I am back from more than three weeks of travel around Great Britain. The washing machine is working its magic as I type this, my first cup of “home tea” is brewing, and I am very, very glad to be once more in my personal typing chair. I am also very, very glad I went a-touring. I connected with family and with family history, and I learned a lot.
One of the primary reasons I travel is to see my familiar surroundings with new eyes, and this trip did that for me, though the results weren’t always cheering. Compared to the UK, for example, where I live is no melting pot. In Scotland, I heard accents from six continents, just as I toddled around the hotels and village shops, let alone the tourist sites. At home? I don’t even hear many regional American accents, and that’s a sort of poverty that probably afflicts much of rural America.
I saw no guns in the UK, unless they were antique firearms in glass cases. The UK has transitioned from having a gun-centric squirarchy in days of yore, to embracing different norms where firearms are concerned. I saw no guns at the harbors, on the ferries, in the airports, or the major train stations. Again, I view the proliferation of guns in the US as an indication of a sort of poverty, though several members of my family are gun owners (and I am not clamoring to “take their guns”).
The UK is way, way WAY ahead of us in terms of climate responsibility. Scottland is a net exporter of wind energy and ahead of schedule for achieving 100 percent renewable energy. Food, to the greatest extent possible, is locally sourced. That means it’s fresher, and while produce might not look quite as appealing on the shelf, the taste is better, the nutrition is better, and the carbon footprint much smaller, to say nothing of what various EU pesticide bans are doing to reduce toxicity to the consumer or the environment.
I saw areas in the UK that I’d like to improve on, of course. Handicapped accessibility lags in the UK tremendously, in part because it’s hard to retrofit castles (and their medieval villages) without destroying the original structures or the National Trust’s budget. The EU bears the scars of centuries–approximately fifteen of them–of religiously motivated killing, right up to the Troubles in Ireland. The future is looking more encouraging, but I often reflected on how lucky the US was to be “born” after the Reformation, and to have a built separation of church and state into its foundation. We’re still working out the details on that one, but the basic concept is sound.
The British monarchy and aristocracy continue to be sources of great contention, particularly when their extravagant living is compared to the meanness of life for the masses, where famine, clearances, enclosures, game laws, and other brutal aspects of modern history still linger in cultural memory. Again, I am glad the US has no overt hereditary royalty or peerage to try to wrestle into harmony with a democratic constitution.
Much to think about. It’s LOVELY to be able to handle money without peering twice at every coin, lovely to be able to understand people easily the first time they speak, lovely to be home, and beyond lovely to be ensconced in in my little house with my cats.
If you were to change one aspect of your home turf, what would it be? To three commenters, I will send an e-ARC of Love and Other Perils, which goes on sale October 8.
I’d like to teach people to pick up after themselves. One thing I noticed this week when I walked the dogs on the beach was the huge amount of litter. There were cans,bottles, papers etc in my small beach town and on the beach. Summer is over and we need a clean up weekend!
Am glad you enjoyed your travels & hope you are inspired to write several novels!!
I live in a lovely, diverse suburb. We chose to live here for the outstanding high school and the diversity, so our kids would grow up in a color-blind community. That was the case, for the most part.
Our street (it’s considered a *lane*) meanders and has lovely homes with large yards. As much as that sounds like a *good thing* that also means there’s more space between us and more space means less interaction. Today is our annual (or so) block party. The organizer called me a couple days ago to remind me. I shared with her my next door neighbor’s husband died two weeks ago. She shared her next door neighbor died two months ago. We decided we need to get communication going for things like that. My neighbor on the other side brought my neighbor a cake and I brought them food too. Ruby thinks we should get something formal organized to be more, neighborly, about things like that.
Better communication–on our lovely block–is what I would change. And Ruby and I are going to try to get something going today.
What a lovely comment!
My neighborhood uses NextDoor.com. Maybe worth looking into?
As a transplant from the U.S. to Canada by chance, I still chafe at the parliamentary system of government that requires me to vote for a local candidate I may not like if I want to see the prime minister (and premier, or governor) from that party take office — and vice versa. I wish there were a way to elect a leader to the country or province separately. I want to be able to cast my vote for individuals I respect and support.
However, I agree that it’s amazing to live in a multicultural setting and one with a separation of church and state. It’s not easy to create a nation of immigrants where everyone feels comfortable, but Canada is trying hard.
I live in Charlotte and I love it. But——–this city is growing too fast and city planners seem to be oblivious. Every empty space is doomed to be filled by condo, apts, big houses……I hate it. We used to have low traffic, clean air and wide open spaces. It makes me sad to think about the ” olden days! ” and a bit angry too!!
This may be hind-sight nostalgia on my part, but my memories of the place where I grew up (Brooklyn, NY) were of diversity and an acceptance of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Today people seem unsympathetic to the problems their fellow human being may be living through, which certainly influence their opinions. Again, this may be more of a time issue than a location issue, but it seems like tolerance of our neighbors and fellow citizens has gone out the window! We each need to walk a mile in each other’s shoes before we criticize!
I’d slow down the developers. Two lane to six lane roads is too much, too fast. I’d also change the state law so that homeowners associations can’t mandate pesticide-laden grass if the homeowners plant & maintain tidy subsistence vegetable gardens instead.
Like Elaine, I’m a transplant in Canada. Our healthcare is affordable, just not necessarily available, especially in rural areas.
I also see a great need for more mental health resources.
A few years ago I was in a Taco Bell in Germantown MD … and I just had to giggle quietly to myself. At the register was a young man who, by his accent, was from somewhere in Africa waiting on a young lady who, from her accent was from somewhere in the Ukraine; and both were speaking English. Germantown is such a melting pot! Not so much out here in the Hinterlands.
Living in a southern city, it is clear that we need to continue to delve into and address issues of race and equality. I would love to see us move from a scarcity mindset to a recognition that there is ‘enough’ for all if we work together.
I am living in a town of mostly German heritage and Irish Heritage people. My Husband is also German and Irish, so I am used to the personality of these two peoples. However, I really would like to see a little more culturally diverse. I am half Italian and originally from Buffalo NY. I thought when I moved to Southeast PA, since it was so close to NYC that I would meet many people from different areas…ummm, no, not the case. I miss the farmers markets with all the different cultures of foods and especially at holidays, like Easter, which is a very important holiday to Eastern Europeans and Italians, I wish there were more places to go to buy the various ethnic foods I was able to get as a child. Christmas however, is something I would never change about my new area. A German and country Christmas Celebration is so beautiful in SE PA. I would not change a thing about all of the lights, traditional Christmas music is actually played in the stores and Restaurants and the store fronts have green and red ribbons on them. Its all very traditional and pretty.
I’d love to see more public space allocated as urban gardens. It’d be awesome, at harvest time, to be able to purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables. Support local grown ❤️
Love to hear about your travels! Thanks for being thoughtful.
What would I change? I believe my first priority would be to eliminate the prejudice that has created the “crime” of poverty and illness. We could take some money from the wealthiest families who sell disposable goods with disposable employees or people siphoning away money from our public schools to their buddies’ private or religious schools (not all of them) that graduate ignorant and prejudiced students or those businesses and government agencies that use their hatred of minorities to incarcerate and ruin lives and families, etc., to help people with basic necessities, medicines and hospital care. What I want for Christmas. Thanks for asking.
Travel is wonderful but there really is no place like home. My own shower with my kind of soap. My bed. My recliner. My kitchen. My garden. My friends.
I would like to see more of an investment in education in my state. When budgets are tight, they want to cut school funding as one of the first options. My kids are grown and live in another state, but I don’t want to live amongst a lot of uneducated dolts. I think cutting education funds is so short sighted. How is the next generation going to do any better than us when we have denied them the kind of education we were privileged to have? Not everyone needs to go to college. There should absolutely be more job training and apprenticeships available too.
My affluent suburban community is going through an explosion of residential and commercial development, clear cutting wooded areas, displacing wildlife, and creating massive congestion on our roads. Our students are parceled out through the school systems of four different communities, placing a burden on our neighbors resources with little benefit to them. I’m only one voter but I will surely cast my ballot for whoever opposes our current mayor, city executive and council members who rubber stamp every development project presented to them…and pad their campaign war chests with support from those same developers.
I would like to find a way to take on consumerism on a large scale. People in the US are conditioned from infancy to buy, buy, buy. Nothing is ever enough, and often products are bought in an attempt to fulfill emotional needs. Products are created with their obsolescence in mind, rather than longevity. We are hanging on to a 25 year old refrigerator until it finally dies, because we know a new one may only last a few years. The end result of all this unnecessary stuff, is a trashed planet. We can do better.
I would do away with lawns. We live in a small city with narrow plots and smallish homes (I can’t bear the suburbs because of my unhappy suburban experiences growing up). Our neighborhood has some apt buildings, some condos and townhomes, and some houses. Water, and everything else, drains from the streets directly into the Mississippi River. It kills me to watch people apply pesticides and other chemicals to their lawns, for no other reason than to have a certain look. There is so much environmental devastation from pollution and climate change in this world, can’t we at least tolerate crab grass and creeping charlie? It is one of the simple things we can do to reduce the chemical impact we have. Also, if everyone would stop using synthetic fragrance I would really appreciate it.
I would love more people to use public transportation, but saying that I would like public transportation to actually go where people want to go like grocery stores and malls. It’s sad to see a lot of busses running with hardly anyone on them during the day.
I live on the northern outskirts of the most liberal part of Texas – where political beliefs don’t determine gun ownership among other things. The one thing I would change would be for everyone to appreciate ALL the diversities of the people who live here and respect others who are different from them. Maybe we could find common ground and work towards resolving big problems like homelessness, abuse, and addiction and help those who suffer because of them
I could do without the 20 to 30 cm of snow we are getting right now. But that is one of the perils of living in one of the beautiful spots on this continent. Fall in the Rockies can be as memorable as Springtime ( thank you Hank Snow).
Continue to add and expand our National Parks, monuments, refuges etc
Actually, living in Germany, I often realise that I’m blessed to be born in my country at this time. When it comes to guns, climate responsibility, health insurance and such things as well as personal freedom and the liberty to move (autocorrect typed love, that fits as well) and to travel, the Germany of our times is a great place to live. Sure, there are always parts that could be improved but on the whole, life here is good. Handicapped peoples’ access to many places could be improved around here as well. We don’t have the excuse of the many old castles, we’re just slow getting there. Our highways seem to be under construction around the clock and there are far too many traffic jams and public transport is rather expensive. The climate (and us) would profite from a less expensive public transport. The schools definitely could use better funding (and better thought-out concepts) as well. On the whole though, it is a good place to
On another note – I just returned from the UK as well where I’ve been travelling for a couple of weeks.
I wouldn’t change anything at the moment. We just moved to a new state and it’s pretty nice here.
I live in a suburb that voted to become a city. I do not like that extra layer of government. We have to get permits for everything. There is no downtown but we have several shopping centers. Most residents are Republicans and conservative.( I stopped attending Church after hearing a racial slur against Obama and almost dumped a plate of food on someone at Church dinner who said all Democrats are stupid.) There is a large bend in the river and one has to go as far in as possible to reach our subdivision. We have pristine lawns with lots of chemical use.(We may be the only family that does not use chemicals and has a natural yard.) A recently installed camera records all cars coming into our subdivision. There is only one entrance and we back up to the river. Go figure. Deer are plentiful and come into our garage if we leave the door open. Luckily we have lots of open space and access to river parks. If I could change anything it would be the politics. I am ready to exchange all that open space for a more liberal electorate and city lights.
My house is filled with STUFF – papers, cards, magazines, and, of course, books.
We love our books, but I’ve been trying to get rid of the others. We were poor when I was growing up, but hoarding things – especially papers is ridiculous. I sort them and throw many in recycling, but then I start saving them again. Everywhere I look there are bags of them on tables, on the floor. It’s overwhelming!
I remember when I visited Ireland how alive the history seemed to the present residents. I wish more people had a connection to their history so they understood their space and did not spend so much time reinventing what did happen.
I live in Corsica, and for the Parisian I am, it was a big jump in the unknown when we moved them.
At first, I was seen as a Pinzutu in corsican, a foreigner because despite been French territory, the Corsicans see themselves as Corsicans first, so I had to adjust and now after nearly twenty years, I have seen the society evolves.
Sure it was not often easy for me, but I miss the close relationship they had with their family, they were clans and the more time passes, the more they become individualist.
Technologies play a great part in it, but also the lack of employment which causes people to leave the villages.
I can wait for your next release, I love Emily Larkin’s Baleful Godmother series.
I would like our home turf to be ecologically progressive. I would like to have mostly electric cars, trucks and buses. I would like to use solar energy and no coal or burning of trash for electricity. I would like to see pesticides banned. I would like to charge more for water to encourage water conservation. I would like people to eat little meat and raise it ethically and without antibiotics or other poor practices. And I would like to use fresh local produce with heirloom varieties, instead of this mass-produced crap that tastes like cardboard and wastes so much money to transport from far away places.
There are so many things that EU does so much better than the US. I despair of our country and it’s profit-above-all ethos.
This is a small thing but I regret the trend of very short dresses for high school proms. To my mind they cannot approach the elegance of long gowns.
I would make all school lunches free and add free breakfast as well across the nation. I would make anti bullying a required class throughout all grades with strong school support. I would make higher education affordable for all and reduce student debt, as it’s crippling our young people who are not able to buy homes. My daughter pays $1100 monthly on her student loans with her $58k annual salary. I can’t see her affording a home ever under crushing debt.
Hi, Grace, interesting article. I just returned from Greece and observed many of the same things. Wind mills abound and some solar farms too. Lots of solar water heaters. Changes I would like, for long-term survival: more energy conservation and fewer guns.
I live in metropolitan Detroit. Public transportation is not easy to use and there are areas that have no public transportation, because of opting out. I have lived in Germany as an exchange student. I was able to go practically anywhere I wanted to go with their excellent public transportation and train network. I also used public transportation in Paris. In the US, I used public transportation in Chicago, New York, and Washington DC. I was able to get where I needed to go without getting confused.
The last place I used public transportation is the place where I live. Our area only recently created a regional transit authority. It has struggled to come up with a workable solution for two separate public transportation systems. At some point pre-RTA, certain communities in one county opted out of the one system. They felt no need to pay taxes for a system they felt their citizens didn’t use. The last election almost saw the county I live in having service eliminated, because a very vocal element felt the taxes were just subsidizing a small minority of riders. This element didn’t take into consideration the community shuttle service that the transportation system operates for people who are unable to drive for whatever reason. The community shuttle takes people to doctor appointments and shopping for necessities. By just a few hundred votes the millage did pass. I have told my husband many times that I would willingly give up one of our cars, if our public transportation was reliable and went everywhere in the region. A yearly ridership fee would cost less than all the expenses associated with car ownership. I continue to hope that the RTA will have a user-friendly system in place for the future when I might not be able to drive anymore.
Glad you are back home after your travels,safe and sound.I hope you found all that you were looking for regarding your own history and your writing material that we all love.Refreshed and Restored and ready to go.The British Isles has a very violent history in parts and a inspiring part also.It has made its mark in the ever changing world at a great cost of human life.We are no longer a main power in the world of today and that’s fine___we British just want to be part of this fantastic world of ours.Do what we can to keep our planet and its people safe.It’s a joint effort and a priority over war and destruction.Our homes in our countries and our planet.It’s a huge plan that will challenge generations to come,Billions of homes in all countries.My home ,your home,our grand children’s home.Sorry I’m just rattling on about a subject close to my heart.Welcome home Grace.
I also live in rural America and know the lack of diversity. It definitely makes for an interesting way of life. In my experience, there is less discrimination here than people expect in a small, Southern town because there are so few of us. My struggle is the 20 minutes I drive to the grocery store and the lack of opportunities for my kids.
I would change people. I long to see us all be more kind to each other. Not a huge rally or televised event but simple, small kindnesses of one person to another. It breaks my heart to see people savage one another over differing beliefs or choices. It’s not that difficult to be kind enough to accept another person’s right to their opinion. It’s also not all that difficult to hold a door open, help an elderly person navigate steps into a building or to pay for the groceries of someone counting out their change.
Two years ago my husband & I retired. We chose a small town here in Texas that we’d become familiar with during our last few years of traveling for our business. Daily I’m awed by the genuine kindness of the majority of people in this community. We have a group on facebook where people list what type of help they need. Be it a refrigerator, their lawn mowed, a baby sitter for the day, money to pay their electric bill it gets provided by an individual in the community. We have an outstanding medical system with a top rated hospital all because the doctors decided they would provide care to all people regardless of their finances. They reinvest in the community rather than in bigger houses & flashy cars. Those without insurance receive the exact same care as those with insurance but at a drastically reduced fee. Why? Because they’re kind. My doctor jogs by my house every morning & at least once a week stops to check on me as I’ve developed a chronic pain illness. He’s kind.
When we first moved into our home it was two months before we could get our furniture out of storage due to the distance & schedules. Our new neighbors grew concerned & one by one came offering us furniture, tvs, etc. I don’t think people value kindness as greatly as we should. I also believe we need more kindness in our lives, communities, states, nations & world.
If I could change one thing , it would be to construct more bicycle friendly roads. With just a little forethought and effort, thousands could safely ride their bikes to and from work, school, shopping, etc. Again, Europe is way ahead of us in this area.
I love my home and the differing seasons that come with it. I would love to be able to change the health of all its surrounding entities. The air we breathe, the water we drink, and the ground that we use to try and grow food to sustain us. It has changed so drastically since I was young.
In our present situation, it’s hard to be optimistic. A halfway return to civil discourse is to be wished for devoutly and often. That’s the macro. At my level, I want to be pleasant, generous with my talents and attitude and a good citizen. –it’s hard, but at 85 I’m doing my damnedest