Bush’s trip

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 31, 2003

a reminder

of England


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Joan Gandy

The Natchez Democrat

As President Bush spends a few days in England this week, it’s natural for anyone fortunate enough to have visited that beautiful land to reminisce about its charms.

Indeed, London takes the breath away with its picturesque streets and sweeping green parks. Yet another English city comes to mind this week for one who years ago sensed in it so many similarities to her hometown of Natchez.

On a Sunday in the fall 12 years ago, Bath, England, glistened in the rare sunny day, and the American tourist fell in love with the city, spellbound by the ancient limestone buildings and the melodious bells clanging from the 15th-century Bath Abbey.

Most stores were closed Sunday morning. But the news shop had doors open wide to display copies of the London Times and a long row of other regional newspapers and magazines, much like the old Lambert’s news stand on North Canal Street. The friendly proprietor chatted with customers, many of whom talked about the weather &045; clear blue skies and temperatures in the 70s.

Horses clopped nearby, pulling carriages loaded with tourists, who listened intently to descriptions of how the old Roman town built in the 6th century gave way to the graceful Georgian-style city that sweeps up into the Cotswold Hills with such a glow of golden stone that English author Jane Austen said she could not bear the city because of the glare when the sun hit it.

The Bristol-Avon River runs beside the town, a quiet river, unlike the Mississippi. Slow-moving cruise boats easily ran up and down the Bristol-Avon, with a guide pointing out historical sites.

Ducks, geese and swans live on the river beside the bustling city and cohabitate peacefully with the small boats and fishermen.

Sunday seemed a popular day for walks by the river and around the park nearby. Some people had come to the town center to watch a military parade held in honor of the city’s militia, which had taken part in Operation Desert Storm and was being disbanded.

Double-decker tour buses thrived on the beautiful sunny day, luring most of the riders to the top tiers, roofless and therefore open to the air and the stunning views from streets that wound high above the abbey and the heart of town &045; past cricket games at a local college and stately mansions where aristocratic families had lived for generations.

The afternoon highlight was the community band concert. The immaculate park by the river, centered with a Victorian-style bandstand that was another reminder of Natchez, was the scene of the concert. The uniformed volunteer band marched single file across the green lawn and into the bandstand, where they played for two hours &045; John Philip Sousa, Dixieland jazz and the obligatory couple of Beatles tunes, among others.

Older couples ate ice cream cones and bathed in the sun, snoozing and people watching intermittently. Young couples sat on blankets in a sea of dancing toddlers who threw popcorn and bits of hotdog buns to the pigeons.

The band ended the concert with the British anthem, the tune of which is the same as &8220;My Country ‘Tis of Thee.&8221; With no disrespect meant to the queen, the American tourist sang quietly to herself, &8220;Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.&8221; Somehow it fit the occasion.

Joan Gandy

is community editor of The Democrat. She can be reached at 445-3549 or by e-mail at