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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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Ferries, Buses, Trains and Planes - and What I Did in Between Them
So, after my night at Susan Cooper's she drove me down to Cape Cod, where I set sail for Martha's Vineyard from Falmouth.

One thing I find disconcerting about New England is the way they rearrange English placenames. Presumably they were named by the first immigrants after the towns they came from, but I couldn't help superimposing the "real" Falmouth (and Dorchester, Winchester, etc etc) onto the Massachusetts versions, which made for some odd topologies. Anyway, that didn't prevent us from getting to the ferry on time, and I had 24 hours in Edgartown, visiting old friends. I hadn't been there for 20 years, and they kept warning me how much it had changed, but it really hadn't. What had happened was that several rich people had knocked down their white wooden town houses built in the style of the whaling era, and replaced them with slightly bigger (but otherwise identical) white wooden houses in the style of the whaling era. Anyway, here's a picture of Edgartown lighthouse, to prove I was there.

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Back the following day to Boston, where I and my cases took the T to Harvard, to be greeted by diceytillerman (whom I was meeting for the first time), jadelennox, and latterly by jadelennox's partner. Between them and in various combinations they gave me a really wonderful time over the next 24 hours, before waving me on my way back to Heathrow and thence Bristol.

All the travelling went remarkably smoothly, considering how many things I had to lose and connections to make, and the flustering heat in which it was all conducted. The only thing I mislaid was my watch, but even that turned up in due course, hiding (as is the way of these things) at the bottom of a pocket I had already searched on numerous occasions.

I didn't have much time or energy for touristy stuff, but thanks to my hosts I did sneak a peek into Harvard (which you may remember from such movies as Legally Blonde), get to a couple of great bookshops and visit Burdick's Chocolate House for a drop of the black stuff. I think of chocolate houses as being frequented by people like Defoe and Pepys, and sure enough when we bumped into nineweaving there she did have a pamphlet about her person. It was really a very Restoration scene - except for the air conditioning, but that I was happy to overlook.

Other than that, I couldn't but notice that everything in Boston has a face - from the hauteur of the Harvard Lampoon building to the Munch-like despair of a Dunkin' Donuts coffee lid:

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Or perhaps the heat was getting to me?

First, that Icelandic hot dog stand. (Alas it wasn't open at 6am, or I'd have definitely bought one.)

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While I was in Boston we talked about the huge variety of flavour combinations the Americans seem to have in almost every kind of confectionary, ice cream and other fast food. Which led me to wonder why they were relatively conservative in the one area where the British are truly adventurous - namely, flavours of crisps. I took a photo in my local Tesco this morning to illustrate the point, but was able to capture only a tiny percentage of what was on offer:

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I'm not sure how legible the photo is, but the flavours here include: Thai Sweet Chicken, Mexican Chilli, Sizzling King Prawn, Vintage Cheddar and Onion Chutney, Goat's Cheese and Sticky Chilli Jam, Lamb Shank and Red Wine, Sour Cream and Jalapenos, Melted Cheese and Bacon, Chilli Con Carne, and Peking Spare Rib. (This was a largely carnivorous section of the crisp aisle.) I am sure that America can rise to the challenge.

Finally, another sight that is apparently alien to the US (unless you know better?). A Muslim scout group, round the corner from my house:

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I'm sure America can rise to that challenge too.

Glad you had a good time!

Last Christmas, Tesco was selling own brand crisps in Christmas Pudding flavour. I didn't buy any.

These days, the truly imaginative chefs wear lab coats.

One thing I find disconcerting about New England is the way they rearrange English placenames.

The most outstanding instance of this is that, in Massachusetts, Norfolk County is south of Suffolk County. Was anyone paying any attention at all?

hiding (as is the way of these things) at the bottom of a pocket I had already searched on numerous occasions.

Thus proving the falsity of the common bromide that "It's always in the last place you look." Sometimes it's in a previous place.

I am sure that America can rise to the challenge.

We once had a President who ate ketchup on cottage cheese. Beat that.

Eeeew-- who was that? That is gross!

He was not a cook.

Edited at 2013-07-19 11:47 pm (UTC)

That certainly puts his other misdeeds in perspective.


A pamphlet about my person and a harried look--perhaps brooding on Comedy?


Oh you made it to Katama-- I am so pleased. Those actual whaling houses had doors that never hung straight, and floors that were crooked, and probably powder post beetles! Also the kitchens are tiny and not made for entertaining. So of course some people felt it was better to start over.

I myself grew up in West Tisbury, in just such a crooked little house.

The place names thing makes me laugh. Imagine my surprise, reading about England, to find you guys had all 'our' place names!

My mother said that the first settlers from England were just very homesick, and sad and scared. She said that naming everything of home made them feel better.

I expect she was right, to some extent. Plimouth Plantation is pretty miserable looking.

I am so glad you had a good time. How cool is it that you are friends with Susan Cooper?! I love her books. I read the Will Stanton books again every few years, just for the delight of them.

I love the Vineyard, and was delighted to find it unchanged, at least to my superficial gaze. I only had 24 hours there, alas, so didn't really get out of Edgartown (besides, it was too hot!), but did at least get to see Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven from the bus when I went to catch the ferry.

I am sorry to have missed you. Depending on when you were at Harvard, we were probably within a hundred yards of each other, since it's the middle of summer term now. But of course I would have been teaching....

That's a shame - I'm sure we could have contrived to cross paths had I known.

I did housecleaning yesterday and didn't find the watch. Now I see why!

Really lovely to play with you.

Have had lamb-flavored crisps on my mind since that conversation. Your fault.

I hope you didn't spend too long looking for the watch! It was great to see you and jadelennox - I wish I'd had longer.

Indeed not -- I merely kept an eye out while I was doing things I'd have been doing anyway.

I wish geography weren't so, well, geographical. Or that visiting long distances were somehow easier.

Haggis and onion spotted in a Stirling supermarket! :o)


and there I was thinking that the ham & mustard I'd bought for my theatre's bar stock had been adventurous ...

It's a good combo, though!

I was very smug about how well it'd sold :3

There are Muslim scout troops here. http://www.pluralism.org/reports/view/99 What you can't be is an atheist Boy Scout. (The Girl Scouts are more progressive by far.)

That said, many individual Boy Scout troops will look the other way regarding issues of religion, sexuality, etc. My friend's son's troop was de facto about as liberal as most Girl Scout troops.

A kind of Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy?

Thanks - that's good to know. (The first bit, anyway.)

It was in the context of a comparison of Girl and Boy Scouts that this came up.

As far as I know (I don't watch these issues with very great diligence) the rule about keeping out atheists - or at any rate honest atheists - also applies here, for some stupid reason. I'm not sure whether they still have to swear allegiance to the queen, but that would wipe out another swathe of potential recruits, presumably.

Edited at 2013-07-21 08:21 am (UTC)