I really like the Brits. I cannot help myself. Stripped long ago of its status as a world power, Great Britain continues to contain proud, resolute and stalwart people who fight above their weight in world affairs and treat American visitors with respect and candor.
The week spent by my wife and me in Oxford, the Cotswolds and Dorset confirmed, if not enhanced, my fondness for people who face their national challenges with intelligence and grit.
And by the way, they are terrific hosts.
My affection for England began when I attended the University of Manchester in 1967-1968 after graduation from college. I found my British classmates engaging and opinionated. They were lively and friendly.
Then, in 1985, my wife and I met friends-to-be in Bath, England through a fellow officer in the Maryland Army National Guard. From that time on, these wonderful friends and we have traveled to Scotland, Italy and Paris, France. We keep in constant touch; emails can become political battlegrounds, but we enjoy the verbal/written combat.
Yesterday, we returned from seven days in Oxford and Dorset, including three days in Milton-on-Stour, near Gillingham in Dorset. The highlight was attending an Easter service at a small, comfortable 15th century church in Silton, which overlooks a lovely farm.
The Easter sermon, focusing on love and acceptance, was concise and meaningful. The priest projected a relaxed, conversational style that I found very appealing. As did the members of this historic Anglican Church—the message was joyful and optimistic.
When I think about the British people whom I have met, certain words come to mind: proud, gritty, determined and wise.
The response to the German blitz on London during World War II, the acceptance of Jewish children in response to the Nazi extermination, the stubbornness and determination displayed in leaving the European Union and the perspective gleaned from 1200 years of existence—enable me to think nearly unconditionally complimentary of the Brits.
Of course, a common language enhances the chance to establish relationships with folks living in a foreign country. Shared values also play a role. A natural kinship results.
A trip to the United Kingdom invariably provides a time for pleasure and learning. A culture centuries old opens up vistas of appreciation for an island country once the most powerful in the world—and now still a major player on the world stage with a respected voice.
My wife and I are always pleased to return home to the familiar and comfortable. Nonetheless, the seven-day immersion in England is good for the soul and the heart. Our good British friends offered gracious hospitality as well as strong friendship cultivated over 37 years.
I hope this is not our last trip to the United Kingdom. It is too precious an experience, too important for a lengthy absence.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.