I always enjoy my regular trips to Seattle, and the more time I spend there, the more I like it. Too many visitors only get to see the city centre, which is pleasant enough but most of it is not, I think, noticably different from, say, Denver. The great thing about Seattle is the surroundings; the islands, the amount of water, the spectacular mountains within a couple of hours’ drive. And the variety of interesting places for, and ways of, consuming caffeine.
But I’m always glad to be back home in the UK. Increasingly so, as time goes on. This may be a natural side-effect of getting older. It’s certainly not a general value judgement. The more I get to know parts of America, and certain Americans more specifically, the more I like them. Yes, it’s easy to find people and places who fit the brash, stereotyped view of America that we so often have in Europe. But I’m also aware of a respect, a courtesy, a gentility, in very many Americans which is getting ever harder to find in the UK. The subtle differences between countries are often much more interesting than the things that strike you on first visit.
There’s no doubt in my mind, though, about which country I’d rather live in. As I flew in to Heathrow yesterday, we came in on my favourite flight path, which goes right over the centre of London and affords spectacular views of the Thames, the Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge etc. It wasn’t that view that made my heart skip a beat and showed me how glad I was to be back, though. It was shortly before, when I looked out of the window and saw the patchwork of irregular, small, odd-shaped fields with tree-lined public footpaths between them. I don’t know where it was. Warwickshire, probably. But it sure as hell ain’t America.