Flags, stirring statements and the mundane: Welcome to the US of A

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Wensum, by Jim Harding, September 20, 2016

So greetings Fakenham from the pool side. After a week or so in America, here are a few first impression snap shots of this amazing country.

Let’s start with the mundane. Just like home the garbage is collected on a weekly basis, recyclables rotating with general rubbish, yellow bins and black ones. But the allowances are much more generous. It seems that whatever you pile up by the road side gets taken away. And in this wooded domain residents get an extra assist in the disposal of greenery which is also dumped next to the kerb. There are no paper-round boys and girls on bikes. Instead a driver does the job, expertly throwing rolled up papers and magazines on to driveways. They are all wrapped in plastic for protection.

In leafy suburbs like my brother’s, all the main road junctions are controlled by Stop signs. On major routes there are traffic lights, always suspended across the middle of the carriageways. I’ve yet to come across a roundabout anywhere. Petrol – or, rather, gas – is cheap although the price is variable. Certainly less than 50p a litre.

Unlike us, Americans love to fly their flag. They are to be seen everywhere and not just on ‘official’ buildings. We were driving to Long Island on the 15th anniversary of September 11, universally referred to as 9/11, the downing of the Twin Towers in New York. Every flag was at half-mast as the country mourned the close-to three thousand victims of this terrorist attack.

Uncle Jim put us up in Southampton, perhaps the most lauded of the Hamptons and a magnet for the rich and famous down the decades. It has long attracted the film stars and high society of New York, many of whom own exceptional houses on its coast. Most are hidden from view by high hedges and long driveways. We loved walking around Southampton, hoping to spot a recognisable face but failing to do so. The place relishes its status but wears it lightly. Road-side signs admonish drivers to ‘share the road’; we pedestrians were treated with great respect. I had to smile at this one: ‘All persons are required to wear proper attire on our public streets’.

Americans love to come out with stirring statements. Emblazoned on the front of the town’s major elementary school was this, which I particularly liked: ‘The foundation of every State is the education of its youth.’

Out on Cooper’s beach my brother and I attempted to do battle with the big Atlantic rollers crashing shorewards. Standing still was invariably the wrong choice. You just had to dive under to emerge safe and sound.

Now back in Princeton we anticipate the next adventure, a visit to the capital, Washington DC.

So by way of farewell, ‘Y’all have a good day now.’