BBC BLOGS - Justin Webb's America

Time to say goodbye

Justin Webb | 09:48 UK time, Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Comments (719)

Sorry again for not being more attentive. With great sadness - really huge sadness as the time we spent in America will I think be the highlight of our family life - it is time to say goodbye.

We have arrived back in the UK to begin the rest of our lives. Memo to other Brits who might think of coming home from the US: spend your final US holiday in (fill in the name of your least favourite US place) - don't do what we do and fly home from northern California. Granted I was unimpressed with San Francisco but for climate and lifestyle and gorgeous scenery there is nowhere better than the rest of the state. But you already know this.

What I would like to do is thank people who have contributed to the blog - including those who find my views frustratingly jejune - and ask you to forgive my failure to reply to many many fascinating insights including (rather shamefully) several I nicked for my book.

Now back in the UK I find myself utterly at sea - I say hello to people I pass in the street. They lunge on, muttering insults. We'll get used to it. But we will never forget the kindness of America. In Swindon buying a car the other day (yes, life has changed) the conversation turned to a familiar theme but one that endlessly fascinates me - the relative peaceableness of the American life, guns and all. Too many Brits seriously think that America is violent. It isn't. Most America lives are free of violence and the threat of it in a way no life in Swindon can be. Why that's true is a subject all of its own (religion, gun ownership, moral fibre, space, social cohesiveness?) and one worthy of a future study.

By the way, we bought a large second-hand American car and we will pay the extra costs with pride... Have a nice day !

Too European?

Justin Webb | 08:04 UK time, Saturday, 25 July 2009

Comments (1121)

A friend sends this interesting piece of religious news. I hadn't seen it because I am still in San Francisco, where the religious mores of the rest of the nation don't really hold sway. In Borders Books, they have The Origins of the Species in their favourites section. In Kansas, you'd need a paper bag and a special order.

And yet I feel torn by the European familiarity of San Francisco - its rationalism and secularism and public transportism. Being European in outlook is not - it seems to me - the future for America.

Americans can learn things from Europeans but the essence of America - even if it involves weird notions of Biblical denial of women's rights - is somehow more brutally vivacious than the jaded options over the Atlantic. So many European tourists here: poor things, they have travelled ten hours to come to the only part of America that isn't American. They'll go home knowing nothing.

Space, youth and hope

Justin Webb | 09:22 UK time, Friday, 24 July 2009

Comments (115)

Sorry to be so unreliable a contributor in the last few weeks of my time here - instead of blogging, we have been contributing to the Californian economy in a heartfelt bid to save it from itself.

Enjoyed LA and noted the owners of powder blue Bentleys seemed to have been unaffected so far by the economic crisis.

San Francisco is so European in contrast - prickly dislike of motor cars that stops you turning left or right when you want to and encourages you on to public transport. It's even cold and grey: we could be home already.

As for America's future - this country is full of space and youth and and hope. The rest of the world can seem so jaded in contrast. When people carp at America I think of the Robert Frost poem The Importer - sometimes reviled as racist and certainly not fashionable nowadays - that hits back with wit and, to me, wisdom.

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