milk Snatcher.”

It was Margaret Thatcher who stood up to Argentina in the Falklands and regained territory for the citizens of the island thousands of miles from London.  I was there through it all and experienced anger from the English that America had not joined in the war.  We were protested against and denounced in the media and in real life.  Still, I thought she had a real backbone.

When I was in England, I saw the wheels starting to come off and then reset under her leadership.  She built strong ties with the most powerful countries in the world.  She brought Britain kicking and screaming into the 20th century.

At one point, she was nearly killed by an assassin’s bomb at a holiday beachfront hotel.  She walked into Parliament on a daily basis knowing that she would receive verbal abuse, ridicule, and those that would debate her to death over even the smallest issues.  She not only broke the glass ceiling, she pulverized it into sand.  I can only stand in awe.

Memories run long in England.  At her death, many rejoiced.  As for myself, I mourned silently.  I collected English newspapers from the day, and I thought that, sadly, another piece of my history had been laid to rest.

Margaret Thatcher is buried at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea.  Her shadow is still cast over Parliament by a bronze likeness located at the Palace of Winchester.  You can view the statue and have a tour of Parliament along with afternoon tea

Margaret Thatcher viewing her statue at Parliament

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Trip 2016 - In the Works

Hello there, and welcome to the preview of my 2016 England trip.  I'm at the beginning of crafting the thing that will become a memorable vacation.  I hope it will outdo even the magnificent 2014 trip with April and Sharmon!  That was probably the most beautiful vacation I've ever taken.

But, to get on with the 2016 version of "An American in England"...

The plan is to leave the U.S. on a Friday in late spring.  My friend, Sharon, expects to be traveling with me, so I've booked lodging accordingly!  We arrive in London on Saturday, and will be making our way to the Travelodge I became acquainted with in 2014.  Very low cost (for London), spacious rooms and showers, decently clean, and all within a stone's throw of the Tower of London!

For three lovely days, we will be having tea, exploring museums, visiting historic sites, attending West End shows, and shopping.  I can feel the excitement building!

At the end of our time in London, we will leave for the city of York, if only briefly.  York is an old friend of mine, and the minster is my favorite mega cathedral - hosting the world's largest collection of antique stained glass!  Our ultimate destination this day is Knaresborough.  A place I visited many times when I lived in nearby Harrogate and Ripon, but which I've not seen for years.  It rivals Keswick on my list of top villages to see in England!  Our lodging is a lovely B&B near the centre of town.

Knaresborough is a great base for all the fun things I know of in the area.  There's Fountain's Abbey, my favorite little jewel of a town, Kilburn, Thirsk, Ripon... and a host of other beautiful spots that I plan to see. There will be market days and shopping and moors and dales!  Maybe even tea at Betty's!

I also want to visit my wonderful friends Linda and Chris if we can swing it!

Linda and Chris

From Knaresborough, we will be heading north to see Hadrian's Wall and then sweeping down to Keswick for a brief visit in England's lovely Lake District.  We're staying in a new B&B (to me) called Seven Oaks!  It looks lovely.  I'm hoping to see the Cumbria gang on Saturday or Sunday for a short hike and perhaps head out with Sharon to see Derwentwater by boat and do a little shopping at Keswick's Saturday market.  And, who knows... maybe we'll meet up with the elusive Greg and Kim, or the effervescent Sandra Penney with husband, Neil!

Sadly, we'll have to leave Keswick - but happily it's for the Cotswolds!  On the way, we plan to see Judith Yates, my artistic friend from Coventry.


After seeing Judith, the Cotswolds might seem anti-climatic for some, but that's where we're going!  We'll be staying in a beautiful little cottage in the picturesque town of Bibury. What a trip, eh?  We'll be tripping about to see thatched cottages, the town of Glastonbury for a metaphysical fix, and round about the middle of England.

The final leg of our trip is to head back to Tintagel.  I had such fun there last year!  We re-booked the fantastic room at the Avalon B&B.  I'll be heading back to all the magical places and hopefully seeing some new stuff (the Agatha Christie Walk?).  There's all sorts of Cameloty things to do on the tour this year, for sure!

We'll be waving goodbye to our awesome B&B and heading back to London for one night.  I picked my favorite little hotel on a sweet little tree-lined street... the Best Western Palace and Suites. It's right on the tube line for Heathrow, and close to Kew Gardens and Wimbledon if we decide to tour about one last time.

Most of our trip will be by car (with yours truly driving).  Sharon has offered (generously) to navigate, and we will have Beavis (my GPS of Beavis and Butthead fame).

I will definitely miss the packing skills of Packing Annie (April Fager) and the giggles from Googley Eyes (Sharmon Blank), but we hope to make new memories this year that will last a lifetime.

Cheers, my dears! I'll keep you posted!