The things we get up to. We are in England for our niece’s wedding, so we are spending the week beforehand on a sailboat in the pretty Georgian town of Lymington. It’s a particularly good place for what the great Calvin Trillin used to call “the hanging about tour”. I know there are a lot of sights to be seen around here: the Isle of Wight, Queen Victoria’s beloved Osborne House, the New Forest, Carisbrooke Castle. We will probably see none of them. We’re happy just to be hanging about. So far, the program has been: mooch around the boat doing odd jobs, watch the clouds, walk up through the town to the greengrocer’s and the butcher’s, prepare a meal, stroll up to the pub for a night cap. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Which is not to say the visit hasn’t been interesting and edifying. I’m enjoying being skooled on Brexit. When you view it all from America and through the lens of the International media, it’s completely academic. It’s been interesting to talk to Brits about the real nuts and bolts of it. First, I had a former businessman’s perspective on it from my brother-in-law, Mike (he was for it, said the EU had morphed from a good trade agreement to an excess of bureaucracy with no oversight). But I have to say I got the best break-down from the greengrocer. I went up to find some special Isle of Wight potatoes I’d read about that are harvested and then wrapped in seaweed for an infusion of salt. When I asked my greengrocer for them, he said he could give me the potatoes but not the tradition: “We haven’t been allowed to wrap them in seaweed for two years since the EU outlawed it.” That really saddened me. One thing I thought Europeans were all about was preserving tradition, particularly centuries old artisanal foodways. And I can’t help believe that the French aren’t being told they have to make their Brie according to some new standardized methodology. Surprisingly, my greengrocer, who was in his twenties, wasn’t entirely for Brexit. He said, “Well, there were some things I liked about the EU. We’ll see how it all shakes out.”
Next I went on to the butcher, the inestimable A & J Seal Family Butchers. I asked him where he sourced his meat. His lamb and pork is from Dorset, his beef from Cornwall, his chickens used to be from the Isle of Wight but that farmer retired and his daughters didn’t want to carry the farm on. Now they come from Norfolk.
By the way, if you want to hear great good sense and geopolitical explanations, walk from the harbor up the cobblestoned Georgian Quayside Street, bear slight left at the equally Georgian High Street, then turn left into the courtyard at the Angel and Blue Pig pub to where the butcher, fruit and veg place and the deli are located. They’ll give you the straight scoop and send you away with some nice veg and a quarter pound of streaky bacon.
Then back to the boat. Because as Ratty in Wind in the Willows noted: “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”