I spent a week in England a couple of weeks ago, visiting family. I didn’t have a lot of time for fooling around, but I did get to spend an afternoon in London, wandering lonely as a cloud, to borrow from that English poet, William Wordsworth. I wandered around Kensington Gardens, the subject of a poem by American Ezra Pound (“like a skein of loose silk blown against a wall she walks by the railing of a path in Kensington Gardens ...”) I walked around Kensington Palace, the childhood home of Queen Victoria, and I got to pass by the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground, which though impressive looks a lot like other nice playgrounds you can run into in parks pretty much anywhere. It was a lazy afternoon.
Back in the colonies, the impeachment inquiry had been picking up steam, and I can say that even though I had not jumped over the pond to escape the morass of political sniping and deliberative obfuscation that ensued, I don’t recall regretting not hearing about it every minute either. I’m pretty sure memory is not failing me about this: I recall that when Bush and Obama were president you could go days without hearing much about them or what they were up to — today the occupant of the Oval Office dominates every minute of the news like the reality TV champ he is, and it can wear you down.
So I wasn’t opposed to getting a rest, and it was refreshing to be able to watch an entire half hour of news and not hear a word about Trump, which I swear a couple of weeks ago when I was in the UK actually happened. You can’t get that around these parts.
I can’t say I had any grand intentions of understanding Brexit, which at the time as far as I could tell had reached some kind of crisis (though I think there have been many), but I thought I might learn at least something I hadn’t known before.
This turned out to be a delusion. Brexit seemed, and still seems, almost impossibly complex.
Think I’m making that up? Here’s part of an AP account from just the other day: “Differences between the two sides remain but were narrowing to some technical and complicated customs and value-added tax issues, officials said.”
There were, however, familiarities. I watched on the telly, for example, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson address an approving crowd — they weren’t wearing anything like MAGA caps, but it was clearly a case of talking to those who already agree with you, as opposed to facing the challenge of persuading or being persuaded. Afterwards, someone from the opposition was interviewed, who said it was all rot. So that was also familiar.
Having been to England many times over many years (the first time, and I promise I am not making this up, there was no McDonalds in London) gives you an interesting perspective about time and change. Once, traveling meant bringing along traveler’s cheques — which even if you know what that means will sound quaint — and cash because there were no ATMs anywhere. There was also no internet and no cable television, not to mention reality TV, and no smart phones. There were no phones at all except those that had to be plugged in somewhere. If you had asked me at the time if I were willing to accept notifications, I would have thought you were talking about the Vietnam draft.
So, the world has changed. Sometimes you wonder if while the world has gotten smaller it’s pushed people farther apart. Then you take a lonely as a cloud walk through Kensington Gardens, where people still stroll and, likely, still write poems, and welcome the reassuringly familiar.
Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or email@example.com.