In a Pub Eating Fish and Chips While Sipping Single Malt Scotch

Nothing defines true love better than a Welsh Love Spoon. The hand carved spoons date back to the 1600’s. When a young man wants to declare his love to a young woman he presents her with a love spoon. It is a sign of his love and intention.

I came across the love spoon while touring Wales in the nineteen-ninety’s. Busia Barbara and I were tag-alongs on a musical trip sponsored by the Park Forest Singers. The Park Forest Singers is a group of seventy plus voices dedicated to using the voice as an instrument. Barb sang like an angel, and could easily have become a member of this prestigious group. She chose not to, but loved to hang with the members. We attended their concerts and parties. We were  Singer groupies. When the SIngers announced a trip to visit England, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Wight, one of Barb’s girl friends invited us to join them.

At first, Barb was reluctant to ask me. She explained what the group was doing and when they were going, and other details. I floored her when I suggested we go too. I’m positive that was her intention all along; she just didn’t know how to approach old Grumpy.

The trip was twelve days long and the choir would sing four concerts, three of them in churches. Each church was in a different part of Great Britain. Our landing was at Heathrow airport and followed by a sleepy-eyed tour through the city to our hotel. We slept within four blocks of Buckingham Palace and two blocks from Harrods. “Harrods, what the heck is Harrods?” I learned that Harrods is a large, upscale department store, similar in scope and pricey inventory to Marshal Field’s, Nordstrom’s, and Macy’s. None of it made sense to me. I looked forward to drinking in a Pub, eating Fish and Chips, sampling single malt scotch whiskey, and ogling the local women.

Harrods Christmas lights 2008

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The night of our arrival the Singers performed in a London Cathedral. No, it wasn’t Westminster Abbey, it was a lesser church that is  actually  more beautiful than Westminster. In spite of jet lag and fatigue, the Park Forest Singers  performed their repertoire flawlessly and with great enthusiasm.

Our group filled two buses as we traveled the English countryside to Oxford, and a number of other towns now faded from memory. I loved the countryside, and the walled-towns too. There is something about spending time in places of antiquity. It brings one a sense for how short a span we spend on planet earth. Sleeping in hotels that are hundreds of years old, walking around the town (literally) on a fortress wall, wobbling along cobblestones carved from quarries centuries ago, all added to the excitement.

The most vivid memory I have of this trip aside from the singing performances is a mental image of the English countryside. All of the places we traveled are stunningly  beautiful.

Wales was very different from Scotland and England. It has a unique language that is near impossible for the first time visitor to comprehend. The Welsh use too many consonants and too few vowels in their words (Llanfairpwll-gwyngyllgogerych-wyrndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch). Thank God we were on a tour and had a guide who could interpret for us. The road signs were absolutely scary. Once off the bus we quickly learned that the Welsh speak English too. God save the Queen!

It was in a small town in Wales near the origin of the movie, Little Engine that Could where I spotted a wooden spoon with a unique design. I picked it up and read the descriptive tag. I fell in love with the Welsh Love Spoon.

The singers had a marvelous joint performance with Welsh Men’s Choir. The concert delayed for half an hour because the men were late getting in from their farms. Afterwards, our group joined for a late dinner. The real fun began after that. The evening turned into a singing version of Can You Top That? Each choir rotated singing favorite songs, each trying to outdo the other. It was a draw, both groups sang their hearts out.

A year later, I came across a pattern for a wood carving. It was a beautiful love spoon. The instant I saw it, I felt a need to carve the spoon for Barb as a re-declaration of  my love for her. The last time I had a carving knife in hand, I was fourteen, but it didn’t deter me. I bought several chisels, and a friend from work gave me the wood. I started and continued  chiseling away for several weeks until the finished spoon satisfied my eye. I lovingly presented it to Barb. She was happy. The spoon went on display with her prize depression glass bowls.

I still have the spoon. It now resides within a dark drawer out of harms way awaiting my departure from this earth. That is when the kids get to decide where it goes next.

A Snowy Day in the Movie House

West facade of Buckingham Palace, seen from th...

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Yesterday, I tried something new. I bought a movie ticket online. The temptation was too great. I had to do it. How lazy can one get? Grandma Peggy and I reviewed the list of films showing in our favorite movie house and chose one to see. There are several good ones, and we chose The King’s Speech. We had flashbacks of the last time we went to the movies, and the film we wanted was sold out. This time it would be different, I would buy the ticket online and be assured of a seat.

Before I review the story, I’ll review the online purchase. Being a senior, I chose the Senior five dollar ticket. I clicked “Buy Ticket,” and learned that there was a dollar fifty cent convenience charge for the transaction. I went for it anyway. Then I printed the confirmation to learn that when I showed up, I would have to present the confirmation at a special window, and to bring my credit card with me. I will escape the long line at the ticket counter, I thought to myself. It is worth the extra money Like a jerk, I bought into the process. The weather was mild, and gray, but right after I printed the confirmation it began to snow.

We went about our morning and the snow fell harder. Grandma Peggy says, “we don’t have to go to the show in this bad weather, we can go tomorrow.”

“Oh yes we do,” I answered, “I have twelve bucks invested in non-refundable tickets.”

So we drove through a blinding snowfall to the movie. There was no one at the ticket window when I showed my confirmation. They gave me two tickets and we entered a ghost theater: we had the entire place to ourselves.

The King’s Speech was produced in England. The actors are all British and foreign to me. The story  is a little known piece of history about the man who ascended to the throne when his brother abdicated to  marry the love of his life. The man is the current Queen Elizabeth’s father. He was known as George the VI even though his name was Albert.

When I first read the synopsis of the film, I thought how boring is this going to be. It’s all about a guy with a speech impediment. The whole thing will be dialogue without action. I was correct, but it was not in the least bit boring. In fact, we were rivited to the seat. I don’t even recall any background music. The silence gave the story some character, and it made it easy for my state of the art electronic amplified ears to pick up the dialogue.

The staging was fabulous. The director made me feel like I was living in nineteen thirty four England. There is one scene where the elecution teacher enters Buckingham Palace by the servants entrance and they pass through a room that was lined with gas masks. In another scene the main character is asked who brought him up. He replied “a nanny.” Then proceeded to explain that the nanny  pinched him hard every day just as she took him for the viewing before his parents. That line stuck with me, as did the image of the gas masks.

The actors looked like the characters. I can still remember  seeing photos of Edward, the brother who abdicated, and his wife Wallace Simpson in newspaper articles. The queen mother is the spitting image of the Queen Elizabeth’s mother. The only one whom I didn’t recognize is the central character, her  father.

During one outdoor scene the King and his teacher walk through the park in front of the Palace. It is shrouded in fog. The picture is surreal. I recognized that garden from a visit I made to that park twenty years ago.  It is beautiful, even in a heavy fog when everything is gray.

Another landmark, I recognized is Westminster Abbey. There are scenes in the Abbey with the Archbishop. The Archbishop is a classic example of British snobbery and distaste for  the  commoner. It reminded me of  the attitude that prevails within our own society today within our Liberal Left political contingent.

The story ended too quickly, and we were left wanting to know more about this fascinating King. We were left with questions about the remainder of his life. I will have read  a book about his life to learn more.

It is easy to understand why this film has twelve nominations for the Academy Award. It is a strong contender.

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