(Or My Trip To England)
By Dorothy Dean Holman
(1895 - 1984)
[Edited by John M. Holman, Contributing Writer]
Everyone should visit England. Now that air fares have been reduced and the new air train in operation, most anyone can.
For years it had been my fondest dream to do so, and one evening in the spring that dream was realized, when my friend and I took off from Boston for an 8-day visit to that fabulous country.
We were like babes in the wood, strangers in a strange land, so it was inevitable that we'd make a few mistakes. And that we started right in to do, by tipping the taxi driver, on arriving at our hotel, two pence. Because of its size we though its value would be commensurate. The doorman came to our assistance and coached us on the value of the different coins of the realm.
I had heard of and read about the chimney pots on the roofs of the houses, hedgerows marking off the fields in the country, thatched cottages, and a street in London with m ancestors name. All these I wanted to see.
The window of our 8th floor hotel room commanded a marvellous view over London. Especially do I remember the early morning mists hanging over the city. In the time we were there we didn't experience any of that thick fog so typical of London.
We saw so many wonderful things, the tulips and primula everywhere about, the red double-decker buses, Big Ben, Hyde Park Corner, the Thames, the Tower of London and the Changing of the Guard. Following this latter event, we entered St. James Park, and as we strolled along a path, my companion nudged me, saying in hushed tones, "Here comes Churchill." And sure enough, although it wasn't that great man, it certainly was his double, even to the build, the round, florid face, the dark suit and same type of hat, umbrella and cigar. I wished afterwards I'd had the courage to ask him if I might photograph him, the resemblance was so striking.
We went on tours to Stratford on Avon, Hampton Court, Kew Gardens, went through Winchester Cathedral and Warwick Castle. And we talked along Dean Street and had luncheon in a very nice restaurant there.
One day, returning to our hotel, we decided to take a bus as a change from taxis. It was so crowded we were obliged to stand, but had no idea where we were supposed to get off, although we knew we were headed in the right direction. Kike, the doorman, once more a helpful Londoner came to our assistance, and when she got off she said, "The next stop is yours." So when the bus next came to a halt off we hopped, with me almost leaving one foot on the step before it took off again. Looking around we found to our dismay we were in the middle of the street. The bus had stopped for a red light.
The hotel service was excellent, the food delicious and well served. One evening we came down to the coffee shop for a snack before bedtime. Being fond of ice cream, I ordered Gaelic coffee flavor. Noticing a strange taste I inquired of the waitress what it was. To my amazement her reply was, "It's flavored with Irish whiskey."
We had a lot to learn. One day when on a tour of London, I noticed signs here and there on the sides of buildings reading, "Take Courage." I thought what a wonderful thing it was for the government or some other organization to do. How uplifting to the down-hearted, sad or lonely, to look up and see those encouraging words, until I was told it was simply an ad, and that "Courage" was the name of a beer.
I saw many hedgerows and thatched cottages on our trips through the countryside, and once, while stopping to take a picture, a skylark flew up, singing. It was a thrill, I can tell you, one of the highlights of my visit.
I said we made many mistakes. In lovely Winchester Cathedral, I asked the Head Varger if he were a Bishop, which of course, he denied. And when I praised the exquisite architecture and said I'd seen nothing in America to equal it, his amusing reply was, "Oh, but you have Indians."
I also saw many things to remind me of Dickens. Once while waiting for a bus in Paddington station, I saw a man walking along the street and around a corner, carrying a lamp-lighter's ladder. And in the same station, a poorly dressed woman, a character out of Dickens, was holding out her hand, begging.
Although our visit wasn't nearly long enough, we took in many sights, enough to last us a lifetime to look back on and remember. And these memories are kept alive by correspondence with friends over there, as a result of our short stay in your wonderful country. Everyone should visit England.