England: Pilgrims, Puritans, and Witches

England: Pilgrims, Puritans, and Witches
The First Thanksgiving


With Thanks 

Since Thanksgiving is this week, I decided to focus on England.

So many of our traditions – like apple pie and the language we speak — come from England. English Puritans and Pilgrims colonized America. These two groups of English immigrants had very different agendas ( Puritans vs. Pilgrims), yet it was their combined perseverance in a strange and harsh land that gave birth to America.

For that, I’d like to say thanks.

About Richard

My contact for this post comes from fellow Chicago Now blogger, Leslie Kahn. Leslie takes on many interesting issues in her popular blog, Soapbox Momma. I am thankful to Leslie, who is married to a Brit, for putting me in touch with her British nephew, Richard. Richard is in the British Army and currently lives in Portsmouth, England. He told me that in 1944, the last witch to be imprisoned in England was living in Portsmouth at the time. More below.

My Conversation With Richard 

What does a typical day look like for you?

My alarm goes off at 6 a.m. and I’m on the road an hour later. The worst part of my day is battling the traffic on the way to work. I’m currently helping to recruit people into the British Army. It’s good fun with lots of visits to colleges, festivals and fun events. After work I may go to the gym or walk along the beach.

Along the beach in Portsmouth, England

Along the beach in Portsmouth, England

Describe what you see outside your window.

If I look left there’s the Portsmouth Football Club stadium at the end of the road. It’s certainly not the grandest of stadiums and there’s constant talk of moving it. I live in a road of terraced housing which is pretty common in this city. Looking right there’s a biker gang’s club house. They’re mainly ok. Even the one who decided it’d be a good idea to tattoo his whole face blue!

Motorcycles on the street where Richard lives

Motorcycles on the street where Richard lives

Outside my office window I can see an enormous container ship docking. Work goes on here 24/7 loading and unloading giant ships from around the world.

Ship docked in Portsmouth

Ship docked in Portsmouth

What do you want Americans to know about England?

The English are quite proud about England but have a hard time celebrating it in the ways the Scots, Welsh, and Irish do.

What is the most unusual or special thing about your city/village?

We’re an island city, and quite proud of that. The last person to be imprisoned for witchcraft was living here during WWII. Britain’s last witch was sent to jail for releasing secrets about the sinking of a ship at a seance before the government had told the public.

What myth or stereotype about Britain would you like to dispel?

The majority of us don’t live a Downton Abbey type existence.

What is your opinion/impression of the United States?

I still view it as the land of opportunity. Not entirely sure about your liberal gun laws and lack of health provision, though.

What is your opinion/impression of Chicago?

Windy. Never been. I hear it gets very cold in the winter.

What is your greatest fear?

All this strife in the Middle East is causing a lot of tension between previously harmonious communities at home. Britain is a tolerant company but political parties and groups on the far ends of the spectrum seem to want to recreate a Britain that has never really existed. I want us all to go back to living together happily. It scares me how easily people will believe things posted on the internet without looking past the sensationalist tag line and photo.

What/who gives you hope?

The kids. It’s down to them now.

Who inspires you?

Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. And my housemate who’s a nurse. She deals with death and sadness on a daily basis and never gets down. She makes our house a very happy place to return to.

What do you love the most about your country?

The freedom it gives me. Great Britain is a truly beautiful country. I’ve just got back from the Scottish Highlands. It’s incredible up there.

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