“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.
Rita’s husband, whose nickname was Fatty, was always charming and treated his mother-in-law most royally whenever she visited Libya. My Auntie May was a happy-go-lucky Cockney, politically unaware and blissfully ignorant of her son-in-law’s standing in the Libyan regime. When she went to Libya, she had a good time. She thought nothing of having first to fly to Switzerland to get a connecting flight to enter the rogue state, sprouting with terrorists. In her own words, Libyan holidays were not too bad at all. Nice and warm and lots and lots of sand.
Aunt May, another of Mum’s sisters, was telling everyone about her most recent visit to North Africa. Her daughter, my cousin Rita, had eloped with a Libyan student from the London School of Economics. Dissolve thirty years. Rita now lived in a guarded, high-walled estate in Tripoli, and her son-in-law oversaw part of Qaddafi’s nuclear program. They lived well in Libya. Very well. They took holidays in Switzerland and in England, and they had bodyguards. If nothing else, it was safe to assume they lived in fear of their lifestyle.
Mum watched the end of her show and then we ate dinner, now mostly cold. Roast lamb, mint sauce, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, and Brussels sprouts. I complimented Mum, even though I knew Lew had done the cooking. Or most of it. He grunted in reply. This was normal. Evening meals in our house were always eaten in silence. The only sound above the clatter of cutlery was the radio broadcasting the six o’clock news. If anyone spoke during the news, all hell would break loose. Old habits die hard. Even now we ate as if we were mismatched Trappists. Frances, unaware of this mealtime vow of silence, thought someone was upset, so she tried to jolly us all up with cheery comments.
Just discovered a wonderful start-up magazine that’s right up our street. It’s called UK:Cue Magazine and it’s edited by a charming Anglophile and boulevardier of all things British, Larry Jaffee. He’s had the brilliant idea to launch a print and online mag aimed at expats like me, and all chaps and chapesses with a fondness for the Green and Pleasant. UK:Cue will keep us posted about all Brit books, movies, and TV shows heading across the pond. The issue I’m looking at discusses The Iron Lady, the new Dr. Who, BBC America, and even a bit of Shakespeare for the higher-browed among you. Anyway, give it a gander, Larry can say it all a lot better than me so why not follow the link here and check it out! Tell him you’re an EastEnders fan, he’ll like that (my old Mum was a big fan as I mention in the book, had to drag her away from Walford for tea)! Mind you, I’d much rather be tucked up in the snug of the Rovers Return, but that’s another story.
PS: And keep an eye out for the odd Prodigal article in UK:Cue!
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.