We spent the last days of our world trip in London, but between Edinburgh and London, we made two stops in the middle of England. The first stop was in Stoke-On-Trent, in the Midlands, where Steve and I would reunite with his distant English relatives Jean and Peter, and the second stop was in Cambridge, just to the northeast of London, where we would be welcome by Sam and Sarah once more. Here is a little bit about our two lovely days with friends and family.
Last Thursday, we boarded the train at Edinburgh and took two connections to get to Stoke-On-Trent. Peter met us at the train station, and drove us to their home, a scant five minutes away. As we pulled into the front parking space, his wife, Jean, emerged from the house and waved us into their picture perfect, quintessentially English house. It was what I had pictured from books, movies, and stories, but exceeded even that, with all its old fashioned charm of knickknacks and figurines, elegant art and ceramics, and beautifully manicured garden.
By the kitchen, there is a small mirror hung with a set of clothesbrushes that I have read about in books but never actually seen in person. In the foyer, next to the door, is an elegant, embroidered hanging which says “Farmers Market,” handmade by Steve’s grandmother Alice. In the living room, ceramic plates decorate the top of the walls, a wooden duck stands in the process of looking over his shoulder by the fireplace, and the walls are hung with watercolors, pastels, lithographs, all in exquisite frames. The living room opens up to a small sun room, which invites one to step through and into the garden. Plain and simple, Jean and Peter have the idiosyncratically perfect picture of an English house garden. Their backyard garden is long and narrow, framed by hedgerows on both sides like their neighbors’ to the left and right as far as the eye can see. On both sides as you walk down, there are large, well-tended clumps of brilliant flowers. Most of them I can’t identify, but I saw varieties on sunflowers, calla lilies, sprays of delicate pink, hanging star blossoms of red that show dark violet petals. There are even several small trees growing between the flowers and the bushes, and underfoot, perfectly manicured, short green lawn that felt like a carpet. Beyond all of this, beyond the back hedgerow, there is an expanse of pastoral green rolling hills bisected by lines of dark green bushes and dotted with cows. Continue reading In the heart of England.