I can’t help comparing England and the U.S. I’ve spent an equal amount of time in both countries. Actually, I’d prefer to say ‘cultures’ because, despite the common language (well, for the most part) the cultures are vastly different. Last night I attended my first Calderdale Antiquarian Society meeting. Despite its name it’s not a society for old people but I was certainly one of the youngest in attendance. I got talking to a lady whose one daughter moved to Canada.We chatted about being away from our children, and she shared with me that she’s now tired of going to Canada because, naturally, she always goes to the same place to visit her daughter. It reminded me of the trips to Europe that our family did when we lived in the U.S but as the girls got older we would combine a week visiting relatives in England with a few weeks seeing parts of Europe that were new to us all. I suppose I’m thinking about this from my mum’s point of view at the moment since my daughters are coming to see me soon – and they’ve all been to Hebden Bridge before.
Anyway, I digress. Back to the meeting which was entitle Aspects of the Landscape in Upper Calderdale. About 60 people showed up on a wet, chilly night gathered in a chapel. The screen was suspended from the organ pipes. Most of the attendees sat for the 75 minutes in their coats, and not a few kept their hats on, and I thought how quintessentially British! I remember taking photos of my family on visit to England taking my mum out for lunch and she’d always wear a hat – during the meal. Tonight’s meeting was free – donation accepted. If you want to join the society it costs £10 per year. This is just the same mindset as the lunchtime organ and brass band concert the previous day when 1000 people attended a free event. Where are these events in the U.S? And more to the point where are the equivalent people in the U.S? Shut in watching the telly? In nursing homes playing bingo? It took me all my powers of concentration to keep up with the lecture. My hopes that there would be stunning photos of ancient walls, enclosed fields and rocky outcrops were thwarted. Instead we saw a handful of landscape photos and the remaining slides were charts and maps showing the gradual development of mini hamlets, into hamlet, thence into villages and so on into townships. We were treated to several lessons in the derivation of local place-names from the Norwegian Anglo Saxon language (!) and the influence of the Romano Celtic alphabet. Fascinating for nerds like me. Where are these lectures in Santa Cruz (pop 62000)? It’s too small a place , you may say. OK. Where are they in Oakland, in San Francisco – (pop 864000)? Halifax’s population is 82,000: Night after night of free (or almost free) education.