Thursday, July 07, 2011

Thom Brooks on "A Connecticut Yankee in King Alan's Court"

. . . has been published today by the Times Higher here. An excerpt:

"[. . .] Where we are from often informs who we are. I traded life in the American Northeast for life in the North East of England. New Haven - the site of the US' first public tree-planting programme, earning it the nickname "Elm City" - is famous for the great Patriot Nathan Hale, the cotton-gin inventor Eli Whitney, and for Sally's Apizza, a legendary pizzeria. As such, it is rather different from Newcastle, or "Geordieland", which counts footballer-turned-pundit Alan Shearer and politician and tea-godfather Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl Grey, among its most famous sons.

Yet it is a trade I would make any day. Let me explain why a Connecticut Yankee would prefer life as a Geordie-in-training.

[. . .] One of the reasons I feel at home in the North East of England is the fact that the local population - at about 2.5 million, it is similar in size to Connecticut's - are just as proud of their region. There is a rich Roman heritage, and it is home to Lindisfarne, a "cradle of Christianity" in England, where St Aidan founded his Anglo-Saxon monastery in AD635. The area is awash with castles - Bamburgh, Bishop Auckland, Durham, Newcastle and Tynemouth: indeed, the land was once the home of the Northumbrian kings. And then there is the city of Durham and its cathedral, which my compatriot Bill Bryson described as "the best cathedral on planet Earth", urging readers that if they hadn't visited it yet, "go at once; take my car".

[. . .] The UK today strikes me as a land of wonder, in which villages retain their charm and cities their unique personality. The same is not always true for the modern US. I find it much easier to find inspiration in the Northumberland coastline than I do in the shoreline along the Long Island Sound. [. . .]"

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