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Thursday, May 23 2002

Places like home - 3

My son, Michael, and I shared a surprising and slightly humorous observation about England during our visit there, and to Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, last August. Not only do we like England more than we expected to, we like it more, as Irish-Americans trying to share the Irish attitude toward it's "detested" oppressive mother country, than we even wanted to. My conclusion drawn from that is that if you're raised in a culture where many of the heros and protagonists of your literature and in your play fantasies are English people in English settings, you can't help but feel "at home" in England. From the children's stories of C. S. Lewis to Robert Louis Stevenson's youth novel, Treasure Island, the Arthurian legends, to the so-called adult entertainment of Agent 007, the moors-and-heather classic romance novels, and the endless stream of British television on PBS, all Americans who haven't been specifically trained to hate things English have probably been "Brittified."

Unlike Los Angeles and Hollywood (and the UCLA campus, which is used in films more often than any other) where my deja vu is based on images seen on movie and television screens, most of my images of England are from their descriptions in literature and woodcuts and still photographs in books and their covers. But the hubbub of a British pub, even the accents; the ironwork and time-worn wood of the railway stations; the throngs crowding London sidewalks; the manner houses ("mansions") in the countryside with their acres of trimmed grass lawns and hedges; thatched-roof houses in Somerset; rolling hills of pastureland and majestic cathedrals...all ring bells of familiarity.

The Brits are friendly and seem to like tourists and Yanks, even if the Weakest Link's Anne Robinson, on departing our shores a week ago, may have been echoing sentiments that are getting more common (referring to Americans as the weakest links, poorly educated, and only five percent of us—egads!—having passports).

Besides all the facets of England that we've read and seen pictures of all our lives, there's the larger-than-life aspects about the place that endears the Sceptered Isle to many who'd rather think less of it. It's Stonehenge and Merlin the Magician, the idea that Harry Potter is little more than a typical British school boy, that there is magic in the soil and there are legends about everything from Winston Churchill to a British exploration sponsor named Amerigo who is the real source of "America," not some alleged map-maker. Christ's disciple Joseph of Aramithea supposedly brought the gospel to Canterbury—or was it Glastonbury—in the first generation of the church; Salisbury is the fabled ancient kingdom of Sarum; the Holy Grail was recently found in some English woman's attic, and on and on.

And as for the Irish detesting their oppressive mother country (a misnomer), even after 500 to 700 years (depending on who's count you accept) of injustices, they find it difficult to hold a grudge. The rank and file in the Irish Republic have long since let bygones be bygone. We Yankees are a major source of tourist dollars, but Brits coming for a three-day weekend of fishing or pubbing is an even larger factor in the Irish economy. And when times have been hard, jobs have often been easier to find in Liverpool or Birmingham, Newport or London than Dublin or Cork. So even in the Free State, most Hibernians have ties on both sides of the Irish sea.

More "places like home" to come.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Burma Shavers (continued)
 
CAUTIOUS RIDER
TO HER RECKLESS DEAR
LET'S HAVE LESS BULL
AND MORE STEER

***Burma Shave***

 
  —Sent by Bob Kennedy

Thought for the day

You can't act like a skunk without someone getting wind of it.

Author unknown

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