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March 6, 2011

Below stairs

My Anglophilia is really curious when you consider that if I’d lived in England back when times were really merrie, I would have worked six days a week in a cotton mill and my husband would have been killed in a coalmine, because truly, this is the stock we descend from. If I was in a Barbara Pym novel, I would probably be the charwoman. Virgina Woolf would have kept me safely below-stairs. Class is such a funny thing, easy to overlook when we’re reading Rachel Cusk back home in Canada, but while reading her during the few days we spent in Windsor, I realized that I’m not the kind of woman Rachel Cusk writes about at all. I have never seen such well-dressed women as those I saw pushing expensive prams up and down Windsor’s cobblestone streets, whose accents were so cultivated I could scarcely understand them, which didn’t matter because they weren’t talking to me anyway. These women made me terribly ashamed of my shoes, perhaps for good reason.

Nevertheless, it is my great fortune to be a Canadian married to an Englishman, because it means my English indulgences also fulfill familial obligation, but moreover that said family puts us up in the spare-room and entertains the baby. It means that I get to call myself middle-class, and that Kate Middleton is also middle-class, even though her parents are millionaires and she has nice shoes. It means that I can go rural-England crazy again (too much Midsomer Murders) and start lusting after a floral-printed garden spade with matching Wellington boots. I start raiding farm shops for delectable sausage. It is a good thing we get to come home from England, because I’m so annoying when I’m there, and my husband would probably divorce me if we stayed too long.

Last week, I bought a gorgeous new string of bunting from a woman who has survived the recession by going into the bunting biz. It seems the English are stringing a lot of the stuff these days, while stiffening their upper lips, and it’s kind of admirable. So many empty store-fronts– it’s devastating, really, in a way we barely fathom over here. And maybe it’s just spring time, but things do seem to be beginning to make a turn for the better. The tulips are up, and there are buds on the trees. Here, there is just fresh snow.

We had the most wonderful trip. I bought all kinds of books, but managed to read almost all of them en route, so it’s like I didn’t buy any books at all (very frugal). Stay tuned for an upcoming post about our literary escapades. In fact, stay tuned for upcoming posts galore, but only about our trip, because I can’t think of anything else right now. Real life will come back quickly, I’m sure, but we’re still not finished our washing, I’m still not finished reading my new English books, and there is a bar of Dairy Milk still to be devoured (but not much longer).

3 thoughts on “Below stairs”

  1. Julia says:

    I’m so happy you’re back!

  2. Nathalie says:

    Welcome home. I’d invite you over and ask you to regale me with tales of travel, but I’ve got strep. Again.

  3. Nathalie says:

    P.S. I admire your book math: books bought-books read=0, therefore go ahead and buy more because you have been so frugal.

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