Before anything else, I was shocked 😉 to discover that not everyone has seen my video introducing Social Anxiety Revealed. If you’re one of those unfortunate people, here’s the link you need to sort it: [See it, say it, sorted. Don’t mind me; I’m just learning the lingo. See below.]

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“It’s been an awfully long time since you last wrote a blog post,” said everyone.

“I know,” I replied, “and I’m awfully sorry, but life got in the way again.”

“You haven’t been travelling again, have you?” said everyone.

“Actually, I have.” I gave a sheepish grin. “I’ve literally spent like the last six weeks in various like places in the UK.”

“Picked up the lingo, too,” said everyone.

“Just trying to blend in. I didn’t like it when two people I met in Cardiff thought I sounded foreign. I mean… well… if I don’t sound British, then what do I sound?”

Making Welsh Cakes

Making Welsh cakes in Cardiff market

“Weird?” suggested everyone.

“Yeah, but apart from that.”

“What have you been up to?” said everyone, clumsily changing the subject.

“I went geocaching around Wittenham Clump. I did belly dancing and zumba. I walked in Devon, Cambridge, the Lake District, Chess Valley and Richmond. I travelled in cars, buses, trains, planes, a bicycle and a boat.

Cycling in Devon

“I got detrained in Newark. I know I did, because the guard said so, so I don’t care about that red squiggly line that’s appeared below the word. (And no, I don’t want to change it to detained, retained or restrained, but if you annoy me any more, Spelling Checker, you may have to restrain me to prevent me from getting detained.)

“I spent five days at an Arvon retreat and have some great ideas about how to complete one of my works in progress.

Totleigh Barton

“I ate in various restaurants, including Mexican, Italian and Indian. I ate sandwiches a little too often. I ate food on planes that I didn’t particularly like. I enjoyed home cooking that I didn’t have to prepare. The most delicious thing I ate was cheesecake in a Turkish cafĂ© in Chesham.

“I visited art museums and an old house. I saw a musical, two plays and a film.

“I read books, including one that I loved: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. I also read from one out loud, while taking part in a book festival.

Reading

Reading from Neither Here Nor There

“I had two dogs and a cat on my lap… at different times. But most of all, I met and talked to lots of people and had a great time doing it. I hope they enjoyed my company, too.”

Swansea

“Sounds wonderful,” said everyone.

“It was!”

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History was one of the subjects I quite enjoyed at school. I wasn’t so keen on the ancient history we started off with, but I found later history interesting. I also liked the fact that the History teacher often chose me to read from the text book while the English teacher never did. I was disappointed when I couldn’t continue History to O-level because of timetable conflicts.

Printing PressHow much of my three years of History do I remember now? Not a lot. Certainly not the lists of dates I memorised then. But there are some facts I remember learning – like the invention of the printing press by William Caxton, for instance. In fact all the people and places we learned about were either British or involved in wars against Britain. I didn’t really question why this was. I sort of assumed that only Britain mattered in the world.

Anyway, I was British and it was good to know how important Britain was, especially while the news was often about the colonies that Britain was losing.

In some ways I felt the history we learned belonged to me while in others I didn’t. Jews were never mentioned in that history. The only time I heard about Jews of the past at school was in an English lesson when we started studying The Merchant of Venice. The teacher said, “I know that a lot of you are Jewish and there has been some criticism of the portrayal of the Jew in this play. You have to remember that there were no Jews in England at the time it was written because they’d been expelled, so Shakespeare didn’t actually know any Jews.”

“Hmm,” I thought. “Why weren’t we told about that expulsion in History lessons?”

Then I found a book at home called The History of the Jews in England, and I actually read it just out of interest, because I identified with the people mentioned in it more than I did with the kings and queens and everyone else in my school text books.

I digress. Where was I? The printing press and the trigger for this post. It was a BBC Radio 4 series called Germany: Memories of a Nation. In one of the episodes I learned something that surprised me: the printing press was invented by Johannes Gutenberg in Mainz, Germany. William Caxton visited Gutenberg in Mainz and introduced Gutenberg’s invention to the English.

Why didn’t we learn this at school? Why was British history the only history? Why were deeds of note by foreigners transferred to British people?

I wonder if this has changed since I was at school.

I have a special relationship with Britain. Any other country I visit is foreign. I’m fascinated by the way the people live and I love to explore the countryside. But it remains a wonderful experience of something else, something I’m not part of.

Britain – or, more specifically, England – is different. It’s the place where I was born, where I grew up. It’s a part of me, even though it doesn’t play a part in my current everyday life.

I haven’t lived in England for…. Well, let’s just say that when I was growing up, calculating money involved the factors 12 and 20, and my favourite music was provided by four boys from Liverpool.

Going to England isn’t like going anywhere else. It’s not a visit to a foreign country. It’s a return to a life I left – to the bad times and the good, to people I knew then and places that have remained. And that connects nicely to those four boys:

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all
 

So I’m going back soon, first for two weeks with hubby in Scotland, then three weeks on my own in England. I’m starting to make plans. If anyone has any suggestions about what I could do at not too great an expense – literary of otherwise – for three weeks in August-September, do let me know.