England is a compact country of cities, towns, villages, and rural areas that often come up right against each other – little “middle ground” between them. While driving, one minute you may find you’re in a town, and suddenly you are through it and in countryside. The change between urban and rural (and vice-versa) is sometimes startlingly abrupt.
“Endless” suburban subdivisions as one sees in parts of the U.S. are virtually non-existent here. Very few homes have American-sized backyards. People live much closer together, which is probably why they prize their boundary hedges, fences, and generally try to respect each other’s privacy.
One also tends to forget England can be hilly, and with that height sometimes you get a broad view you don’t expect. It sometimes could almost be a painting. For example, here’s our Hertfordshire village from a mile or so away, spread out below:
America’s top official in France from 1785-1789, forty-something Thomas Jefferson, came to believe U.S. diplomats should not be overseas more than about eight years at a stretch. He felt if they (and they were then only men) were, they would lose touch with events and opinions at home. As a result, they would eventually be incapable of representing America properly.
He grew concerned also about young men “without attachment” becoming “involved” with European women, and felt their being overseas too long made such “intimacy” almost inevitable. The young women they encountered in diplomatic and social circles (and who, in France and elsewhere on the continent, could speak English) were overwhelmingly aristocrats. He believed “relationships” with those women could damage those “impressionable” young men’s “republican” sentiments and alienate them from the outlooks of most of their fellow Americans at home.
A few years before, a 16 year old future U.S. president became rather “enthralled” by young women he met while visiting Sweden. Yes, it’s a shocker: An American teenage boy loose in Scandinavia notices girls. Yet in that he demonstrated Jefferson’s concerns were perhaps not groundless.
Then lacking the television, internet, etc., that we take for granted, one could see Jefferson’s point about being too far removed from home as well. It took three months minimum for a letter to travel from Europe and to receive a reply from America; and that was usually during the summer months. Far fewer ships risked crossing the Atlantic between December and March – and even navies weren’t keen on it if they could possibly put it off until spring.
I know it does not matter what someone like me says about something like this. And I know I wrote “nice” things about iPhones yesterday morning. And I do like my iPad and my “old” iPhone.
But I want to “note” this regardless. Yesterday afternoon I had a technology horror that, frankly, I have not had the likes of in a very long, long, long time. Immediately after, I did what we do nowadays at moments like that: I vented on Twitter:
What happened was this. I often use Notes on my always within reach iPad or iPhone for, well, “writing brainstorms” for my manuscripts. Sometimes, they are lengthy “notes.”
I wouldn’t have trouble making “that 9:30 lecture” this morning. I woke up at 4:30. I’m typing this now with a first coffee at just after 6 AM.
We know it isn’t just university students who’ve returned to school. We live on our Hertfordshire village’s high street, which is a busy stretch of road in the morning and late afternoon “rushes” (and it’s officially 30 MPH, and if some few idiots insist on speeding – as they do – they’ll be a speed camera here eventually because that’s how this country is). The rest of the day, it’s an unpredictable flow.
There’s also a bus stop right in front of our house. Mostly it’s only lightly used, with the exception of weekday mornings when a few dozen teens in the same school uniforms appear from every direction and congregate on the sidewalk (“pavement” in English) to wait for a bus that passes around 8 AM. They don’t generally have “yellow” school buses here in England; kids use the public buses. (At that, some American parents clutch their chests; but it is safe.)
I just got a text from my 18 year old niece. Her flight landed a little while ago in Belfast. She starts at university there on Monday.
How can she possibly be 18? Because that’s life for all of us. It’s the inevitable passage of time.
Thinking this morning about what I’ve worked on in recent days (examples are here and here) while the wife was away in Lisbon, and also in total over the last few months, I’m pleased for the moment at least.
Having finished another chapter, as I skimmed and re-read other more complete parts of that Conventions manuscript yesterday, briefly I’d disjointedly thought something along these lines:
You may have read by now that former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has had his email hacked. In emails dumped out for public consumption, various strong and private opinions are there for all to read. What has most caught media interest naturally are his personal views on the current major candidates for U.S president, and especially his, shall we say, “colorful” use of the English language several times.
We all write at times stupidly and unguardedly in email as if it were a private conversation. Happenings like this are reminders some say that we should perhaps save such opinions for the telephone (assuming that’s not being tapped). A quiet corner of a room whispering into an ear might be safest of all – although arranging that may prove difficult with someone who is NOT in that same room, of course.
Or we might also consider penning letters again as in… the eighteenth century! But even letters then were sometimes intercepted by third parties and published in unfriendly “news”papers. And governments read letters, too.
I had some “fun” yesterday after leaving you here. As I had noted in yesterday’s post, there’s always something that needs writing, or just more cleaning up. Aside from simply not wishing to write, there’s really no excuse for any author (or an aspiring one) to be idle.
The wife is off to Lisbon for two days again for work. I got back a little while ago from dropping her off at the airport. So I’m home alone… with the British spiders:
It’s been reported here and there in media that British homes are facing an incursion this autumn of LARGE spiders (as mating season begins). We spotted one walking down the fireplace the other day, and WOW you could’ve put a lead on it and named it. Yesterday, I found another potential “pet” in the small rubbish bin in the lounge… and was I glad I found it before my wife did. (A happening which she did not know about until she reads this post. 3,2,1…)