Homesick

Since my birthday on the 21st November, I have become quite homesick. I had a great day; I went out to eat with my wife, and then we went and watched the new James Bond movie. While watching Skyfall I got to see areas of London which I recognized, and I started to feel the pangs of feeling homesick and missing sites that I was familiar with. England might not be the freest country in the world, but it is certainly not a dictatorship. England has given the world many modern conveniences and freedoms. The Magna Carta was used heavily in the formation of the US constitution, and British scientists continue to push the world forward in human discoveries.

I was born and raised in a small city called Canterbury; a city made famous by its ancient cathedral and by Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘the Canterbury Tales’. It is very much a tourist city, with education at its heart; it has three universities.

Canterbury (Listeni/ˈkæntərˌbɜri/ or /ˈkæntərˌbɛri/)[1] is a historic English cathedral city, which lies at the heart of the City of Canterbury, a district of Kent in South East England. It lies on the River Stour.

Originally a Brythonic settlement called *Durou̯ernon (composed of the ancient British roots *duro- “stronghold”, *u̯erno- “alder tree”), it was renamed Durovernum Cantiacorum by the Roman conquerors in the 1st century AD. After it became the chief Jutish settlement, it gained its English name Canterbury, itself derived from the Old English Cantwareburh (“Kent people’s stronghold”). After the Kingdom of Kent’s conversion to Christianity in 597, St Augustine founded an episcopal see in the city and became the first Archbishop of Canterbury, a position that now heads the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Communion (though the modern-day Province of Canterbury covers the entire south of England). Thomas Becket’s murder at Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 led to the cathedral becoming a place of pilgrimage for Christians worldwide. This pilgrimage provided the theme for Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th-century literary classic The Canterbury Tales. The literary heritage continued with the birth of the playwright Christopher Marlowe in the city in the 16th century.

Parts of the city have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many historical structures remain, including a city wall founded in Roman times and rebuilt in the 14th century, the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey and a Norman castle, and perhaps the oldest school in England, The King’s School. Modern additions include the University of Kent, Canterbury Christ Church University, the University College for the Creative Arts, the Marlowe Theatre, and the St Lawrence Ground, home to Kent County Cricket Club. The city lies at the heart of the City of Canterbury, a local government district.

Canterbury is a popular tourist destination: consistently one of the most-visited cities in the United Kingdom,[2] the city’s economy is heavily reliant upon tourism. There is also a substantial student population, brought about by the presence of three universities. Canterbury is, however, a relatively small city, when compared with other British cities.

I was born in Canterbury, and went to schools in the city growing up. I attended St Stevens Infant and Junior schools (protestant Christian schools) as a young boy, and attended Canterbury High school through my teenage years. My parent’s philosophy is to live and let live, and to be considerate of others. I was quite shy growing up, but I loved my home town and was very proud of my British heritage. My family goes back hundreds of years, and I am from English heritage as far back as records go. I recently found out through my uncle on my last visit that one of my great great great grand mother’s was Irish, and that her husband brought her back to England. As far as I am aware, my family has always lived in the south east of England.

My home country is very much steeped in tradition, and the ideals of being ‘proper’ are very prominent. English people for the most part live very structured lives, and when I met my wife, I very rebelliously found out that things didn’t have to be that way. In America you can be anything that you want to be. But now as I mature into adult life, I realize that structure is important. I see so many Americans working all hours of the day chasing their tails and not fully experiencing life itself. Sure they might have a big house and a fancy car, but they never have time to fully enjoy it. I look at the Universities and realize I could never go to them through the shear costs. Now that I am fast approaching my later twenties, and the talk of children continues to come up between my wife and I (both our younger sisters now have children) I wonder what kind of life they will be able to have in this country. The land of opportunity seems to be consuming itself, and has become more divided than ever. England has been through its share of ups and downs, and appears to be resilient to the tides of change. America I fear, will not be able to cope with the changes that it now faces.

I want to live in a free world, where anyone can be what they want to be. I do not want some over authoritarian government watching my every move and telling me what I can and cannot do.

I lived within Canterbury’s city limits until age 9 when my parents moved us to a small village called ‘Sturry’ which was right on the outskirts of the city. It was a short 4 mile hike to the center of Canterbury, but we had a house that overlooked a field, and it felt very rural. Sturry is where my mum’s family have lived for over a hundred years, and the village itself is steeped in history.

Human habitation in Sturry is thought to have started around 430,000 years ago, as dated flint implements – namely knives and arrow-tips – show. Other signs of early human activities include a collection of axes and pottery shards from the Bronze Age and more pottery from the Sturry Hill gravel-pits, and a burial-ground near Stonerocks Farm showed that there was an Iron Age settlement of Belgic Celts (who gave Canterbury its pre-Roman name of Durovemum) from the end of the 2nd Century BC. All this evidence indicates that human habitation of some kind existed on the north bank of the River Stour, on Sturry’s site, for hundreds and thousands of years. When the Romans arrived, they built Island Road (the A28) to connect Canterbury, the local tribal capital, with the ferry to the Isle of Thanet, with a branch to their fort at Reculver.

The most important era for Sturry, determining its future shape, size, function and name, was that part of the early 5th century when the beleaguered Romano-Britons brought in Frisians and Jutes as mercenaries to help them fight against invading Picts and Scots, and rewarded them with land. Some of them settled near Sturry: their cemetery was found at Hersden. Then in the mid 5 Century, Kent was re-organised into lathes, or districts. Sturry was the first; Stour-gau, meaning district or lathe on the Stour. The lathe was bounded by the Stour as far as Canterbury in the North by the sea, and farther south as distant as Wye.

The remains of a large village water mill lie near the parish church, and the High Street retains some charming historic buildings. The village virtually adjoins one of the smallest towns in England, Fordwich, where there are further interesting buildings, including the historic Town Hall. Fordwich itself is smaller in size than Sturry. A rare survival, a small granary, constructed with wooden weather-boards is located at Blaxland Farm and has nine staddle stones supporting it. A barn from Vale Farm, Calcott has been re-erected at the Museum of Kent Life, Sandling. A 16th Century manor house and oasthouse, built in 1583 and which belonged to St Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury still stand in Sturry village beside the medieval tithe barn – although they have all been incorporated into the King School after they were sold by the widow of Lord Milner in 1925.

Since the 1960s a large number of satellite housing estates have been built on the north side of the village, mostly in former woodland, which have turned Sturry into one of the major dormitary villages for Canterbury. Nonetheless, the village is still overwhelmingly rural, with fields for arable farming and livestock grazing, and large amounts of coppice woodland. A number of market gardens can also be found in the countryside around the village. Large and deep quarries are still worked on the edge of the village, with the old workings flooded to provide recreational lakes used primarily for fishing.

During the Second World War, Sturry was one of the most badly bombed villages in England, the greater part of the High Street being destroyed by a parachute mine in 1941 during the Baedeker Blitz, killing 15 people of which 7 were children aged 12 and under.[1] One of these was a little girl who had been to the bakers’ and whose body was recovered still clutching the bag of buns she had bought.[2] The same aircraft dropped another bomb, but this landed amongst the allotments. In the book, Letters to Sturry, it is recorded that on Wednesday, 28 August 1940, there were eight separate air raid warnings and on ‘Battle of Britain Day’, 15 September 1940, a German Dornier bomber plane, (Aircraft 2651, 3rd Staffel, Kampfgeschwader 76), crash-landed in a field below Kemberland Wood near the Sarre Penne stream. Three of the five crew were killed and were firstly buried in Sturry Cemetery but then re-interred in the late 1960s into the German war cemetery at Cannock Chase.

Nonetheless a number of interesting buildings remain intact in Sturry, including St Nicholas parish church, which is predominantly Norman in style, with the oldest parts dating to about 1200. The Manor House, built in 1583, is now the junior school of The King’s School, Canterbury.

My grandmother survived the bombing of Sturry and her oldest brother has many stories to tell of German planes flying over head during the war. While England may be more progressive and socialist than in previous decades, it is still very much a capitalist society, and thrives off innovation and technologies. It should be no surprise then that I get very unnerved when I hear people supporting wars in the middle east, and check points at highways in the US. I find this to be fascism 101 and it is something which makes older generations shudder, especially my grandparents. My grandfather still remembers a V2 rocket flying alongside his fathers car while they were driving home one day, and pulling off onto the side of the road, waiting for the bomb to drop in the distance and explode.

I am feeling very homesick right now because I know that Britain will shake off the stupidity of socialism in good time, and will continue to educate its populace in the traditions of old, while teaching the importance of the sciences, math and good English. I fear that America in reaction to socialism from the left, will careen hard to the right and pick up the same failed philosophies of Adolf Hitler during the 1930’s in response to communism.

I don’t particularly consider myself a patriot of either nation, at least not in the traditional statist sense. I don’t blindly support the flag of either nation, but I am very proud of each nation’s history. I love my British heritage, and I love the constitution and values of my adopted nation.

I simply want to live in a free world, and self determine what is best for me. I want to make my own living, and not have others tell me what I can and cannot do. So long as we don’t go out of our way to hurt others, why should we be stopped from acting off our own accord?

I am beginning to care less and less about politics, it is simply a means to an end. The US is rife with corrupt politicians, and the only way to fix that is to learn about it, flush out the bad ones by replacing them, and find all the goodness that you can within yourself. Actions speak louder than words. It is not so much what you believe in that counts, it is the way that you treat others.

It is far more important to live well, educate yourself, and provide a good example than to simply point out others and call them stupid. We teach our kids by setting a good example, so why shouldn’t we live and talk to others in such a manner?

A home is created on values, and by gritting our teeth through the hard times. We must never forget our history, and we must always learn from the mistakes of the past. The world will be a much better place if we can learn to be happy and advance ourselves and enjoy life to the best degree possible, even if the rest of the world is falling apart. The world is built and rebuilt by those who look toward the future. It is up to each of us as individuals to make it a good one.

2 responses to “Homesick

  1. I know there isn’t much I can say about the act of missing your home country as I still live and probably always will here in America (or wherever you are ) 🙂 but I do know that even tho the tides of the corner may seem high, more often than not they are much smaller when they finally come up close. Everything can change, and nothing can too. Its all about embracing the little things we have everyday and making all of those count to add memories into our life bank that we can never forget. I am here for you. Always have been and always will be. No matter what happens, as long as we keep ties with the people that matter most in our lives, distance will never sever our souls.

    “If you’re a bird, I’m a bird.”

    I love you.

  2. America is getting ready to go through some of the tough times that England has seen many times over its life. America still being young was foolish in its belief that it could lower its guard, but it did, and the result is where we are. But I don’t live under a dictator. There will be heads on a pike before that ever happens.

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