It had been over four years since I had last crossed the pond, and as I prepared for my flight to England, I wondered what I would encounter. I had certainly changed a lot in the last four years… what if England had done the same? What if tea time had gone out of fashion, eliminating the possibility for biscuits and buttered scones at 4:30 sharp every day? What if British dental care had drastically improved, depriving me of my constant ego-boost from my passable set of teeth? What if climate change had kicked in and caused sunny weather, dispelling the persistent gloomy drizzle to which I had become accustomed?
The last of these concerns was immediately eliminated upon my arrival at Heathrow airport, where and overcast, drizzling sky greeted me through the airport windows. My father informed me that for the entirety of the past week, the weather had been particularly sunny, but it seemed that the clouds had come out for my arrival, as if to assuage my fears that I might have a nice, warm British summer.
As for my other misgivings, it only took a few days of living in Combe—a quaint little town in the county of Oxfordshire—to assure me that this was still very much the England I had known four years ago. My sister told me that her trip to the dentist had consisted of an evaluation, during which the dentist determined whether or not she needed a cleaning. (She didn’t. Although at least everyone here has access to dental care, so who are we to be critical?) Tea time did not leave me disappointed, as I chowed down on scones with raspberry jam and clotted cream. I may have changed in the last four years, but for the English, traditions die hard.
Speaking of tradition, some of you may have heard a thing or two about a certain royal baby in the past few weeks. We all know that the Brits hold their royal family near and dear, but the birth of George Alexander Louis seems to have created a veritable media frenzy, on par with the Watergate Scandal and the Kennedy assassination. A few weeks ago, as I sat in the room of my hostel in Peru watching CNN International, they couldn’t get enough of his royal babyship. “We are currently standing outside of St. Mary’s Hospital,” one anchor reported, his tone of voice suggesting he had just entered a war zone in Afghanistan. “The royal baby is inside as we speak, along with his mother and father. At the moment, we don’t know anything that we didn’t know three hours ago, and we’re going to keep you updated on all the important things we don’t know about for the rest of the afternoon. All other important worldwide news has been cancelled until further notice. Now it’s over to Patricia Johnson at the Childhood Wellness League, to speculate extensively on how she thinks Kate will raise her new child.” (This is not a precise quote, but instead reflects by best recollection of the anchor’s words.)
People across Great Britain started hedging bets on what William and Kate would name the royal infant. Expected names, like George, were a more likely gamble, while obscure names, such as Blue Ivy, offered odds of 10,000 to 1. A friend and I joked that William ought to wager all of his life savings on “Peanut” and cash in. His young highness might have a rough time in middle school, but he’d have the highest allowance of any prince in the world.
In addition to skimming over a massive earthquake in China and a horrendous prison breakout from Abu Ghraib, CNN decided to break off for a moment from the royal reportage, in order to cover a story in India where a school principle had poisoned multiple students. Their international correspondent was just beginning to explain what had happened when the anchor cut her off mid-sentence. There was more important news. “The royal baby’s name has been released: It’s George Alexander Louis!” How very pedestrian. And to think, William, you could have been a billionaire, giving Peanut the most wonderful princely life in history.
To be fair, the royal baby news has died down a bit now. It’s faded, like all good things must, giving way to more dreary reports of political scandal in Parliament and violent protests in Northern Ireland. And just so you don’t think I’ve been sitting inside all day watching the news, here are a few pictures of the beautiful British countryside. I’ve had an adventure or two here since I arrived, but just like the news networks, I went and got caught up discussing royal diapers. To hear about the charming city of Oxford and the majestic Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, stay tuned.