A walk in Black Park
Someone asked me what I missed most about England, a question that seems impossible to quantify. I miss National Trust properties, but I also miss the walks, and I miss Black Park a little more than I miss Burnham Beeches, but I'd give anything to walk through my Common and smell the moldy leaves.
So I thought I would make a list: Top Three Things I Miss About England. (The answer would not be "all of it" because that would include the plumbing and I definitely don't miss the plumbing, despite discovering that plumbing in America isn't all it's cracked up to be either.)
1. The walks. The circular walks, the rambles, the hikes—call them what you will, but walking was my favorite past time in England. Almost every Sunday we laced up our boots, snapped a harness on the dog, and headed out to a favorite spot. My early years in England were spent exploring the countryside with my dog and my hiking group. By the time Sparky came along, we had to confine ourselves to wooded parks and areas not likely to contain livestock, but the familiar became even more beloved. A Sunday afternoon at Black Park, once we'd escaped the crowded areas near the carpark, was the best gift we gave ourselves and our dog, who loved racing up and down the paths. If I moved back tomorrow, that would be the first thing I'd do.
2. The day trips. From where we lived, the range of options for day trips—a destination less than two hours away, which allowed us to be back home in time for dinner for both us and the dog—was simply inexhaustible. National Trust properties, English Heritage sites, Royal Palaces, historic homes, gardens, ruins, museums, cities like Oxford and Winchester and Cambridge—all could be done in a day, and even further destinations: Wales, Derbyshire, and even France, could be squeezed in for a determined road warrior like me. I got to know the back alleys of Oxford after dozens of trips, and again, the familiar was all the more beloved. If I moved back tomorrow, a day trip to a National Trust property would be a top priority.
3. The timezone. I didn't spend all my time walking, or exploring historic homes and castles and gardens. No, I spent most of my time doing what I'm doing now, writing, tweeting, catching up on the news of the day, being a part of the world. And living in the zero-hour time zone of GMT allowed me to wake up before most of the world, the world of my Twitter timeline anyway. I always felt like I had a head start on the rest of the English-speaking population, especially since I would start my days early, often at 4 am. Oddly, I miss that feeling very much, although there are compensations: I watched the State of the Union last night in real time, something I haven't been able to do in a decade. And I enjoy having an extra hour of daylight in the winter, now that I live at a lower latitude. I'll regret that in the summer though, when I lose precious daylight from the longest days of the year.
The feeling of safety I had in the UK, where the stranger you meet in the woods isn't likely to be armed and the shops you visit would never be the scene of an accidental, or otherwise, shooting. Friendly Americans aren't so friendly when they're packing heat, and far too many of them do.
The driving. I'd trade the massive I-495 for the more manageable M25 any day, and I'd even trade the GW Parkway for a narrow country lane. Driving was just more fun in the UK.
The weather. Yes, I said it: I like English weather just fine, especially the temperatures: never too hot, never too cold. Here we've already had temperatures ranging from the teens to the 100s in less than six months. English weather is, usually, much better behaved, although I wouldn't relive the summer of 2012 for anything.
The coins. Much more efficient coinage. America needs to get rid of the penny and make $2 and $5 coins to keep up with inflation.
Things that didn't make the list:
Pubs. I was never that enamoured of pubs. The food was really atrocious at most, merely okay at others. (I can only vouch for the vegan fare, and the occasional sticky toffee pudding.) Many of the pubs in our town closed down or were turned into upscale restaurant chains, and I wasn't disappointed at all, perhaps because I still think most beer tastes like piss.
The people, or at least most of them. The English deserve their frosty reputation, but there are many exceptions. I made lots of casual friends there but few I keep in touch with. Most of my close friends turned out to be foreigners like me, Canadians and Americans and others who clung together in what was often a rather chilly, unwelcoming country. And by "people", I mostly mean UKIP voters.
Parking wardens. For one thing, it's alliterative, and for another, they're just evil, no matter on which continent they practice their wickedness.