Saturday, September 22, 2018

Celebrating 75 Years

The year 2018 is when both John and I marked our 75th birthdays. That called for a celebration. And celebrate we did, with a two-month trip to the United Kingdom. By this age, we couldn't be sure how much longer we would be able to undertake such a journey.

In January I began the planning for the trip. One focus of our travels would be discovering where
English ancestors had lived before making the trip to America. After spending some time on and in our family trees in Family Tree Maker, I chose several of the locations where these people had lived and then began making reservations.

Over the eight and a half weeks, we stayed in hotels in five cities and in National Trust holiday cottages in five towns. What an adventure. We rented a car and John drove a stick-shift car on the wrong (to us) side of the road. We were able to see so much and go so many places that wouldn't have been possible without the car, but it was also a real stretch for him to safely drive all that time. We took trains twice and a long bus ride for another trip as well as using the London Underground for the first few days and last few days of the trip.

Everything went absolutely as planned—thank goodness.

In the West Midlands we found a small settlement and a pub named for one of John's Wiswell ancestors and the community and church where some of my Longley relatives were baptized and lived. We attended Holy Eucharist one Sunday in Kent at the church where some of my Polhill ancestors lived for about 100 years.

The rolling hills of the English countryside delighted us with the green, green fields divided by stone and hedgerow walls. The beach in Bournemouth is absolutely beautiful. We hiked in lush forests, sometimes through fields of shamrocks—and we weren't even in Ireland. Snowdonia National Park in Wales is gorgeous. We saw evidence of the Roman occupation of Britain while in Oxford and other places. We visited the harbor from which the Pilgrims sailed on the Mayflower to Cape Cod.

Our housing varied, from buildings constructed to house the growing population of industrial workers in Birmingham to a barn that had been remodeled, providing a sprawling, open self-catering cottage. We spent nights in an apartment in a large manor house and a few nights in a small cottage that had been built to house an observatory. One location was in a building that housed workers on a large rural manor. And we walked up and down too many stairs to count. We were amazed at how many narrow, curving staircases we found. How did children navigate them? Or women raising the children and carrying clothing and babies up and down the stairs?

We traveled to England expecting lots of rain. We even bought water-proof shoes to help keep our feet dry. But we had absolutely beautiful weather—only wearing our raincoats a couple of times to keep dry. At other times they were good wind breakers. We even bought sunscreen. We hadn't expected to need that in England.

We certainly won't forget our 75th birthday celebration. And, although we became aware some of the issues of aging—running out of steam earlier in the day and taking more time to figure things out and adapt to change—we also learned we are still up to the challenges of travel.

Sent from my iPad

Saturday, September 15, 2018

What We’ve Learned

Bits and pieces of what we have seen and learned during our time in England and Wales:

The Brits sure do love their dogs. Many stores and almost all tourist sites have a dog water bowl outside the front door. We have seen signs saying "good mannered dogs welcome here" and "Good mannered dogs are welcome, poor mannered children are not." Walking down a crowded street can be a challenge. It seems every person, couple or group has at least one dog, often more. People carry them or lead them through museums and other tourist places. Many restaurants and cafes have outdoor seating and dogs are often seen there. We don't mind dogs but in many ways I think there are places they belong and places where they shouldn't be.

If I ever see a duvet after we leave England, it may be too soon. Every bed we have slept in since arriving here July 24 has had a duvet and a bottom sheet but no top sheet under the duvet. That means I either sleep with no covers or under a fairly heavy duvet. Since I am often too hot at night, especially when there is no air conditioning available, this doesn't make me happy. I do admit it is easier to make the bed in the morning when there is a duvet. But that doesn't make for better a night's sleep.

I wonder if a large number of people have been electrocuted in bathrooms in this country. Switches for bathroom lights are on the wall outside the bathroom. The only electrical outlet in the bathrooms is for shavers only. I wonder where women use curling irons and hair dryers. In addition, each electrical outlet is switch controlled, including the outlets for stoves and refrigerators.

Every person we have asked for help has been extremely helpful and friendly. A policeman and a shop keeper have walked outside and down the sidewalk to show us how to reach our destination. People working in stores and bar tenders and waitresses have asked us where we are from. A good number of them have been to America and often they know about Colorado's mountains. On the other hand, when we walk down the street, Brits don't make eye contact. They are like big city dwellers in the US, each in their private space, not interacting with others they pass.

We have an accent? Texans and people from the South and those from England and Australia have accents. Those of us from Colorado and the West and Midwest don't have accents, do we? People here think we do. When we tell people we are from the US, they say they knew it from the accent. All we have to do is open our mouth and say 3 or 4 words and they know we don't live in England. We couldn't keep it a secret, even if we wanted to.

Today we saw a sign saying CCTV cameras were in operation and "fly tipping will be prosecuted." We had to know, what is fly tipping?. We asked a passing man what it meant. It is dumping your trash in someone else's trash container.

When we comment on the weather, "it sure is cold out today," several peoples responded, "it's fresh." We finally decided that is a statement by Brits who are trying to have a positive attitude about the cool, wet weather. On the other hand, on the TV weather reports, fresh means there will be less humidity.
They are also realistic about the weather. It is possible to see, in one block, people wearing wood stocking caps and down coats and other people in shorts and a t-shirt. And that is in August at sea level, but not at the sea shore.

Do you know what a hob is? It's a stove.
A bap? That's a roll, like ham roll or cheese roll.
Ramps are speed bumps
Boot sale is a garage or yard sale but out of the boot or trunk of a car. People in an area come to a common place, open the boot and offer things for sale.
Our GPS—purchased in England—tells us to "cross the round-about and go straight on."
"At the end of the road" means when a road ends turn right or left.
"Caution, oncoming vehicles in the middle of the road" is a really scary sign on a 1-lane road.
Swedes are turnips
A diversion is a detour
Lorries are trucks
Works access only means construction access

There are people everywhere! Tourists, locals, office workers, students. For a while I thought we were just picking very popular places to go. Finally, I checked some statistics: the population density of England is 395 people per square kilometer. That translates to 153 per square mile. In contrast, Colorado's density is 52 people per square mile and Arizona's is 45 people a square mile. No wonder we feel overwhelmed when we go out!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Eating Out

We have traveled to every state in the continental United States, as well as several Canadian provinces, by RV. We rarely stay in hotels when we travel. We always have our own house parked somewhere close by. But we have been staying in hotels on this trip since August 30 and have 9 more nights to go, as of today, Sept. 11.

There are many good things about hotels—they are almost always clean and they often have more space than our 218 square-foot Airstream. Most of the beds are comfortable and we are usually close to many of the places we want to see. And while I was tired of cooking in the changing and limited kitchens, with limited spices, etc., that I had in the National Trust cottages, the biggest problem with living in hotels is "where do we eat lunch and dinner today?"

Breakfast has been available in each of the hotels. But we have to choose where to eat the other 2 meals of the day. Restaurant food is usually good and here there are pubs on almost every corner. But we can only eat chips or mash so many times without wanting some variety. Pub food is comfort food and high in calories. Neither of us brought clothing in larger sizes than needed when we left Arizona. We have to continue fitting in the same jeans we wore in mid-July.

We have eaten in numerous pubs, in Burger King and KFC and 5 Guys Burgers and Fries (yes, these chains and Pizza Hut are here in England). We enjoyed an Italian bistro. And we frequently turn to the take-away food at Tesco, McColls and Sainsbury. Their sandwiches are getting old. We have found BLTs are the closest to what we enjoy at home. Even then, what we call bacon they call prosciutto here. The bacon here is thicker, more like a ham slice. We sometimes choose a pre-made salad. We could get bags of salad greens and some tomatoes, but we would still need bowls, salad dressing and cutlery. These things take up too much room in our suitcases.

Neither of us can wait to get back to our own kitchen with food purchased at Bashas, Walmart or Frys and prepared by me.

Sent from my iPad

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

You have to understand the language

 Yes, we are in England and they speak English, just like we do. Well, almost like we do. But sometimes, we need to really think about something said and then translate it using the context.

Oscar Wilde said "The Americans and British have everything in common, except the language." Here are a few reasons why this is true.

Diverted traffic: after a while I figured out that means detour. It is summer and there is a lot of road construction here, just like in America, and so we see signs about diverted traffic often.

Expect queues on slip road. Huh? On the highways, queues are congestion. We first encountered this word the day we landed in London and were outside the terminal, waiting for a taxi. Someone started pointing and then a woman told us we had stood at the head of the line, not the rear. "People are really focused on queuing the right way, here." We saw a sign "queue here" when we were looking around Harrods.

"Incident ahead, slow down." What do you suppose an incident it? Are the police settling a fight? No, it mean there was an accident ahead.

We knew that RVs are called caravans here. But it took a while to figure out what a static caravan park it. Early in our marriage we lived in a 12 X 60 Marlette trailer. In Arizona there are lots of manufactured home parks and park models in RV parks. Those are static caravans.

Neither the road signs or our TomTom GPS refer to road exits here. We get off at J10 or J38. They have junctions, not exits.

Lorries entering roadway means trucks entering ahead.

Dual carriage way refers to a 4-lane, divided highway—two lanes in each direction.

One doesn't enter a roundabout, they cross a roundabout and select an exit point.

We don't look for an elevator when we are walking with our suitcases, it is a lift we want.

Portland pudding is creamed cucumber. They use cucumber here a lot. Even the Sprite has lemon, lime and cucumber flavors.

We'll never get off at the correct place if we don't remember that 1st floor is the floor above the ground floor.

If you want a ham sandwich you need to ask for a gammon sandwich. And, egg plant is known as aubergine.

Before we came to the UK we watched a video about what clothes to wear. The video suggested not wearing shirts with logos. Supposedly that would tip people that we were tourists. Wrong. The clothes we wore revealed nothing about our being visitors. All we had to do was speak and, immediately, we were asked where we came from. Our use of English gave us away.

Monday, September 10, 2018


During our 3 days in Bournemouth we just enjoyed the beautiful city. We never went anywhere in the car. We did pursue our favorite activity—we walked. Each day we try to walk 10,000 steps—about 5 miles. The town was so beautiful we ended up walking almost 40,000 steps or 20 miles, all in the central city.

The city's beaches on the English Channel consist of wide expanses of fine sand. They are very
beautiful and a very popular holiday location. Many restaurants, shops and take-away outlets are available, including lots of ice cream shops.

The next 2 photos show small storage areas owned or rented by beach lovers.  They keep their chairs and swimming gear in them.  Those in the second photo include a small platform where they can set out their beach chairs.

When we weren't walking along the beach, we explored the town's gardens. Long swaths of land through the central city hold well-manicured lawns and lovely flower beds. There are two universities in Bournemouth and the first day we saw many college-age people in the gardens. Classes must have started after that day so we saw lots of older couples out enjoying the beauty and sharing a picnic lunch.

We had planned to visit Bath and Salisbury during our time in the city but found train fares too expensive to make visits of only a few hours reasonable. It would have taken at least 3 hours and 45 pounds fare round trip to see Salisbury and 75 pounds and up to 4 ½ hours to see Bath. I wish I had planned a couple of days-stay in Bath, but since I didn't, we just enjoyed Bournemouth—very much.

Sent from my iPad

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

The Mayflower

I don't know about anyone else, but I don't remember a lot of details of the early American history I learned in grade school or information about the early world explorers like Christopher Columbus, Magellan or Sir Francis Drake. We had a refresher course in some of this history during our time in Plymouth. One of the reasons we added Plymouth to our itinerary was because that is the harbor where the first Pilgrims sailed to America.

High on our list was a visit to the Mayflower Museum across the road from the Plymouth harbor.  We had to dress the part to explore the museum.

 It took the Pilgrims 66 days to sail from Plymouth, England, to the place they named Plymouth near Cape Cod. They left England on August 5 and anchored off the American coast November 11. But many of the passengers had moved onto the ship in mid July and more joined them July 22. They lived on board the ship during the winter, not moving onshore until March 21. By then, only 53 of the original 102 passengers were still alive and more than half the crew had also died.

The deck the passengers lived on measured about 25 ft by 15 ft. It contained only a ladder to go up to the deck and had no privy. It must have been a harrowing journey for the brave passengers.

This is a painting representing the Mayflower as it sailed from Plymouth.

A model of the Mayflower at the Mayflower Museum.

Other prominent expeditions from Plymouth included Sir Francis Drake who became the first Englishman to circumnavigate the world and Captain James Cook who charted the coastline of Newfoundland in 1767 and circumnavigated the globe at a very southern latitude, becoming the first person to cross the Antarctic circle.

Reading about events in America among the Mayflower passengers, I saw the names Myles Standish and John Alden and William Bradford that I remember from school history lessons. I also read about the Mayflower Compact which established a democratic government structure for the colony.

Sent from my iPad

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

World War II

John and I were both born in the middle of World War II and neither of our fathers were in the service during that war. Therefore, though we have studied and read about this period in history, it is a somewhat abstract idea. But not here in England. Almost everywhere we go, there is some physical evidence of the war damage.

We have worshipped in two churches that were gutted by German bombing during the blitz, only to be rebuilt by the faithful and believing members of the congregation. In Coventry, the skeleton of the bombed-out building still stands. The steeple remains and houses a book and gift shop as well as stairs to the top. A new, modern church has been built right next door and the congregation has fostered the Society of the Cross of Nails, an international group focused on forgiveness and reconciliation. The café on the church grounds is named Rising from the Ashes.

At St. Andrews in Plymouth we joined a faith filled, evangelical congregation with a "heart for Jesus." They worship in a church rebuilt within the burned-out shell of the bombed building. The word "Resurgam," meaning "I will rise again" reflects the Christian hope of new life for all who trust in Jesus Christ, as well as the word found on a wooden board put up over the North church door the night the building was bombed in 1941.

These photos are of the interior of St. Andrews.

In Cornwall, thousands of American troops gathered to take part in D Day, the allied invasion on the Normandy Beach, beginning the defeat of the German armies. In a museum in Mevagissey we saw a video with local residents talking about their interaction with the American soldiers in town before the invasion.

A war memorial in Plymouth has a plaque reading "Honour 107,000 members of the Royal Air Force, 84,000 members of the United States Air Force, 42,200 members of the Soviet Air Force who made the ultimate sacrifice." "They flew by day and night and gave their lives to keep forever bright that precious light. Freedom."

Every town we visit we see large memorials to the soldiers who died in World I, in World War II and in other wars. I know there are lots of these monuments in our country. In small Colorado towns the names of the local men who served in these wars are painted on the walls of local buildings. And cemeteries and cities and towns have war memorial monuments. They just seem much more evident here, where the war was fought on local soil. It is somewhat like the 911 Memorial in New York City.

Plymouth suffered 59 bombing attacks with 1,172 civilians killed and 4,448 injured. In 1941 most of the children were evacuated and on any night that a raid was expected thousands of people were taken by lorry in the countryside.

Bournemouth also suffered greatly during the war. On May 23, 1943, in little more than a minute the bloodiest bombing raid of the war there left 131 people dad, hundreds more injured, many of them suffering life-changing injuries. Some 3359 buildings were damaged, 37 of which had to be demolished. Among the destroyed buildings were the Lansdowne and Central Hotels. Air raid sirens were sounded only 7 minutes before the first bomb was dropped, the raid was such a surprise. Around 25 high explosive bombs fell on the town and the Pleasure Gardens were strafed with machine gun fire. Hundreds of Canadian and Australian airmen were among those killed and wounded in the hotels bombed. The Bournemouth RAF station was a dispatch and receiving center for the allied air troops.

Sent from my iPad