Well, it’s another July 14 – all day. You know what that means today is? It’s Bastille Day:
A bit more “history.” Please don’t run for cover. I think you’ll find this amusing – especially given this is 4th of July weekend in the U.S.:
That excerpt is from a recent biography. The first part is from a 1782 letter written by the subject while he was traveling; the second half is from an 1811 letter he also wrote. In 1782 the writer had made his way across Sweden (including Finland, which was part of Sweden then) while returning from Russia.
I mentioned it yesterday. I’m sure you’ve heard in recent days about the June 23 referendum in which 52 percent of U.K. voters chose to withdraw the United Kingdom from the European Union. It has been a controversial choice on those voters’ parts to say the least.
The British losing minority is furious. European Union officialdom is irate. European heads of government are – if not publicly, likely privately – angry. And it seems onlookers in much of the rest of the world are baffled.
A majority of its voters having made their wish known, the United Kingdom is, for the moment, essentially “a pariah state.” This is now “the new normal.” It will likely last for some time to come.
A few miles from our house, stands this. I drove over there on Tuesday and had a walk around it. At the time, I was the only one there:
I’d been to it several times before. We even went to a Mass there several years ago. One is held there one day every year.
One of the challenges in fiction writing is putting yourself into someone else’s – usually quite a few someones – worldview. You have to be willing to see matters differently than you might otherwise. It may also call for espousing views that you may disagree with.
Recently my wife started doing customer service consulting work at a major airline. Naturally she has quickly had to pick up the company’s approach to it: good and bad. Yesterday, she shared with me some “highlights” from a Friday phone-in, in which staff from locations around the world addressed operational problems over the previous 24 hours and how they were/are handled.
That staff is understandably a varied, international bunch. A “Giuseppe” called in from Italy. “He sounded like you would expect,” she said.
A South African in Cape Town spoke a million miles an hour, she noted. Over what was at times also a poor phone connection, she said she had some trouble understanding him. “I had to keep asking him to repeat himself.”
And there was a guy in Mumbai (Bombay). “They handle mostly email and web inquiries there,” she told me.
It’s actually fascinating, she says. In just a few days so far, she’s learned a great deal about the internals of how an airline functions in customer service terms.
We take public safety essentially for granted nowadays. We all think nothing of driving alone at night, walking well-lit sidewalks, or cycling for carefree miles, as if it were all somehow the perpetual norm of the human existence. Yesterday, I was annoyed, writing here on how some seem determined to forget how we have evolved to this previously unparalleled and happy civilizational situation, and appear not to consider how fundamentally fragile it truly is.
Relatedly, we also tend to forget how long-lived and healthy we are and why we are. A large part of the reason for that isn’t down to “good genes” as it would have been for most of human history. We are assisted in great measure by the medical care we now also appear to take for granted.
Last night, the BBC’s “Grand Tours of Scotland” series focused on women travelers. It included a look at walking in the countryside and even took us to Gretna Green – where couples still “run off” to for marriage. It also briefly reviewed the time when women did not normally travel alone because they usually weren’t allowed to.
At one point, the presenter shared how 19th century women needed male chaperones, and in explaining that did so including a clear inference at how unnecessary and sexist that was, a “need” concocted by men purely to keep women in their place.