Thursday, March 13, 2008

Rural England and Ear Piercing

Yesterday was an interesting day for me on my continuing expat adventure. I had a bit of soaking up the English countryside here in Wiltshire. Wiltshire is the county in England where I live and it is fun when I am able, as an outsider of sorts, to look at the little things that are interesting about each village. The villages here have a way of reminding me of the little town that I come from back in the States.

I was out and about around Wiltshire yesterday with my husband. He had to see a client in Salisbury and I went along for the ride. I like going with him when I have the time or chance to go.

Along the way to Salisbury, we went through the village of Avebury which surrounds the World Heritage Site of stone circles there. It is a lovely quaint little place and it was one of the first places I ever visited when I first came to England. So it has a sentimental place in my heart. We passed by one of the shops and I saw in the window that they had a sign that said, “Save our Post Office”. This kind of sign is seen more and more around the villages lately.

Recently post office closings have been in the news a lot here. Many small post offices in England are on the verge of being closed. Some of the reasons that I have heard are that: people send loads of emails now and don’t send letters so much anymore; and there is competition to compete with private delivery services, etc. It seems though that a very important thing is being missed here. Small village post offices are a lifeline for people and are a quintessential part of life out here in the countryside. The post offices usually stock other merchandise and are a place for people to pick up things they need. And also post offices here are places that bring villagers together to socialize. So the post offices are a meeting place and are the biggest part of the day for the elderly who hardly see anyone else if they didn’t go to the post office daily.

As I have written before, as an expat, I am clearly aware of the differences between English life and my life back in America. Sometimes the differences are big ones and sometimes they are just slight little things. And then sometimes I find that even in the subtle differences there are grains of similarity between both places. I am often quizzed by people here about the differences that I see and it is hard to explain to them, without sounding like I am copping out, that even though it is very different sometimes, it is rather similar too. So when I think of this situation with the post offices here it makes me think of our little post office back in the small town that I came from.

I find that just like the post offices in villages here in England are often a meeting place for people, it was the same way back where I come from. I come from a tiny, rural place in America and the post office is at the center of the town there too. Many times I have gone there and saw someone either coming in or going out of the door that I haven’t seen in a long time or someone I just wanted to say hello to. And I see many people, young and old, doing the same thing. So when I hear on the news that people want so much to save the post offices in their villages in England in order to preserve the life of the places, I can relate. Also here in England, a lot of the elderly rely on the post offices to pick up things they need and to pick up their pensions. It is too far for them to venture into the bigger towns. So even though, I am sure that those in charge of things think that they are simply doing what makes business sense to them, I think they are missing the point in some cases. They are taking away much of the village way of life and as an American who didn’t grow up here and who can see so much now that I only saw in movies before, it is a shame that things are changing. But I guess change is inevitable.

Another place that we went through, called Wilton, is also a nice place. It is small and very English. On the sign going into the village, it says that it is the ancient capital of Wessex. So you know right then that the history is long. Wilton is also where the county of Wiltshire that I live in derives its name from. A lot of the time when I go through these places I am reminded of how old they are when I look at the narrowness of the roads. When we went through there yesterday, we went down this street and I remember thinking that it was only barely one lane wide. Well right ahead of us a car was passing through the narrowest bit and a man was walking down the sidewalk. The car was so close that he had to lean his body into the building in order to let the car’s mirror pass him and not smack into him. Then he just kept walking like he had done this a million times. That is what I like about going through these little villages, you get to see something tiny, but intriguing every time. It was a good day out to see rural England.

Today is a personal anniversary of mine. This is the anniversary of the day that I got my ears pierced when I was a kid. I told my husband that I remember consciously looking at the calendar on the wall and saying to myself, “I’m going to remember this day.” I think that I was just always a kid that liked to remember stuff like that in case I became a famous actress one day and penned my autobiography. :-)) Well, I grew out of the actress thing, but all those dates that I committed to memory never left me. Can you imagine the snowstorm of dates that are always whirling around in my head? Oh well, so here’s to my ear piercing all those years ago.

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