David Bouchier

It takes a lot to get English people really upset. But the organizers of a vegetable show in an English village managed it when they agreed to allow contestants to enter produce that they had not grown, but instead purchased at the local supermarket. This was considered an outrage and a violation of all the laws of fair play and honest competition. The whole point of such shows is to reward the skill and dedication of the grower who produces the fattest marrow or the longest carrot. There’s no glory at all in simply buying something.

We stopped in England for a few days, in a village where we used to live – just across the street from our former house, in fact. How strange it was to wake up in a place that was once so familiar. I could lie in bed and listen to the village coming to life in the morning. The clatter of the postman's bicycle against the brick wall, the thump of the morning papers through the door, the antique Austin car owned by the woman next door starting up, with a painful wheezing noise, the clang of milk bottles, two neighbors discussing the latest scandal in the Royal Family.

You may have missed the fact that tomorrow, Sept. 15, is "Respect for the Aged" Day, but only in Japan. When I saw this in my calendar of useless dates, my first thought was that we could use some Respect for the Aged here in America. A good start would be to begin calling us "aged," or even "old" instead of that irritating term "seniors." The notion of seniority gets us off on the wrong foot, suggesting the overweening power wielded by "senior" members of Congress, for example. "Old" is a statement of fact: "senior" is a claim to authority.

Labor Day is one of those turning points in the year, and it gives us several things to think about once we have stopped thinking about beaches and hurricanes. It marks the symbolic end of summer of course, and the sad history of the Labor Movement, and the beginning of the school year.

Not many people will lie awake this holiday weekend feeling nostalgic about the Labor Movement. But Back to School is a big thing. Millions of students will be heading back to the classroom, ready or not. There they will encounter teachers, some of whom they will never forget.

We spent a few days in Berlin last week, and we had seldom been in a city that produced such contradictory emotions. On the one hand we had to admire the sweeping boulevards, the grand architecture from the past, the green spaces, and the splendid public transport system. On the other hand, at least for people of my generation, Berlin evokes some very dark images indeed. Seeing the Brandenburg Gate, Unter den Linden and the site of Hitler's Reichstag, it's hard to forget that this was the capital of the Third Reich in all its baroque horror.

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