It is my first time in England.
Me, who called our rabbit King George because he thought he was the boss of everyone.
I have so many small observations — so I am just gonna lay them here.
On Doppelgängers: There is a doppelgänger here for almost every person I know back in the States. Are you all Brits from back in the day?
The Tate Modern museum in London is named for the guy who invented cubed sugar. Ain’t never gonna see sugar cubes again without thinking of the Tate Modern and how R couldn’t wait to swing on the swings on the first floor. And he is 57 years old.
On St. Paul’s Cathedral in London: they completely lost one chapel in The Blitz during the Second World War. When the chapel was rebuilt in the 1950’s, it was renamed the American Memorial Chapel, honoring the 28,000 American servicemen who gave their lives fighting in Britain in WWII. In their HONOR. When I heard this I cried. Amazing, amazing to have something done with honor. And gratitude. So beautiful.
On the Bloomsbury Set — group of “bohemian artists” including Virginia Woolf: “They Lived In Squares and They Loved In Triangles”.
On sitting down to tea: in my humble opinion, it is perfectly civilized to sit down in the afternoon with the ritual of teapot and cup and tea leaves…the ritual of which is designed to make one stop and breathe and restore. Obviously this ritual is repeated with different tea leaves in Arabic countries, in Asia, everywhere. And why not with a shiny teapot and little cakes? I am sitting in a tea shop in Cambridge, dreary but absolutely charming, listening to Italian tourists…and my brain is already deciphering what they are saying. A young woman dressing the part of the server interrupts me: ‘what kind of tea would you like?’. I answer: ‘you decide. Something perfectly English.’
On clotted cream: yes, I broke my “no dairy” rule this morning to taste clotted cream. It is my first time in England. I had to. Yes, it is completely amazing. And did you know the beautiful cream color comes from high carotene levels in the grass on which the cows graze? And did you also know that there is huge social and political controversy on whether one is supposed to put the jam on first or the clotted cream — or — the clotted cream on the scone first followed by drizzled jam….? In fact, there was famous political intrigue when Prime Minister David Cameron was caught on video in a tearoom in Barnstaple, Cornwall — getting it wrong.
On mistletoe: no, it is not in my tradition to use mistletoe….but in a world with so much hate — isn’t it perfectly lovely to have something green hung from the ceiling to encourage affection?
On the Tower of London and the like: I think it is (in my humble opinion) very strange to have a “Jack the Ripper Walking Tour” (yes they have one) or the “Tower of London re-enactment”. Or in the Tower of London gift shop — where we saw executioner-style decorated oven mitts and cooking aprons…with the brand name “Dressed to Kill” — or this children’s toy — which provides cut-outs for making a paper model of an execution. Good times.
On Swans: In Regent’s Park there are roses and there are ponds with geese and swans. And frankly, they are gorgeous. And yes, they make a mess — but the gardeners who work for the Crown clean up after the birds at least once if not twice daily. So why not have a beautiful green space with swans to remind us to glide, to be graceful, to have dignity and to be loyal? I mean, why not?
On Bubble & Squeak: basically mashed potatoes with succotash. You can skip this one.
On Pubs: yes, pubs are everywhere. And R was so worried to go into one because, based on previous experience, he thought they would only offer Guinness. BUT NO! We had a terrific server who gave him a flight to try — and he settled on a particularly good one: “Old Peculier”. Since he likes Old Peculier so much I suppose we will be married for quite a while.
On the Shops in Cambridge: they are immediately adjacent all the the super old medieval churches and stone structures. I am amazed that they were given permission to build retail so close to antiquity.
On King Richard III: his remains were actually found under a car park (parking lot) in Leicester in 2013. Took them two years to relocate them to somewhere a bit more “respectful”.
Just my two pence.
I discovered Old Peculier some many years ago, when I was on break from University and was hosting a friend who was originally from Birmingham, England. And we were wandering NYC for the day. And it began to snow. Increasingly heavily. As in, we couldn’t see far enough in front of us to figure out how to get back to Grand Central Station. We decided to wait out the worst of the weather by ducking into the first place we saw, which turned out to be called Peculier’s Pub. I was charmed by the name, but my visiting friend got all excited and wondered, “Do they actually serve Old Peculier here??” Indeed, they did. In fact, at the time, it was one of a very few places in the U.S. that did. We ordered some. And on that cold, icy day, that almost-sweet, heavy, thick brew was about the most perfect thing ever. I have since expanded my love of beers that are probably best eaten with a knife and fork. But Old Peculier will forever remain one of my heart’s delights.
The only frame of reference i have for clotted cream is cream cheese. I took a course at a school/museum in London. The students served US tea and biscuits!
How funny! The clotted cream I had was nothing like cream cheese. But it was like heaven. In Italy, however, cream cheese is considered a delicacy. Philadelphia cream cheese is in the grocery store (expensive!) and in restaurants…you might see a sandwich with smoked salmon with “Philadelphia”.