I last visited the U.K. in 1981. Between my junior and senior years at the College of Knowledge in Virginia, I attended the College’s summer program at Christ’s College, Cambridge. Each year three professors from the College would take a group of students to Christ’s. We lived and studied in and traveled from Christ’s for five weeks. Every weekend I took off with friends for destinations such as Blenheim, Windsor, Tintern Abbey, and, yes, Edinburgh. One of my friends had a party in her room the last night that included a group of British students. It ended in a chaos of trash and overturned furniture and a chair thrown out a window by young Lord So-and-So. I’m afraid it didn’t do much good for international relations when American students stuck to the story; young Lord So-and-So received some sort of censure or punishment of a temporary nature. Our professors were relieved.
The head of the program was an elderly, to my eyes, Classics professor whose specialty was Roman Britain. (He was probably the same age I am now. Horrors!) He looked a bit like a walrus. He was quite a nice fellow, but that didn’t stop bad college girls from sitting at the back of the tour bus and writing funny songs about him, including one to the tune of "Blue Moon"–
Ward Jones (Ward Jones, Ward Jones)
pontificating to us
and making such a big fuss
while we are here on the bus
(doobie doobie doo)
He’s a good guy.
The other professors had their children along. I thought they were very old, too. My favorite cranky history professor was there. He was the professor who offered me his office to read in when I had an hour between history classes. He was also the professor who protested my father’s salary as dean of the law school at the College of Knowledge. Daddy didn’t tell me until many years later, but he was pleased that the same person who complained about the priority placed on the law faculty was always kind to me. (I suspect they had their political differences, too.)
If you are as old as I am, you will remember the events of early August, 1981, and their impact on travel. It was the summer of the air traffic controllers’ strike. We weren’t sure we would be able to get home from England at all. History Professor looked into bringing his family back on the QE2. I was flying with my friend Cone. (I will not tell you what my nickname was, but suffice to say it was not as cute as Songbird.) We had seats at the very back of the plane, in the smoking section. After our flight boarded, it was many, many hours before we were allowed to take off, and in the meantime on this hot summer day, the flight attendants opened various exit doors and the passengers were allowed to light up.
It was a long afternoon.
Our flight arrived at Dulles many, many hours late, in the middle of the night. My father left my mother at home and hired a limousine to drive from Historic Billsburg to northern Virginia. The driver was a favorite of Daddy’s. I’m sure they had a big time on their midnight ride. I know we were two relieved girls when no one asked questions about the bag a cute boy from our class asked us to carry while he went backpacking for a week. My father hit the ceiling when he heard Cone had agreed to be responsible for it. The contraband it contained? Bar towels, bar towels and more bar towels.
I was 20, the age #1 Son is now. His play opened on Monday at Fringe. It was reviewed today in the Scotsman. We can’t wait to see it and him. I hope his trip will be as memorable as mine, minus the smoking section.