Tag Archives: England

You Can’t Go Home Again

You can’t go home again. Thank you Thomas Wolfe. Trying to recapture what’s gone is elusive at best, but the trying can be fun.

I recently got back from another foray into my past—a trip to England. A saudade fix. If you want to know what that means, check back on a previous post,Saudade, A Deep Longing”.

We visited my former neighbors from the 70s who now live on the south coast of England. My how England has changed. It’s so crowded. One of the things I loved about England when I lived there was the pace of life: slower than in the US. Not anymore, at least in the population centers, which seems to be all of the south of England.

The quaint little villages have changed. Incomers, people not from there, are putting up lovely new stone cottages, filling in the spaces between the existing cottages. Stone rabbit warrens. Some houses are so close to the road that if the occupant opened their front door they might clip off the wing mirror of a car whizzing by, or so it seems.

Traffic is frightful. My husband calls the one-lane country roads “hedgeroads”, because they’re bounded by ancient stone walls covered with vegetation. The way you negotiate the roads with two-lane traffic is that someone has to back up to a passing point or wait in the nearest one for the oncoming traffic to pass. When that works (driving on the left, mind you), it’s fine, but we were turned back on one such road where there was an accident involving a lorry (truck) and a car. The locals drive their familiar roads as if they’re in a grand prix, so we timid non-left drivers hold our breath and drive on. I’ve often said we need a big red “Y” sign on the backs of our rental cars denoting “Yank”.

Yet it’s a challenge. I’ve got the driving out of Heathrow down, but the getting back to the rental car drop-off is another matter. So far I’m 0 for 3. But if we make the same mistake we made this last time, we’ll know exactly where we are.

I continue to resonate to my toes with England and all things English, but we may have to make the next visit to the Scottish Highlands where there are more sheep than people.

Buses wedged together for five hours—it’s crowded in the south of England!

More England and a Bit of Scotland

This is a lazy person’s post, or busy—we’ve got company coming for the weekend.

Here’s what I have to offer: more pictures of England, with some bonus Scotland pictures thrown in. Saudade tonic. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read last week’s post—Saudade, A Deep Longing.

To see the slideshow, click on any of the photos and enjoy.

Cristine Eastin © 2012

Saudade, A Deep Longing

Saudade–I have a bad case of it. Wikipedia defines this Portuguese word as, “…a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. It often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return.”


My saudade sighs are for England.

In my mid-twenties I lived in Beaconsfield, England: halfway between London and Oxford. This was my house—minus the two-story addition on the right where the brick is darker and plus masses of tall Queen Elizabeth roses. My house must also have a new name, or no name, since one chimney was removed. The Post Office once directed a friend visiting from Geneva to my house when the friend said, “I think her house is called ‘Two Stacks’.” How quaint.

For two years “Two Stacks” was home. I arrived a young, naive woman and left with a heart full of the love of friends—a heart that’s got a chunk of it shaped like England into which only England and things English will fit.

I long to return: a longing so strong it feels as if it might pull my heart right out of my chest and stick it to some place in England.

I run back to England as often as I can—to the dreary weather, the quaint houses, the endless footpaths, the English way of life—and to friends.

Almost every day a friend and I walked our dogs here. Public access to private land gave us miles of hill and dale for the dogs to run, providing the dogs didn’t bother the livestock. The only time that almost went wrong was when I watched helplessly as a stud donkey chased my dog. Fortunately my dog ducked under the fence an inch ahead of the hoofs.


I long to walk in England. Tramping the sidewalks in my rabbit warren urban US neighborhood doesn’t cut it. Nor does walking the Department of Natural Resources land near my house where they’ve just clear-cut the woods to make way for a prairie restoration. “Progress!” she spat out in disgust.

Sometimes my English friend and I ate lunch here, both dogs resting under the table—the Royal Standard of England. I had already had a taste of living overseas by this time, having lived in Geneva, Switzerland, for two ski seasons, but the Royal Standard was an eye-opener. I understood why England viewed its American step-children as unappreciative of history. Part of the Royal Standard was 900 years old. I had no sense of history like that.

England has changed  tremendously since I lived there. The pace of life has almost caught up to the US, horrible blights on the architectural landscape have gone up, economic stress is rife, and the country struggles valiantly with ethnic diversity. The butcher shop that brined my corned beef for me and the butcher that gave my dog treats are gone, replaced by a huge, convenient grocery store.

Yet I can’t wait to get back. It makes me feel righted somehow—like my bones have fallen into place.

I know all this saudade silliness flies in the face of  Paul’s wisdom: “…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content,” (Philippians 4:11). It’s not that I’m not content in the State of Wisconsin. But, for some reason, God put this love of England in me. I do know that my next novel will be set in Scotland and England. If I can’t live there in reality, at least I can live there in my imagination.

If only they wouldn’t drive on the left!

Cristine Eastin © 2012

Get the Picture You Want

If a picture says a thousand words, here’s the story behind this photo, taken while on a walk in Lyme Regis, England.

In the dark age of cameras I used a single lens reflex camera, and I got pretty good pictures—I knew how to get the photo I wanted.

Reluctantly and belatedly, I joined the digital era and decided to try a digital happy snapper. It was light and easy to travel with. But frustrating. I’d see the photo I wanted, push the shutter release, and by the time the message got to the pea computer brain of the camera to actually take the picture—the moment was gone—and I got some other photo. Like the one below.

I did my research and switched to a digital single lens reflex camera (DSLR). It’s heavy, but worth its weight. Duh, most of you are thinking. Bear with me.

Then the other photography problem I’ve always had needed to be dealt with—just take the darn picture and stop hoping for something better, before I lose it altogether. So when the calico cat looked at me in a mirrored pose of her concrete buddy, I immediately snapped the photo without worrying if her eyes were in focus or if I had it composed the way I wanted. I got it! A little post-photo cropping, and I had a photo I was thrilled with.

The two photo examples were taken with my DSLR. In this case I actually did want the shot with the kitty’s head in the fountain. I decided I’d better shoot before the cat jumped down and I lost the opportunity for any cute shot. And then I was rewarded with her look at me before she took off.

There’s a metaphor for life in here somewhere. Take the darn picture—make the decision—and don’t over-fuss with getting the details right, or the opportunity may pass—or something like that.

Cristine Eastin © 2012