Across Continents

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Brave New World

Peanut butter rolls and black coffee. Feeling quite famished, quickly digging in. I’d gone for a walk on the hills above nearby Wiveliscombe with Jon. Cool February afternoon, but not the chill of the previous few days. Thick red loam binding to our boots. We chatted a good deal about what lay ahead. Our progress frequently interrupted by my stops simply to observe, to grasp what it was to be back in Somerset.

I’d slept well. The previous day – the return home – had been intense. But it did seem to have gone remarkable well. I was quietly pleased but quite exhausted by the evening. In the morning I’d pottered about. Tidying up some loose ends. Reassuring my generous hosts I was doing only what needed to be done. Copy deadlines, that sort of thing. Nothing more. Not today.

Found myself reflecting on what exactly I’d learnt over the last few years. Much harder than I’d imagined. So many levels. Simple observations. Deep self-analysis. The perils of a logical mind. Complex. Some lessons presenting themselves with absolute clarity. And simplicity. 99.99% of people I’d met were just good, honest, hard-working individuals who wanted to get on with life, put food on the table. Invariably very generous.

Dig deeper. More intangible lessons but no less important. Individual freedoms. Of expression, to peaceful protest, to follow your chosen religion or political beliefs. Boundaries of course, as must befit a tolerant, inclusive society. But absent, or at least severely constrained, in many countries. China for example. Immensely hospitable people, yet a de facto police state. Which, ironically, usually makes it a very safe place for foreigners to visit.

Deeper still. A very personal level. Trite it might sound. But true. The world does indeed seem a much smaller place. Finding myself viewing a map of the world as others might the one for the London Underground. I’d only met one person on my travels who’d shared this perspective. Neil, who’d previously ridden from New Zealand back to his native Ireland.

Pauline was keen to have me appear on her Friday morning Community Show on 10Radio in a month or so. Chat about what I’d learnt, observed. The transition back to more conventional living. A few mental notes. The dilemma of choice. Illogicality. Corruption. Languages. Migration. There’d be more. Lots more I was sure.

Wiveliscombe was now once again close by. Jon and I lamented the ending of our monthly chats on local community radio station 10Radio. They’d been great fun. A new experience for both of us. With less than an hour of daylight left, we strolled back into the small town. Bit gloomy I thought. Not quite dark enough for the warming, reassuring glow of lights shining out from within people’s homes. The centre seemed familiar enough. Small supermarket. Community library. Newsagents. We headed for the car park.

Noticed a small window at the rear of a pub had been made into a pizza and burger outlet. A saloon car with spoiler on the boot was parked next to it. A man in a baseball cap stood next to it. Watching us. Was the place new, I’d asked Jon? Yes, he said. We stared at it briefly. The man stared back. Aldous Huxley has little to worry about.

[With especial thanks to neighbours and good friends Jon and Helen for their immensely generous hospitality]

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