Friday, March 28, 2008

God Save England

I have always loved Great Britain from afar. Some of my favorite things are British: Sherlock Holmes, Sir Winston Churchill, Rumpole of the Bailey, Shakespeare, Dickens, Lewis Carrol, Wind in the Willows, James Herriot, and Parliamentary Democracy- just to name a few.

It was with a little trepidation that I found myself preparing to spend a year in England- what if, upon closer inspection, I didn't like the place as much in it's modern form and up close...?

Not to worry. I've found the United Kingdom just as likable close up as she was from a distance, perhaps even more so. This would not be a bad place to call home, in point of fact.

But there is one problem. I can't help but wonder if England has gone senile.

Out at Heathrow, the nation's largest airport, they've just finished building an entirely new terminal. Yesterday, it opened for business for the first time and...


It fizzled. According to a BBC article, severe foul ups on several levels caused multiple back ups that resulted in 34 flight cancellations and a lot of angry people sleeping on the floor of the new 4.3 billion pound terminal.

This is the type of thing that seems all too common here. Personal experiences with hidebound utility bureaucracies (websites that urge you to use the telephone, endlessly looped phone messages that send you back to the website), and repairs that have to be done over and over again because neither material or workmanship seems up to the task the first time, combine with news reports of a dental care system so slow that people are pulling their own teeth rather than waiting, the collapse of a Public Private Partnership which has left parts of London's Underground in financial shambles, and a national rail system that grinds to a halt in autumn because there are leaves on the tracks. All of the above experiences begin to leave the long term visitor wondering if it's time to put the country in a home for the aged.

Personally, I hope not. This is, in many ways, a great country and a fine place to live...but I'm going to keep hoping that they begin to find ways to get their act together....

Besides, it gives me something less personal to worry about when I'm tempted contemplate the idea of Obama and Clinton tearing each other to bits while John McCain sneaks into the back door of the White House....

Good Grief, Gordon Brown.

(London photo by S.Clem)

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