Nostalgia for Great Britain

I just checked out the blog “breathofgreenair” where Seonaid takes us on a tour of her neighborhood – Edinburgh. She did such a great job and it made me all nostalgic. One of the things that I lost when I developed symptoms of Fibromyalgia was taking students on three-week culture trips to England, Scotland, and Ireland. I think my memories and nostalgia were also triggered by a post by Megan Sayer on traveling. She is excited about traveling with her family to the US later in the year but also talks about not being able to fulfill this strong desire to travel earlier in her life. Isobel, along with her cat MasterB, lives in London and gives me a regular fix by posting photos and telling us about life in that wonderful city and her trips around UK.

My trips with students were so much work and were so strenuous. I guided students in learning about culture and specifically about the uniqueness of British culture through the study of the major cultural institutions of religion, family, government, economy and history. We rode trains and walked. We stayed in youth hostiles and B&B’s. We lived on the cheap because most students don’t have a lot of money and I wanted to teach them that it is possible to travel light. I also wanted them to learn the joy of becoming engaged in the cultures they visit.

I think I went 6 times. I was engaged. I met so many wonderful people and I walked so many wonderful streets. I miss these experiences so very much. Here is what I wrote in my journal as I was grieving all my many losses.

I love introducing students to travel and expanding their world views, and it is just plain fun to go places as a part of my work. I know I’ll never be able to do England/Scotland again and I grieve this decision. So many things trigger memories. I went enough times that the places we visited and the people I interacted with became “old” friends.

I don’t feel like I had an opportunity to say goodbye so I can relish the memories instead of feeling pain. I miss Bath and can feel myself walking down the hill past the post office toward Bath Abby. I want to sit in the sun in the plaza between the Abby and the Baths to watch the pigeons and the tourists. I want to take the students for tea and scones with clotted cream.

I’ll never go to Avebury to walk around the stone monuments, walk the streets of Lacock, or buy greeting cards in the gift shop in Castle Combe. I miss Edinburgh, even the youth hostel. I can see the buildings of old town as I walk down the Royal Mile past St. Giles Kirk (without stepping on the stone heart that people spit on).

My years of memories blend together so that sights and sounds blend into one wonderful experience. I long for a meal in the Indian restaurant on the Royal Mile where I never know what I’m ordering but always get a wonderful meal. I want to walk down the steep winding streets to the park for a “Mark & Spencers’” take away lunch while I sit on a bench listing to Princess Street traffic while gazing at the “Old Town” skyline. I want to go to the museum one more time and feel my legs burn as I climb all the stairs back up to the castle.

I miss York, too. I won’t ever listen to Rev. Greg Hoyland explain the Church of England ever again and I won’t ever stay at a B&B on the Ouse River. I won’t walk through the park past the ruins to that special place where York Minster looms bigger than life over the busy city street – almost like a time warp. I miss Evensong. I won’t shop the narrow, twisting market streets that I have learned well enough that I almost never get lost. I won’t go for “special coffee” in my favorite pub or have their wonder meals.

And I’ll never stay on the Isle of Skye again. I’ll never experience the absolute quiet of Kyleakin or experience rush hour in Porttree, the main city that doesn’t have enough traffic to warrant stop signs. I’ll never have supper by the harbor with the fishing boats anchored on the still water. I’ll never see the mountains and the sheep, and the cliffs, and the wooly coos, learn Gaelic words, and hear the Gaelic legends. I won’t hear passionate tales about the Scottish clans and climb on castle ruins.

I won’t ride the trains and see the stone wall fences. I won’t walk uphill from the train to our lodging pulling my luggage over cobblestones. 

And I miss London. I miss candle-light concerts and bread pudding at St. Martins in the Field, I miss Leicester Square, Parliament and Big Ben, Sunday worship in St. Pauls, Buckingham Palace, Covent Garden in the evening, hearing “Mind the Gap”. I miss the English breakfast and the warm hello I received from the Valodes every morning. 

I miss going to Oxford and Cambridge and Windsor. What wonderful experiences, what wonderful memories. I cry because I will never go back. I didn’t say goodbye when I was last there. 

I still feel the pain in this journal entry deep in my heart. Maybe there is some pain that never heals. I can live with the loss because I am so glad I had these experiences.

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11 Comments »

  1. You paint some wonderfully vivid memories, and there are so many things which we can only see once in our life…..never mind many times 🙂 Edinburgh is eternal and lives on in your memories….and don’t even start me about Skye! We go there several times a year – it’s where my mothers from – take a look back through my blog and I’m sure more memories will be evoked 🙂

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    • I will be sure to check out more of your blog. I can’t believe that your mother is from Skye. Have you posted pictures of the bridge – it is so beautiful and perfect for the area. We almost got stuck on the island because the wind was so strong that our driver didn’t think he would be allowed to drive across. We had to leave a little earlier than scheduled in the morning. I remember standing in Kyleakin and it was totally silent except for one car driving on the mainland, coming across the bridge and then disappearing on the island. Amazing.

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  3. Thanks for the shout out Pat!
    This was beautiful and poignant. What an amazing job, being able to take students around like that. Wow. I’m inspired by your memories here. I’ve heard so many beautiful stories about the UK.

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  4. You stirred memories of Ireland for me – and the loss of the last cross-cultural we planned to lead – but had taken away from us. The memories cannot be taken away – as long as we refresh them from time to time. Thanks for sharing your heart.

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    • Hi Joanne. You are so wise. I am willing to live with the pain of loss because having was so wonderful. Thanks for understanding. Look forward to seeing you in about a month.

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    • Hi Joanne. You are so wise. I am willing to live with the pain of loss because having was so wonderful. Thanks for understanding. Look forward to seeing you in about a month.

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  5. You have made me very nostalgic too, Pat. Thank you for taking me back there, even for a little while. It’s approaching daffodil time in York. Which makes me think of one of my mother’s favorite poems, and mine too. I know you have 20/20 vision where it counts most.

    Daffodils

    I wandered lonely as a cloud
    That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
    When all at once I saw a crowd,
    A host, of golden daffodils;
    Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
    Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

    Continuous as the stars that shine
    And twinkle on the milky way,
    They stretched in never-ending line
    Along the margin of a bay:
    Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
    Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

    The waves beside them danced; but they
    Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
    A poet could not but be gay,
    In such a jocund company:
    I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
    What wealth the show to me had brought:

    For oft, when on my couch I lie
    In vacant or in pensive mood,
    They flash upon that inward eye
    Which is the bliss of solitude;
    And then my heart with pleasure fills,
    And dances with the daffodils.
    William Wordsworth

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