Budgles blaring above the cannons! Twenty-five Eggs McMuffin to go! Vacuum cleaners at 70 percent off!
Just the names! How they ring out through time and legend, all the way across the Atlantic: Appomattox, Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, Bull Run, Arby's, Hardee's, Roy Rogers, McDonald's, Pancake House, Sambo's, Donut House and Pizza Hut, where "the small pizza is a two-er by English standards," says Valmais Holt, who with her husband, Maj. Tonie Holt, leads busloads of Britishers on battlefield tours, from "The Longest Day: D-Day Normandy Beaches, 4 days in France" to, just now, "Battlefields of the American Civil War."
Touring, after all, is a British tradition verging on holy obiligation, as recorded in everything from "The Canterbury Tales" -- to Dr. Livingstone, I presume. They travel with an at-home calm that leaves the famous impression of unflappability and stiff upper lip.
Of course, being from Britain, they're guaranteed better food and weather wherever they go.
There are 25 of them, including the Holts, and just now they're bracing for both Manassas battlefield and the Manassas Sambo's.
And Valmais Holt is talking about the fare at Pizza Hut. "It's a pizza, my goodness, it must be this big," she says. "Of course, by evening we're all crying out for vegetables."
"America," says the major, looking trim in safari suit, "is a fantastic tourist attraction for Europeans, but you don't adverstise. You're got a thing called the U.S. Travel Service in London, and I've heard rumors you may close it. You'd be cutting off the arm that should be waving the flag!"
Especially the Confederate flag.
"And to your left is Henry Hill, where Stonewall Jackson made his stand," Maj. Holt announces on the public address system in the bus, after cutting into a tape of "Songs of the Blue and the Gray."
War whoops! Rebel yells!
"No one wants to take the part of the Union soldiers," says Geoffrey Goodyear, of Worthing, Sussex, who prefers, himself, to play a Confederate private in the 55th Virginia re-enactment regiment he belongs to in England.
A Civil War reginment in England? Indeed, complete with muskets, cannons, weekend battles.
"There's about 300 of us," says Goodyear. It turns out there are Civil War regiments in Belgium and Germany, too. In England they even have costume balls with the women done up in crinolined gowns, Scarlett O'Hara style, the Confederacy having the appeal of both feudalism and underdoggery.
No one wants to play the Union side?
"No one but people of low intelligence," soffs a Yorkshireman named Marc Mills, but then Mills is always saying things like that in his Yorkshire accent, which sounds as though his tongue is stapled to his lower lip and he's got a bad cold. Mills gets another laugh by saying he much prefers American women to the ones at home.
Asked why, he says: "Thas got a kite like a bag o' spanners," meaning that Yorkshire women have faces like bags of wrenches.
Mills wears a cowboy hat.
Geoffrey Goodyear, cheering as the bus climbs the hill where the Union lost the first big battle of the Civil War, Wears Confederate kepi cap plus T-shirt reading "The South Will Rise Again!"
And in Goodyear's bag is the Confederate infantryman's jacket he wears at the skirmishes they have back in Sussex, cannons, rebel yells and all.
"I tried to persuade him not to bring it," says Elaine Beadle, also of Worthing, Sussex.
She has brought her umbrella instead -- "I'm not going to risk getting sunstroke again." With curls hanging by her temples and eyes that droop at the corners, she is wonderfully English.
She is also Goodyear's fiancee ever since Appomattox, a passenger confides as the bus pulls into the Visitor Center parking lot. "Geoffrey said if Lee surrendered there, so could he."
"I didn't say that," Goodyear says. "We had it planned for months. We brought the ring over with us."
His fiancee lifts it to view: Three diamonds in an antique setting.
Love! War! Plus the Thick 'n' Chewy Taco Pizza, the Double R Bar Burgers, and the appliances: "I saw a cleaner for $69! It would have been 70 pounds in England," says an admiring Donald Sellers, who with his son Raymond is on his second battlefield tour led by the Holts -- you can tell by the two black dots on their name tags. Five tours and you get a gold bar.
Ten tours, and who knows, maybe the Queen would mention you in the Birthday Honors List; 20 tours and you'd get all the McChicken sandwiches you could eat.
They unload into the skillet heat of the battlefield parking lot, this jolly crew, this England: a lawyer, an electrician, a BBC announcer, a postal service safety officer, only five of the 25 in the re-enactment group, the rest just on holiday, seven battlefields plus Washington, D.c., in 11 days.
They file inside to see the slide show. No confusion, never a head count, nobody ever straggling at a souvenir stand.
Besides the Confederate caps plus one coonskin cap, they seem to be big on either brand-new jeans or clothing made of some kind of mutant polyester. Instamatics are optional.
The Rebel stand is also optional.
"We don't all take the Confederate side. That's all I want to say," says Paul Firth of Pogg Myers Farm, Bullace Trees Lane, Roberttown, Liversedge, West Yorkshire.
They enter a little auditorium. They all seem to sit down at once, blinking out of pale, big-boned faces at a screen where a slide show plus a terse baritone announcer recreate the strife, the pageantry, etc. Then on to another slide show explaining the tactics, bars of light stuttering toward each other in the dark.
Back outside, one Park Service guide introduces yet another Park Service guide, a young woman named Corey Giesecke. She seems to have an endless fund of anecdotes about the battle, personal quirks such as Stonewall Jackson riding around with hand holding lemon aloft, the lemon for his digestion, the hand aloft for his circulation.
She says that various aspects of the battle were "really neat," a locution for the Britisher to file as a verbal souvenir of the States.
Valerie Perry, who says she "loves the weather here -- the hotter it is, the more I like it," nevertheless slumps in the shadow of the statue of Stonewall Jackson while she listens to the lecture.
"I try to keep my head out of the sun between 11 and 2," she says.
She also says she might like to emigrate, and live in Richmond.
She is astonished to learn her questioner has never been to Richmond.
"But you live so close! It's wonderful the pace of life is so show there."
She expected a different America, "cars chasing each other around, cops having shoot-outs like the television shows. We haven't seen any shoot-outs." h
Then again, they weren't born yesterday. Says Roland Stebbings: "I don't believe everything I see in 'Kojak.' I take it with a pinch."
None of this serves to explain why Britishers would take interest in the American Civil War. After all, now many Americans fly to England to wander around English civil war battlefields dressed up as Oliver Cromwell?
Then again: "That war was so polite," says Elaine Beadle. "They'd meet with their armies, someone would say, 'Begin,' and then they'd stop for supper. The American Civil War had more emotion."
Maj. Holt, all soldierly bearing, hands braced on hips, striding about as if he's extending each pace about an inch beyond where it would normally fall (Sandhurst, then regular army for more than 20 years), will say that the American Civil War is interesting because it was the first to have trench warfare and ironclad ships; it was so well photographed; it was the last of the chivalric wars and the first of the modern ones. And so on.
This explains nothing. But then, the questioner would do well to notice that these same people have devised a "Bottlefield Tour" of Germany, slaughter and vintages side by side, with ininerary items such as "tour to Nuremburg, scene of the massive National Socialist Rallies. Afternoon visit to wine cellars. . . ."