In this week's post, Maisie opens up about her background and family connection in England and how this study abroad experience will mark the first time she will be living on her own.
My mother is a bit of a social butterfly, and genuinely has this affinity towards people and getting to know them. More often than not, she is asked where she is from. Other variations of this question include, “Are you British?” or “Are you from England or Scotland?”. She tells them she is from Newcastle, a part of northern England she has grown up in all her life. When I found myself staying in her childhood bedroom, the walls practically hugging the bed, I was surprised to know I was not in Newcastle, but a village called Middridge in County Durham.
Me with former Newton Aycliff mayor, Lyn Leach
(a resident of Middridge and a friend of gran).
To quickly interject, as I have a lot to say about Middridge and my week’s stay there, my experience has been very different compared to other CAPA students coming into the UK. I had been to Middridge once before, at the age of three when my granddad was very sick. I think it was then that my brother and I became citizens of the UK, and consequently I came to England without a visa and with a fatter wallet (they are quite expensive to apply for!).
I thought it would be interesting to talk about my experiences in the countryside, keeping in mind that I will be going from a tiny village in Northern England (really, it is about two to three blocks long or so) with my family, to a metropolitan city alone for the first time in my college career. A few days ago, I went to Whitby with my Uncle Stephen. I knew I was meant to do everything I wanted on my own as he had a unique disinterest in history and doing fun activities with family, but he had promised that I would eat some mushy peas (a favorite food as a baby, and a strangely perfect accompaniment to fish and chips).
Driving through the countryside and seeing this sheep in the open field.
Driving around the countryside was unusual for a couple of reasons: for one, there was no person afraid of speeding unless that person was myself; for two, there were sheep everywhere, and the coexistence of these two facts kind of insane. In Florida, it was not uncommon to see big fields populated by horses and cows, but I had never seen a sheep in my life! Additionally, the threat of being pulled over loomed if I were going a mere five miles per hour over the speed limit. I am pretty sure my uncle was going almost 100 miles per hour through the hills, and sometimes there would be a sheep in the middle of the road. He never hit anything, thank goodness, but I unfortunately had the displeasure of seeing two dead sheep, with their legs up in the air.
While in Whitby, I saw the Abbey of the same name, saw a ridiculous Dracula play amongst the ruins, and had the best fish and chips ever, which is not at all surprising as Whitby is a fishing town.
The only meal that could rival the fish and chips of a fishing town was the breakfast I made for myself in my Gran’s carpeted kitchen (she is a very confident woman). As it turns out, I accidentally made myself the breakfast recommended for my Gran from the Miami Heart Foundation (for those wondering, half a grapefruit and peanut butter toast). My second cousin’s husband had hens, and grew his own fruits and vegetables, so all of our home-cooked meals always tasted so fresh. My mom actually just called me maybe two minutes ago and told me she used to get fresh eggs from the farm behind her house, which I encountered on an eerie morning walk. I am giving you readers this pointless narrative as an excuse to show you this photo of a glove I found sat on the leaves, with seemingly! Full! Fingers! Wild. Even worse, when I turned back around to head home, the glove was missing. I have a feeling that London will not nearly feel so creepy, in that folklore-ish way.
A scene from Kynren depicting a ceremony.
Not only had I been learning about my mom’s mundane past regarding eggs, but I had been reading up on the history of Middridge as written by my Gran’s next-door neighbor, and I also attended Kynren. According to my Gran, Kynren was “spectacular, and even better than Disney!”: the production was about a boy who needed to learn about the past of his people to understand who he was in the present, and the story was told using 1500 cast members. They would be at the bit when Shakespeare was reciting, “To be, or not to be,” and on the side of the set’s castle the lights would write out Hamlet. My Gran would turn to me and say, “That’s Hamlet.” I urge you to take your grandmothers with you to Kynren. You’ll be sorry if you didn’t.
A photo I took of Whitby Abbey from a distance.
After graduating high school, I stayed at home to go to college, while all of my friends moved away and lived on their own. Even when I left to sort of have the college experience I missed out on, I stayed with my family, and even while writing this I to this day have never lived on my own. I want to come back to this post, further into the term: What was it like being with family all my life until going abroad? Although I am familiar with living in a bigger city, how did the drastic change from living in Middridge to London affect my experiences? These are the big ideas, my pals!
P.S. After leaving my glorious radio show in the sunshine state, I feel compelled to leave you with at least a couple of songs. For reasons only known to myself, here are the songs you just must oogie and boogie to:
- "Orlando" by Blood Orange
- "Waterloo" by ABBA
Maisie's journey continues every Tuesday so stay tuned.