December 4, 2003

How Old Is It Anyway? [Guest Entry]

This is a guest entry from my friend Dave Adair, who visited us here in Cornwall and got me to go surfing in November.

You can read more of Dave’s letters here

You can see more of Dave’s amazing photos here.

My one-month trip to England is wrapping up after three months here, having spent most of the time in Scotland and one week in Portugal. On the beautiful and chaotic 200 mile walk that I came here for, called the DharmaYatra, I met up again with Bryony, who I’d met on the France DharmaYatra in July. We planned on spending 10 days after the walk seeing some of the English countryside, when I called my boss at the Exploratorium to find that my job was, and is, still on hold. The extra 10 days turned into an extra two months and 10 days, surprising some and not others.
 
I’d traveled in England for a month 20 years ago when I was married(!), and though I have generalized memories of having a good time then, the specific memories of the whats and the wheres could be boiled down to about 10 events. I don’t know where the rest of it has gone. Suffice it to say that I’m seeing it anew, for the first-ish time.

As a history-starved American, my first question when seeing something that looks aged is, “How old is it?” The locals invariably don’t know, or particularly care. The longer I was here, and the more old things I looked at, the more I took on their outlook. Everything is old, sort of, and it doesn’t make much difference how old. We saw so many things two or three hundred years old, which doesn’t even qualify as old here. Lots of Norman churches date back to around 1100 A.D., which seems kind of old. Hadrian’s wall was built by the Romans around 115 A.D., bisecting the island east to west, and tried to keep the wild Scotsmen in their boggish place. We camped next to Stonehenge, which is about 4,000 years old. The huge moat that was dug around was dug with deer antlers, which couldn’t have been fun. And the stones, the largest of which weighs 45 tons, were brought from 60 miles away, without the use of motorized engines, Mexican laborers, or the Internet. Unfathomable. I had just about decided that 4,000 years old was truly old, until I read that the earliest use of stone axes by humans was 700,000 years ago. Now I don’t even know what old is.
 
In a shop I overheard a Scottish soccer player talking about playing an English team, and their worries about getting booed when they enter the field. He said, “They think we’re Jacobites because we sing the Scottish anthem.” Some modern rivalry? Hardly. The Jacobite uprising happened in 1745 when a group tried to put Bonnie Prince Charlie on the English throne. And soccer players accuse each other of a modern day sympathy, if not complicity. Do we have anything similar in the States? Not that I can think of.
 
Bryony and I decided to take a vacation from our vacation, and booked a “last-minute” vacation to Portugal, with 24 hours notice, as is becoming the norm. We visited the Algarve region in the far south of Portugal, which I thought was on the Mediterranean, until I looked at the map and saw it was the Atlantic. “Algarve” is a Portuguese word which means “vast, over-developed tourist wasteland,” derived from the Latin root “algarium” meaning, “you’re screwed.” I’ve seen a lot of over-developed places in my traveling life, but this place should win some kind of award. We got a great deal - only $200 dollars for a round-trip flight and 7 nights accommodation in a two-room apartment with a kitchen. Next time, they need to pay me the $200, and I’ll think about it. But when we rented a car for three days and drove into the country, we did see some great villages, and the seaside has the most amazing and beautiful beaches. That doesn’t mean I’m going back, though.
 
I’m heading home tomorrow, and Bryony is heading off to become a Buddhist nun in January. That tantalizing morsel will just have to rest on the tongue, without a satisfying bite to follow. Maybe she’ll write about it later.
 
Write me a note when you get a chance. I hope you are well and happy.

Posted by: Frank @ 6:03 pm — Filed under:

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