To me there are two Englands. There is the one of my childhood in Holywell, which sometimes doesn’t seem like it wasn't in the same century. And there is the England I take friends to see when I go back for visits every decade or so.
In the late 1950s, Holywell was a quiet little town, much like something out of a romanticized novel of the 1800s. There was only the dirt road in front of the houses with their thatched roofs, the swans and geese commanding the banks of the River Ouse, and Mr. Charlie, the green grocer whose van promised a new stash of Fruitgums, Sherbet Fountains, and barley sugar. Miss Wilma, my nanny, had a beautiful garden. It wasn’t till I was older than I made the connection between the porcelain toilet out in the hedge and those gorgeous, well-fed roses. Maybe if I had understood it back then, that seat wouldn’t have seemed so cold after brushing off the snow!
The England I see now is London, with all the shops, markets, and landmarks my friends are seeing for the first time. It's a town of excitement, bustling taxis, the world's best Tube, and theatres of world reknown. It seems odd to be enjoying Greek, Lebanese, and Korean food in a place I tend to associate with tea, scones, and fish & chips, but the all the food is wonderful.
But on my millennium visit for Guy Fawkes, it once again felt like home. The smell of burnt gunpowder laced my pints that night as I looked across the Thames. And the next day I was thrilled to find that only the faces of the patrons have changed in the old Ferry Boat Inn, where my father taught me to play mumbley peg because I was too small to throw a dart well. I am sure that Juliet still finds their hearth warm, though I still have never seen her ghost.