I don’t have pictures formatted or uploaded yet, so I’m not ready to post about our last day over in the Cotswolds, but I’ve been mulling over so many of the wonderful parts of our trip and figured I’d post a few thoughts before I forgot them. It has been wonderful to keep this travel journal while memories are fresh and I’ve had the time!
One thing I loved about English architecture was seeing how local materials are used to greatest advantage. Everywhere you go, it looks as though the buildings could have grown up right out of the ground. In Alton and Chawton, the brick is all a warm red that came straight from the native soil. In Bath, the golden limestone was quarried nearby and looks like it is happiest when the sun breaks through the constantly shifting cloud-cover. In Derbyshire and the north midlands, you find stone fences criss-crossing fields in abundance–built as the farmers pulled the stones out out while plowing (just as in my native Virginia). The same grey stone forms most of the houses and village shops as well. As you travel back down through the midlands, you see more red brick formed from the soil, then an almost yellow-gold stone meets the eye in the Cotswolds. Each area has its own unique color palette and texture.
As I flew back over the US on our way home, I could look down on fields that closely resembled the English countryside (particularly in Pennsylvania and Virginia), complete with native-stone fences and buildings (those over 150 years old, at least). After we landed in Atlanta and started our drive back home to Alabama, though, I couldn’t help but notice the vast tracts of “quickie mansions” all over the place. I’ve seen them before, but they just really stood out to me this time as flimsy and disposable. I know there are similar buildings in Great Britain, but they are so few and far between as to be the exception rather than the rule. I have to wonder why we Americans live such a fast-food existence, even when it comes to creating homes and places of worship. I’m really inspired to get back to saving clippings and pictures for a “future ‘real’ house” file. My own mother did this for years prior to designing the house we built when I was 12. Mom designed the passive solar house to last, and she made the most of the rocks that came out of our ground when we did our own landscaping and gardening. She scoured flea markets and garage sales for old doors, windows, and cabinets–some doors over 200 years old and built with pegs! Every nook and cranny in that house tells a story. I am thankful for the new house we live in here in AL, but I have to wonder how long it will last. Will it be here 300 years from now, a testament to hard work, skillful labor, and long-term planning? I have to admit that I doubt it. One of my dreams is for our family to build a house out of native materials that will stand the test of time and be a testimony to coming generations of the creativity and planning of their ancestors. Maybe it’s a silly dream, and maybe I’ll never see it realized–but perhaps one of my children will. Who knows? So I continue to stuff that manilla folder with ideas….
More random thoughts: I love the tradition of tea (morning and afternoon) in Britain. It’s actually a habit I formed myself when I was a newlywed, and my children love to see the teapot come out. They know it means a respite from the day’s pursuits and a few moments to sit, talk, and reflect. I loved all the tea shops in England, and I’m already using the lovely tea cozy Sarah sent home with us! One funny: When we had tea at Naomi’s house last Sunday, she said, “Now, do you mind having yours in a mug, or do you want a cup and saucer? I know how Americans rather expect the cup and saucer, but we English do use mugs!” We had to chuckle. I prefer a mug myself, since you can fit more tea into it, but my girls still love the delicacy of cups and saucers!
And, finally, though I’ve said it before, it bears repeating: the flowers! Everywhere. The tiniest cottage and the grandest estate all burst with beautiful flowers. There are hanging baskets, window boxes, pots, edged walks, even stone walls brimming with flowers. I have a rather notorious black thumb, to the consternation of my giftedly green-thumbed mother, but I am determined to overcome it and do more with flowers next year. They really do make a home something special–no matter how simple the landscaping. I’m already drooling over pictures of geraniums, nasturtiums, impatiens, sweet peas, and roses. Ahhh!
Well, that’s enough musing for now. My little ones will be up from naps shortly, and we’ll be having supper with dear friends. I hope your weekend is as warm and wonderful!