The British countryside and the British class system…

Crickley Hill vs the Grand Canyon

So, here’s the deal…

Young Harry is totally infatuated with Britain. He think the countryside is amazing, he loves school and the education, and talking in a British accent ūüėČ

On a recent trip to one of our old favourite walks nearby in Cheltenham he marvelled at the panorama. ‘That.’ he declared, ‘is a better view than the Grand Canyon.’ I had a sharp intake of breath. Oh my, you mean we went all that way on a frigging coach for 5 hours from Vegas and back again and all he wanted was a view of some sheep, some causal splatterings of cow poo and expansive green fields? Yes, if the truth be told.

Agreed, the view across the Cotswolds was really quite stunning that afternoon.

(Not my photo!)

(Not my photo!)

When I tell people of Gloucestershire this they are delighted to hear it.

School and class

One of the very English (not British, definitely English)¬†things that has been ringing in my ears recently is the school thing. School placement is v different to the States. Basically, you don’t automatically get the school that’s nearest you and sometimes that means you miss out on the school you really, really want for your kid (because you don’t want them to associate with kids who are from a different class, the school reputation isn’t all that or whatever). Every year parents of 4 year olds weep tears via Facebook about not getting their school of choice here in Cheltenham, and to be honest it all gets a bit bleeding heart middle class first world problemy (read as: very annoying).

Harry got placed in a cool school that is considered to be on the ‘wrong side of the tracks’. It was a school that was failing and so they got some superheads in and now it’s awesomeballs now and his teacher is rocking. We didn’t get a choice, but we were pleased he was now getting an education in a British school and we just feel lucky he’s there.

school

But the class system is rife in Cheltenham, as it is in many places in England. Never has England appeared more class conscious than it has when parents are considering or talking about schools. People move three or four years ahead of time across the town to get into a speficic school. It’s a Very British Problem¬†thing that’s crudely fascinating.

Going Contactless

What is is this ‘contactless’ thing that you can do in British shops with one’s credit/debit card? And when did it happen?! You just place it on the screen? Amazing! Not got my head round it yet. Not sure what the minimum or maximum is, but I’m trying it all the time. It’s very exciting not having to put your card in and then your pin, cos I was messing that up every time I did it, since in the USA you just give them your card and they swipe it.

contactless

I’ll get the hang of it, and in time people at the checkouts won’t hear an excited squeal of ‘Oooh, you do contactless, what fun!’

ūüėČ

Vegas Rocks my British sensibilities!

Four days in Vegas

Let’s be honest, I am a bit of a party girl. No doubt about that. I totally loved Nashville and New Orleans and they are party towns, but they are also steeped in culture and history and that gives tourists like me a welcome respite from the bars and the partying.

Anyhoo, Vegas. All together a different kettle of fish. #1, not a lot of history going on there, and whilst I was keen to hear the mob and Mormon history of Vegas, it’s not widely referenced. Wonder why that is! #2, people are not there for the culture. Fact. ūüėČ

Folks go to Vegas to party hard, drink hard, watch a few shows, see some nudey shenanigans, and, of course, gamble. And Vegas had me in a conundrum. Before our return to the UK (two weeks today!) we wanted to experience something so very, very unBritish and totally non-Cotswolds town. Vegas it was. I had no real expectations. Just bring it on.

Bring it on!

Bring it on!

And my mind was blown. As I write this on the plane leaving Las Vegas (had to get that in!)¬†to return to¬†Maryland for the final time¬†I realize that I actually struggled with the overt opulence and decadence of Vegas. There are golden hotels that are the size of small countries and they¬†offer everything from massages to sex shows to breakfast Black Jack to travelators so you don’t have to (God forbid!) walk etc. The list goes on. I found it overwhelming. I found it selfish and greedy. I was uncomfortable witnessing people flash their money and showcase¬†their wealth and to hear¬†stories of people losing it and not giving a damn, cos ‘there’s more¬†where that came from’. And alongside all this,¬†I struggled with the juxtaposition of wealth against the¬†amount of people begging outside the casinos.

But, and herein lies the conundrum,¬†I¬†still appreciated and enjoyed¬†the bright¬†lights and the stunning architecture of the hotels¬†and the choice and the food and the people watching and the shows and the¬†craziness of it all. It wanted to swallow me up¬†with its¬†own unique escapism, but I¬†chose to remain slightly¬†on the outside, just observing and touching a small fragment of Vegas, lest it take my soul and never let me go! I feel a bit dirty coming away from it, like I needed a good week cleansing and detoxing my mind and my soul in¬†the Tibetan mountains¬†with nothing but one set of clothes and¬† a cup of rice and a book whilst¬†helping communities and educating small children. I’m no martyr, but anything that is completely the other end of the spectrum from Vegas sounds appealing after our time there.

Might need some of this!

Might need some of this!

But don’t get me wrong, it was an experience. And Blackpool¬†in the UK will pale in comparison (not that I EVER intend going there again after a God-awful time back in 2000!). I love experience, so in that respect I loved my time in Vegas because it truly was an experience and¬†experiences are what make up¬†so much of my USA journey. It also made me think and¬†reflect about¬†my next journey in life and what shape that will take.

I do think, however, that right now a large dose of the English countryside is in order to reset my senses after Vegas!

The Canyon vs Red Rock

Controversial tourist observation follows: I enjoyed visiting Red Rock far more that the Grand Canyon. OMG! What?! Really!?

Yes, really.

We bussed it to the Canyon (5 hours there and five hours back, with two hours in the Canyon only!) and¬†I’m sure if we had taken the helicopter ride (and therefore not been able to eat again for the rest of our time here in the USA because¬†it is¬†so flipping expensive) we’d have had a different perspective. We only¬†touched a small part of the Canyon (cos it’s massive innit?!), but I didn’t feel it enveloped me like I wanted it to. Oh gosh, it’s magnificent, but it didn’t reach into my soul for the short time we were exposed to it. Next time, maybe we can fly…?! ūüėČ Or camp or walk in the heart of that great big Canyon. Then I will feel it’s reached me and I didn’t just look.

At the Canyon

At the Canyon

Red Rock, on the other hand, oozed personality. If rocks can have character, then these rocks have it in abundance and we saw this because we were able to get into the heart of Red Rock. I loved this place, and we needed exposure to something like this, and Bonnie Springs Ranch nearby, to bring us back to the glorious reality of nature after the nutty Las Vegas strip. I am so glad I saw Red Rock. It is truly beautiful and will stay with me for a long, long time.

Loved Red Rock

Loved Red Rock

Kettles at the ready!

Englishers, the time is nearly upon us! So, fill up those kettles and stick a cosy on the teapot, we’re coming back soon!

I was asked if I’m ready. I’m not quite in the zone yet, because there is so much to do here still and so many people to spend time with and things to enjoy. I’ll get there, though, I’m sure. Reverse culture shock, I’m ready for ya!

A Bunch of Goodbyes

Blogging Life

My life is full of goodbyes at the moment. My last fitness class happens today, so it’s goodbye to my life as a fitness instructor in the USA. I’ve had Brits in the USA goodbye parties, goodbye dinners with friends, and goodbye to our shipping which left this week and makes its hot and merry way to the UK shores.

One of my saddest goodbyes was to my blogging buddies last night. Blogging has been a huge part of my life and the community in Howard County is a smart, supportive and sassy bunch.

There’s something special about a group of people who share a love of writing, talking about issues and putting observations and opinions out there. And each one of them makes a difference to the community in their own way. I haven’t been able to find anything similar in my home town in the UK, so the thought lingers that perhaps I should take up the blogging community mantle when I return….

Anyway, #hocomd is lucky to have its #hocoblogs community, and I shall miss is greatly.

#hocobloggers

#hocobloggers

blog2

Viva Las Vegas

When thinking of our last vacation in the States we wanted to do something totally different from anything that we will experience in the UK. Vegas it is. Where I will live in the Cotswolds is a world apart from all that I hear Vegas can offer, so I expect to be overwhelmed by the Las Vegas strip and the Grand Canyon before my eyes take in the small villages and quaint shops of my UK home again. A rather crazy last slice of Americana awaits me!

Spot the difference

Spot the difference

Bring it on!

Bring it on!

Three weeks till we go home, and I say to everyone that I am like a duck on water trying to get¬†upstream at the moment. I’m totally cool on the outside and paddling like mad underneath. And so, so tired.