Tag Archives: united kingdom

The End of an Era

Jillian here. This month, I’ll be truly sharing what many are discussing today over backyard fences all over the world. A true end of an era. 

For most of us, we have only been alive during the reign of one monarch in the United Kingdom. Some were alive before she took the throne, but would have been young people or children at the time she ascended. Yes, of course, I mean Queen Elizabeth II. 

Even though I’m an American through and through, I have a special love for our neighbors across the pond. My ancestry is both English and Scottish. My paternal grandfather’s side of the family comes from the clan MacDonald and my paternal grandmother’s side were Londoners from a very long time ago. Both sides came to the USA early on—late 1600s.  My fifth generation back great-grandfather enlisted in George Washington’s army when he was only 15 and almost froze to death at Valley Forge. My MacDonald relatives fled Scotland near the time of the Glencoe massacre so we’re definitely long term residents of the North American continent. 

That doesn’t take away from the fact that I love the United Kingdom. In fact, every time I visit, I feel like I’ve come home. It’s kind of weird how that feeling just comes over me from the minute I step off the plane. 

I don’t know that I’d call myself a monarchist, but I do enjoy reading about and studying the history of the various countries making up the UK. I have followed the lives of the current royal family since Lady Diana became engaged to Prince Charles. She and I were the same age and both had two sons so I felt an affinity for her. 

Queen Elizabeth was a woman to be looked up to. She worked hard in the time of WWII and made herself useful. From the time she took the throne—and even before that—she served her country tirelessly. Even up to the Tuesday before she passed away on Thursday. That’s admirable. Ninety-six years old and still working. Very impressive. 

I didn’t think she’d live long once she lost her husband. It’s a sad fact that many long term partners pass away in close proximity to each other. They become so dependent on each other, they seem to deteriorate faster once one is gone. She had been looking quite frail lately which was worrisome. 

I was saddened by a lot of ugly comments online about the queen’s passing. I get that some people do not admire her nor the institution she represented, but at the end of the day, she was a woman. A human being. A mother, grandmother, aunt, cousin, friend. Her family, no matter  rank or standing, has a huge loss to cope with just in their personal capacity, not even considering succession and all that entails. I wish the people making such unkind comments would take a moment and remember that.  Can you imagine having to grieve in such a public way? And subject to nasty comments? It would make it so much harder, I think. 

The end of the second Elizabethan era comes to an end and the beginning of the third Charles era begins. What do we call it? Charlesian? 

It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes to change over all the currency, beefeater uniforms, post boxes, etc. Not many of us would have been witness to those kind of mundane changes when Queen Elizabeth took over from her father. History. We’re living history right now. A front row seat, so to speak. 

The Floozie in the Jacuzzi

During our married life, AJ and I have moved house ten times and lived in six different parts of the UK. One of our moves was to the Midlands where we lived a few miles from Birmingham. This is a city of great cultural diversity and we have always loved it. Even though we now live in the south west, we often travel up to the city and enjoy visiting some of our old haunts. Things have changed a great deal in the twenty five years since we lived there, but we still love the vibrancy and the energy of the city.

Birmingham Town HallBirmingham has some of the best examples of Victorian architecture in the UK. The Council House, built in the 1870s, is the home of Birmingham City Council and houses the council chamber, the Lord Mayor’s suite, committee rooms and an ornate banqueting suite with minstrels’ gallery. The exterior balcony on the first floor is now often used by winning sports teams to address the celebrating crowds who gather below in Victoria Square.

Victoria square is considered the centre of the city and the point from where road sign distances are measured. The central water feature in the square, The River, was designed by Dhruva Mistry who won an international design competition. It depicts a bronze statue of a reclining woman basking in the surrounding water.The RiverThis is the largest sculpture in the square, and is now more affectionately known as The Floozie in the Jacuzzi.

But a visit to Birmingham isn’t complete without a little retail therapy and a trip to the commercial centre called The Bull Ring. This has been an important part of Birmingham since the Middle Ages when, in 1159, a local landowner obtained a charter to run a textile market there. Today The Bull Ring shopping centre is one of the busiest in the United Kingdom. BullringAt the main entrance stands The Guardian, a nearly two and a half metre tall bronze sculpture of a turning bull, created by Laurence Broderick. The Guardian, or more commonly known as Brummie the Bull, has become a very popular photographic feature for visitors to Birmingham, and every time I visit the Bull Ring there are always hoards of people surrounding the sculpture. It is strangely beautiful and rather cute.

After a busy morning’s shopping, I’m ready for a bit of peace and quiet. One of the nicest places to relax is at the Edwardian Tea Room, housed in the nearby Museum and Art Gallery. The tea room not only offers some delicious cakes to go with a nice refreshing cup of tea, but original paintings adorn the walls and offer some food for the soul. We never visit the city without wandering the hallowed halls of the Art Gallery and taking a look at their wonderful Pre-Raphaelite collection. They have a large collection of works by Edward Burne-Jones, but it’s a painting by another Edward I’m always interested in viewing. Night Leading the Stars HomeNight Leading the Stars Home, by Edward Robert Hughes, is one of my all time favourite paintings and I have a poster of it in my bedroom. Sadly, this trip the painting was in the archives, but I was able to leave my contact details with the information desk who will inform me when the painting is on display again. Ah well, any excuse for another visit 🙂