I have always been interested in history and geography, how do we come to be here at this particular time.  To understand where we are and who we are it seems to be necessary to break the world down to continents, countries, regions and towns.  When I was at school, almost back in historical time, mostly I learnt from books , there were a few pictures and maps but the information was conveyed mainly in printed words.  As a child who was rooted in one small urban spot, even the English countryside was an abstract term to me. I tried to picture it in a vague and rather indistinct  sense.  How very different to be a child in the twenty-first century, learning is a very visual matter.  We can look down on the fields, hills, woods and rivers from a helicopter, we can see the detail; the hedges and lanes,the stark magnificence of the mountains, the vivid green, blues and browns, as if we were godlike creatures.  Standing on the ground beside the river our view would contract to the distance our two eyes  can take us, the boats which are close by, the people who are within a few yards of us.  This is a revolution  as great as the development of the printing press.

     Of course words are needed to go with the pictures, Michael  Portillo uses many carefully chosen words in his programme,’Continental Rail Journeys’ to explain the country we are seeing, something of its recent history helped by individuals who know the region well.  I confess until last night I thought Transylvania was a mythical country, the home of the fictional Count Dracula.  Michael tells me it is a region of Romania.  Romania is largely  rural country where farming remains as it was in the nineteenth century in Western Europe; no pesticides, no insecticides, very little petrol driven machinery.  Very different to the large scale mechanised farming of the west.  Does this mean that most people in Romania are poor farmers, this was not mentioned in his explanation.  The abundance of wild flowers and bees was referred to and sheep were peacefully grazing in the green fields.

     Can we learn to understand ourselves better by seeing how human beings learn to adapt to living on mountain sides, in deserts, inlaces surrounded by water and most of us in huge impersonal cities piled on top of each other as if we were a colony of bees?  I do hope we can learn to live in peace together and taking care of our living changing world.


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