Hanging On

Thank god this week is over.  I am moved into my new place.  My mom and her husband are moved into their new place, although we had to ask the movers to return furniture to their old house because it wouldn’t fit into the apartment.  I spent yesterday unpacking and arranging so my mom will feel at home when she is discharged from the hospital on Tuesday.  It was a lot of work, but the six of us pitched in and nothing broke and no one cried or said anything they’ll have to apologize for.

Today I will drive to Milwaukee.  By the time I get there I expect my back will be in a rigor mortis-like state from all the lifting, bending, and reaching I did yesterday.  But I’m going for a wedding, and I love weddings.  My niece is getting married.  She and her betrothed are Native American.  When I RSVP’d I joked, “I’ve always wanted to go to an Indian wedding!” but I think she is so stressed that she didn’t get it.  The venue is the Milwaukee Art Museum, and the family is staying at an Irish-style hotel.  My cousin got his Universal Life Minister license in order to officiate.  I’m going to wear the fascinator I bought in Eton this summer.  This is not my fascinator, but I wish it was.

Back to the south of England.

Lynn and I, emboldened by our successful use of public transport to Abbottsbury, decided to hop a bus into Lyme Regis.

No one I have ever met in the UK drinks and drives.  Not even one drink.  The blood-alcohol limit is the same as in the US (.08%) but lower in Scotland (.05%).  Of course some people drink and drive, but in general I think people in the UK take “drink driving,” as they call it, more seriously.  You see more drunk people on buses and trains as a result, but at least they’re not driving. We didn’t want to get drunk, but it would be nice for Lynn to be able to have one drink.

We checked out a charming mill area with shops, art museums, and a brewery.  Most were closed for the season.  None of the open ones accepted cards, and there were no working ATMs.  Lynn wanted to buy several pieces pottery but between the two of us we could only scrape up enough for one.

“There is an ATM up the hill,” said a cashier, “but it’s been broken for months.”

I bought two pints with the cash I had left and we sat in the sun and had a great conversation about the differences between the British and American characters.  “Do you think it’s true,” I asked, “the Pink Floyd lyrics: ‘hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way?’  Stiff upper lip … keep calm and carry on and all that?”

In this cash machine situation, it seemed that—with tourist season around the corner—no one had done anything to get it fixed.

“Americans would be storming the bank to demand action—now!”

“We would see that as pointless,” said Lynn.  “You know how British banks are.”

She didn’t say it, but many Brits would also find the American approach undignified.

Another example, below.  Maybe they tried really hard to find another chef to fill in, and couldn’t.  Sadly they will not see us again because we were tourists.

Another cultural difference of note, in light of the Las Vegas shooting: the attitude toward guns.  Lynn’s husband has a gun room.  He’s got hunting guns galore, but no hand guns.  They are all registered, and the police can show up at any time to make sure they’re locked up and that Lynn doesn’t have the key.  If a friend or neighbor notices him acting irrationally, he can be reported to the police, who can revoke his license.  This is fine with him because Brits have the attitude, “We’re all in this together.”  This would never be tolerated in the US, where we care more about our own rights than the rights of society as a whole. So I have little hope that our gun laws or culture will change.

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