"What we meant in going for
those red-coats was this: We had always governed ourselves,
and we always meant to. They didn't mean we should."
-Levi Preston -member of Boston's Danvers Militia.
An unassuming red line lay ahead
of us on the sidewalk. Boston's Freedom trail; a winding
line following the path of independence through the city's
crooked and narrow streets. For a while Matthew and Cameron
skipped along the trail as it coiled leisurely past historic
buildings and burial grounds, to sites where patriots had
gathered, and resistance to British rule had grown and flourished.
Then the red line continued through ports and posts, tourist
areas and business centres. But our boys didn't want to
follow the red line for long. They wanted to go see the
big red dog.
Forget the red line we want the red dog
They'd started their worship of
the all-hallowed Clifford as soon as we entered the terminus
at Boston station. The dozy looking dog was plastered all
over leaflets for the city's Children's Museum. There, apparently,
a special display room carried a giant plastic effigy of
the TV cartoon character. As Cameron had assumed the identity
of Clifford the dog for much of the trip, he was understandably
excited about meeting his alter ego.
"Woof woof," he said, clutching a huge pile of leaflets
he'd swiped. "Want to go see Clifford."
"Me too, We love Clifford, we love Clifford" shouted Matthew,
"and there's an M Place next door to the Clifford Museum.
We love the M place."
"How can he possibly know that?" I asked Stuart.
"The M place, the M place, where everyone gets a toy," the
kids chanted their favourite song, and once again we gave
thanks that we had never revealed to them that the real
name of the 'M' Place. Their public chanting of the McDonalds
jingle would have been too embarrassing for words.
It was all the fault of the Puritans.
Revolution that is, not McDonalds. Arriving on American
shores in 1630, they sought religious liberty in Boston.
Richer and better educated than colonists elsewhere, they
set themselves up in self government, and owing no debt
to anyone, ran their own affairs. Of course, we Brits didn't
like that much, and after a war with the French (yes, British
hatred of the French goes back much further than the World
Cup) the royal treasury was a bit low in dosh.
"Raise the money from the peasants in the colonies," the
advisers advised. "Taxation without representation," said
the peasants in the colonies, who failed to show the crown
the respect it seemingly deserved. So they had a riot, and
eventually calm was restored. That is until the fight broke
out about tea. Well everyone knows the importance of tea
in the hearts and minds of us British.
The red line leads to freedom Puritans... in other words
the M place and the big red dog
"Right Matthew. You're a Puritan."
Stuart said, striding along the red line holding his copy
of The Complete Guide To Boston's Freedom Trail.
"Am I? Really?" Matthew seemed quite excited by his new
"I'm Clifford, woof woof," said Cameron.
"Can we go see Clifford now?"
"No Cameron, not until we get to the end of the red line."
"Dad, I want to start being a Puritan now," Matthew said
happily. "I love being a Puritan. What's a Puritan?"
"Er, well in this case, it was a group of people who left
England because they didn't like the church."
"I know, church is boring. You can't fight or play with
toys or climb on the seats."
"And you have to sing, yuk." agreed Cameron.
"Anyway, they escaped from England and set up new lives
here. Imagine that you and Cameron are the Puritans and
you came all the way to Boston on a boat."
"Ok Dad, that sounds fun. Cameron, you are a Puritan too."
"Right then, so there you are you two Puritans, having a
good time, hanging out in Boston, enjoying the Clifford
Museum and the M place."
"And now imagine that me and Mummy are the King and Queen
of England. We still live in England but we want your money.
We want money every time you visit the M Place. And we want
to tax you every time you go to see Clifford."
"But I haven't got any money." said Matthew.
"Right, no more Clifford or M place for you," said Stuart
royally, clearly getting into his kingly role.
"Want to go see Clifford now," Cameron wailed, seeing his
chances of meeting with his idol slowly slipping away.
"Here's where many of your friends
are buried," Stuart told the kids in the Granary Burial
"Samuel Adams…" he read from the book.
"The beer guy?" I perked up.
"No the revolutionary."
"The Mum and Dad of Benjamin Franklin…and….Mother Goose!"
"What a strange collection of friends you Puritans have,"
I said to Matthew and Cameron, who were running off to try
and find Mother Goose, to see if she'd laid an egg on the
"Woof, woof. Like geese," said Cameron, running over the
graves of his fellow patriots.
The search for Mother Goose
"This is the site of the Boston
Tea Party, where you Puritans get so angry about the taxes
that you dump all the tea into the water. Imagine all that
tea floating about in there," Stuart briefed the kids, who
looked gravely down into the sea.
"I see it. I see it," Cameron squealed.
"I can't see any. There's no tea bags in there." Matthew
said firmly after studying the sea for while.
As the Boston Tea Party formed
the turning point of the protest that led up to revolution,
the Boston Freedom Trail people are of course quite proud
of this notoriety and include the site in the tour. But
the original ship is off limits until 2006 due to a fire.
Another replica ship was too far for the kids to walk to,
so to avoid spoiling their interest in the story, we took
a diversion and led them onto a nearby Dutch clipper that
had sailed into Boston for a week or two.
"No tax no tea. NO tax no tea," Stuart suddenly shouted
at the kids.
"That's what all you Puritans say."
"No tax, no tea, no M Place," shouted Matthew.
"No tax, no tea, no Clifford, woof." shouted Cameron in
his angriest voice.
A group of Dutch sailors looked on in bemusement.
"So you dress up as Indians…."
"Why Indians Dad?"
"To scare the crew I guess, and maybe to disguise yourselves.
Then you jump on to the boat and throw the tea into the
water." Stuart helped the kids throw chests of imaginary
tea into the sea. They completed the task with glee. "Forty
six tons of tea leaves," shouted Stuart. "That's enough
for 18,523,000 cups of char."
"What have you done? What's happened to my tea" I asked
in my best Queen Of England voice.
"It's Ok Mummy," said Cameron, coming over to stroke my
face. "You love coffee. Shall we go to the M place and get
"The M place, the M place where everyone gets a toy. Don't
want to be a Puritan any more," said Matthew, suddenly fed
up of this tea party.
We gave up on the trail. We'd done
only a small part, but enough for us to get some of a sense
of the history of the city, and enough for two small boys
to tire of it. We had laid down our laws, and the Puritans
had given it a fair go before their quiet revolution brought
them escape from the tyranny of the red line; to visit the
museum, meet the red dog, and have a cuppa in the M Place.
A brief taste of freedom for two small people who hate tea,
love M places and occasionally think they're Clifford the