Thursday, July 19, 2007

My Pub is Older than Your Country!

Well, all, I am back from my travels, and, really, this trip surpassed even my greatest expectations for it. I somehow managed to see a lot (Tintern Abbey, a Roman amphitheatre, David Hume’s grave, and this is not to mention the fact that I took the train from London to Leeds, from Leeds to Bath, and drove from Bath to Wales to Scotland and Back, which means I saw probably as much of the England, Scotland, and Wales as is possible in just two weeks’ time) while also to have a really relaxed and relaxing trip. All of this is down to my friend G., who planned the whole thing – oh, and who incidentally is not Ghengis – let’s just say that the last post was perhaps not as clear as it might have been because it was being composed by committee very late at night (early in the morning?) after a night out. But so this will be the first in a series of posts about the trip, and I’ve decided not to begin at the beginning and to provide a chronological account but rather to do the posts thematically in such a way as to give a better sense of the feeling of the trip as opposed to just providing the itinerary (which, ultimately, would not be as interesting). Also, if I owe you an email, or some other correspondence, I honestly have every intention of catching up in the next week or so, so please do bear with me if all you get for the moment is items related to the travels on the blog.

You know, I never feel more American – and, honestly, more patriotic – than when I’m in another country. This is not to say that I don’t recognize the dumb things about the United States, American Culture, and Americans generally, but I think that as much as I appreciate wherever I am, I really miss the United States when I’m not here. Now, it is true: we do not have the history of other countries. We’re single-minded in the way that we think about ourselves in the context of the world. But those thousands of years of history and that thinking about the entire world whenever one thinks about things can be a heavy weight to carry around, you know? When your local pub’s been around since 1710, you’re necessarily going to have a different worldview than you might have if, say, your country didn’t declare its independence until 1776. It’s not that one view is better than the other, but each is very different from the other.

But so some of the most enjoyable time I spent on my trip was in a pub that’s been in business since 1710, the local of G’s dad and brothers, which is just down the block from their house. G’s family lives in a small village near Newport, and if you sit in the backyard you can hear sheep baaing away in the distance. When you go to the pub, every person knows every other person, and all age groups are represented. More men than women were at the pub, and the emphasis was on conversation more than anything. One night music (radio – with music circa 1985) was playing quietly in the background, but again, the point was the talk. G’s dad and I got along famously once I figured out his accent (he’s originally from West Wales), and he’s both a shameless flirt and a man who loves a debate. Every person I met was tremendously friendly and very interested to hear about where I’m from, even if people didn’t have much clue about my geographic location since I’m not on either of the coasts. [Aside: you know how people lament how Americans don’t know crap about world geography? I think that’s so bogus because it’s not like people in Europe have a clue about the geography of North America, which is a pretty big space to cover, and I’d argue that most Americans do have at least a bit of a clue about the general geographic locations of most states/cities in the US. Basically, I think we need to give Americans a tiny bit of a break. Just a tiny one, but still.]

But so yeah. Sitting in that pub, I suppose I felt the way that the past reaches into the present in a way more palpable than I’ve ever felt it visiting historical landmarks or museums or any other such things. The past is just part of daily life, and there is not, in the way of America, the “tyranny of the new” (and I think I’m misquoting D.H. Lawrence with that – or maybe I’m quoting him exactly – but I can’t be bothered to go look).

So in upcoming posts, I shall talk about things like food and drink, slang, vistas, and anything else I can think of that might be of interest. Interspersed between all of this will quite possibly be angst-ridden posts about all of the work I've not done, etc., but I don't have time to think about it now, as I must confront my bloglines and see how many hours it will take to catch up with you all. Cheerio!

6 comments:

Anastasia said...

everybody loves a roman amphitheatre!

bring on the angst :)

undine said...

So true about the universal geography ignorance: I've been asked about taking a day trip to cities several states and time zones away. I don't think the size of the US really computes unless you're here.

Sisyphus said...

Hooray, she's back and she has brought Guinness! (you did save some for us ... didn't you?)

Eddie said...

Glad you had a good time!

Manorama said...

I do think there is a difference between a non-American not knowing where a U.S. *state* is, and an American not knowing where a *country* is....

Rachel said...

ohhh i love tintern abbey and that part of the welsh borderlands.. you're so lucky! i had a whirlwind 5 day trip to the Uk en route to india this past week, and thought i'd gone far, but i really only touchex several corners of london and spent 24 hours in cambridge.