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June 18, 2006

Troutbeck, Windermere, Cumbria, England

We live in a world that never sleeps, and now it combines the ancient with the digital. I left Manchester three days ago to attend the wedding of a London lawyer up here in the Lake District. My hotel for the first night, the Queen’s Head, in Troutbeck, near Windermere, is about 400 years old and looks out over a very narrow winding road, green valleys, daffodils, sheep, cattle, the ruins of old stone houses and hundreds of miles of grey stone fences in the shadows of fells (mountains). All of the fences--and some of the older houses--are done by dry stone. No mortar at all, and they meander up and down the fells and the valleys and around the lakes for hundreds of miles, like multiple Hadrian's walls stitching everything together. These are the same fences the Lake poets like Wordsworth walked along 200 years ago. Prince Charles has declared dry stone a lost art, and he wants people to re-learn it to keep the fences in repair.

There is no telephone in any room at the Queen’s Head, a rustic inn even around here, in the quiet Troutbeck Valley, not far from the old Roman Road. No internet connections. Just one pay phone near the dining room off the pub, and also a fax, they claim. But it doesn't matter--a Sony Ericsson cell phone and the T-Mobile service allow better wireless connections to talk to clients and my office than I get in the U.S. A Treo or a BlackBerry work just fine here. Clients have no idea where I am unless I tell them. In a way, it's a shame. This morning I saw a farmer in one of the rolling fields way down below me in a scene of timeless pastoral beauty and, yes, he had to his ear a silvery cell phone as he paced around between the sheep, their still-nursing lambs and the old stone walls designed to keep them from getting lost or hurt on his neighbor's property. Otherwise, the year was 1730, or earlier.

One great thing if you need to keep working while you travel out here is this: in Europe, I am always at least 5 or 6 hours ahead of North America, which means that I can do "immovable" weekly conferences on ongoing projects in the early afternoon rather than 5:30 to 8:30 AM. I am ahead of the game--that's never true when I am in, say, California. In the western U.S., when I call it a day and go to sleep, workers in the UK, Germany and the rest of Europe are checking their e-mail accounts and just starting their day.

Posted by JD Hull at June 18, 2006 05:07 AM


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