England Your England

‘Dos tua pia haec est, quare leges, Maria’ (This is your dowry, O pious Virgin).

“We are a nation of flower-lovers, but also a nation of stamp-collectors, pigeon-fanciers, amateur carpenters, coupon-snippers, darts-players, crossword-puzzle fans. All the culture that is most truly native centres round things which even when they are communal are not official – the pub, the football match, the back garden, the fireside and the ‘nice cup of tea’”. — George Orwell

My long overdue post on England as an expat. This barely scratches the surface, but I’ve linked to my own personal photos on Flickr and trackback to related posts when applicable. My intent is to draft more personal posts about my experience but waiting until a more appropriate time.

(1) Tolkien, Eliot, Williams, Turner, Lewis, Betjemen, and George Orwell – Some are included in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey and others memorialized at stations like St Pancras. Some are prophets and others have painted masterpieces like The Fighting Temeraire at the National Gallery. From orcs to wardrobes and a homily delivered by St Thomas Becket this short list barely scratches the surface of the artists, poets, and writers that have called this sceptered island home.

(2) Transport for London (TfL) and National Rail – The tube/underground is a gilded paean to the form and function of good design whilst the National Rail is a nod to the history of industrialization. Stations like Euston, Waterloo, and Paddington are cathedrals in their own right.

“Not until the development of iron and glass for building purposes were Englishmen to see still vaster spatial envelopes, structures such as the Crystal Palace and the splendid arched train-shed of London’s St Pancras Station, the cathedral of the railway edge.”
— Alec Clifton-Taylor

(3) Paris versus London – London is a city you live in whilst Paris is city you visit. There are very few private spaces in Paris whilst London boasts spacious parks like Kew Gardens, Hyde Park, and Richmond Park.

(4) Maritime History – There’s a replica of the Golden Hinde in London and the Cutty Sark is in Greenwich. In Bristol you can visit Brunel’s SS Great Britain. Just pick a port city along the coast and there’s a good chance there’s a maritime museum like SeaCity in Southampton or an original (or replica) sailing vessel of historical import.

(5) The South Coast – The cities facing the channel are amazing. The Mayflower (and Speedwell) spent time in Southampton and Plymouth. The Sea Venture left from Plymouth in 1609. King Henry V left to conquer France from Southampton. Visit Brighton, Portsmouth, Southampton, Bournemouth, Poole, and Plymouth to soak up the maritime history.

(6) Queen and Club – Don’t underestimate the importance of football clubs to local communities (doesn’t matter the league). On matchday these grounds and venues are cathedrals of a different sort.

(7) Dowry of Mary – The roots of Catholicism in England stretch back to St Augustine in the late 6th century. It was Pope Gregory the Great who sent Augustine to convert the pagan Anglo-Saxons to the Christian faith. Augustine was the first Archbishop of Canterbury. Pilgrimages to Canterbury (St Thomas Becket), York (St William), and Durham (St Cuthbert) were also common. Many pilgrims left for Camino de Santiago from Plymouth. England also has a very special link to the Blessed Virgin Mary via Edward the Confessor, Richard II, and Walsingham.

(8) Ramble On – Bring a pair of walking shows (and a raincoat) and spend a weekend in the country hiking. Plan your route carefully so that your afternoon respite includes sitting near a fireplace in an authentic pub.

(9) Cathedrals – Alain de Botton describes their purpose beautifully in the Architecture of Happiness. My guide was The Cathedrals of England by Alec Clifton-Taylor. My list of favorites is the subject for another post but each feature common elements like stained-glass, chapels, shrines, and cloisters each with their own unique and varied histories.

(10) Yours to Lose – France has been gutted by the enlightenment and saddled by extreme nihilism and existentialism whilst England remains the cradle of Western Civilization.

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