Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Greetings from the Cotswolds

I am in such a beautiful place I can't believe it.  I'm visiting a friend who was my neighbor when I lived in England 40 years ago. She lives in the village of Malmesbury in the County of Wiltshire in a stone house built in in the 1820s -- one of the newer houses in this town, where parts of it date to the 13th and 14th centuries. The Avon river courses through her property and today we watched a heron hang out near the water's edge for more than an hour.

The roads are barely wide enough for two tiny cars to pass one another by, and we had a near miss when an oversized lorry  -- sorry -- when a big-assed truck came toward us at a rate of speed sufficiently intimidating to force us to drive off it into a patch of green to let it pass.  There are no overhead lights so roads are eerily dark at night, and the fines for driving under the influence are wicked enough to persuade everyone to either have a designated driver or not drink at all.

As in: at all.

All said, since I'm terrified to drive on the wrong side of the road I'm letting Cath drive, so I'm having the time of my life, and I will share more detail than you probably want to read when I return.

What I really want you to know is that no matter where I go, no matter what the conversation has started out to cover, it invariably turns to the 2012 campaign -- the one i fled the country to avoid hearing or reading about.  Yet here I am, sometime among conservatives, sometime among socialists, sometime among independents, who have all, at one time or another, characterized the Republican side of the campaign as "Mitt the Twit and that other guy."

That's how things are playing out on this side of the pond. I now have way too many clippings from various papers that allow as how well, Obama might not be all we had hoped for, but he is a damned sight better than the alternative.

And, as it should come as a surprise to no one, folks over here know a lot about various candidates.  They've read about Akin's ridiculous "legitimate rape" comments; they hold Elizabeth Warren in high regard; they find it hard to believe anyone would opposed creating health care for all Americans -- just as they are appalled at Rick Perry's efforts to withhold funding for women's health programs. They know about this stuff.

Honest to God, I am not making this up, the Brits are tracking us. They want to know if Jan Brewer is going to be re-elected because they think she is dangerous. The think Eric Cantor is not unlike a nematode and they find unfathonamable the notion that a significant portion of a congressional body can hold a country hostage to its resolve to defeat a sitting president, primarily because they oppose abortion.

And each time someone says to me either by way of a rhetorical question or a direct comment that the brouhaha is directly linked to Obama's skin color, I smile and say "What do YOU think?" The response is invariably "yes."

Having said that, everyone is also stunned by the murder of the envoy and members of his staff (although here they are asking why there were no marine guards to fortify access, given the tenuous relationships throughout the Middle East  Here folks can't believe the US didn't carry the Paralympics, which attracted as many people as the Olympics did. And of course they're all a twitter over photographs of the Cambridges in the buff.

Me, I don't care one way or another. This is England, which is consistently full of surprises.  For instance, next Sunday (Sept 23) the gardens at Malmesbury Abbey --which are stunning beyond description -- will have a "clothing optional" day when naked gardeners will be at work trimming trees, pulling weeds, pruning plants and such like. Visitors can come clothed or stark naked.

I plan to be there.

Until I return, cheerio.

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