Culture

A Marvelous Old Pile

ENGLAND
by
October 15th, 2012

One of the neat things about being older is that my parents are oldsters. Don’t get me wrong, aging blows for sure and it is a hard thing to do and to watch. What’s neat is that my parents have a fabulous perspective built over years of being intelligent, active, and engaged, and I still learn so much from them. I am so grateful for that.

I recently went to England, and before I left my mother mentioned a book written by Ruth McKenney in 1950 called Here’s England. (You Broadway Babies will know Ms. Mckenney as the person who wrote the stories that became Wonderful Town.) Here’s England is out of print, but I was able to pick up a copy for $10 on Amazon and I used it as my tour book. After all, historic England hasn’t changed much.

It was so fun! McKenney has a wonderful way with words. For instance, Hampton Court, that magnificent specimen of all kinds of architecture, becomes “a marvelous old pile.” A day-by-day tour is laid out in chapters with titles like “England is easy for Americans” (because we speak English, silly!). The “pictures” are these fabulous, hand-drawn outlines reminiscent of Hilary Knight (Eloise books).

The book covers architecture and history in depth – I learned more about the Tower of London than I did from other guides. Walking through Hyde Park with book in hand it was easy to imagine the England of 1950, fresh from the wounds of World War II and only the hardiest of tourists with all these history and museums at their feet. And it was also easy to imagine the England of Henry VIII and Charles II, and to appreciate just how badly monarchs can behave.

Take advantage of those older than you to learn about cool stuff you may not know about. So much gets lost in the sturm und drang of living in the modern world. And check out Here’s England – its an interesting historical read, even without the trip!

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