A Canadian in England – The Final Chapter

I’ve just returned home to Toronto after 7 action-packed weeks in the UK.  There’s no place like home, but it sure was a treat to experience England.

What have I learned?  What were the highlights?  And what’s my new favourite dessert?  All shall be revealed herein…

I make a friend:

As I mentioned in my last post, after Ivan returned home I was really missing him and our three fur kids.  Fortunately, in week 2 of my 6 week course, Debbie joined the class.  Debbie is originally from Northern Ireland (‘bandit territory’ she said) but now calls London home.  We hit it off immediately, bonding over our mutual love of charity shops, antiques, crisps, and faffing about in pubs.  After only a week, we had drunk our local out of red wine and decimated their crisp supply!*  What a rare and dear thing friendship is.

*Note: Hey, it only took two bottles and a few glasses, but many more bags of crisps at Ye Olde Fleece Inn, Kendal’s oldest pub circa 1654).

I experience French driving, English cooking and prison life:

Though I was in school 6 days a week, I still had evenings and Sundays to explore.  One Saturday night, Blandine (my wonderful and patient French upholstery teacher) drove us to a well-regarded pub 10 minutes outside of town.  As we hurtled down the serpentine country road with only the jeep’s headlights illuminating our narrow path, we were surrounded on either side by ancient stone walls and massive bare trees.  Somehow, we arrived safely at The Punchbowl, Michelin 2009 Pub Guide’s “Pub of the Year”!  I enjoyed steak and ale pie with fresh peas, purple vinegared cabbage, pumpkin mash and requisite chips.  By order of British law, a lovely black lab introduced himself to every customer.  I so wished Ivan could have joined us on these forays.  I know he would LOVE my new favourite dessert: sticky toffee pudding with ice cream:

Sticky Toffee Pudding at the Wheatsheaf in Kendal
Sticky Toffee Pudding at the Wheatsheaf in Kendal

On another weekend, we went to Lancaster.  On approach, we saw a huge gothic castle on a hill surrounded by the town.  First, a rest and warm-up at The Borough pub restaurant where I had Sunday roast, mulled wine and mincemeat tart.  Since we ordered two meals, they throw in a bottle of wine.   Then, we walked around Lancaster visiting the Judges Lodging (a historic Victorian house and museum) and ended up at Lancaster Castle where we joined the last tour of the day.  Little did we know, Lancaster Castle has been England’s longest functioning prison, with two functioning courts and the grim record of meting out the most executions in English history.  The tour guide was excellent and he even locked us in one of the ancient cells in total darkness so that we could fathom what it might have felt like for convicts in the past.

Lancaster Castle 1778
Lancaster Castle 1778

I learn British English:

It happened one day in class.   I casually interjected, “You mean 50 quid?!”  No one arched an eyebrow.  My Brit-lish flew under the radar.   At that point I jumped right in with my wellies and began referring to my apartment as my flat, describing things I don’t like as pure rubbish and wearing jumpers instead of sweaters!  And wouldn’t you know they bought it like marmalade!  There was one quick witted elder in McDonald’s (John Hindle) who did call attention to my ‘native’ vocabulary.  He said: “Funny. We used to say that if one said ‘I’m mad about my flat’ it would mean ‘I love my apartment’ if you’re English and ‘I’m angry about my puncture’ elsewhere!”

I learn how to upholster:

I earned a diploma in traditional English upholstery from the AMUSF while at Kendal School of Upholstery.  Some of my projects are pictured below.  My three finished chairs as well as a research essay on 20th Century Furniture Design were taken down to London for this accreditation.

1954 Howard Keith chair
1954 Howard Keith chair - BEFORE
1954 Howard Keith chair - AFTER
1954 Howard Keith chair - AFTER
Chloe on her bespoke bed (featuring a deep buttoned headboard and fitted box cushion)
Chloe on her bespoke bed (featuring a deep buttoned headboard and fitted box cushion)

All’s Well that Ends Well:

Now I’m back in Toronto, but very much refreshed and inspired.  New experiences like living abroad definitely revitalize us, flexing our skills, rousing our brain cells, and challenging our preconceived notions.  Thank you very much to the village of Kendal, Cumbria.  Extra special thanks to Debbie, Fraser, Blandine and students and staff at Kendal School of Upholstery, John Hindle, Francis from Kendal McDonald’s restaurant, and John and Charlotte and their girls in London.  Extra special special thanks go to Ivan, Chloe, Fredd and Marie – for putting up with my long absence and welcoming me home with open arms and paws.

Last drink at Ye Olde Fleece Inn in Kendal
Last drink at Ye Olde Fleece Inn in Kendal (from left: me, Debbie, Jackie)

December 18, 2011

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