November is coming to an end and talk has been about the weather and how warm it is and when will it get cold, as it should do. I am in no rush for the weather to get colder. I have been enjoying the sunshine and warm days. I am particularly enjoying getting out and about in Alsace for work. I travelled around the area quite a lot in the Summer too but it’s different this time. In the Summer the Rhine plain was visible but the Vosges and Schwartz Wald were hardly visible because of haze. Now it is possible to see the Rhine plain and at each side see clearly the mountains of the Vosges and the Schwartz Wald.
I was born and brought up n the Thames Valley. Also a valley of a great river although the plain was not that large, at each side it had hills. It was pretty central and as far as as it was possible to get from the sea in England. On the whole though on a much smaller scale. I have spent time in Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire which is just as flat. The difference is that both of those were flat, flat, flat, just flat out flat with nothing to frame them at the edges. I lived in Liverpool for years at the mouth of a river estuary with hills either side of a plain but, being in a city it was built upon. This was even more the case when living in London where the urban nature leads a person to initially think of the city as flat whereas I was starting to find the joys of the topography of the city when we left, enjoying visiting family in South Streatham and looking out over the city from the hillside, going up north to Parliament Hill and doing the same. I have visited some places similar. Driving from Johannesburg to Mafikeng and back again I got the same sense of space and sheer amount of land, and my first experience of the wonderful light-show given by continental lightening, but it wasn’t framed by mountains on either side. Recently my travels around European capital cities has taken me to the Balkans, to Pristina and Skopje to be more precise where both were flat plains surrounded by mountains but both were more of a bowl and it was possible to see the mountains all around. I know that if you go down to Switzerland and up to where the Rhine stops being the French German border it is possible to see a bowl too, but it is not possible to see enough to visualise it on the ground.
One part of the awe I feel about travelling through the Alsace countryside as well as the awesome countryside, (Using the word in its dictionary definition rather than its current usage) is the fact that it is me here. The little boy who grew up in Twyford, an unimportant little village in Berkshire, England, Great Britain, UK, Europe the World etc is here going to work in companies in Strasbourg and the countryside around it, on the Rhine plain in Alsace. It wasn’t expected that people like me would travel. It was only a thing wealthy people did. To live foreign? That would never happen. Yet here I am living in a historic city on the French German border travelling round Europe. Mind you I have talked previously of being part of a diaspora, my family have travelled to find work and a better life. They left Lancastrian cotton mill towns for Canada and Australia. My parents left the same town for the South of England and work and a better life. So I’m only continuing something historically done by my family but it wasn’t something I thought of as part of my story when I was younger. It is now that I’m doing it, my brother has done it by going to Australia too that I’m aware that it is me, living foreign is something I do. As for the weather, well in 1994 when I visited my brother in Australia for the first time we didn’t have a frost until the night I left on 15th December, so a warm spell in November is nothing new. Enjoy it.