New Year’s Resolution #1 – Visit England. Check.

Because of our hectic schedule we stayed around Pangbourne today. Our relatives have lived in this village for much of their lives and they greatly love it. The word “bourne” means “river” in old English and therefore it is accordingly named, “River of Pange.”

Legend has it that the village goes back to the days of Beowulf.

We spent our morning walking around the small community of 2000 occupants. They still have their own butcher, their own cheese shop, their own milk man, and their own ancient church building.
As we walked through the graveyard behind the church we were struck with the fact that nearly 1 out of 3 tombstones made reference to the fact that this person died in WW2. In many cases, WW2 did not grow the villages because of people fleeing the bombings of London. Rather, it killed the villages. The men of the communities went off to fight the war and died in the battles.

In the afternoon we took a trip up the Thames through the countyside to the small town of Wallenford. It was an ancient market town and one of the strongholds of King Charles I during the Revolution.

We visited several antique shops and walked through the cramped streets of town. The roads here were built for Mini Coopers, not for Chevys and Fords. You really need a Mr. Bean car if you want to feel comfortable driving around the narrow, winding roads with thick hedges scraping the sides of your vehicle.
We stopped for tea at a Brazilian place – oddly enough, and talked with Jennifer about English life in these villages.

In the evening we were invited to a neighbor’s New Years party. We spent several hours eating snacks and speaking with people from all over the UK. One couple comes from near Edinburgh, Scotland. They told us of the weather, the people, the sites to see, and attitude of the culture. It was quite interesting.
We headed back to the house and relaxed with Martin (who recently had a hip surgery, so he wasn’t up for a party). We watched a humorous show on the pessimistic nature of the British people. It was funny because it was blatantly honest. The British people view Americans as overly positive, overly patriotic, eager people. (I suppose worse things could be said).
Because none of us really wanted to stay up till midnight (there is that pessimisity again!) we figured that it was the New Year in Germany, so we sang “Auld Lang Syne” which is a Scottish song. We had to look up the words to see what it was saying, but here is an extended explanation. Briefly, the title can be translated “Long Long Ago.” I guess you are supposed to sing the song while crossing your arms and grabbing hold of the persons hand next to you. This was quite comical due to the fact that we had one man sitting in a chair nursing a hip replacement, two travelers suffering from prolonged jet lag, and one cheerful lady all joining in. We managed to sing the song so the New Year actually commenced and then we slipped off to bed.
As we drifted off to sleep they began shooting fireworks over the Thames. I don’t know if it would be considered in poor taste or not, but I started to sing “and the rockets’ red glare…”