The first newspaper headline I noticed: 80 graduates for every job. Prominent on the BBC: a pointed but civilized debate in the House of Commons about a government proposal to make institutions of higher education more competitive, more open, and more productive of employable graduates. There was also news of a pending strike across the public sector, which would make us dependent on our feet for at least one day. Nothing about Israel, Palestinians, Gaza, or the flotilla.
Good. We really had landed in another country.
Don''t get me wrong. The Zionism that attacked me four decades ago, and produced yet another rebellion against my super patriot American parents, had not subsided. But a respite every once in a while is good for the soul.
Britain, or in the immediate case, Edinburgh, offered a decent site in mid-summer. Cooler by 10-15 degrees (Centigrade), bright green rather than the dull yellow of a Middle Eastern summer, some hope for sunshine, spectacular period architecture, and great nature walks within range of city buses.
The bad news was a Taliban attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, I recall it as a plush, super Holiday Inn on a spectacular urban mountain, where I stayed for one night years ago before asking my hosts to find me a more genuine place. The death toll traced to this check-in was not great, but the need for NATO forces to end the attack may have tarnished Barack Obama''s plan to draw down the American involvement.
Several days into this holiday, dependent on the BBC, it was apparent that the British are as parochial as Americans, Israelis, and perhaps everyone else. One morning''s news, after an update on a strike, dealt with a machine for picking up chickens. Discussants described the chickens'' reactions, compared to the traditional method of hand picking-up, focused on the comfort of the birds (about to be killed), and finally got to what may have been the main point, i.e., damage to the meat. Initial findings, in case you''re interested, are that the machines are gentler to the birds than the kinds of people hired to pick them up.
BBC-TV live coverage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (William and Kate) beginning a tour of Canada at the War Memorial, glorified royalty in ways foreign to me as American or Israeli. After an hour on the Canadian reception of the royal couple, a shift to pros and cons of public service one-day strike in behalf of pension details.
During the royal ceremony at the Canadian War Memorial, the fawning commentator devoted a sentence or two about Canadian casualties in Afghanistan, much less than she devoted to Kate''s Canadian-designed dress.
A day later there was extensive coverage of the latest on Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The attorney for the "victim" whose lies to the Grand Jury and Immigration authorities had damaged the prosecutor''s case, held sway for at least a quarter hour of prime time (5 PM), explaining how his client had been wronged.
Later the preoccupation turned to news that the scandal-oriented popular press had hacked into the phones of various victims, violated their privacy during their most vulnerable time, and sensationalized rumors about the victims and their families that were downright awful. This led to the closing of a popular but scurrilous down-scale newspaper, or at least the suspension of its name until the Murdoch machine could produce something similar without a name that was causing major consumer companies to cancel their advertisements.
No reports about the most recent near-lynching in Isaweea, very little about the claim of flotilla organizers that Israelis had sabotaged one of their boats and spoiled the rest of the venture with evil Jewish politics.
Great place. I''d die of boredom, but there are worse fates