I just have a lot to say.
February 22nd, 2014 by

Pinch Me, Mrs. Patmore

Mama probably had to mortgage the farm, but she let me spend the spring semester of my junior year in college at the then-new Samford University Study Centre in London, England. (Now, it is called Daniel House.) The students took classes through Samford and lived and traveled with a dozen other Samford undergrads, chaperoned by a Samford professor. Our tuition included two weekend trips (to Paris and Dublin) and a weekly trip to the West End theatre. We watched Evita before it closed and Les Miserables soon after it opened. We attended Guys and Dolls performed by a bunch of Brits and Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap. We saw one of Michael Crawford’s last performances in Barnum, before he starred in Phantom of the Opera, which did not begin until after we returned home. I still have a playbill from each of the shows and a cassette soundtrack of several of them.

I remember gathering frequently for a basket of French fries at lunchtime in a pub around the corner from the Centre. It had an American name. I think it was Lone Star.

I spent most of my time with Pat and Little Pat. “Pat” would not allow us to dub her as “Big Pat” merely because “Little Pat” was little. I have lost touch with both of them, but if I were to see Little Pat today, I would hug her and introduce her to my children as Little Pat. They would have to call her “Miss Little Pat.”

I remember studying occasionally and viewing BBC television frequently. We visited all the sites and rolled our eyes at American tourists. (We were students–not tourists!) We learned early on that Americans are quickly spotted by their shoes. Brits don’t wear tennis shoes. (Think Harry Potter.) We bought some ugly shoes at a flea market and ditched the white leather high top Reeboks. We whispered to each other on the tube, because Americans are loud.

Mr. Tait was an Englishman who was the liaison for Samford and the London centre. Since we spent the majority of our time in London with the other Samford students, he wanted to introduce us to some “real” English people.  He arranged an out-of-town weekend for us through friends.

We toured the English countryside. We went to Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral. I remember seeing the grave of child who was “born in March and died in January of the same year” (on the Julian calendar). We went to New Forest National Park, near Nottingham, and wished for a glimpse of Robin Hood.

It was like an old-fashioned youth choir tour. We divided into groups of 2 or 3 and stayed in the homes of members of the local Baptist church. I remember talking late into the night and swapping American/English stories with the delightful couple who hosted me for the weekend. They liked to listen to me drag out my vowels as much as I enjoyed their quick consonants. I remember eating beef stroganoff for dinner and tackily picking out the mushrooms. They lived in a cottage with a thatched roof. I remember freezing all night long.

On Sunday morning, we went to church with our new friends.  The old church had typical English cathedral architecture; however, the modern members felt the high ceilings were wasted space, so they had the church divided in half horizontally and had a floor built over the sanctuary. I remember going upstairs to Sunday school.

What I didn’t remember was the name of the town.

Recently, I was reminiscing with my daughters about my European adventure. Nostalgic, I pulled out my scrapbook. I savored the dark, almost 30-year-old (gasp!) pictures. Since my camera was a cheap Instamatic, I bought postcards everywhere that I went. Fortunately, I bought one at the town while we were there.

Imagine my astonishment.

I honestly had no idea. Not a tidbit of a recall. Not a morsel of a remembrance. 


Looky where I’ve been.




2 Responses to “Pinch Me, Mrs. Patmore”
  1. Laura Jordan says

    Hi Celeste, I am Susan Morrow’s sister, Laura. I have “followed” you some on Facebook and enjoyed your writings! When I read the last few sentence of this story and saw the photos, I almost fell out of my chair!

    Thank you for entertaining us with your musings. I do want to purchase your book (I will let Susan pick me up a copy).

    Hope you ladies enjoy your “Downton Time” tonight … I will certainly be glued to the television tonight at 8:00 p.m.!

    • says

      Nice to meet you, Laura! My twin daughters and Shelby are the same age, so Susan and I were good friends before all this delightful Downton nonsense started. Thanks for being easily amused!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.