THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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November 2017

Dangerous driving by a transvestite

Life is tough at the bottom of the equality heap | The Spectator.

I am catching up on last week's magazines as I was away on my road trip when they were delivered. I only just got to the linked article in The Spectator. The first anecdote in Melissa Kite's "Real Life" column last week sums up post-modern identity politics. An offence committed against a member of a protected minority has long been a greater crime in law. Now here is someone arguing (though Parliament has not yet blessed the notion) that an offence committed by one is a lesser, or at least that protected minority tears and feelings are an adequate defence.
In case you have used up your three free online articles in the Speccie, here are the key paragraphs
A friend of mine was walking her dogs at the same beauty spot I walk my spaniels, when a car screeched into the car park sending children scurrying for their lives. My friend ran up and knocked on the window and the window was wound down to reveal a man in a dress and blond wig. My friend said, ‘What are you doing? You could have killed a child. Slow down!’ And the man replied, ‘But I’m a transvestite.’
My friend tried to pursue the issue, pointing out that, be that as it may, he couldn’t speed or run over children. But he countered that suggestion by bursting into tears. And at that point she had no choice. She had to desist. Her argument was defunct. She was intellectually, morally and politically beaten. The speeding transvestite had upheld his right to drive in the manner he felt most expressed him, given the cultural and societal stresses he was under. He was validated. He was beautiful in every single way. Words would not bring him down. Certainly, no farmer’s wife in wellies was going to bring him down today. And so on.
The creepiest part of the story is how the lady challenging the miscreant backed off when the "defence" was offered. I think there is no escaping that we "normies" are as much to blame for the bizarre situation we now find ourselves in because we have consistently lacked the courage to "face the fire" when Liberty's and Reason's enemies try it on. Why did she not just say "Your sexual confusion has nothing to do with your duty to drive with care"? Her reaction should surely have been no different than if he had said "but my eyes are blue".
Of course the real question is how the boys in blue would have read the situation had they been there. Sadly I think we know

The post truth era began long ago

If I have blogged very little of late, at least on political topics, there are two reasons. Firstly I have been toiling through a very difficult book, which I wish I had read years ago. It explains so much of what I have written in the past — while often tediously bemoaning my incomprehension of the phenomena I was addressing — that I was afraid to write more without finishing it. Secondly, the task I have been attempting for so many years is now being performed more effectively, successfully (and to an audience of millions) by new arrivals on the scene. When the points I was trying to make were generally not being discussed, it made sense to light my small candle, rather than curse the darkness. Now these new guys have lit their arc lights and are turning them on the enemies of Reason and Liberty, not so much.

One of those new guys, Professor Jordan Peterson, recommended his readers to the book I mentioned. It is Explaining Postmodernism by Stephen Hicks and it does what it says on the cover. I commend it to you. It’s hard going because, well, it’s a philosophy book but it’s worth the effort even if (as it has for me) it consumes weeks of your life. There is a unifying, nihilistic philosophy underlying many of the things that so annoy you and me about modern thought. It has respectable intellectual antecedents going back to Rousseau and Kant.

Much as the Liberty-minded blogosphere might like to point fingers at Common Purpose etc. (and much as that and other similar organisations are informed by Postmodernist thought) the truth is we don’t need a conspiracy theory to understand how so much of academia has been lost to Reason and even to Virtue. There is a rational explanation for the unreason, nay anti-Reason of most professors in the Social "Sciences" and many in the Humanities.

To quote an elegant review of the book by Gary Jason of the Philosophy Department at California State University; 

Hicks begins by sketching out in broad terms what modernism is. Modernism is the worldview produced by the Enlightenment over the last four centuries. Roughly characterized, modernism involves naturalism in metaphysics, with the confidence that modern science is capable of, and is actually succeeding in, giving us an understanding of the physical universe. Modernism involves what he calls objectivism in epistemology, meaning the view that experience and reason are capable of gaining real knowledge, although modernist philosophers have hotly contested the specifics of this (with Rationalism, Empiricism, and Pragmatism being the most historically active epistemological schools). Modernism involves individualism in ethics, and a commitment to human rights, religious toleration, and democracy in political theory. Modernism also involves the acceptance of free-market economics and the technological revolution that it has spawned. In sum, modernism is the mindset that is common to the West, the laborious product of many great minds – Bacon, Locke, Descartes, Smith, Hobbes, Spinoza, Galileo, Newton, and Hume, among others. Most of us view this as a considerable leap forward from the medieval period of supernaturalism, mysticism, excessive reliance on faith, and feudalist political and economic systems.

In the last 50 years or so, however, a group of thinkers have set themselves in opposition to the whole Enlightenment project. These soi-disant postmodernists reject the Enlightenment root and branch. Chief among the postmodern thinkers are Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Jean-Francois Lyotard and (amazingly, an American) Richard Rorty. These thinkers, together with a host of smaller fry... , have developed a large following in the humanities – especially literature, less so in philosophy – and in the social sciences. They have developed virtually no following in science, math, computer science, and engineering... The postmodern mindset views the whole Enlightenment project as a failure. The po-mo view is metaphysically anti-realist and anti-naturalist, holding that the physical universe is not ultimately describable in final terms. It is socially subjectivist in epistemology, holding that the "world" is what we socially construct, and each "group" (racial, gender, linguistic, ethnic, national or what have you) constructs the world according to its group identity. Postmodernists are egalitarian and collectivist in matters ethical and political. (If there are any postmodern libertarians or conservatives, I have yet to hear of them)

I am relieved to have an explanation but humbled by its complexity. The book gives my ideological pain a rational framework just as my elementary readings in economics since I retired have given me a vocabulary for the real life phenomena I experienced at work. In both respects, I’m a little wiser perhaps but no better. And no more effective neither. 

Which is why, exhausted and humbled as I am (and as no Po-Mo true believer will ever be) by my efforts at understanding, I am happy to direct my few, but much esteemed by me, readers to the ongoing work of Professor Peterson and the unconnected populist polemicist Milo Yiannopolous. Professor Peterson is bringing both courage and academic rigour to the defence of the West against Po-Mo, while Milo is a kind of court jester who draws attention very effectively to the insanity of its activists; going so far as to provoke them into displays that will discredit them in the eyes of most people. Milo and the Professor have little in common but their enemies, who are wildly denouncing both of them in Po-Mo's characteristic hysterical terms. And, perhaps, their religious belief.

That's ironic as the respectable 18th Century roots of Po-Mo thinking lie in the over-reaction of the religious to the perceived threat to religion of such writers of the Age of Reason as my hero Tom Paine. Rather than attack the ideas of such people, some of their religious contemporaries attacked Reason itself, casting doubt on Man's ability to explain his universe. The same faith that led those moderate and sensible thinkers into error, may now be giving courage to those opposing the insane modern consequences of that error. That doesn't worry me at all, though I am not religious myself. In fact it gives me hope because people who think themselves to be doing God's work are likely, in practice, to persist where others falter. The political event that shaped my life and career – the fall of the Soviet Union – would not have happened without the faith of Pope John Paul II and his lay helpmates; Ronald Reagan, Lech Walesa and Margaret Thatcher.

I will chip in on political topics when I can, particularly where they concern my personal "goddess", Liberty. However, I will confine myself to practical observations. For serious thinking on the existential threat to the West, I commend you to Professor Peterson. For polemics against the enemies posing that threat, I commend you to Milo. 

Home run

My day started well with a walk on a windy beach and a photo I liked. Then a motel breakfast lowered the tone as it will. I soon cheered up as I hit the road and drove through Kitty Hawk  and back over a bridge to the mainland. My touristic objective for the day was to visit the US Navy at its home base in Norfolk, VA and specifically the retired battleship USS Wisconsin, which is by far the biggest exhibit at a naval museum there.

The drive was perfect, along country roads. I listened to the Outer Banks country station for as long as I could and then to my own music via my iPhone which had hooked itself up to Sally via Apple Car Play. The scenery was classic, the roads were good and the traffic was light, I made good time to Norfolk, found a nearby parking garage and headed off to the museum.

I ignored the interactive educational nonsense and headed straight for the displays. Then I tried to find a vantage point (I couldn't) from which with a 16mm lens I could photograph the entire battleship. A professional photographer working there told me the best place was the top floor of the nearby car park but – just my luck – I had parked in the wrong one.

I had lunch at a local bistro before heading off to my friends in Georgetown. All was well until I hit the DC traffic and then the joy began to drain. It seems that I am a redneck at heart and country roads are where I am happiest.

The updated tour map is here and I am assembling an album of photos to which I will post a link soon. Tomorrow I will do some tourism in DC during the day before heading off to the the airport to drop Sally off and take the redeye home.

In Blackbeard's wake

The only friend I have who lives in North Carolina today commented on Facebook that he has never heard of these islands. All the more kudos then to my Austrian-American lawyer friend in Georgetown who suggested I should drive back via The Outer Banks and not (as I had planned) through the Smokey Mountains. Not, you understand, because I would like any of the things The Outer Banks are famous for. I don't surf, I don't sail, I don't swim in the sea and I find beaches unappealing. Nor am I an outdoorsman and least of all am I a fisherman. I do however like to drive the American Road and, like the protagonists of one of my favourite Simon & Garfunkel songs, I've come "to look for America".

Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 17.18.47The most similar places I have been were Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. I took my family to Nantucket years ago. We took a trip to Martha's Vineyard while we were there. If you don't own one of the estates there or enjoy surfing etc., the appeal of those islands is limited. The history of the Nantucket whaling fleet has an afternoon of interest in it and whale watching is great fun, especially if you have young children to marvel at the size of the beasts when they come alongside.  Though anyone willing to marvel will do. The soundtrack of one of my family videos of that trip is rendered hilarious by an American lady marvelling so vigorously at the whales that she replicated Meg Ryan's performance in the most famous scene of "When Harry met Sally".

But I digress. The public areas of those wealthy islands tend to the scruffy. The Kennedys, Obamas and Carly Simons of this world have entourage to do their shopping for them and tend only to leave their estates to visit each other. The Outer Banks are less elitist. Not only do more tourists come to stay in hotels and rentals that must be made appealing to the public, but listening to the local radio (The Outer Banks have an excellent country station) I feel there are probably more locals here. Locals not in the sense of workers brought in to service the private estates but of people who are from the place and would still be here if wealthy city folks had no taste for sea spray and sand in their toes.

It doesn't matter how much money you spend on a beachside home, it always seems to look a bit rickety and windswept and have something of the "shack" about it. Windswept and interesting though, as long as there's sand and sea views. And beachside homes out of season, amid shops and restaurants that are closed until the sun-seekers return, are always going to look that bit shabbier and less chic. I bet the place looks lively and colourful at the times of year it's meant to be enjoyed though. I reflected as I drove that this would have been a great place to make family memories when Mrs P. was alive and the Misses P were young children.

These were my thoughts and impressions during today's short journey. I enjoyed the drive tremendously. I set off from my B&B in Beaufort after a splendid breakfast. I tend not to use B&Bs because they usually want firm advance bookings and I like to be flexible when on the road. Whenever I do use them however I wonder why I don't do it more often. There's such a difference between a breakfast cooked by a human who is going to look you in the eye as she serves it and the "complimentary" breakfasts of roadside motels. It is a good job I ate a hearty breakfast as the places I tried for lunch were closed. That was my own fault because I drove too quickly out of Ocrakoke and Hatteras, the destinations of the two ferries I took today. Each had a cluster of places around the ferry terminal where a chap could have fed royally. Out on the road, however, there was not enough activity to justify keeping restaurants (not even a Dairy Queen) open out of season.

The attraction then was the road itself. Through such villages as the delightfully named "Sealevel" on the mainland this morning it was already pastoral in a seasidey way. Two lane blacktop bounded by scrub and sand. And water everywhere, though mostly glimpsed from bridges or between the beachside homes. I take childish pleasure when driving in America in the road signs written in English – as opposed to the stupid symbols we use in Britain. I saw two new favourites today; one many times – "No fishing from the bridge" and one just once "Autistic Child Area". The latter could have caused an accident as I lost concentration wondering precisely how I should drive differently on the basis of that information. I am afraid I came up with nothing useful so drove as I otherwise would – with precisely the same determination to avoid hitting any children I encountered.

Then came the ferry crossing from Cedar Island to Ocracoke. It lasted from 1030 to 1240 and was fun. I left Sally for a while and wandered around the ship with my camera, photographing mainly the distinctive shrimping boats with their wing-like nets that reminded me of Forrest Gump. I attracted a bit of attention on the ferry as I had driven onto it with the roof down. I had driven roofless since breakfast as the temperatures rose slowly from 50 degrees Fahrenheit to 61. It was certainly not as warm as I would have wished but the sun was shining and I wanted both to feel it on my face and to see and smell my surroundings. Sally's heated seat helped as did the regular heater directed to blow on my legs. I thought it was an exaggeration on the part of a kindly American lady to tell me I was "brave". Particularly so soon after the Veterans' Day celebrations of actual courage.

On the islands themselves, as you can see from the map, the ocean is often almost within touching distance on both sides of the road as one drives along. There are "no parking" signs along the road to deter people from just hopping out to go to the beach anywhere – as they certainly could. On the other hand there are regular and neat parking areas with pathways to the beaches for bathers and surfers and tracks for those who have bought a permit to take their 4x4s on the beaches for a drive. 

On a windy day like today the road often resembled a beach. Sand was drifting steadily across at some points, and was suspended in the air like a low red mist at others. Just as I wondered how the local authorities kept the roads clear in such circumstances I encountered a road crew engaged on bulldozing the sand back to prevent further drifting. I also drove in a single file convoy through a long construction zone where a major bridge connecting the islands was being repaired. My favourite parts were on the causeways where narrow sandy beaches no wider than the hard shoulder of an English motorway on both sides of the road were all that separated me from the Atlantic. It was at those moments that I could see why pirates such as Blackbeard used to find these islands an appealing base for their criminal enterprises.

Tonight I am going to watch some TV and chill. The town of Kill Devil Hills looks lively enough and its restaurants are both plentiful and open, but it does not exert enough charm to draw me back outside after the exertion of hauling my heavy case up the stairs to my upper level motel room. The updated map of my tour can be found here if you're interested. Tomorrow I have a longish drive back to Georgetown to spend a final night with my friends there before heading for the airport and home on Thursday. 

Charleston, SC and Beaufort, NC

You probably don’t need me to tell you that Charleston is a beautiful city. It was one of the great cities of the British colonies in the Americas. It was a major port and naval base. 40% of black Americans can trace their ancestry to slaves sold in its little market by the docks

Its present state as a historic city full of old buildings and charm is, like so much in the South, a result of the Civil War. Southerners had so much capital tied up in their slaves, that they were impoverished when the system was abolished. Britain had abolished slavery throughout its remaining colonies eighty years previously but had compensated the owners. They had therefore been able to reinvest and reorganise their businesses to work with free labour. The moral bar had been raised but life and business went on. 

The more dramatic (and some readers will be thinking more ethical) approach taken by the Americans left over 700,000 dead, the South in smoking ruins and once-wealthy Southerners near bankrupt. Morality is a difficult thing. As is democracy.  There is no way that 19th century voters in America would have approved a compensation scheme.  Of course if you had told them the death, destruction and division that would ensue, they might have taken a different view. Hindsight is cheaper than war.

Charleston has olde worlde charm by the shipload because when buildings aged or burned down their owners could only afford to make do and mend. Now any building over 75 years old is preserved by law, however dubious its utility or artistic merit. Ironically the city is doomed to be a living museum of the age of slavery. 

I wandered its streets, camera in hand, and drank in the charm. I signed up for a horse-drawn tour of colonial Charleston and noted that our guide spoke of the British colonists as “we” when other Americans say “they” as if the Revolutionary War deleted the British individuals who founded America and replaced them with new humans, rather than just changed their nationality. 

Over breakfast back in Camden, the bride’s daughter and son-in-law – restaurateurs in Barcelona – had recommended High Cotton, as the place to eat in Charleston. It was a brilliant choice. After sampling a few local beers in the nearby bar, I turned up for my solo reservation and had a fantastic time. New Jerseyites at the next table made conversation, as did the accomplished young waiter and sommeliere.  It would’ve been nice to have a friend to share the experience of course, but it was not the weird occasion it might have been in Britain. I dined on shrimp and grits washed down with a bottle of Pouilly Fuissé and life was good. 

Today I set off early from Charleston to drive up the Carolina coast towards the ferry terminal at Cedar Island from which I will embark tomorrow to reach the “Outer Banks”, a series of islands linked by ferries and causeways many miles off the mainland coast. Blackbeard the pirate was fond of the place and the Wright Bros made my life of travel possible with their brave experiments there.

The nearest bed to the ferry terminal that I could hire was in an elegant B&B in the little sailing town of Beaufort. I arrived in the late afternoon after a pleasant and uneventful journey mostly along minor roads. The pace was slow but I was able all the better to watch ordinary Americans go about their business. Sally the Ford Mustang I hired in Washington DC  is a perfect machine for the task. It was chilly but sunny so I turned up my collar, turned on the heated seat and drove most of the way with the roof down and the cruise control on, thoroughly adjusting to the unhurried pace of the American Road while blending in as I never could in Speranza on my 48 state epic trip of 2013. 

After walking along the waterfront and taking some photographs in Beaufort, I settled down in a Mexican restaurant to have a much more humble meal than last night. I rather shocked the waitress by ordering a pitcher of margaritas to accompany my modest repast. Spanish is not the secret code she thinks it to be so I got the full benefit of her wisdom as she told her manager all about the dissolute alcoholic Brit she was serving. I was as cheerfully unaffected by this as my “large organism” was by the alcohol and tipped her handsomely to introduce some much needed confusion into her narrow mind. 

I am a forty minute drive from the ferry terminal and am booked on the 1030 crossing so will head over there after breakfast tomorrow. The crossing of Blackbeard’s old waters is more than two hours so I will have the whole afternoon to make my way to the beach hotel I am staying at near the Wright Bros testing grounds. 

The updated map of my tour is here

Love and Marriage

On the Great American Road Trip of 2013, the Quarterback (remember him?) told me it was wrong that I felt so at home in the United States and saw it as part of my culture. "These people", he said, "formed their nation in rebellion from yours". So, indeed, they did and I like to think I would have been on the side of that rebellion. In establishing these United States, the Founding Fathers and the first citizens implemented the very best ideas of the English thinkers of the time, including my hero the original and best Tom Paine. It's only a shame that those ideas were not implemented sooner and more fully in the land where they were conceived.

Such historical unpleasantnesses as the Revolutionary War apart (a major battle of which was fought on the land where the wedding I am here to attend took place) there is no question that the language, legal system, modes of worship, customs and manners of my home islands were transplanted successfully here. They have developed in ways that are entertainingly distinctive, but in truth no more different than, say, those of Edinburgh, Scotland from those of London, England. A South Carolina wedding, I am here to inform you, differs little in its essence from one that might take place on the lawn of a country house in England. If the house were close to London, it might even be possible to find a gospel choir similar to that which put us in the right frame of mind before the ceremony began. I doubt though that a British bride would gaily mix the music of that choir with Scottish bagpipes and drums.

To see that choir singing the Lord's praises in English, to watch the bride process to the sound of pipe and drum, and to hear the old English ceremony spoken in a Southern drawl was quite the experience. If Britain is lost to her enemies, our culture will, believe me, live on this side of the Pond.

To see my old friend look so happy as she took her man in marriage was a delight. She shares a Christian name with my late wife and her husband shares mine so I shed a tear as I heard them called upon in those names to be true to each other until death does them part. That moment passed however. I thoroughly enjoyed both the ceremony and the celebrations that followed until I slipped away to avoid the dancing - a form of revelry I simply do not grok. I particularly enjoyed the speech of the bride's son (standing in, as he did at the ceremony, for the father of the bride). He's the English-educated son of her English first husband and has the humorous irreverence that mostly did NOT make it across the Pond. Though the American speeches, heartfelt though they undoubtedly were, came over as too stickily sentimental for English tastes, the American audience seemed to enjoy his jokey, English-style speech as much as I did.

There is something inspiringly optimistic about a wedding. Two people, particularly two far too experienced to be naive, committing to love each other forever is, as Doctor Johnson cynically put it, a triumph of hope over experience. I don't share his cynicism. Screw experience, I am all for hope!

Today the wedding party breaks bread together for the last time before we part company. I shall be heading off on the rest of my road trip and plan to follow roughly the route shown.

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 05.37.15

Arriving at the wedding venue.

I was two and three quarter hours from Camden, SC – the venue for this weekend's wedding – when I woke yesterday morning. I loaded the car, said farewell to my Russian hostess as she went out to her gym and then breakfasted with her American husband at the development's golf club. By mid morning I was on my way along local highway SC-11. I set the radio to a local country station and turned on cruise control at (or about) the speed limit. As I headed south the Autumn colours faded and it was Summer again. I lowered the ragtop and cruised, just as I had imagined this trip, with my elbow on the driver's door. I was back in my favourite place – on the American Road.

On arrival I parked up and removed all the lighting gear from my case, Dumping it on the back porch amid the rocking chairs, I set about scouting locations for a portrait shoot for the bride and groom to be. Having found my spots, I set up the lighting and enlisted one of the guys preparing the wedding marquee to hold my light stand steady. The shoot was all over by 5.30 pm. I headed to my cottage at the local country club to shower and prepare for the evening's karaoke party.

Fortified by a few whiskys, I did have a go at singing. Rather ballsily I thought, as the only Englishman in the room, I gave them "America the Beautiful". I hit the limits of my vocal range quite quickly but it was well received. I guess my intentions counted for something. During a debate in my student days I noted that English has a name for those who like the Chinese (Sinophile), the Russians (Russophile) and even the French (Francophile) but none for those who like Americans. I coined the word "Yankophile" because I am one. I am not sure that coinage would go down too well this side of the Mason-Dixon Line but the fact I love this country and feel very much at home here is pretty evident to my Southern hosts. And I know enough of "the late unpleasantness" to realise that the issues at stake were more complex than the Yankees would have you think.

Carriages were at 11pm and I settled down to write this before heading for bed. I had had too much Laphroaig for that however so I left it to this morning. I have lots of leisure today as the wedding ceremony is at 3pm.

The map of the tour is here

Charlotte etc.

Metropolitan :: 1111 Metropolitan Avenue, Suite 300, Charlotte, NC. 28204 :: 704-552-1700.

The city of Charlotte NC was nothing to me but a word in my address book until yesterday when I met another old Central & Eastern Europe buddy there. I was surprised by the skyline as I approached it. This is a significant and attractive modern city. As befits two real estate guys we met in a modern mixed use development where we had sushi among the North Carolinan hipsters.
I arrived early and so had chance to walk with my camera along Sugar (or is it Sugaw?) Creek, which was heavily polluted and capped with concrete until the project developer uncovered and landscaped it to create the Sugar Creek Greenway. Maybe it was just a "planning gain" schtick to persuade the city authorities to give the permits but he had done a good job of creating an attractive urban park. I watched the locals jog and cycle through it for a while before adjourning for coffee in a French cafe specialising in macarons to wait for my friend.
After lunch I hit the road again toward my destination for the day. More real estate friends, this time from my days in Moscow, live in retirement in a wonderful home on Glassy Mountain in the "Dark Corner" of South Carolina. I left the interstate and drove miles along winding country roads through the beautiful colours of autumnal trees. My run ended with the ascent of the mountain road to their home (today, quite literally) in the clouds.
Before dinner they took me to surprise one of their neighbours. He is yet another American real estate guy whom I know from my days in Poland. He still lives and works in Warsaw but has a holiday home on Glassy Mountain (as I learned when I met him last year at a christening in Warsaw). He happened to be there with his English mother to celebrate her 90th birthday and we had a pleasant drink and (highly political!) chat before returning home for dinner.
We ended a splendid day with a late night drink on the verandah looking out over virgin forest toward the distant lights of Greenville, SC. I was actually in a rocking chair – how Southern is that?!
Tomorrow it's onward to Camden, SC for the wedding of another friend from Poland. The route map of my tour, updating as I proceed, is to be found here. I am sorry I am not posting photos but I have not had the best internet access on this trip so far. I will make an online album when I get back to London and post a link.

Virginia and the Carolinas Road Trip

Battle of Appomattox Court House - Wikipedia.

I have not blogged for a while. The political situation in the UK cannot please a sensible person of any persuasion and I have really had nothing to add to the mix of bitterness, fake news and witch-hunting that characterises the Brexit interregnum.
Life goes on and I am both happy and well. This weekend I have the pleasure to attend the wedding of an old friend from my Warsaw days who is getting married in South Carolina, where she now lives. It seemed foolish just to fly in and out without getting full value from the investment in expensive aviation so I hired a Ford Mustang and have embarked on a 10 day road trip.
I arrived on Monday. Having picked up the car (christened, for obvious reasons, "Sally") I drove to the house of some other old friends in Georgetown and spent a couple of nights with them, I also took the opportunity to have coffee with a third friend (this time from my Moscow days) who now lives in DC.
This morning I hit the road properly and spent 6 hours and 8 minutes driving 366 miles. I headed south from Washington and then struck out Westwards to visit the Appomattox Court House State Historical Park which contains (in original or reconstructed form) almost all the village of that name (including the courthouse it's named for). This is where the last battle of the American Civil War was fought and where General Lee surrendered to General Grant when it was clear that the South's cause was lost. 

It was very moving to learn how, on President Lincoln's express orders, the defeated rebels were treated with politeness and respect. The process of healing the rift began with the printing of over 30,000 paroles on a hand press in the village tavern - one for each rebel solder. In return for promising never to take up arms against the Union again, he was promised that the United States would take no action against him for his rebellion and allowed to go home with (if he had one) his horse. As one of the park rangers delicately put it, the "united" part of "United States" only began to be true on that day,

I then drove down to Winston Salem where I will stay tonight. Tomorrow I am meeting another old friend from my days in Eastern Europe who now lives in Charlotte NC, before heading on into South Carolina to stay with yet more friends from my Moscow days.
As usual, you can track my tour here.