|Amish traveller on State Highway 87 near Russell, Ohio|
As an Americophile, I have lots of memories of times spent on the other side of the Atlantic. Back in the seventies, I met numerous people in inland states who had never seen the ocean, people who dreamt of visiting California or New York one day. Given that America is essentially a land of immigrants, I found it surprising how unworldly many of its citizens have become.
I remember having a rather awkward and slightly heated conversation with a fellow in Skip and Ray's bar in Newbury, Ohio. He insisted that the language he spoke was American and was affronted by any suggestion that he in fact spoke English. He seemed to have no idea about the first English immigrants or The Pilgrim Fathers - none of that stuff. He was American and therefore he spoke American and damn anybody who said any different! It's possible that he was Donald Trump in disguise. It was a long time ago.
Anyway, moving on with those stock stories I was talking about. Here's one that I have often trundled out to illustrate the surprising parochialism you may encounter in America even today. Each time I recount this tale the listener has the illusion that it has never been told before... but it has, many times...
"It was when I was a camp counsellor in Ohio. My friend Chris who was the art counsellor had kindly lent me his Ford Mustang. It was a Sunday morning and I was heading east on Highway 87 though I can't remember where I was going. Anyway, just outside Russell I saw a young man at the side of the road. He was hitch-hiking so I pulled over to give him a lift.. He was obviously a biker with a worn black leather jacket, grimy jeans and lank hair. In fact he was on his way to a moto-cross meet the other side of the oddly named township of Mesopotamia.
There was little traffic around and as we followed the road through Burton we chatted away about this and that. A couple of miles before I was to drop him off, he said:-
"Hey man, you've got a funny accent."
"Yeah, that's because I'm from England," I said, smiling across at him.
He paused and thought for a minute.
"England? Ain't that somewhere over near Maine?"
Well, you could have hit me with a wet haddock. He was confusing England with New England! And before I dropped him off I had the humbling experience of explaining to him that there is a country called England on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. I said, "You know. The place where The Beatles come from".
But as he closed the passenger door and thanked me for the lift, the expression on his face proved that he was none the wiser. In fact, he probably thought he had just had a ride with a deranged lunatic."
Addendum Fortunately, the American bloggers who visit "Yorkshire Pudding" are all cultured citizens of the world. We should be very wary about generalising from the particular and of course I never intended to imply that the young hitchhiker was somehow typical of your average American.