England in Review

Saturday night, Miska and I returned from a wonderful week in England. We’ve both been to other spots in Europe, but never England – and both of us have long had a strong connection to things English: Miska with her Victorian writers and her fetish for scones and tea, me with my love affair with Oxford and fascination with European history. Thanks to a better than expected tax refund and the kindness of our friends Cory and Juli to watch the boys, we skipped over the pond for six fabulous days.

We spent most of our time in London, and I love this city. I could live there. Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Parliament on the Thames and Big Ben and the parks – oh, the parks! St. James Park and Hyde Park and Green Park. Hyde Park was my favorite, bliss. They have a little path in the park called “Lover’s Walk.” Of course, Miska and I had to take a stroll. We were pretty cute, if you ask me.

My favorite moment was probably lunch at Eagle and Child on our day trip to Oxford. This, of course, is the spot where the Inklings (Tolkien, Lewis and co.) met each Tuesday morning for more than 25 years to discuss their writing, ideas and politics. With their ale and their pipes, they ventured into friendship and conversation in their little pub (which they nicknamed The Bird and the Baby). We lunched in their favorite spot, in the Rabbit Room, at the very corner where they sat. I’m a sucker for such things. It was great.

We also enjoyed a private tour of the Kilns, Lewis’ home where he penned Narnia and where he and his brother Warren smoked so much the walls turned to solid black. Apparently, before Joy arrived to bring a womanly touch to the house, the Lewis brothers would pour their ashes into the rugs and stomp them in, insisting that it kept the beetles away.

I appreciate the way several of the curio owners at the Portobello Market (known in the U.S. because of the movie Knotting Hill), simply closed up shop for lunch. Amid all the potential customers and potential profits, they paused for a sandwich and a banana and a cup of coffee. I like that. I enjoyed the civility we experienced on the Tube (their subway). I was fascinated watching their election unfold, with their first coalition government since World War II (we were at 10 Downing Street on the historic day). Mostly, I was grateful for my wife Miska and the joy of sharing life and new experiences with her.

Good travels, a good week.