Mysteries are a Great Way of Getting to Know a City
Boston. Photo by Rob Bruce
Exploring the city of Boston, I have enlisted the help of a private eye. A six-foot-one ass-kicking redhead who moonlights as a part-time cabbie and roams the city night and day, rooting out the corruption which constantly reappears, always in a different form.
I was prompted to ask this question after meeting some start-up farmers in Massachusetts. They are interesting and unexpected entrants into a profession we are often told has a gloomy future: from a rock promoter to a Harvard educated bio-physicist.
Like other developed countries and the rest of the US, Massachusetts has a large number of farmers over the age of 65 with no identified inheritors. For 30 years, the number of entrants into farming was on the slide. However, over the last decade that has begun to change. It seems, farming is becoming cool again.
“Large, hot Earl please,” the waitress yelled in a cafe this morning. I smiled, seeing in my mind’s eye a dashing peer of the realm with a twirling moustache, like a character from Blackadder, rushing out of the kitchen. But no, just a tepid tea in a paper cup. Spending time in Boston this week, where my husband is working, I have been reminded of the saying, attributed to George Bernard Shaw, that Britain and America are “two nations divided by a common language”. At the library when the attendant said: “check your bag, please,” I opened it thinking she meant she wanted to look inside. But she meant it had to be put in a locker.
For holiday reading, newspapers are hard to beat. Photo: Mary Kemp Bruce
HOLIDAY READING 2016: newspapers and Don Quixote. I still love newspapers. I like everything about them, the way they smell, the way they crinkle when you fold them over at the bit you're reading, the way you don’t have to hang onto them but can drop them on a cafe table for the next customer to enjoy.
I read a lot of newspapers this holiday. There is no shortage of news at the moment, what with Brexit and the heightened possibility this creates of “Sexit” (this phrase coined in a ditty here). One afternoon, on a motor boat trip, the engine noise too loud for conversation, I crouched over the previous day’’s FT. It seemed as if wherever I sat a personal deluge of sea water sloshed over me, rather refreshing in the brilliant sunshine. I clutched the paper to my chest to protect it. My friends were amused to notice the inky headlines of the Big Read smudged onto my chest, cue some teasing about my “reverse Linda Lusardi” moment. (“Some women put their tits on page 3, but others...)
Go on yersel, England. Scotland is sticking with the lady in red.
The Scottish Parliament at night: Photo by Rob Bruce
It was all wrong on the day of the poll, like a scene from Shakespeare, unseasonal thunderstorms, flooding, owls hooting in the afternoon. ‘Is that a dagger that I see before me?” someone tweeted when Boris Johnson praised David Cameron. “Beware the march of IDS,” said another. Guardian columnist Nick Cohen compared Michael Gove and Boris Johnson to Regan and Goneril, the bitchy daughters in King Lear. Joyce McMillan the next morning in the Scotsman quoted Rome and Juliet: "A glooming peace this morrow with it brings." Then the UK’s EU commissioner Lord Hill resigned with Lady Macbeth’s last words: “what’s done cannot be undone”.
A Scottish 'No' Voter Pleads: "England, Don't Let Us Down!"
This week in East Berlin wherever I went, I seemed to hear the sound of bagpipes. First, a man in a Glengarry playing the pibroch in the famous street Unter den Linden; then a Pole in a Celtic top playing an ancient set of pipes his grandfather had acquired in the Highlands.