Letter Seventeen

Hi, and welcome,
I’ve seen a lot of our country today. Been driving for about nine hours from Devon (in the southwest) to Darlington (in the northeast). Not there yet. It’s the day after the Summer Solstice as I’m writing this. I’m tapping away on my phone screen as my friend Craig is guiding the van up the A1 heading north. It’s the first time today the road has been properly clear. The sun’s probably got another couple of hours left in the sky. We’re both tired, and we’ve been listening to the World Cup on the radio, interspersed with some heavy metal. We haven’t really seen anything but traffic up until now, but finally the day’s become something approaching beautiful.
Anyway. That’s my experience of our country today. I don’t know what your experience of it is today. But it’s good you’re here too.
And I can’t give you any advice about what it’s like here. I don’t really know what it’s like here anyway. I only know it from my perspective. So any advice I can give you to help you navigate through it is only true for me. And there’s a whole lot I’m not seeing.
So I’m going to talk about how today, from here, in this van, the country’s seemed pretty weird. If today was all I had to go on, I’d think it was mostly roads. Just endless roads and interchanges and people in their own boxes, barely communicating, just pushing buttons that make lights flash on the outside of the boxes, as they speed towards other bits of road and destinations it’s impossible for me to know.
It isn’t just that though. I know sometime after this journey ends there’ll be a room with other people in it. And none of us will be moving fast, at least not for a while. And we’ll sit down and talk about some stuff, and there’ll be people I haven’t met as I’m writing this. And some of them might even end up being friends, and the next time I end up on the road, I’ll have a better idea of what I’m heading to. I’ll be building up my picture of this place, one conversation at a time. It doesn’t feel like that’ll happen from where I’m sitting now. But I know it will.
Like I said, welcome. This is our country – you’ve probably not been here as long as I have. But it’s still ours. And when I say ‘ours’ I don’t mean ‘the English’ or ‘the British’. I mean you and me. I hope to meet you someday.
Chris Thorpe, Manchester, Writer

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