Saturday, August 26, 2006

Come for Tea

A silly "thrill of a lifetime" for me was being served a true Dorset tea by an English woman in her 250 year old house in the little town of Wareham, surrounded by Saxon walls (though half the size of what they had originally been). This is living in real history. The old house is in incredible shape, with inside shutters and an amazing English garden in the back. This is one of those houses whose door opens right up on the winding village street, each house attached to the next.

We entered through the tiny car park at the back gate. The "coffee" table was laid with the tea things. Napkins, small sterling silver butter knives, small blue and white plates, cups and saucers, and the cream and sugar. After we had given our greetings, we sat down and out came the tea pot, a plate of buttered scones, a plate of buttered raisin toast and a Dorset apple loaf cake. And of course, raspberry jam and divine clotted cream that was the "cream of the crop." The very finest top of the cream. It looked like yellow butter. The proper way, though much debated, is to put the jam on first and then a touch of the cream. Milk in the teacup first of course. Mmmmmm. Around and around the lovely goodies were passed. "You must have some more." It seemed the thing to take more than one, and have seconds at that. (This type of nonsense must only be allowed because the Brits walk so much!) I was so touched. I just sat and thoroughly enjoyed the moment, taking it all in, not believing I was where I was.

Interesting conversation with the tea preceded a tour of the house. Then we walked down the road to the 11th century parish church...where there was a flower festival wrapping up. We saw a cast iron baptismal font that was carefully hidden when Lord Cromwell turned anything made of iron into canon balls. The church had been burned once, rebuilt, and at one time fell down. But the very front chapel in one corner is original. It is now a prayer room. As I stared at the small chairs gathered for their current mid week prayer service, I could not help but sense history in a tangible way. Here believers had gathered throughout history and prayed for things like the Black Plague, the French Revolution, the War of 1812--you get the picture. This is the site where Edward's, the brief King of England, body had initially laid (in the 900s) after being murdered by his stepmother's aide, in order that her younger son become king. Later his body was sent to Dorchester.

We also heard the story of a mother whose son had died in France in the war, his body never found. In despair the mother herself years later went to the battlefield where he had fallen. She ate some food while she sat remembering his life, later burying the rubbish in the ground. As she dug she struck something--and found it was something of her son's belongings. An excavation soon took place and in no time her son's body had been found and brought back to Wareham to be buried. True story! There was a flower memorial in the church to this young soldier.

OK, this is the final bit about our trip to England!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

First Class Feet

There's a mesh curtain that flight attendants are very careful to keep closed during flights, even though it's a pain to unfasten it as they move about the plane. It separates the first or envoy class from the common folk. You can see through it, but I guess it's a barrier/reminder NOT to use the envoy bathrooms. That's against the rules. But, apparently, tourist feet by themselves are okay to go through the "great divide."

When we waited in the "preferred flyer" US Air lounge in Gatwick this week, the young woman behind the desk worked her craft to get us into Row 8, the "bulkhead"(with my very tall husband's medical history he has some "clot clout"). She claimed she got us the "very best seat." (Was God reserving it for us? Where were the babies that needed it for their cots?). The deal was, with four seats across, the row end seats in the bulkhead have nothing but space in front of them. Ah, stretching room! Right under the curtain and into first class went my tall husband's feet. No complaints from any sensitive envoy noses either. His feet rode first class the whole way across the Atlantic! Does God have a sense of humor or what?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Holey Clogs

Months ago when we booked our flight to the United Kingdom, only God knew that we would be flying on the day the London Heathrow terrorist plot broke loose, and therefore all airports and travel were a mass of confusion. Throughout our departure day we fielded calls and e-mails from concerned friends, family and neighbors. Would we still go?

We concluded this would actually be a very safe day to travel. And by the time we arrived at the airport later in the day, it was a pretty quiet place. Over half of those booked on our flight had canceled. Were we smart, or were they the smart ones?

The actual boarding process was what brought us back to the reality and gravity of the situation. We were ushered into a small, stifling room where 12 men (police, FBI and federal marshals) lined the entrance and stared at us as we moved slowly towards a table manned by about eight security people. They searched every part of our carry on luggage as if looking for a priceless treasure. No liquids allowed of course––not even chapstick!

It did make us feel rather safe and throughout the flight we made a sort of game of guessing who was our in-flight sky marshal. We were sure there was one.

Our first introduction to Lizzie and Oliver's mum was when we found her straddling a bank of seats, trying to squeeze two good-size booster seats and carry-ons into the overhead compartment. More of her strawberry-blonde, frizzy hair escaped than was held in by a big barrette as she flashed us a smile of thanks as we assisted her. She was obviously one of those persons who was very at home with herself, full of personality, and "didn't know a stranger." That personality spilled into her two tousled blonde-haired children––Lizzie, five, seated on her mum's far side, practicing her reading from an old Lady bird reader; and Oliver, seven, who sat across the aisle from us, intent on engaging us in conversation. All three were wearing those trendy plastic, bright colored clogs covered with holes. They were headed for a wedding. Dad, presumably American, was coming a week later.

Oliver was cunning, witty, and, with a twinkle in his eyes, made us laugh. While our big old airbus waited over an hour on the tarmac for a storm to pass, we discussed all kinds of things and told stories and jokes. While still a kid, Oliver was definitely at home with adults, and not shy at all. We won't soon forget him. "So, do you have another joke?" He kept plying for more, even though he didn't "get" all of them.

Once we got in the air, we flew right through the same storm we'd sat through on the ground. There was much banging, creaking and rattling in the cabin. Oliver's mum, a Brit, leaned over to us. "Have you flown US Air before?"

"Yes, many times."

"Do you generally get there in one piece?"

"Yes," came our reassurance, though at that moment we had some question. We did arrive safely. And thankfully. Now to face the return trip. This time we may only be allowed to carry on a clear zip lock bag. And no chapstick of course.
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