Saying “Cheerio Mates” sounds more chipper than “Goodbye”

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It is with a bit of sadness that I write about leaving the UK – as it’s always sad to leave a place behind that is full of fun memories.  We lived far away from our church friends here, so really, we didn’t make a lot of close friends as we may have done had we lived somewhere longer – but we made the kind of friends that you wish you had more time to know – you know the kind?  This has happened to us in other places – in Maine where we met the Mathisons but lived there only 10 months.  They are some of our best friends now even though it seems our friendship developed more after we left, and we continue to meet up – for months at a time or days at a time, we love it for any amount that we are given.  We have others we knew for even shorter times – and some of those are people we are visiting on this upcoming cross country trip because we loved our small piece of eternity that we enjoyed together.  So I know that even though we were here only for a little while and haven’t fully developed deep relationships with those we knew, it doesn’t mean that over the years we can’t get to know each other more and better, through the internet and through future visits.  But it still makes me a bit sad to leave them all.  I am always so  excited about leaving for a new place – no matter where I am leaving from or where I am heading to – and the sadness doesn’t hit me til the last day or two, and then I suddenly am sad about everything 😦

Yesterday on the way home from Scotland I was reflecting that this would be the last time to see the beautiful countryside of the UK, and the old villages and amazing palaces and such – nothing like it at all in America.  Yes, there are rolling hills, fields, rivers, shade-dappled twisty lanes – but often in America you don’t see it all smushed together.  You live in an area, and you see a lot of what’s in your area all the time – if it’s livestock, then you see a lot of cows; if it’s fields of corn, you see tons of corn everywhere.   I think it’s the variety in such small areas over here that is so striking – and then mix into that the history – thousands of years of history, still standing, still in use, still present.

This leads me to what I really will miss about England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.  I think it is what I imagined they would be like.  I had expectations, and that’s not to say that they weren’t met, that I was let down by my year here, just that things were different than I hoped they’d be.  I had already been thinking about writing this post on the way home from Scotland, and that it would focus on the trouble expectations can give us, when I saw this quote on a friend’s facebook page:

“Expectation is the root to all heart ache.” -Shakespeare.

I’m not sure which play that appears in, but I can tell you that it is certainly true.  I personally have a problem with this that I have recognized in the past — Christmastime has always been a big culprit for me, in which I imagine how it will be (usually involving family), and I plan so much for it all, and then it comes…and then it goes.  And then I’m sad when it’s over because it’s never quite what I thought it would be.  [This seems to be a problem with many people who are “down” after Christmas.]  It happens to me with other visits from family as well – I get all worked up, excited, plan things to do, get the house ready – then they visit, and it’s all fun and great, but when they leave, not only do I miss them, but then the visit is also “over,” and usually my expectations of perfect family fun times were not met.  Granted I never think I’m expecting things to be perfect, but I am inevitably disappointed by the way I’ve behaved after family have left (Was I too demanding? Why wasn’t I more patient with everyone? Why did I make such a big deal out of this or that?)  So this whole thing about expectations – I get it.

So now – I’m saying goodbye to the UK (the people, the friends, the places, the bagpiping, the old stuff, the new stuff, the excitement of the Jubilee and the Olympics, the history, etc), but I’m also saying goodbye to my expectations of what I thought these places would be like.  I thought some things would be more mystical (Stonehenge, other ancient ruins).  I thought some things would be grander.  I thought the people and the food would be closer to what I’d find in America, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  (Not that things are bad or disappointing, but that they are just different.)  What I expected was – and I know this is stupid – Jane Austen’s England, Robin Hood’s Wales, the Scotland of my dreams (where there’s piping on every corner and everyone’s in a kilt — there was piping on one corner in Edinburgh, though….), the Tintagel of the Arthurian legends.  In America we have Scottish Games and Renaissance Festivals, and novelists who weave wonderful tapestries on which I have long been basing my expectations of the UK.  That’s not fair to the people and places of these fine countries, but still, those are the things that were in my head.  And now I have to say goodbye to those images which I loved.  The UK in my heart isn’t the one I found here – but I have enjoyed the real one quite a bit.  All of you “Anglo-philes” out there (you know who you are – all my fellow period-drama addicts) — the UK that we found was truly represented by the Olympics Opening Ceremony.  If you didn’t “get it”, well, let’s just say you would have completely gotten it had you lived here for a while.  As far as doing the Brits justice, that Ceremony did a “brilliant” job, as they would say 🙂  We loved our year here, but it’s sad to me that I no longer will have an obsession with all things British, and all things Celtic.  Quite frankly, I’m over it.

Another thing I used to love was old things.  You name it – antiques, old houses, old copies of music, original hard wood floors, all that stuff.  Since being here, I have lost my love for that stuff as well.  You’d have thought it would be the opposite, right?? And that’s what I thought before I came here.  We were watching a “restore this old manor” type show the other day, and the great lengths that some people go to in order to restore something that’s 500 years old – just because it’s old – are just ridiculous to us.  This place the lady on the episode had bought was made of timber and mud.  The wood had holes made by worms and in places was crumbling away because the moisture from the ground had soaked into it over the years.  The place was literally falling apart.  And yet, she had spent 300,000 pounds to buy it and was going to spend probably twice that to restore it.  They had to dig under it to pour a foundation to keep it from falling over.  This whole year we have lived in a house built in 1727.  And you know what?  I don’t like the layout.  Back when they had cooks in these large houses, those cooks stayed in the totally inadequate kitchens.  Now, I’m relegated to said inadequate kitchen.  There really isn’t room to eat in the kitchen, so unless you can carve out a little corner, you’re carrying your food two rooms away to serve it to people you didn’t see the whole hour that you were locked in the kitchen slaving away.  All the little divided spaces of rooms don’t really make for easy family time.  What I’m trying to say is — old houses are not for me.  I like lights that can be turned on and off without blowing lightbulbs and tripping breakers.  I like toilets that flush easily.  I like modern kitchens, and modern laundry rooms.  I do like the way old homes look , but living in them is another matter.  Our friends in New Hampshire built a beautiful new home that looks old and has some reclaimed wood in it and such, retro kitchen appliances, but totally functional and liveable.

Antique furniture as well – the owners here had some that we used, and everywhere we went there were antiques being sold for exorbitant amounts of money.  You know what?  I want a sturdy beautiful piece of furniture that I don’t have to worry about falling apart under the weight of my dishes or that the movers can’t destroy.  I realize now that while I used to lament the fact that everyone in America moves out of the old “downtown” areas to build in the suburbs, I can see why they do it now.  They want buildings that aren’t full of baggage, that don’t look like they’re still in the 1930s (and are built from safer materials.)  I can totally see these things now.  Older isn’t better.  Newer isn’t necessarily better either, but it certainly can be.  I am saying goodbye to the me who used to love these old things and hello to the more practical me.

No pictures today – we’re working on packing and are going to watch the closing ceremonies.  Remember to keep your eyes and ears open for my Pipe Band – the Reading Scottish!! Next post will be about the Tattoo – and then we’re outta here!

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5 thoughts on “Saying “Cheerio Mates” sounds more chipper than “Goodbye”

  1. I definitely understand your sadness, both about leaving and about leaving the “old you.” I totally relate to being super excited about moving on, and then being hit with a sadness about leaving. Even when I was leaving Kenya, and couldn’t wait to get out of there, I was still sad to know it was the last time I’d walk that street, or ride all smooshed in the public bus, or see that view.

    And I think you’re dealing with your frustrated expectations very well. Plus it’s a little exciting to have new favorite things!

    And I can’t believe you’re going to be in my hometown (well, sort of. I definitely am not from AMSTERDAM!) in a week! Can’t wait to follow all your US travels 🙂

  2. I definitely remember your period drama and U.K. and antique-y obsessions 🙂 And also the “Christmas let down,” but even though it didn’t meet your expectations, I’m so glad you guys had a great experience and met wonderful people and you can put to rest the fantasy idealistic visions of Jane Austen and whatnot hahah, and I agree with Leah you’re dealing with all of the expectations versus realities very well, and that you know yourself and can be content with realizing the benefits of the past with the modern luxuries. I can’t believe that woman went to such lengths to restore that house! I cannot imagine doing that unless it was something extremely sentimental to me and I had a very disposable bank account to do that hahah. Also, to your comment on the other post, I’m so glad the kids mentioned the visit and haven’t totally forgotten me yet!! I am beyond excited to see you guys, and tell John that I am SO DOWN to move in with you in Charleston if that time could ever be worked out 😀 😀 really though, you guys are amazing and I definitely, at the very least, want to plan on some extended visits when you’re settled in the new military digs 😉 I basically know everything there is to know about running an Armstrong household, and I always loved being a help to you, so whether you like it or not, you are stuck with my undying affection and gratitude for life 🙂

  3. I appreciate your frank honesty. I think for those of us that have had family and childhood memories of the U.K.,the perspective can be profoundly different. The American Anglo-philia tends to have a Disneyesque pallor which I have always thought was somewhere between absurd and comic. It is sad in a way, because it can rob you of the joy experiencing a place with open eyes. I have Japanese friends that have said just about the same things about the U.S. as you expressed. Distorted expectations and then there is our nature to prefer the patterns of living that we are used to regardless of how intellectually open minded we may feel we are. Small rooms, rickety old stairwells, heat turned off at night, tricky plumbing (nothing like a trickling English shower head) all would be hard to handle long term for anyone used to a life with more convenience. But it is just those same foibles that, like familiar traits of an old dear friend, one can also find endearing. I am 6 foot 2 and still find nothing but love for the quick duck under beamed ceilings just barely taller than me. I think of my Grandmother presenting Sunday roast like magic out of the back confines of the kitchen. And when mutton was on the boil I only wished the kitchen was farther away… I remember whinging to my grandfather about tripping over the cast iron boot scrub on the stoop too close to the front door of the house. His brow furrowed, he would said; “pick up your lazy feet boy, that was there long before you were a twinkle in the da’s eye, respect your elders.” I guess when your used to treating your surroundings like family, you tend to not see quirks as inconveniences. Thomas Hardy & Walter Scott’s U.K. may be long gone but it’s witnesses are the fabric of U.K.’s daily life. And then there is the mystical thing, Stonehenge through the Heritage center,through the tunnel with 23 other people, & down the interpretive trail is much different that going the 4 miles or so through the wooded trail from Salisbury past the wind swept barrows & sheep as Stonehenge becomes visible down the ancient avenue. Mystical Scotland, Wales & England is always a subtle experience that occurs in the quiet moments, like a constant stream running just below the surface. I am truly sorry you didn’t get enough of this to have it as a lasting treasure on your journey. I know you still carry many good memories, friends, and your husband’s appreciation of a proper cider, The extra joy of world discovery is greater understand of what gives us personal happiness. Best wishes in this next step in your journey.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment Roger! I know a large part of what I was feeling yesterday can be attributed not so much to the loss of my expectations about England, et al, but the whole – anticipation of coming here being HUGE, then we came, and we saw, and we had our experiences and friends, and now…it’s over. 😦 It’s more the “Christmas” syndrome for me I think – building it all up in my mind, and then when it ends I am sad 😦 But not for long, because I do so like the excitement of new places and people (and a new pipe band! so much fun!) Really, I am only sad for a moment…then I brush away the tears and smile into the future 🙂

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