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Journey to Madagascar 2009 

September 29, 2009

SFO to London

After packing was done, bags hefted down the stairs, and final checks made of the iron, thermostat, windows and faucets (you know the drill I’m sure), we reported to SFO to surrender to Continental Airlines in the expectation and hope that we would emerge in London in about 12 hours, assuming a successful connection through Newark.

Actually, everything worked fine. The cross country flight was on time. Our one hour connection in Newark came off without a hitch.  We had strong tailwinds across the Atlantic so arrived at London Heathrow early. Even our bags made it. Everything went so smoothly that less than two hours after arrival we were turning the key in the door to the flat we had booked for the week. As an old Scot might say, “Ay, we’ll pay for this.” Sometimes things really work the right way. This was one of them. Continental gave good service all the way.

I still marvel at how easy it is to travel long distances these days, assuming you have no concerns about carbonaceous footprints. Looking down at the Rockies I couldn’t help thinking about the pioneers who struggled their way west with wagons loaded and no prospect of ever going back. Now, we cross the country – and the oceans – in a relative blink and then fuss if we don’t get exactly the seat we want or our plane is late by 30 minutes after going 3500 miles.

Faced with serious jet lag, the Farringtons are not nappers. Rather, we get in motion and walk, walk, and walk – to stay awake and reset the internal clock. So we enjoyed a pub lunch, then went off to St. Paul’s for Sunday afternoon sung evensong, then checked out the bookstores, walked some more, and finally ended the day with a nibble at a local restaurant.

Crowds outside St. Paul’s. No plummy English heard here on a crystalline blue, sunny Sunday afternoon.

Stopping at St. Paul’s is a wonderful mental acclimation to England, the traditional version. The canon this afternoon had a seriously plummy accent (he would not have admitted to having an accent of course) that did much to establish which culture he believes is, or should be, in charge. His was not a young crowd on the whole.

The culture on the street is another matter. London today is one of the most diverse cities I know of. It is a Mecca for travelers from around the world, many of whom stay and make their lives here under the liberal immigration rules of the EU. The result is an amazingly vibrant culture, much (most) of which is a long way from the plummy “Received Pronunciation” of the canon.

This matter of how established societies adapt to or resist an influx of people with different conceptions of what is normal, ethical, faithful, or even fun has been with us a long time, presumably since the people from the cave on the next hill dropped by to get acquainted. It also is a recurring theme of the time we live in and inevitably will resurface on this trip.

Filed under: Uncategorized — greg @ 10:41 am

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The Chief Penguin


Greg Farrington

Greg Farrington, Executive Director of the California Academy of Sciences, is visiting the island of Madagascar. He is joined by his wife, and Academy researchers, who are surveying and assessing this biodiversity hotspot.

Visit the Farringtons' personal blog, Madagascar Adventure, for in-depth details of this Academy expedition.

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