“Half memoir, half travel, A Yank Back to England...is an absolutely wonderful book, not only about going home again but also about love and family and tradition and the passage of the years.” —Michael Dirda, Pulitzer Prize-winning literary critic (Washington Post) To see the entire quote, click here.
On this first flight to England the baby, there were three other blue plastic boxes, occupied by children far more animated than mine. The one farthest away contained a true screamer; the one next to me, much to the father’s delight, was a mass of whiny wiggles. Every five minutes or so, a tiny, limp, damp hand would appear from the box, move back and forth, then disappear again. The father seemed delighted by this sign of life. But I, for one, found it rather disconcerting to see a disembodied hand appearing periodically like Thing in the Adams Family. My baby slept like, well, like a baby. A good baby. I was being well plied with wine, my wife was sleeping, so all was right with the world.
"I'll just have some coffee, that will do me," I murmured pitifully. "I know what's going to happen. You're going to eat all my food!" "No, I won't - I'm still feeling rather fragile." "Serves you right." How can we loathe those we love? Besides my headache, the price of the full English breakfast had also curbed my appetite. "Maybe toast - that'll be enough for me." "Let's order some extra sausages," suggested Frances. "That way, you'll have something in case you change your mind." "I said, a little toast will be fine," I insisted, stubbornly. "Fine, have toast then. Look, Kate, look! Ponies!" said Frances. Much excitement. A silvered canopy was whisked away with a flourish, revealing two large, juicy Cumberland sausages. Kate's eyes and smile widened accordingly. A vast platter showed up for Frances, with eggs, sausages, bacon, fried bread, baked beans, and hash browns. Then toast triangles were placed before me, imprisoned within a wire frame. "Oh, splendid." I tried to sound nonchalant and not as hungry as I was beginning to feel. "I told you-" said Frances, knowingly. I grumbled and mumbled as I freed toast from its silver cage. Kate was madly happy with her sausages. Her English side was obviously asserting itself. Then we both started dipping buttered toast into Frances' baked beans. I was now feeling much better and bitterly regretting my cheap moment. Frances felt the same, as Kate and I picked continuously at her plate. But it all worked out. I consumed lashings of buttered toast and marmalade and drank endless cups of excellent coffee. By the time we finished we all felt revived enough for a long nap. (Note: In the spirit of full disclosure, photo is from the English breakfast-brunch I cooked recently for a couple of close friends who braved the snow rather than cancel. We don't fry bread, sadly.)
I stopped the car, got out, threw up on the side of the road. Vowed never to drink at high altitudes again. I swallowed some headache pills, guzzled water, and sat in silence behind the wheel. Kate, now three and a half, was asleep. I wished I were, too. Frances looked a bit concerned, a bit wary. Fortunately, the clanging in my head began to lessen and, from what I could see in the rear view mirror, the death-mask pallor on my face had started to fade. Slowly, color seeped back into my cheeks.
Hello, my name is Riley, the handsome red tabby. Little Daggers is my protege--I met him through my mum, Agnes, who met the young master (a.k.a. the Prodigal Tourist) in that electronic book club, Shelfari. Anyway, me mum has temporarily put aside her Kindle to read a bedtime story to me and my feline companion, Precious. Agnes and the Cats in the Evening Cast A Agnes, the Mama Cat P Precious, the Siamese tabby R Riley, the famous red tabby
P: Mama, Mama, I sink its bedtime. A: Okay, let's read a little first. (Fluffs pillows and lies against them. Reaches for A Yank Back to England.) P: Goody, goody! A real book. I love how they smell. (Rubs face across the pages, then lies down sweetly at A's side.) R: Hey! That's my place! (Considers the situation; then sits on A's chest, purring deeply.) A: Riley, sweetheart, I can't see the book. (Holds tome up above R and proceeds to read. After first paragraph gets up, trots into library, and returns with DK Great Britain.) To self: Oomph, this is even heavier. P: I can't hear it. A: No, dear, this is a real book. We're being old-fashioned tonight. P: Oh goody! Costumes and horses! R: Purrrrrrrr! A: Riley, honey, don't sit on the book. Now, how do I get it to turn the page? Where's the button? Oh, right. R: Purrrrrrrr! A: LOL. P: What, Mama? A: LOL. These blokes are really funny! Especially the younger male. R: Scritch, scritch, scritch. A: LOL. I feel as if I'm really there. (Gets up and heads for bathroom.) P: Mum! Mum! Come back! A: Okay, where was I? R: Purrrrrrr! A: Oh, right. P: I want my tea, right now! A: Lie down, sweetie. Let me read to you for a while. R: Purrrrrrr! A: The heater for the bath water! This reminds me of Enchanted April. Only the bath part, though. Close your eyes, Precious! R: Can we have some of that gravy on our Fancy Feast tomorrow? A: No, dear. Only in England. P: I wants milk in my tea. A: Tomorrow. R: And can we do this again tomorrow? A: Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Now get down into the knee basket and let's all sleep. We're going touring tomorrow. R and P: Purrrrrrrrr!
Thanks Agnes, for sending this to us--we loved it!
Standing, from L to R: Lew (Dad), Frances (Prodigal Wife), Denis (The Prodigal Tourist), and Jessie (Mum). Floating: Kate (Prodigal Daughter).
About this blog
You are reading random vignettes, deleted scenes, and other extras from and about my book, A Yank Back to England: The Prodigal Tourist Returns. Enjoy, let me know what you think, ask questions, and thanks for your support! Cheers, The Prodigal Tourist
Years ago I shed my Cockney accent and left London's blighted East End for America. Since then, I’ve only returned to see my increasingly cantankerous parents and assorted relatives. Until my American wife comes along. She wants to tour, see the sights. No thank you. It’s not for me. But she insists, and I become a reluctant tourist in my former homeland.