This is a synopsis of our honeymoon in England. We spent three weeks there, and arrived back just in time for my sister's wedding on August 23.
Hi Jeanie, so nice to have you back in the country again. How was your honeymoon?
What was it like in England?
It can’t have rained all the time. Surely you must have something good to say about it.
How could I put into words what I was feeling. I had committed myself to living the rest of my life in a country, sight unseen. Now that I had seen it, I found it cold, wet and unfriendly, and I was beginning to wonder if I had made a wise decision or a very bad mistake.
We landed in Prestwick Airport on August 2nd, 1967. When we went through customs, I was presented with a bouquet of dead flowers saying with the attached card saying, “Welcome to England.” They were from Jim and Jane, good friends of Philip’s, who hadn’t meant them to be dead – but due to them being requested a day too soon, and then left without care in the heat of the day, they had wilted.
But it is the idea that counts, surely. Somebody was being nice to you.
We rented a car from the airport and drove to Dumphries and booked in at the Station Hotel. Our room was full of flies, hundreds of them. Philip complained to the management.
Yes, we know, sir, they said, but you can’t do much about flies these days, and they don’t bite.
They did provide a canister of fly spray that you pumped, and which dripped all over the carpet and failed to kill a single fly. Philip went off and managed to find a spray can of fly killer which worked wonders. He left it behind for the manager.
When we were offered left-over potato croquettes for dinner, the waiter
said, How about some of these queer things?
The next day we went to Sedburgh, in Cumbria, where Philip had been a teacher prior to going to the States. We stayed with his friends John and Rosemary. They put us in a room with single beds, and I cried. I don’t know why it should have been so important to me, but I was tired, jet lagged, still not used to my new wifely status, and wondering more every minute if I had made a mistake in getting committed to living in a country that so far had very much failed to impress me.
We drove down the M6 motorway to Oxford, and ran out of gas. Philip said no problem, he would contact the AA, but of course we weren’t members. Being in the AA in the States doesn’t qualify you to consider yourself a member in England. We managed to get them to provide some petrol, for a price, but it all took time. We were late getting to our meeting with Philip’s parents – at his grandmother’s house in Oxford. We had gone first to our motel to change clothes. I so much wanted to impress my new in-laws. When we were walking to the door I could hear the deep female voice saying in a very aggrieved tone, “Where the Hell are they? They should have been here ages ago. Such rudeness.”
So when we climbed the steps and I was introduced to the owner of that voice, my mother-in-law, I was feeling less than confident. I knew she was upset at her oldest and most useful son marrying a foreigner and a Catholic to boot. They were not in the least pleased. Her mother who was tiny and shrill echoed her sentiments but my new father-in-law tried his best to neutralise the situation, but the damage was done. I felt rejected.
The next day we were feted at a garden party reception at a hotel in Oxford. All the English relatives and friends who couldn’t make the trip to our wedding were there. I was so pleased to see Bob, our best man, who had been with us at the wedding a few days before. The rest of the crowd were a blur to me. I couldn’t really understand who they were or what they were on about, and they couldn’t even understand what I was saying, much of the time. We had formal toasts before the meal and speeches, something that we hadn’t had at the actual wedding, as that isn’t the tradition in our part of America.
I was toasted by Philip's great-aunt-in-law who said, "Welcome from the oldest Mrs. Day in the room to the newest." Probably I was supposed to respond, but I didn't say anything.
I remember sitting with Chrif, Philip’s brother, who was home from his teaching in Africa. He said, “Pleased to meet you mate,” and then said, “I didn’t
really mean mate – you know - that’s what people say around here,” when he saw the look of utter astonishment on my face.
The next day we headed down to Dorset to stay at the vacant house of the same Jim and Jane who had sent us the wilted bouquet. Philip was so thrilled that they had offered us their home. It was an old terraced house in the middle of a tiny village. I couldn’t see what he was so pleased about. It had no heating, and it was freezing cold. It had only a very basic washer and spin dryer, and I didn’t know how to work them. The frig was so small and the cooker so big and strange – an Aga, Philip said with great delight. It was awful. I thought I had come from a land of plenty to a land of scarcity and I was supposed to be pleased and impressed with what I was offered. I spent my time writing thank you letters to friends and relatives back home. Philip went for a walk on his own in the rain.
It gets worse. We went to Stone Henge – before the days of McDonalds outside the fence. In fact, there was no fence at all. We just freely went in and
wandered among the big stones in the dripping rain – that was what I thought they were – just big stones, and I couldn’t appreciated how people made such a big fuss of them.
Then we went to see the Cerne Abbas giant, cut out of chalk stone on the hillside. It was still raining. I was cold. I had only brought summer clothes – and
summer in Bismarck, where I come from means from 80º-110º F inAugust, with no rain at all. Once again, with the best will in the world, I had failed the test of being thrilled with what England had to offer.
We drove next to Norfolk, via Cambridge, and Philip proudly pointed out to me Cambridge Colleges as we drove by them. Just a bunch of dirty old buildings, I thought. In fact I didn’t just think it, I said it.
Norfolk, when we finally got there on silly windy roads where you would be lucky to average 40 miles an hour, was rainy, and cold. Philip couldn’t wait to take me to the seaside, and it was flat and boring and muddy and rainy and cold.
We went for a picnic on the one fairly sunny day – and his parents and Aunt Janet took blankets to sit on the sand, and a breadboard and a sharp knife to cut from the whole loaf, and a butter dish, and cheese dish. I couldn’t believe that they had never heard of sandwiches. I dropped my cheese in the sand. I was cold and I was miserable.
We went for a walk – one of what seemed like dozens of walks during that week – and I needed to “use the bathroom” and was informed that I should
do the necessary under the bracken, the highest vegetation around. I unfortunately bared my bottom onto some prickly vegetation, and was most indignant to find them all laughing at my innocently sitting on stinging nettles.
Somehow I managed to survive the aspects of Norfolk life that Philip’s family thought were the best things in the world. We even went to see Binham Priory,
which my father-in-law was convinced would impress me. Another pile of rocks with nothing to show of what had been there. I couldn’t have been more unimpressed with it all.
Back to Scotland to fly home, but stopping in York to visit more of Philip’s friends en route. Roger’s wife Ann was very scathing. I later found out that it was one of her friends that Philip had been going out with before he had left for America and met me. But at the time, I thought she was just another example of someone I didn’t want to know.
As we were driving to the airport, I said in tears, “I hate your mother and I hate your country.”