I am not the “tourist type.” Don’t get me wrong; I was once: I ascribe the present situation to the result of a slow ossification of whatever part of my personality was responsible for making me want to rush madly around and see things and places that were determined as absolutely necessary for everyone to see. I’m not saying that such things and places (the Taj Mahal, Sydney Opera House, the Grand Canyon, what’s left of the world’s wildlife after poachers have turned it into rugs or homebrew Viagra, and so on) is not worth a look: far from it. No; what I’m saying is that as time has gone by, I’ve become less and less enchanted by the horde of rampaging lookers-at that seems to sweep around the world much as the buffalo used to sweep across the American prairie. If I’m going to go somewhere, I like to see where tourists don’t go, the places known only to locals and shown to visitors with the sense that they’re being admitted to some private and terribly exclusive club. It’s entirely true that tourism is a major industry and has been for a century or two at least; furthermore, there exists a large number of communities which owe their continued existence to the revenue which tourists bring in. And further, again, how do you define a “tourist”? Is it possible (whisper it in hushed tones) that I am just as much a tourist as anyone else, except that I’m just more snooty or uptight about it? Am I, to coin a phrase, in some sort of excursionists’ closet?
No, I’m just different, and perhaps a little bitter about lacking the kind of disposable income that makes it possible to travel around and see all those sights in the first place. But there’s one sight that I am going to get to see this year, and, hopefully, for the next few years: the New England fall. I know that, technically, upstate New York isn’t New England, but I’m prepared to stretch a point: it’s only a score or two of miles to the border, after all; what’s a few miles between friends? But the fall in New England is something I’ve long wanted to see, to experience the beauty I’ve heard about; all the colours, people say in tones of wistful recollection, all the colours … It would give one to think, not unfairly, that we didn’t have our own beautiful autumn back in England: we do, and they can, when the weather doth oblige, be stunningly and soul-aching beautiful, with mist-draped hills and valleys, multi-coloured swathes of trees and purple uplands of heather beneath crisp blue skies spotted here and there by flecks of lightest cumulus driven on a crisp, hike-invigorating breeze …
It can also be damned miserable, with non-stop rain, skies obliterated by thick, podgy clouds, and daylight vanishing like a rat down a hole at 3:30 in the afternoon.
But who comes to England for the autumn? Nobody. Thousands and thousands come to New England for the fall. Maybe a New England fall is better than Old England autumn: version 2, perhaps, with fewer bugs and a better interface. Whatever the reason, I have to admit this year I’ll be a peeper too.