9 May 2006


On Sunday morning, I drove Chris over the Pennines to Manchester Airport for his flight home. We took the winding Snake Pass with its excellent views of Ladybower reservoir, the wild moors of The Snake summit and the curvaceous descent into the old milltown of Glossop. Sheep dotted the early morning hills beyond the ancient jigsaw patterns of dry stone walls - like the land's ribs - as a thin mist swirled in slow motion over the tops.

Chris said, "I'm so ashamed. What have we got to offer in America compared with all this?"

He had loved his first visit to the UK. He ate his first pork pie and drank his first pints of English ale. He visited three major castles in Wales, York Minster, Sheffield Cathedral and the palatial Chatsworth House in Derbyshire - home of the Dukes of Devonshire - whose snake symbol - not the bends in the road - explains the name of the Pennine pass between Sheffield and Manchester.
We went down the Blue John mine where the rough and ready guide asked Chris, "Are you one of them thick Americans or are you one of the bright ones? Cos we get a lot of thick ones over here!" He went on to explain how one American visitior had asked how many undiscovered caves there were in the pothole system. "Err five!" the guide had grinned. Chris claimed to be in the "bright" camp.
I thought of calling this post simply "Friendship". It was so good to see Chris again. As I drove back over the hills towards Sheffield, I felt somehow sad and deflated. I connected with Chris all those years back when we were in our early twenties and now three decades later I find that the connection is still very much there. It's so sad to think he won't be in "The Banner" this weekend, won't be laughing with me, won't be bringing up old memories, won't be there conversing with me with words that are underpinned by mutual respect and affection - even though we are quite different in lots of ways.
I feel so sad that his marriage with Teresa is over. Choosing divorce is normally quite fatal and it's only in films and romantic fiction that divorced couples reunite. I hope I'm wrong. I hate to think of his daughters flying the nest and leaving him on his own up Lisbon Road with his pain and self-doubt. If you're reading this Teresa - please give him another try. Get some marriage counselling. Lay your cards on the table. What does Chris have to do to change - to win your heart again? Twenty four years and three lovely children - that's a lot of miles, a lot of water under the bridge. Is this metaphorical car crash what you really want? What's been lost?


  1. Ah yes, Chris has touched upon the inferiority complex Americans have mixed in with their superiority complex. I suspect that the English have it too. I've had English friends stay in America and make comments that I would have previously suspected only from thick Americans abroad!

    I have a romantic view of England, undeterred by photos of depressed towns and the sludge of corporations squeezing in and homogenizing places. It's happened on a grand scale in my country (and it seems that's always been the goal, to homogenize places), but there are still areas of breathtaking beauty.

    I'm glad your visit with Chris was splendid. He does indeed sound like one of the "bright ones." I hope that whatever finally happens with Chris's marriage, he will find joy and fulfillment.

    P.S. I don't refresh your page just to see the numbers go up. Does that mean I can have Brad the Gorilla's Henderson's Relish?:)

  2. Yes oh sweet Alkelda, thou canst have yon spicy relish that the hairy beast hath forfeited through its bitter indignity. Me thinkst that thou art truly one of the bright ones too BUT NOT THAT FREAKING BRAD - NO WAY!

  3. How wonderful that you were able to meet up with an old friend and spend time together...it certainly sounds like you both had a grand old time!! When I read about the guide asking if he was a "thick" american, it reminded me when I was in British Columbia for Expo '86 and while standing in line at a pavillion, an american group standing in front of us asked how many times a year we had to rebuild our igloos! At first I thought they were just having a poke of fun at us but they were serious!! As for Chris' marriage, I do pray that everything works out for him.

  4. Hum.. don't really understand the thick American reference.
    I have to disagree with Chris.
    America has some mind boggling, breathtaking, awe inspiring beauty. It's fierce, rugged wildness cannot be matched. I've never been to England, but I've been to Oklahoma. Sorry. Everyday I when I get in my car to drive to the grocery store or exercise class,I see such beauty that it nearly brings tears to my eyes. I live in Central Texas and our vistas are magnificent, cresting a hill I can see for miles until the distance indeed becomes a purple mountain magestiy-- which sadly are becoming clutterd with more habitation daily, but while they are here,I will enjoy them.
    I suppose I'm one of the rare Americans who are proud of being an American. Proud to be a Texan. Proud to be from the South. Proud to be a Navy Brat, , Navy Wife, grand mom. But...I'm not a Republican!

    Not a Hick or hayseed.

    Ok.. soap box gone.

  5. By George - I guess Chris was thinking not just of the beauty but of England's history, the stone and brick houses, the tight communities... I told him he was wrong. I am proud to admit once again that I am an Americophile and I often challenge people who try to run America down. In his heart Chris knows that the USA is a fantastic, beautiful, wealthy, varied, exciting land of opportunity but just for a moment in his life he had been surprised about aspects of English life that he had never before guessed at - like opening a secret treasure house.

  6. Anonymous12:21 am

    Ah, were I in England, or anywhere in the UK, I would feel just as Chris did.

    I love Canada, and I appreciate it's beautiful splendor, but it does not have the history that the UK does. It is a young country still in its teen years. The UK is full of history, wherever you go, and you walk amongst it daily, living within it's folds, it's buildings, the streets themselves. That is what draws people to its shores.

    For me it is also an ancestral home, and those ancient ancestors call to me. One day I will go over 'ome and reconnect with the past.

    I hope you find a way to stay connected with Chris. Renewing your friendship as you have is, perhaps, fated. He will need the support of good friends as he goes through this new chapter in his life.

  7. England is also my ancestral home. At least on my father's side.

    Ancestors came over I believe in the 17 hundreds.

    Of all the places in the world that I've always wanted to visit. England and Ireland are at the top of the list. Now of course since I was an art teacher.. Italy is there too. but other than that, I want to explore America first. As a child I went all over the West. Grand Canyon, Petrified forest, Metor Crator, Yosimite Park. I've been to the redwood forest on a campint trip (the very edge of the forest... we measured a tree stump at 15 ft diameter).
    I have never been to New England, or Montana/Wyoming, Oregon or Washington State.
    I've Been to DC but I want to go back.
    Mostly Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, California. I lived in Okinawa as a child. Very beautiful.

  8. Hey By George - You're 53 baby - you've mentioned Italy before - if you're ever going to do it you've got to get on the case right now - get planning instead of dreaming. We only have one life.


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