31 March 2010

My first installment (I am so proud!)

The Eagle has landed   

(printed in Warwickshire Life, March 2010)

My father was an infinitely sensible man. As a barrister and subsequent high court judge, common sense was more than a philosophy; it was a way of life. By contrast, it seemed my mission - often unwittingly – was to challenge his more staid opinions.

Apart from one very sad “orange hair” incident, and some rather unfortunate fashion and boyfriend choices in my mid to late teens, the one thing the grieved my father most was the fact I have never been a ‘woman of property’.

My father loathed the way my career -- as a roaming Shakespeare scholar -- took me galloping apace about the globe. To him, my chosen occupation was only slightly better than being in the circus, as it always seemed to lead me from one rented house, flat or apartment to the next.

“What will you have to show for yourself at the end of it all, young lady? Nothing. Just a rent receipt. Why can’t you see that that there’s nothing safer than houses?” he would say, firmly ensconced behind his newspaper.

The fact that I had just landed in Manhattan, to teach Shakespeare studies at one of America’s leading universities, was immaterial. Also immaterial was the fact NYC was, and is, one of the most expensive locales in the universe; where few, if any, without the surname Astor, Morgan or Rockefeller, stand a chance of actually owning property. These arguments did nothing to alter my father's opinion of my choices or prospects.

How I wish that he could see me now that I have finally become a ‘woman of property.’  I have no doubt he would be delighted that I am finally settled, and have a place to call my own.

It would no doubt amuse him that my new home is here in Warwickshire, the land of Shakespeare. Warwickshire, “England’s England,” is the Britain we Americans imagine in our most Anglophilic fantasies. Fantasies nourished by a steady diet of  “Miss Marple,” “The Vicar of Dibley,” any Jane Austen film, and countless other British imports presented in heavy rotation on America’s educational network, PBS (Public Broadcasting Service). Creating a space for myself here has long been my dream.

“History is now and England.” – T.S. Eliot

Like so many literary-minded and undeniably Anglophilic Americans before me, I felt the pull of English soil early on. My fate was sealed as a graduate student, studying in Stratford-upon-Avon, in my early twenties. The following diary excerpt reveals an irrepressible romanticism and high-blown admiration for this green and pleasant land bordering on the excessively Eliotian:

“Mornings in Warwickshire glisten with color and crystalline light. How many see these days in their glory, and see not the magical glow? How many race through their paces, unaware of the sheer specialness of their world? And we, with our outside eyes drink in all we can, intoxicated with the view. But, could one day, this landscape become our own? Can we consume until we have had our fill? How happy I would be to remain here in this fantastic world!” – 4 November 1991 

It has taken time, tides and tempests to bring this wish to fulfillment. Still, I have got here in the end. I am sure my father, my favourite fellow Anglophile, is happy to see me settled, and that my “zany Shakespeare thing” has finally paid off.

No comments: