Summary – day 24 – San Diego: Oh, to be in England

San Diego, Sunday 18 September

It’s a beautiful warm and sunny day in San Diego. It seems strange to think that in just over 24 hours we’ll be back in the UK – and in the autumn!

Making the most of the summer sun while we can, we spent the day in Balboa Park, the largest art and culture park in the world. It was created as part of two international exhibitions in 1915-16 and 1935-36. Today it houses gardens, an amazing lath botanical house (to keep it cool – an extraordinary idea for northern Europeans! Balboa Park has 25 museums and galleries, including the San Diego Air and Space Museum, (with the Apollo 9 command [landing] module and moon rocks), and the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, (Mike is more than a little excited at the thought of these last two venues!).

Among the buildings in Balboa Park is a collection of cottages known as the ‘Houses of Pacific Relations’. Each cottage attempts to represent the culture, (as decided by each cottages’ society) of a different nation – many of them European – including France, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Eire, Scotland and, of course, England.

Each Sunday on a rotating basis, one of the cottage societies puts on a day of celebrations to represent their country. Today was the turn of the Austrian cottage. Austria, (through the interpretation of the USA) includes lots of people wearing national costumes: the men wore woollen knee-length ‘socks’, which had been adapted with a separate section for the calf. I assume this made them a little more comfortable in the sweltering San Diego heat. Food was, of course wurst and apple strudel (not eaten together). Entertainment first consisted of lots of men doing a sort of wood-chopping dance whilst yodelling and slapping their leather leiderhosen-clad buttocks; then a women singing, (if you could call it singing), an Austrian love song; then a couple, (further from Christopher Plumber and Julie Andrews you could not find), re-enacting the scene from the Sound of Music where Captain von Trap dances the ländler with Maria. Mike, who is not very keen on Austria (largely based on its role in both WW1 and WW2), muttered something about how he thought that the people staffing the Polish cottage were beginning to look a little nervous and strode off, (Hitler was Austrian).

We finished out tour of the House of Pacific Relations/Cottages by visiting the England cottage. My oh my, what a vision of England we found! Almost every wall of the cottage was decorated with royal family memorabilia! Flags of Will and Kate adorned the archway, while a spooky doll of Princess Diana (Princess Barbie-Di … Darbie?!), was encased in a glass dome, along with numerous magazines with pictures of Lady Di on the cover arranged around the doll in the dome. The few exhibits that didn’t involve the royal family included a cricket bat, a picture of a pearly king and queen, a picture of a penny-farthing made from a pre-decimal penny and half-penny. There were also, perhaps inevitably, tea and some cucumber sandwiches offer. We suggested that more up-to-date additions to the cottage could include a jar of Marmite! The (fairly young) guy staffing the cottage was married to a British women, which is why he was involved in helping out there. He was quite keen to try and update the exhibit as well, suggesting they should play God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols. I think our suggestion of a jar of Marmite is more likely to be approved by the England Cottage Society – but only just, it might still be a bit too modern!

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