Friday, December 17, 2010

Retro video and photos

I spent a good amount of time this morning poring over the photos and videos posted at How to be a Retronaut, which is sort of like a web-based time machine powered by a database of video, photos, documents, recordings, and more. My favorites are the color film of London shot by cinematographer Claude Friese-Greene in 1927. There's a brief shot of the women bending down to leave flowers at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, which brought me to tears as I was reminded that WWI was only a few short years behind them and their grief was probably cold and fresh. We also know that in just a few years, London would be under raid by the Germans.

Then there are the high definition photos taken around London in the late 40s (love the signage!) And, of course, this opening sequence (above) from "The Prisoner," filmed in the mid-60s. You'd never see a long opening sequence like this in a television show today! Another series worth checking out are the color photos taken in Paris during the occupation by the Germans. In many ways, Paris looks the same to me today than it did then, except for the fashion and cars (and Nazi soldiers, of course.)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The King's Speech

I've been checking our local movie times incessantly, hoping that at some point The King's Speech will play around here. It was released last week in some of the major U.S. film markets -- I guess suburban Boston isn't one of them! --  and I'm chomping at the bit to see it. It has everything I love in a film: history (specifically English history), '30s and '40s fashion, drama/angst, the abdication crisis, a backdrop against WWII (yes, I'm fascinated with WWII history), and Colin Firth to top it all off. For those of you who haven't watched the trailer yet or haven't heard about the film, it's about King George VI's -- the current Queen's father --  private battle to eliminate his stammer and the crisis he faced when forced to take over the crown from his American divorcee-loving older brother.

Jennifer Ehle is also in the film. She played Elizabeth Bennett in the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice, which co-starred Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. This Mr. Darcy:

(Ok, cool down, Di.) And Guy Pearce, another hottie, plays King Edward VIII. A much improved version of the runaway king, I say.

So many other things to look forward to  ... there's Helena Bonham-Carter, Geoffrey Rush, Derek Jacobi, scenes of London ... arrgh, I can't wait! Have you seen The King's Speech? What did you think?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Snoop Dogg pens song for Prince William -- free download!

Word is that Prince Harry is trying to get rapper Snoop Dogg to perform at his brother's stag party. Snoop Dogg has recorded a song in honor of Prince William, who reportedly likes rap and hip hop music. Snoop put the song, "Wet,"  up on his website this afternoon, where it's a free download. Check it out! The lyrics are definitely Doggy Style, but it's a catchy tune. What do you think? Can you see Charles getting his grove on with this music throbbing in the background? Hee!

And if you feel like getting your groove on to "Wet," Snoop is giving away a trip to London for two. All you have to do is post a video on YouTube of you dancing to "Wet," and the video with the most views wins the trip. More details on Snoop Dogg's site.

Good luck! This is one contest I'll be sitting out.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

WikiLeaks and the British royal family

When I'd read that Prince Andrew, in a recent cable leaked through WikiLeaks, claimed that British geography teachers were the world's best geography teachers, I immediately thought of this scene from one of my favorite movies, Hope and Glory:

(Forever now, I'll associate Prince Andrew with "the pink bits.")

As a journalist, albeit not one who deals with such heady subjects as foreign policy and national politics, I'm fascinated with WikiLeaks. Should we be hailing Julian Assange as a hero? Or is he opening a door we really shouldn't open? I'm going to keep my (largely unformed) views to myself as the purpose of this blog is to entertain and not harangue.

I did do a bit of poking about to see if there was anything juicy to report in Anglo/American relations, and thus, here we are with Prince Andrew. One of the embassy cables released this weekend reports of a two-hour meeting between Prince Andrew, acting as a special trade representative for Britain, and a group of Canadian and British businesspeople interested in setting up business in Kyrgyzstan. (The U.S. ambassador to Kyrgyzstan was present at the meeting, the sole American.) The American ambassador was not impressed with Prince Andrew's conduct during the meeting, where she claims he ridiculed journalists, the French, and geographically inept Americans and then criticized investigators from Britain's Serious Fraud Office for poking their noses in a Saudi BAE deal with which there were reports of kickbacks. On top of this, she claims he was rude.

Naturally, American news organizations have put a negative spin on Prince Andrew's supposed boorishness ... hey, he insulted not only Americans, but journalists, but the British press isn't too happy with him, either. (He actually named Guardian journalists in one of his rants.)

I've always questioned why Prince Andrew has this role. Beyond his affiliation with the royal family and a military officer's background, I can't figure out what else he brings to the table. Is he a brilliant strategist? Has he made millions setting up businesses around the U.K.? Is it his mean game of golf?

On the other side, the Guardian quoted Andy Scott, the director of international and UK operations of one of Britain's top business lobbying associations, who said, "He (Prince Andrew) is a good ambassador representing the UK. The royal family connection is very helpful. In a market such as China the presence of someone of his stature really counts."

Some in Britain are calling for Prince Andrew to resign his post as special trade representative for Britain in light of these WikiLeak revelations. What do you think? Do you think it was right for WikiLeaks to publish the report of this meeting, a report that was never meant to go public? Or do you think it's yet another instance of a royal putting his mouth where it really doesn't belong? Add your comments below.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The things that make Britain great

This retrospective from the Independent is a couple years old, but I just saw it this weekend and thought you'd like to see some of the things that make Britain great ... from alcopops and Cornish pasties, to "readers' wives" and "dogging." Let me just say that dogging does not involve walking purebreds out on the moors, LOL. I had no idea!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Burning questions about the royal wedding

I've been thinking a lot over the last 12 hours, since hearing about the royal engagement, of how much time I want to spend writing about this subject on Hail Britannia, and the answer that feels right to me is Some. I mean, I can't ignore it, but the truth is I'm not very interested in British royalty, except a. to discuss the pros and cons of a monarchy; b. to look at it through the lens of history and c. to gossip about salacious and scandalous escapades some of the colorful members of the family seem to fall into. Prince William and his fiancee seem like a nice, pleasant young couple and I wish them all the best in their marriage, but beyond that, I'm just not interested enough to turn this blog into a breathless series of posts about what Catherine (what Kate prefers to be called) will be wearing on her wedding day and who Prince Harry's date will be. So sorry -- if you've come here for that, you won't find reams of it.

That said, occasionally I'll post about small details that interest me. For example, I'm very curious what Catherine's title will be once she marries Prince William. She'll get the HRH title, of course, and she'll become Queen Catherine if William ever takes the throne, but what will she be called until then? It looks like it's up the Queen, but until then, links here and here have some ideas.

Commentators have made much ado about this wedding boosting tourism to the UK, perhaps as an argument to the republicans (that's republicans in the British sense, not the guys who sit across from the Democrats) who are grousing about how much this wedding will cost British taxpayers. Certainly it will put the spotlight on Britain, but I'm doubtful it'll motivate droves of tourists to descend upon the country. Which leads me to another question: who will pay for this extravaganza? Both William and Catherine come from wealthy families -- how much will they contribute, given that the British economy is about as bad as the US economy? I can't imagine how pissed off Americans would be if they'd had to foot the bill for, say, Chelsea Clinton's wedding ... indeed, there was enough grumbling of how much it was costing taxpayers to provide security for the wedding party in Rhinebeck that weekend. Any ideas, or will this be a "state-supported" wedding as decreed by law and/or tradition?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's official! Prince William and Kate Middleton to marry next summer

Here's the link to the BBC story.

I only found out because our local PBS station asked if I was available to talk about this tonight.

Let the wedding hoopla begin!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Knitting the Union Jack

Whenever I travel, I like to bring something home with that nation's national flag on it. I guess I have this thing for flags. To wit: my writer friend Alison can attest to my excitement finding a roadside stand in southern India covered in hundreds of cheerful red communist flags.  That said, I'm not one of those yee-haw Americans who goes around waving the red, white, and blue every chance I get, although I do think the American flag is a thing of beauty and the national flag I find most aesthetically pleasing. (Ok, so I'm biased. Throw tomatoes.)

The Union Jack is my second favorite flag, naturally, and I get excited whenever I see it on a pillow, poster, bunting, or dress. Unfortunately, these pieces are usually fairly expensive -- some of the Union Jack pillows I've seen are close to $500! -- so I've been thinking about making one myself, and indeed, just found a pattern for a Cath Kidston-like one in last month's issue of the British craft mag, Sew Hip. (Photos of completed project TK.)

But what I'd really love to make is this sweater-dress from British yarn company, Rowan. They've done theirs in gray, but I'd go all-out crazy-Anglophile on this and knit it in dark blue. (Right now, they've only got the pattern for the scarf, which is probably more within my skill level, but whatever.) They've also had a pattern up for a knitted Union Jack pillow. The key is to keep checking back every couple days because they switch things around.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

T-Mobile welcomes travelers back to Heathrow

Many, many thanks to Hail Britannia reader Bash for alerting me to this T-Mobile commercial (advert!) filmed at London's Heathrow. Oh, how I would love a welcome like this.

A royal wedding in the works?

Yeah, yeah, I know ... every couple months, there's a new story about Prince William and Kate Middleton finally marrying. In the last couple weeks, though, the talk in the media -- including more-or-less reputable news sources -- has reached a new pitch. Today I noticed that's (the U.S. version) main video story was an interview with Daily Mail writer Katie Nicholl, who was certain of a forthcoming engagement announcement. Her reasons for thinking this:

1. Middleton is having a bespoke wardrobe made for a "special round of events." The designer, Daniella Helayel, designs for one of Middleton's favorite labels, Issa.

2. The Royal Mint is working on a top secret project, which can only mean a royal engagement. (Or the 2012 London Olympics?)

3. Most significantly, Middleton's parents were recently invited to shoot at Balmoral. An invitation such as this is a sure indicator that the Middleton family is being welcomed into the Windsor fold.

I admit, I'm kind of looking forward to some kind of announcement because I think it'll generate more interest in England and everything British, just as Charles and Diana's wedding did nearly 30 years ago. What about you? Interested, mildly interested, or couldn't care less? Add your comments below.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Someday My Prince Will Come (or will he?)

Several weeks ago, a publicist at Penguin Books asked me if I'd be interested in receiving a copy of Someday My Prince Will Come: True Adventures of a Wannabe Princess, about a young American woman whose goal, for most of her life, was to marry into the British royal family ... specifically, to marry Peter Phillips, Princess Anne's son. I'm not enamored of the royal family, but I do have to admit, my curiosity was piqued to read about how one goes about snaring a Windsor.

Jerramy Fine, the author, was raised in Colorado mountain country, a place where rodeo, not polo, ruled, and where she spent her first 18 years convinced she'd been switched at birth. Her parents were bona fide hippies, but she imagined her real parents were English aristocrats on vacation in Denver. From her earliest years, Fine was fascinated with England -- specifically, the British royals -- and when she was six or seven, she saw Peter Phillips' name in the line of succession and decided he'd be her prince someday, never mind that technically he's not a prince. Thus began her quest for princessdom.

Ok, let's stop. I  just don't get princesses. At. All. Although I loved reading about queens and princesses when I was a child, it was because they tended to get their heads lopped off (Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Marie Antoinette), survived awful childhoods (Elizabeth I), or became pawns in intricate political intrigues (Mary Stewart, Jane Grey ... both of whom also lost their heads. Literally.)  I've never wanted to be one, and instead, fantasized about a life in letters. I don't like fluffy pink frou-frou. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I spotted a penis on the ultrasound at my four-month pregnancy checkup and thought, "Thank God -- no princesses!" Sure, being a princess looks glamorous -- lots of designer clothes and jewels, first-class travel, gorgeous digs -- but the price for all this seems to be a loss of privacy and a highly restrictive life where you can never just be "normal." No thanks.

In the first few pages of the book, Fine admits that everyone in her life knew she wanted to be a princess. She never hid or shied away from her intentions. When people told her she was living in a fantasy world, she writes, "My question was this: What's so wrong with living in a fantasy world? Seriously. What's so wrong about ignoring the conventions and practicalities of the so-called real world, and actually pursuing your childhood dream? Sometimes I think the 'real world' is just a phrase invented by adults to give credibility to the miserable lives they've created for themselves. Feel free to call me delusional, but I was someone on this planet who, no matter how silly it seemed, was actually listening to my heart -- I trusted it, believed it, and followed it. And in my opinion, there was nothing more 'real' in this world than that."

Hmm. As someone who'd frequently heard growing up I should give up on my dreams of becoming a writer for something more "practical," I could identify. So I kept reading.

Unlike most girls who dream of becoming a princess, Fine's desire never waned. All through high school, and even college, she kept a tattered picture of Peter Phillips taped to her mirror, and immersed herself in everything British and royal. Fine brilliantly contrasts her interests with her "real" life ... a father with long hair who eventually becomes a cannabis priest, a mother who refused to wear a bra and rails loudly in supermarkets about food additives (my kind of woman), a skateboarding younger brother named Ezra. And it's hilarious. As well as frustrating because I think we all know the horror of being young and stuck with family who just doesn't get you.

Fine eventually makes it to England during a junior year abroad program, and sets the wheels in motion to meet her future husband. She makes a few friends in aristocratic circles, actually meets Princess Anne (her future mother-in-law!) at an event, and feels even more certain that the path she's chosen is the right one. She returns to England as a graduate student, and this is where things get interesting. Fine begins to see that the England in her fantasy life doesn't quite measure up to the England she's living. First off, she's at the London School of Economics, a haven for foreigners, not Brits, so she finds it hard to meet the natives. Then she discovers how very different Brits are from Americans ... whereas Americans tend to welcome new friends, the British are far more reserved and prefer to hang out with people they've known for ages, interlopers need not apply. Yet Fine does manage to ingratiate herself into an aristocratic Oxford set, and participates in some hi-jinx with British men that further confuse her. During her stay, she experiences some highs and lows in her pursuit of Peter Phillips: she discovers he's got a girlfriend (low), but she's American (high), which means there's hope for her.

Since we know that Peter Phillips ends up marrying a Canadian (and is, in fact, about to become a father and make Queen Elizabeth a great-grandma), we know that Jerramy Fine doesn't get her prince. Or does she? You'll have to read the book to find out. I thought Fine's single-minded pursuit of her prince a little ... well, mercenary. When she's in England, she refuses to hang out with anyone who doesn't have a British accent; then when she realizes variations in accents are indicative of social class, she becomes even more discriminating. But since the book has a satisfactory ending and I felt that Fine had learned something during her journey, her earlier behavior didn't bother me. Indeed, what I liked about her was her refreshing honesty. She never hid her intentions from people who were sure to knock her down. And even if you have no interest in royalty or princesses, this memoir has enough commentary on Britain and British life to appeal to most any Anglophile.

Have you read Jerramy Fine's memoir? What did you think? Add your opinion to the comment section below.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The British Monarchy does social media

Did you know that the British Monarchy has a Twitter account? A few weeks ago, the Queen started following me -- yeah, little old me! -- but I quickly figured out it wasn't the real queen. The British Monarchy account, however, is the real deal. It'll remind you of when the Changing of the Guard occurs, and where certain royals will be during the day if you're so inclined to show up at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The Monarchy also introduced today their own photostream on Flickr. You'll find lots of photos of modern day royals, but I liked looking at the old photos taken during Victoria's reign. New photos will be added in the future.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Does the Benny Hill theme make everything funny?

My soon-to-be 9-year-old is starting to show signs of Anglophilia, the most troubling sign of which is that he loves watching the more tame clips of Benny Hill on YouTube. He explains what makes him giggle is the music, "Yakety Sax."

I've discovered there's a video mashup culture devoted to mixing "Yakety Sax" with movie scenes that could hardly be described as madcap. Do a search on "Benny Hill theme makes everything funny" and you'll see what I mean. While I don't think  clips of Adolph Hitler's rants set to "Yakety Sax" are particularly funny, there are some mashups that amuse me:

1. Scarface. I believe the Scarface script holds the record for the most mentions of the words "fuck" and "fucking." I couldn't get beyond the motel room scene in the beginning, but I do know Al Pacino goes down in a blaze at the end. (Sorry, can't embed this video from YouTube.)

2. Casino Royale. And they don't even have to speed up the video!

3. Friday the 13th:

4. Star Wars. My son's favorite:

5. And here's something interesting. Look how creepy Benny Hill's "sexy" skits are when set to music from The Omen:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Is it eccentricity that unites Britons?

Yesterday I received notice from British bank First Direct of an amusing survey they'd done of 1,000 Britons that claims one in 10 Brits is an "eccentric" -- that is, a person who's creative, individualistic, and free-spirited -- and that more than 32 million Brits exhibit eccentric traits. Famous Britons they deemed eccentric include Boris Johnson (the Mayor of London, above), Stephen Fry (actor/author), Vivienne Westwood (fashion designer), Boy George, Russell Brand, and the Osbournes.

I do tend to think of the British as being more eccentric than Americans; I assume it's because the long-standing English class system encouraged the (mostly) upper-classes to develop charmingly bizarre personal habits that had to be tolerated by the classes below them. I can't think of many American eccentrics, maybe because we tend to label anyone who marches to the beat of a different drummer as OCD or simply crazy. I came up with Andy Warhol, Hunter Thompson, J.D. Salinger, Julia Child, Michael Jackson, Pee Wee Herman, and Tim Burton, the latter who now lives in Britain, so go figure. I couldn't think of one American fashion designer or figure who could be called eccentric, but the UK has (or had) Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, and Isabella Blow. Even Anna Wintour is a little "off."

This trait is probably why I'm so fond of the British. What about you?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Making elderflower cordial

Every June I try to make a batch of elderflower cordial, the quintessential British summertime soft drink. I got hooked on elderflower cordial a few years ago when I found it in our local Whole Foods, sold under the Belvoir label. Suddenly, Whole Foods stopped selling it, but by then, I'd learned how to ID elderberry bushes that grow in profusion all over New England. They start to blossom in late May, their showy white blooms ubiquitous along country roads as well as major interstate highways. I tend to pick my blossoms at a local state park, far from the exhaust of roadways, and in a marshy area next to our town's senior center , which cracks me up, because elder? Elderly? Get it? Okay, you get it. (Sambucus nigri is the Latin name for the elderberry shrub; weirdly enough, the liqueur Sambuca is anise-flavored, not elderberry-flavored.)  Once July hits, the flowers die off to reveal little green berries that will ripen into dark purpley-black elderberries by late August ... just in time to harvest for my famous cough syrup.*

I made a huge batch of cordial last summer, and because I was working on a monster work project this June, I didn't get around to making a fresh batch. But for the last year I've been meaning to blog about how I make this cordial, so I'm just going to do it now, even though it's slightly past elderflower season. When next May and June roll around, you'll be all set to make your own cordial. (If you are in Zone 5 and under -- meaning the far north of the U.S. or Canada, you may still have a couple days to gather elderflowers.)

How do I use my cordial? Mostly as a syrup to add to sparkling water to create a grapey/floral kind of soda that's oh-so-refreshing after a stint in the garden or a long day at work. I also use a teaspoon or two to sweeten whipped cream for desserts. You can also use it as a syrup to flavor cocktails. My concoction keeps for ages because I add citric acid as a preservative and store it in sterilized glass jars.

I use a Sophie Grigson recipe for my cordial. Chronicle Books just sent me a copy of The River Cottage Preserves Handbook (I'll be reviewing this delightful little manual later this summer) that includes a recipe, which looks not be as sweet as Grigson's version. (Some people don't like how sweet my cordial is, so if you're not in possession of a sweet-tooth, then try the River Cottage version.)

Elderflower Cordial

Yield: A lot

20 elderflower heads, picked on a dry, sunny day
1.8 kg sugar
1.2 liters water
2 unwaxed organic lemons
75 g. citric acid

Gently shake the elderflower heads to dislodge any small bugs or spiders that didn't jump off during the free ride to your kitchen. Place them in a large bowl -- there's no need to pick off the tiny flowers. Stems and all into the bowl!

In a large pot over medium heat, add the sugar to the water and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Now take your lemons and, with a peeler or paring knife, remove the peel from the lemon in thin strips. Add the peel to the bowl. Cut the lemon into thin slices, and squeeze them over the bowl. Then add the squeezed slices to the bowl.

Pour the hot sugar syrup over the flower heads and lemon. Stir in the citric acid, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let sit undisturbed for 24 hours.

The next day, line a sieve with some cheesecloth and procure another large container to capture the sieved cordial. Pour the cordial through the sieve and toss out the spent flower blossoms, lemon peel, and lemon slices. Divvy up the cordial among smaller containers, preferably ones that have been sterilized (I use mason jars). If you use sterilized jars, you can keep the cordial in your fridge for a year, even longer. The shelf life of cordial in unsterilized containers is much shorter, maybe a couple weeks. You could also try freezing it, although I wonder if the delicate flavor of the elderflowers wouldn't fare so well here.

Let me know how cordial-making goes for you in the comments below.

*Several years ago I read that elderberries are known to reduce the effects of flu, fevers, colds -- even asthma and bronchitis -- so I made up a thick sweet syrup in the fall out of elderberries I'd gathered around town and stored it in our freezer. My husband came down with a brutal cold that winter, and because he doesn't like to take anything with alcohol, he tried my syrup. Within a day he was feeling  much better, and throughout the rest of his illness he took a couple tablespoons-full a day, usually stirred into a hot water. Hey, you can't beat the price and it's probably just as good -- if not better -- than the OTC stuff they pack with artificial sweeteners, colorings, and alcohol at the drugstore.

Monday, June 21, 2010

What Trinny and Susannah did next

British style mavens Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine were once hugely popular television personalities in the UK, and even here in the U.S., they achieved a certain level of notoriety with their show, What Not to Wear (where they could always be counted on to grab and push up some hapless woman's droopy boobs to show the viewing audience what a good bra could do). But in recent years, the duo's been more of a staple in gossip columns with Trinny's divorce and supposed hookups with Keanu Reeves than fixtures on the television.

They've done something, though, that I think is inspired, not to mention hilarious: They've created a mockumentary series for called What They Did Next about their quest for an advertising contract. The first episode went up today, and each Monday, they'll be releasing a new one. It's very well done, a mix between the U.K.'s The Office and the U.S.'s Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage.

What do you think? A hit or a miss? Add your comments below.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I must have a Storm Kettle

This weekend, since the weather has been so spotty, I've been planted in front of my computer watching gardening videos on YouTube: stuff like how to divide rhubarb rhizomes, which hoe works best in tough, rocky soil, and how to make a lasagna garden (which, to be honest, I long thought was a garden filled with tomatoes, oregano, and basil). And then, while watching Alys Fowler work her allotment garden on a Guardian video, I started to covet something she called a "storm kettle." (Ok, I also covet her dog ... and her scarves ... and her pale red hair that is sort of wild, like mine, but looks far more fetching on her than it does me.) She used this kettle to make herself a hot cup of tea, and all it required was twigs and matches to heat up the water.

Come to find out, the brand name in the UK is Storm Kettle. (In Ireland, they've got a Kelly Kettle brand.) How it works: a double-wall of aluminum lets you build a little fire in the middle of the kettle, heating up the water in between the walls. It holds 40-oz. of water so you can boil up enough tea for several friends.

What an ingenious idea, although not necessary a new one ... these kettles are a bit like hobo stoves made popular during the Depression. Immediately I tried to find one at REI or EMS, but no dice: all the kettles there require a separate heat source, and camping stoves require butane or propane -- yech. The only place in the U.S. that sells the Storm Kettle brand is Lehman's, but at $100 -- ouch! -- I guess I'm going to have to hold out until Christmas. Which might not be so bad if I have a lot of winter work to do in my garden.

Anyone here have one? Do you like it?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sarah Ferguson's Oprah appearance -- a recap

... and surprise, surprise, the taped interview took up the whole hour-long show.

It was a painful interview to watch, quite frankly. First, because I take no enjoyment watching someone's distress on national television. I'm not condoning Sarah Ferguson's behavior nor do I feel particularly bad for her as I think she's got more advantages than most 50-year-old women have in this world. But she looked ... shattered, I guess is the word, and I guess I'm a big softie because I don't like watching anyone fall apart, even if they've brought most of the trouble on themselves. Then second? I'm not a huge fan of daytime talk shows, "Oprah" especially. The shows are just way too new agey for me, with guests talking about their "authentic selves" and "Little Sarahs," which makes me think of ... never mind.

With that out of the way, the highlights for my European readers who may only see short clips:

  • Oprah was warm and fuzzy, but also fairly direct with Ferguson. She called her on some b.s., like when Ferguson claimed "a friend" had introduced her to the undercover journalist and when she tried to explain (lamely) how she started with $40K payout (meant for "a friend") but eventually increased her price to £500,000. Wasn't that $40K some kind of down payment on the £500,000?

  • Ferguson said the journalist had stolen the identity of an Indian businessman whom her friends and associates knew; they checked references and everything shored up.

  • Yet unbelievably, Ferguson also claims at the first meeting, she knew the "businessman" was a journalist with the News of the World and called him on it. Her solution was to draft up a confidentiality agreement, which of course, the "businessman" eventually tore up. Yet Ferguson, so "out of her mind," by this point, ignored her suspicions and pursued the money trail.

  • As Oprah viewed the tape with Ferguson, Sarah uttered, "I feel sorry for her." She also said, "The woman on the tape is out of control." Oprah called Sarah on this, too, curious as to why Ferguson would refer to herself in the third person while watching the tape.

  • Sarah is not drunk on the tape, nor does she ever imply she has a drinking problem. Instead, she was just drinking that night. Finally, something I can believe.

  • When Oprah queries Sarah on the dates of all the meetings with the News of the World folks, Sarah interrupts her with, "You know better than me." Wait, was Oprah at those meetings?

  • Sarah Ferguson says the £500,000 figure was "plucked out of the sky" during her meeting with the businessman. So I guess Prince Andrew didn't suggest this figure?

  • When Oprah asked Sarah about her divorce payout, suddenly Sarah was mum and said she couldn't discuss it because she had signed a "confidentiality agreement." Which is odd, because she'd been talking about that $20,000 a year settlement to anyone who would listen a couple weeks ago.

  • She wouldn't reveal anything about Prince Andrew's response to her actions or what he said to her.

  • And the apology? She kind of said sorry at the very end of the interview, but it was more like, "I'm sorry for letting down my family, my friends, my charities, etc." It wasn't the big huge confessional apology I expected it to be.

To tell you the truth, I felt kind of icky after watching this. I didn't believe half of what she claimed and I felt like I was watching a small child try to wiggle her way out of a bad pinch. Not fun. I sincerely hope Sarah Ferguson figures out a way to deal with her problems in a responsible manner and finds some peace with herself. She's clearly not a happy woman.

If you're here in the U.S., did you watch the interview? What did you think? Were you sympathetic to her story, or did you feel it left more questions than answers? Add your comments below.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Sarah Ferguson to apologize on "Oprah" next Tuesday -- and Hail Britannia on BBC World Service to discuss

So Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York and self-appointed fixer for royal access, is getting a huge career boost: She is getting 10 minutes on "Oprah" next Tuesday to tell her side of the story to an American audience.

I'll definitely be watching as I've been contacted by the BBC World Service again to offer my opinion on Ferguson's appearance and expected apology. (The BBC show will probably run on Wednesday, June 2. I'll post more details as soon as I get them.) Will she make a similar apology in the UK, where the British are far more annoyed with her behavior than Americans seem to be? Is her "Oprah" appearance part of a carefully crafted plan to win sympathy with American viewers as Ferguson's only hope for future success is here in America? (She may be hard pressed to improve her financial situation in Britain at the moment given how she seems universally loathed and reviled by the public.) And I hope she tells us how her ex-husband and two daughters are coping with her disgrace; I'd love to hear what the Queen thinks too, but that may be wishful thinking on my part.

Sarah certainly hasn't been hiding for the last week. She was in Los Angeles earlier this week to collect an award for her charity work (where she received a big round of applause from the audience), and she's now in New York at the Book Expo America conference doing PR for her children's book. I give her credit for not hiding, but I do wish she'd stop saying she "hates adults and loves children," a veiled snipe at her recent troubles. Although I think Ferguson's in a tough place and I'm quite sure she adores children, she's brought trouble on herself by acting more like a child and less like an adult. Harsh words, but there you go.

Stay tuned ... and do add your comments below. I'm especially curious to hear your opinions on Ferguson's upcoming "Oprah" appearance.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Duchess of York is not having a good week

... and it's her own damn fault, say a great many people on both sides of the Atlantic. The Duchess, the former wife of Prince Andrew -- who happens to be an unpaid trade ambassador for the U.K. -- was caught in a sting set up by a British tabloid as she tried to sell access to her former husband. (The video is here.) The scandal hit the papers this weekend, and now Sarah is tearfully apologizing to the press for her involvement in this scheme.

I think it's interesting how The News of the World, the tabloid that set up the sting, has positioned Prince Andrew as an innocent bystander in this mess, even though Sarah Ferguson (that's the Duchess) suggests that Andrew knows about her wheeling-and-dealing and even suggested the £500,000 figure as Sarah's payout. Of course, Sarah could by lying through her teeth, but she could be telling the truth -- after all, they've got an oddly close relationship for a divorced couple. At any rate, supposedly The News of the World has a staunch Royalist readership, so this could be the reason they're letting the royals off scot free on this scandal.

Knives are drawn for Sarah this week, and I wonder how she'll get through this mess. Reports have been flying about for the past couple months that she's on the verge of bankruptcy. And yes, I will admit I feel a bit sorry for her even though her latest downfall is down to her own poor decision making (what the hell was she thinking? Did she learn nothing from the Countess of Wessex's experience with The News of the World?) and she's got so many advantages that regular folks don't have. I'm reading comments sections of newspapers where readers are telling her to get a job or go live on a council estate. A job, yes, is a great idea -- she should do what Jackie Kennedy did and get an editor job in London! -- but other than that, she can hardly disappear into the woodwork and become a regular person, can she? She'll forever be associated -- good or bad -- with the royal family, and there will always be expectations of her. That's got to be a lot to live up to, especially when you lack the budget (or class, many would argue) to do so. I don't envy her at all.

And my last musing on the matter -- this would be a fine week for the royal family to announce an engagement, don't you think? Add your comments below.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

6 little known facts about the UK's new PM David Cameron

1. You can see David Cameron from space.

2. David Cameron is so cool, he's banned in 7 states in America.

3. Che Guevara wears David Cameron t-shirts.

4. When David Cameron was born, he calmly shook his mother's hand.

5. David Cameron doesn't need to lift the toilet seat. It lifts itself for him.

6. Dave's never gonna give you up, Dave's never gonna let you down, Dave's never gonna turn around and desert you.

I was getting ready to do a serious post on David Cameron, the UK's new Prime Minister, but then I found this site called David Cameron Facts that had me rolling. These hilarious quips look to be submitted by anonymous users, and you can have the "facts" made up into mugs and t-shirts.

Follow David Cameron Facts on Twitter or join their fan page on Facebook.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A big day for Britain

I've been keeping my eye on the election campaign in Britain -- a jealous eye, in fact. The Brits only have to suffer through a month of campaigning, unlike here in the U.S. Why, I hardly had time to make up my mind who is more hip: Sarah or SamCam?

This is a big election ... is this the unlucky 13th year for Gordon Brown's Labour Party? It's certainly looking that way to me. (For a good overview of what's up for grabs and how British elections work, has a tidy overview that explains all.)

Will you be keeping an eye on tomorrow's elections in the UK?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Hail Britannia's busiest month yet

Although April has only 30 days, this April has been my busiest month on Hail Britannia -- more page loads, more first-time visitors, and more repeat visitors -- than any other month since October 2008. In fact, for the last year my readership has been steadily increasing each month.

And for that, I just want to offer a heart-felt thanks. I don't run this blog to make oodles of money or to compete with Perez Hilton. I simply like to share with other like-minded Anglophiles subjects and stories that I find interesting, and hope there's a connection or two (or okay, 200,000!) I can make. I've met new friends through this blog, and I've found out that some old friends were closet Anglophiles.

From that perspective, this blog is a wild success. Thank you!

The ad that's making Britain weep

I read this morning that this minute-and-a-half television ad may propel Billy Joel's "She's Always a Woman" back on the charts. Oh no! Not one of my favorite Billy Joel tunes, which explains why I didn't shed any tears watching this. I'd much rather listen to "Only the Good Die Young," but I suppose that's not the message John Lewis is aiming for.

Did you cry watching this? What do you think of the ad? I've seen similar ads here in the U.S. -- can't remember for which brands, though.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Hail Britannia Young Victoria DVD giveaway winner is ...

... Amy, our first entrant into the contest. Congratulations!

(See? The early bird does get the worm.)

Amy, send me your mailing address off list at hailbritannia at gmail dot com, and I'll send you the DVD pronto. Thanks to all who entered!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Last day to enter Hail Britannia's Young Victoria DVD giveaway

At 5:00 p.m. today, I'll be closing the comment section of the post announcing my Young Victoria DVD giveaway. You can earn three entries to the giveaway by 1. Tweeting about the giveaway, either on your own or retweeting my post that announces the contest 2. Subscribing to Hail Britannia's feed and 3. Letting me know in the comments section of the giveaway post that you've tweeted, subscribed and/or just want to enter the giveaway. Click here to enter.

I watched The Young Victoria this weekend and really enjoyed it. The director took some liberties with history -- I won't spoil it for you, but one of them involves a major plot point near the end of the film -- but the liberties didn't diminish the film at all for me. My favorite part? The costuming. I loved the closeups of the hats, the petticoats, even Prince Albert's (sexy!) linen shirts. There's also a neat cameo in the film -- Princess Beatrice plays one of Victoria's ladies-in-waiting. Kind of cool considering that Queen Victoria is her great-great grandmother and she's named after Victoria's youngest daughter.

Enter today to win a copy of this beautiful film!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Gentle Art of Quiltmaking by Jane Brocket

Last week I blogged about my obsession with British writer and crafter Jane Brocket's book The Gentle Art of Domesticity. I've just learned that she has a new book coming out -- it's already out in the UK! -- called The Gentle Art of Quiltmaking: 15 Projects Inspired by Everyday Beauty. It looks like it'll be released the second week in May.

I'm a novice quilter, but I'm much more confident with a needle and thread (or sewing machine) over a pair of knitting needles. And even if the projects are above my skill level, I'm sure I'll love looking at the pictures; one thing I love about The Gentle Art of Domesticity (and Jane's blog) are all the photos of flowers, food, and fabric. Yummy!

So this and Elizabeth George's latest Inspector Lynley mystery in one month. So much to read, so little time. What's on your Anglophile reading list this spring?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hail Britannia's Young Victoria giveaway

FedEx just pulled up to my house with two brand-spanking-new DVDs of The Young Victoria, compliments of Sony Pictures, one for me to use for a review, the other to give away to Hail Britannia's readers. I'm chuffed!

I'm so looking forward to watching this movie tonight. I don't get to the movies as often as I like to, and when I do it's to see something my husband and I both agree upon ... and this is probably a film he'd nix. (Although we did see The Devil Wears Prada, and he thought Emily Blunt was wonderful in that.)

So here's the deal for the giveaway. Last week I won boxed sets of BBC America's Survivors from SmittenByBritain and I liked the way Melissa set up her giveaway, so I'm, ahem, borrowing it. You can earn up to three entries in this contest by:

1. Subscribing to Hail Britannia's blog feed with Bloglines, Google Blog Reader, or your preferred blog reader. Just click on the "subscribe" button in the upper right-hand corner of this page. (ETA: If you're already a subscriber, you get a point.)

2. Tweeting this blog post. All you have to do is click the green "retweet" button in the upper right-hand side of this post next to the photo of the DVD.

3. Leaving a comment on this post and letting me know that you've subscribed to Hail Britannia, retweeted the contest/blog post, and/or that you just want to put your name in the hat for the DVD.

The giveaway is open to anyone living in the U.S. -- sorry, but the DVD is formatted for North America viewing.  I'll be randomly choosing a winner on Monday, April 26. Good luck, and stay tuned for my review of The Young Victoria later this week.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A 20-year-old letter from England, part 3

[caption id="attachment_802" align="aligncenter" width="199" caption="From Flickr/Michael Stringer"]From Flickr/Michael Stringer[/caption]

Thursday, August 10, 1989

Disley, Cheshire, England

I'm beginning to shake off the last of my jetlag (finally!). I could have slept for another two hours this morning, but Frances woke me bright and early for tea. She wants to feed me more, but in the summer my appetite isn't good, plus we Americans seldom eat a hearty breakfast like our English cousins do!

It was a bright morning, and we generally had a sunny day with huge, billowy clouds drifting across the sky, their shadows trailing on the hillsides. Frances and I took a morning walk around the neighborhood; we were able to view an "aspect" of Lyme Park. [Lyme Park was used in the BBC's adaption of Pride and Prejudice as Darcy's family seat. I can just see Colin Firth stripping off his jacket now ...] I noticed an ancient fortress on a distant hillside. Frances thought it was a place where ancient warriors locked up prisoners.

We returned to the house. At 11:30, William and Margaret arrived to take us to a pub lunch. We drove through some of the Peak District in Derbyshire. Margaret pointed out the heather for me ... huge amounts covered whole hillsides -- pretty! The countryside is covered with dry stone walls ... some of the roads we drove on were lined with them. We stopped at the Lantern Pike Inn, a pub in Hayfield that William and Margaret had picked out the day before. It was a typical English pub, dark with a few sour-faced Englishmen sitting in a corner downing pints. I had fish & chips with a half pint of Guinness.

Before we went into the pub, William had some fun parking his car. The man who lives behind the pub was shouting out to him, "Are you parking a bus?" Margaret, Frances, and I thought it was funny, but I think William was offended. On our way back to Disley, William got lost, which furthered his bad mood. I wanted to pick some heather, but didn't press it. Back at Frances's place, I wrote up some postcards, then we watched tv (or the "telly" as they call it here). Frances brought out some old family pictures. She had a lot of Margaret and William's children: Ruth*, Catherine, and Jared. Frances told me of her holidays abroad, trips to beaches in Spain.

*Ruth tracked me down a couple years ago, and knock wood, this fall I hope to meet up with her when I'm in England!

The Daily Mail timetravels to Kate and Prince William's wedding

The Daily Mail published a tongue-in-cheek article about Kate and Prince William's November wedding, written as if it had already occurred. The highlights about the Duke and Duchess of Connaught's nuptials:

  • Prime Minister David Cameron and wife Samantha with newborn baby daughter attend. Bad news for Gordon, I'm afraid!

  • Kate wears Diana's tiara

  • Kate's cousin Gary Goldsmith can't make the big day. No surprises there.

  • Sister Pippa lunges for the bouquet

Everyone seems to think this wedding is going to be a low-key event, but I think it's going to be a big deal, just like Charles and Diana's wedding was some 30 years ago. What do you think?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Gentle Art of Domesticity by Jane Brocket

Last month I wrote a blog for The Atlantic's Food Channel about my obsession with British cookbooks and the best places to cookbook shop in London. One of the blog's readers suggested that I might want to get my hands on a book called Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer: A Golden Treasury of Classic Treats by Jane Brocket. In here I'd find dozens of recipes from classic British storybooks. Unfortunately, the book is hard to get here in the U.S., and since I don't have a lot of extra money right now for, I located another book Brocket wrote, The Gentle Art of Domesticity: Stitching, Baking, Nature, Art & the Comforts of Home at our local library.

I've renewed it twice, and now the library wants it back so I see I'm going to have to buy it for my personal library. It has been the prescription I needed to get me through cleaning and packing our home for our move. I haven't read it cover-to-cover, but instead, dip into it during the day between scrubbing bathroom floors and packing books. What I like most about it are the photos: Brocket is an avid knitter, crocheter, and quilter (and blogger!), so there are dozens of colorful pictures of her handiwork. The book also includes recipes, lists of novels and movies that celebrate domesticity, and even an extensive list of sources for quilters, bakers, and "haberdashers" that covers not just the U.S. and U.K., but countries all around the world. The book is a wee bit aspirational for me, except for the baking and maybe some simple quilting projects, but hey, an Anglophile can dream.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The 8 worst toilets in the world

I'm fascinated by toilets around the world. (My big goal in life is to visit the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets next time I'm in India.) Not sure why this fascination, except it might be a genetic quirk, a healthy infusion of Anglo-Saxon blood that makes anything poo-related utterly engaging to me. This personal quality, btw, horrifies my husband.

I've traveled a bit around the world, and I'm always eager to adopt local standards for relieving myself, whether on squat toilets, street loos, and open urinals. Closer to home, I was poking around YouTube and found some absolutely horrendous toilets that I hope never to encounter on a trip.

A squat toilet isn't so unusual in China. But with this one, you'll need your waders when you flush:

This toilet aboard a Chinese ferry boat has a unique flushing system. However, you might want to skip eating the local seafood once you're back on land:

The owners of this Chinese toilet are so protective of their facilities, they're got a dog standing guard. (Warning: salty language). Poop at your own risk!

This was the "better toilet" near the Great Wall of China. I'd love to see what the other toilet looked like:

At least you can have a loo with a view in Tibet. You just have to walk the plank to get to it:

In this African locale, the bathroom experience is strictly DIY. On the plus side, you can pretty much choose your seat. Bonus: toilet paper!

Imagine relieving yourself with an audience. In this Brazilian bathroom, you don't have to imagine it. Hundreds of eyes will be on you:

The crown for the worst toilet in the world goes to this one filmed in Odessa, Ukraine. Warning: don't eat while you're watching this video; you can practically smell the horror through your computer.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Live from Abbey Road (London webcams)

Did you know there's a webcam view of Abbey Road at the crosswalk made famous by the Beatles? I didn't. I've been watching it for the last half hour, waiting for a gang of four to do "the walk." So far, I've just seen some groups of people gathered on the sidewalk; perhaps they're looking for a break in traffic -- it's a busy street!

Here's another of Oxford Street, one of my favorite places to shop. Oh, it looks so springy there today!

This one gives a live view of Piccadilly Circus from the Criterion Theatre, overlooking the Statue of Eros.

This webcam focuses on Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Not one of the more exciting London webcams, I'm afraid.

If you happen to be driving around London and want to know what kind of traffic you'll face, check out the BBC's list of "Jam Cams." You have to refresh your browser to get fresh shots of the streets, but it's still a fun way to get a bit of London in your own backyard (or home office).

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

We want season 3 of Mistresses on BBC America!

I've mentioned before on Hail Britannia my obsession with Mistresses, the soapy series about four friends with messy love lives that ran for two seasons on BBC America. In fact, that post gets hundreds of hits each month from people looking for news about its third season, supposedly in production with Joanna Lumley in a guest role as Katie's opinionated  mother.

I've had my fingers crossed that BBC America would be adding the final season to its lineup, so today I inquired and received this swift response from BBC America's publicity department:

"Thanks for your interest and support of Mistresses but currently (my emphasis) we don’t have any plans to air the third season."

Bummer! But I was heartened by the word "currently." That means things can change, right?

Ok, Mistresses fans -- it's time to let BBC America know that we want to see this third season in their programming. If you're one of the hundreds of fans who check my site each month for news about the series, please add your support below and I'll forward the link to my BBC America contacts. Thanks!

Kate and Prince William: A royal engagement forthcoming?

This morning, news outlets in the U.S. and the U.K. are speculating that an engagement announcement from Prince William and his girlfriend, Kate Middleton, is imminent. Who is reporting this? Everyone from CNN and MSNBC here in the U.S., to the Telegraph and Sky News in Britain. The news is based on a blog post written by Tina Brown of the Daily Beast, who claims that a highly placed Palace insider has told her that June 3 and June 4 have been blocked out on the royal calendar, suggesting that those will be days during which the engagement will be announced. (The wedding will occur in November, supposedly.)

William strikes me as a cards-to-the-chest kind of guy, so I'm betting the actual date of the announcement will be a surprise. But the engagement itself? No surprise there. Even when they "broke up" a couple years ago, I thought it was some kind of ploy to keep the media away from Kate.

What do you think? Do you think Tina Brown is right on this? Or has she been played by her royal sources?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Why can't Kate Middleton get a break from the press?

I'm not the most avid royal watcher, but even I've noticed the bashing Kate Middleton, Prince William's girlfriend, is getting in the British press lately, mostly about her role in her parents' business, Party Pieces. It seems no matter what this young woman does -- or doesn't do -- someone in the press has got a complaint about it. To wit:

Back in August 2008, the Daily Mail suggested that Kate was "work-shy" and should have some sort of career.

So the following month, she starts working at her parents' company, but wait .... scandal! Her picture appears on the business's website. God forbid there's visual evidence a potential Queen of England works for a commercial enterprise.

Most recently, Kate's taking heat for an interview that briefly appeared on Party Pieces' website where she described some of her childhood birthday party memories. And now some "news outlets" (I use that term loosely here) are gleefully reporting that Kate's parents have passed her over as a photographer for the company.

Come on ... don't you feel a wee bit sorry for her, even if she is privileged, beautiful, and hooked up with the future King of England? She's damned if she doesn't work, damned if she does.

The British press loves to point out the Middletons, especially the mother, are social climbers extraordinaire. Maybe they are, maybe they aren't. As an American, I think claims of their "social climbing" are nothing but evidence of the class system being alive and well in Britain. From my vantage point, they've behaved rather demurely over the past seven or eight years compared with some of Prince Harry's escapades or Prince Edward's commercial dealings.

And I've got to hand it to Kate. Let's for the sake of it assume she really does love William and she isn't the single-minded social climber the press makes her out to be. What a tough spot she's in. If she gets a job at any top-drawer firm, she'll be accused of cashing in on her royal connections for the position. Some have suggested she get a job in the "real world." What real world is that? Starbucks? Primark? Can you imagine the crowds during Kate's shifts? If she does charity work, she'll be acting above her station, like a princess-in-waiting. If she doesn't work, she's a loafer. So in my mind, she's doing the exact right thing: she's working at her parents' company, where she can remain productive, as well as protected.

What do you think? Do you think the press is unfairly harsh on Kate Middleton? Or is she just another hanger-on to you? Express yourself in the comments section below.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A 20-year-old letter from England, part 2

[caption id="attachment_787" align="aligncenter" width="240" caption="From Flickr/DaveKav"]From Flickr/DaveKav[/caption]

Wednesday, August 9, 1989

Disley, Cheshire, England

Today Frances, her friend Brenda and I spent the day at Newstead Abbey, Lord Byron's ancestral home in Nottinghamshire. First we enjoyed a leisurely drive through the countryside, long, winding roads lined with mauve weed and grasses and goldenrod. Miles of dry stone walls pitching recklessly along hillsides and winding through valleys. We drove through towns with wonderful, odd names: Chapel-en-le-Frith, the famous plague town Eyam, etc. Then we passed through grimy towns famed for their collieries: Mansfield, Chesterfield with its crooked steeple (I thought of D.H. Lawrence the whole time).

Newstead Abbey itself was stately, and there were sloping miles of grass, trees, and tended gardens. We began the tour with the house itself. I read aloud from the guidebook we borrowed from the admissions desk. The rooms were rather dark and somber; medieval. I enjoyed viewing Byron's dining area. I could imagine the poet penning a few lines of verse over his morning tea. We met a tour guide in Byron's sleeping chambers. Frances, Brenda and I were fascinated by the presence of ghosts in the Abbey, and we asked if he had seen any. He replied that he hadn't, but he led us to an adjoining dressing room and informed us that the poet had seen a spectre several times: a monk in a black habit. He told us, too, that one of the female tour guides had some strange experiences in the room: feelings of child, dizziness, etc. And another guard saw a ghostly figure emerge from a boudoir in another part of the Abbey. When we later arrived at the boudoir, Brenda and I noticed a distinct chill  ... but nothing else.

I took many pictures; hopefully they'll come out. When we returned to Disley, we all went to dinner at the Red Lion, a nice pub a few blocks away.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Tea in London

(Today I have a guest post from Denise LeCroy who runs Tea in London, which specializes in tours to London for tea lovers. Denise tells me that registration for her upcoming September tour has been extended to the end of this month.)


Do you have a passion for something, or perhaps a passion for several somethings? Hello! My name is Denise LeCroy and I have several passions – tea, travel and London.

Several years ago, I married a man from London and left the United States to live with him in that most glorious of cities. I had visited London before with friends, but living there was a dream of a lifetime. I think I dragged my poor husband to every tearoom, tea shop and tea event in London during those years!

When we returned to the states, I settled into married life on this side of the pond and the days and weeks proceeded smoothly until a routine mammogram showed an abnormality that turned out to be breast cancer. Early detection saves lives. Surgery and radiation followed immediately, all went well, and today I celebrate being four years cancer free.

Throughout those soul-searching months of recovery my illness forced upon me a new perspective on many things…life, relationships, what matters and what doesn’t matter. I was given a second chance and was reminded that it was time to dust off my dreams and goals and aspirations that had been neglected for far too long.

I thought about my passions and how I wanted to further pursue them. I already had been a local tea educator for quite some time and although I was also a seasoned traveler, I studied to become a London Destination Specialist. I realized that London’s rich tea history was being virtually neglected by the travel industry, and so I started Tea in London tours - the perfect combination of my love for tea, travel and London.

English Afternoon Tea at traditional and non-traditional venues is a daily event on our tours, together with a combination of other unique activities that include guided walks through areas in London where the tea trade once ruled England’s commerce; visits to museums and galleries to discover old and new tea treasures; journeys to gardens and ancestral homes of early English tea drinkers; and much more. (I can assure you that if one digs deep enough - and I have - one can find a tea-connection to almost anything in London!)

We use a charming hotel in Bloomsbury as our base. It’s a great, quiet location. All of our transport is on a private, comfortable air-conditioned coach and my favorite London Blue Badge Guide, Sarah, accompanies us every day. She loves tea, and you will love her.

But Tea in London is not strictly for tea lovers as we encounter many of London’s famous places and landmarks. Opportunities for shopping are built-in, as well as a free day to privately experience London.

The next Tea in London tour is scheduled for September 13-18, 2010 and I am happy to announce that it will include an optional full-day Tea Masterclass with tea expert Jane Pettigrew. I invite you to visit our website http://www.TeaInLondon for more information about the Masterclass and about the tour.

I hope 2010 will be the year that you have Tea in London!

Friday, April 2, 2010

A 20-year-old letter from England, part 1

The reason why I've been so quiet is that we're moving from Boston to Houston, Texas, in the next few months and my days have been spent cleaning the house, packing boxes, and going through files. (ETA 4/23/10: The move is now off, but I'm still cleaning the house.) I found a diary I'd kept during a visit to England in 1989; I'd spent a week visiting my family outside Manchester before I headed off to Sligo, Ireland, to attend Yeats International Summer School. I thought I'd post some of the entries for your reading pleasure -- and also as a way of ensuring I don't lose these words during our move.


[caption id="attachment_791" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="From Flickr/Patrn"]From Flickr/Patrn[/caption]

Tuesday, August 8, 1989

Disley, Cheshire, England

Landed at Heathrow at 8:15 a.m. Uneventful flight. Sat next to a man who had terrible body odor. The man next to him read the New York  Times Review of Books and John Updike. Rolled his eyes a few times when the foul-smelling man between us shifted positions. Customs in London was packed. Barely made my 10:45 a.m. flight to Manchester. Lovely weather up here; warm with a cool breeze. Cousin Frances picked me up at the airport, then we came back to her bungalow in Disley for some tea in her garden. After this we walked to a local pub for a lunch, but I didn't have much of an appetite.

When we returned home, I napped for three hours, then more tea and a visit from cousin William and his wife Margaret, who is from Sligo.  I immediately took a liking to her: lively eyes and mannerisms, very youthful. When the left, I bathed and now I'm settling down for the night. I'm terribly exhausted. Tomorrow Frances and I are spending the day in Nottinghamshire at Lord Byron's manor, Newstead Abbey. Frances said the ride there is "lovely." I'm looking forward to this since I was hoping to do more literary tours of England -- sorry so short, more tomorrow.