LETTERS FROM THE GLOBAL PROVINCE
GP 5 November 2008: Familiar Journeys around the Sun
Comrades. We’ve said before that the late Stephen Ambrose, a great and popular historian, was at his best in Comrades, Brothers, Fathers, Heroes, Sons, Pals. He is best known for his work on Eisenhower and the Battle of the Bulge, and for his work on the National D-Day Museum. But we like best this little volume on male friendship. We think it is a theme that is really at the heart of all his work.
Friends, Mates, Chums. As time goes by, the penumbra of friendship is what warms the cockles of the heart, even as the blood slows. It livens days that would otherwise be pedestrian. It provides chaps with whom you can discuss biases and sins—the number of warts growing ever more vast over time even if some churches provide a confessional where we try to wipe the slate clean—and with whom you can be a bit outrageous and yet know the bonds will never be severed.
Back in the days when Washington still worked and business still flourished, friendship was the elixir that made for laughter and led to deals where everybody wanted everybody to win. We ourselves have a friend or two hither and thither about the globe with whom we have been able to achieve common purpose, because we and they speak a common language, even though they may have a foreign tongue.
The only really touchy moment came at journey’s end when he turned on his motor and tried to look about, no longer a man with a purpose but just an aimless tourist:
The rowing trip itself was not that dramatic, a little boring perhaps, according to MacLeod. The surprise came from the marvelous wildlife he saw along the way—an otter here, sharks there, seals, an orca and sundry birds, and perhaps most of all, the mackerel:
Obviously MacLeod was alone for much of his journey. Whether at sea, or hunting, or mixed up in a social event, he has a distance about him, an elusiveness born of having too much going on in his head. Certainly Captain Joshua Slocum, author and subject of Sailing Alone Around the World, did not have any more solitary moments than our MacLeod.
Walking out in Wales. Cedric Lumsdon has now flown the coop from England, making his home now in the Confederacy. Business school lecturer emeritus; consultant to an assortment of corporations, many American; occasional construction boss in Dubai; lover of wines; partaker of all sorts of game—he is a conversationalist for all seasons.
Every year he meets up with a band of cricketeers, long-retired from the field, overtaken by age, and bruises, and changes in jobs, and travels that took them away from the field of play. Congregating at some new fine locale each year, they go out for a long walk, extended conversation, and eating and drink that is good enough to be talked about until their next get-together. This started 28 years ago, so they have been at it for a while. This year it was Wales. You can read about their doings in"Walking out in Wales." It is no surprise perhaps that a meal at the Walnut Tree seems to be an especial highlight:
We think it fair to say that, in all things, the English take their identity from some small pleasant group, and it is no different when they are out for an adventure. This was no splendid solitary walk, but a pilgrim’s progress, a processional where each, as in Chaucer, brings his own story to the walk. So imbued with strains of domesticity, it reminds one of the early English novels, or even of Angela Thirkell in our own century.
Many Suns Ago. With MacLeod and Lumsdon, we see most the value of ritual. Reaching back into history, MacLeod re-enacts the explorations of his ancestors. So many walks and 28 years later, Lumsdon crosses into Wales to take a familiar trip in peaks and valleys he has not traversed before. The geography is a little unfamiliar, but the habit is ingrained, making for a successful trip. Such rituals will probably become more important now in this century as we work our way through exotic territory when all the familiar sights in our economy, our government, our religions, in just about everything are destined to disappear.
P.S. Simon Hopkinson writes so nicely of the Walnut Tree Inn. His comments are even of some historical interest. English food used to be dreadful and now it is often quite good, even if not topflight. In our own experience, it is Italian influences since the war that have tamed the fiercesome things once put on English platters: in this case, Hopkinson rhapsodizes about Ann and Franco Taruschio. In the 18th century, the Duke of Newcastle carried on an intense diplomatic correspondence with the English ambassador in Paris, anxiously looking for a French cook to complete his household.
P.P.S. Perhaps the best show on television, Boston Legal, is in its last season. David Kelley combines immense buffoonery with reasonably serious discussion of some of the serious legal issues that face our society. But the show’s best moments feature the close friendship of senior partner Denny Crane and legal whiz Alan Shore.
P.P.P.S. A walk, rowing out in a boat, maybe a bicycle ride are the only ways to see a place. Perhaps a train ride’s not too bad. With fast autos and jet planes, we never see or hear a thing. Aristotle, of course, was a Peripatetic which means his philosophic insight grew through walking.
Copyright 2008 GlobalProvince.com