NOW I’M BACK IN EUROPE
WHAT DIFFERENCES AM I NOTICING BETWEEN THE U.S AND EUROPE?
I have actually resolved not to write too much about the contrast until I have been back some time—and have reached some kind of equilibrium. Also my primary intellectual focus (as far as countries are concerned) will remain the U.S. for the foreseeable future—whether I’m living there or not, whether it is in decline or not.
Either way, it remains a Great Power, and interesting for that reason alone.
The story is the thing, as far as this writer is concerned, and it remains a great story—though I don’t know whether it should be entitled DECLINE & FALL OF A GREAT EXPERIMENT or THE GREAT AMERICAN TURNAROUND. Fascinating either way.
Being a great fan of Roman history, I always wanted to see Rome in its heyday. Since, I haven’t managed to lay my hands on a time-machine as yet, monitoring the U.S. remains my next option.
At present, I’m in the UK—after being away for well over three decades (about half my life). The place feels both strange and familiar. Great change has taken place over that time; but, superficially, much of it looks the same. I doubt I’ll feel that way when I see London again. When I was a kid in the 40s, you could still see extensive evidence of the WW II bombing. Now, when I look at photos, I can scarcely recognize the place.
Here are some observations of no great earth-shattering significance.
- I like the way the British have kept hedges and have relatively small fields. Hedges do take up land which could be used for crops, but they are invaluable for wildlife and look beautiful. I love the things. I am no fan of vast hedge-less fields and monoculture—and I’m not even sure it’s efficient. You can’t restore soil with fertilizer alone, so monoculture, which relies upon such such a method, produces food that is less and less nutritious, as the years go by—and pollutes the surrounding waterways with an excess of nitrates.
- Motorways (freeways) apart, some of the British roads are frighteningly narrow—to the point where two cars can scarcely pass. Sometimes, one car has to pull in and stop. Have I the nerve to drive on these things? Probably. Irish roads are little better, and I learned to drive on them.
- After decades of thinking I didn’t much like British beer, I have learned that I like bitter a great deal—a convenient discovery. Though I have never been much of a pub frequenter in the past, I find I now also like pubs, which I regard as a wonderful social institution. Sadly, British pubs are under considerable pressure.
- Although the UK is scarcely short of retail chains and big box stores, there still seem to be vastly more local shops—at least in this immediate area—which I like. When walking the dogs today (a new experience for me—and unexpectedly pleasant)—I noticed in my road alone (and not a particularly long one):
- A post office
- A health club
- A hardware store
- Several off-licenses
- Several barbers and hairdressers
- Several well stocked, but small, grocery stores
- A newsagent
- A supplier of raw materials for making your own beer and wine.
- A climbing equipment store.
- A butcher.
- Multiple restaurants and coffee-houses.
and much else besides. Most of the basics available within walking distance. No bank, but an ATM machine. Needless to say, this being England, the road has pavements (sidewalks) and there are plenty of walkers in evidence—and a convenient bus service. Public transport—something I believe in—is considered important in Europe.
Whereas, I accept the utility of cars—I’d be a damn fool not to—I have never been particularly keen on cars, and prefer to do without one if I can. I have never been much of a sports enthusiast, or keen on exercising—but I have always enjoyed walking daily.
You notice more when you walk, it keeps me moderately fit, it promotes thinking,and I have mastered the art of walking while carrying a bag in one hand, and an umbrella in the other. Come to that, I can handle dog leads too.
Based upon the weather I have encountered in the UK so far, I’m going to need that umbrella.
That’s fine with me. Anyone brought up in Ireland is pretty used to rain. It’s useful stuff, you know—though I prefer it after it has landed.
We call it water then. Fish may fuck in it, (courtesy of W.C.Fields) but, beer wouldn’t be the same without it.