At a time when Olympic athletes are inspiring the world with their incredible talent and dedication, I want to expose a bias that I’ve had for as long as I can remember; I like the British!
When I was a little boy my father bought the family a short-wave radio. On particularly clear nights, amongst the strange howls and shrieks made by these devices we could hear the calm voice of a news reporter broadcasting from the BBC in London. The accent was delightful to me, even at a very young age.
In the 1960’s, for most of us, London was not just a simple airplane destination; it was a place that a dream vacation was made of. If you had the opportunity to visit London even once in your life, it was a big deal. Many of our parents had little interest in Europe; especially our GI’s who had spent “time enough in that hell-hole of a continent.” But for a teenaged Don Salyards, London offered a special allure.
I didn’t get to London until the summer after I graduated from College. A couple of friends of mine and I decided to “take off a summer” right after graduation and tour Europe. We followed through with our plans in the summer of 1971, flying from New York to London on what would soon be a bankrupted “charter” airline. We bought an old Volkswagen beetle in Germany for $600 and drove it to 14 countries, sleeping in a small tent and preparing our meals along the way. It was the “poverty trip” of Europe, but we were young and needed little. We spent money for museum admissions and went to everything that was “free.” In that entire summer we bought only two restaurant meals; peanut butter and jelly sandwiches sufficed for 88 of our 90 days in Europe. When I got home in September of 1971 my entire trip, including plane fare and my portion of the car, came to $750.00
London was a magical place back then and it still is. I can’t remember how many times Deb and I went to London, but I’m sure it was at least 4 trips. If you haven’t been there, you will enjoy it, I promise…just wait until the Olympics and their accompanying high hotel prices have subsided. In our less prosperous years Deb and I used to travel to London in February; low season. It was still fun! What a great city.
For nearly 300 years the British had a formidable empire, upon which the sun never set. While that empire has vanished, largely due to the fact that former British colonies have become independent of the crown, British influence exists all over the world. I would argue that for the most part, British influence has been extremely positive for the world. As their opening Olympic ceremony suggested, the island kingdom has endured and sustained itself throughout history. It is a place to be admired and is a wonderful tourist destination.