Travel in Scotland was quite an education

To the editor:

I hope a lot of people read the column written by Cal Thomas in the Friday issue of The Sentinel. At our present pace, this is the way we will be in a few years.

My wife and I traveled to Scotland and England in September 2000. It is beautiful country. The people in the areas we visited were cordial and the weather was wet but very comfortable. We traveled in Scotland for 10 of the 14 days we spend on the British Isles. The other four days we spent in western England.

Riding on the trains and buses was an education that we would never have had if we had driven. Mae and our granddaughter Anne would sit in one seat and I would sit with someone else. I sat with a doctor, two retired servicemen, a professional fishing guide (most fishing also requires a guide), a foreign student from China, a minister, a farther, a rather old student, a small-business owner and several employees. They were a lot of fun and I learned a lot by asking questions.

Lesson one was expressed by a number of my seat partners. No one has to enter the work force until age 32. That is not a misprint; I said 32. It was somewhat of a shock to me; I had entered the work force when I was a young teenager. Then they were almost forced to retire at age 55 – yes, even the farmer.

The doctor was one of the most interesting persons. He had just retired. Their hours were set by the government, not themselves or their business.

If you did not read Cal Thomas’s column, read it. It sounds unreal, but it is true.

Actually, those with money such as our hosts in Wick, Scotland, came to either “The States” or to India for any serious medical help. Basically, work shuts down for the entire month of August and for much of January. That includes all but the basic needs for hospitals and doctors. Sure, they get virtually free medical services, but if there is no one to do the work, of what value is the service?

I spent over an hour talking to a farmer, who was 55 and retired. It was a lot of fun and my granddaughter Anne laughed about it later. She said she enjoyed our discussion. Actually, the farmer really had not retired. He still helped his son gather the forage, fix machinery and repair buildings, but that was not considered work. He was also a director of their milk coop.

A side note of interest: Virtually all farmers kept sheep. Even many retired farmers and some townspeople kept sheep. Some were picture perfect and some were scrabby critters. Reason was that the British Isles paid a premium bonus for each harvested fleece regardless of its value. Some of the sheep that spent their lives in the wild were sheared each year to get that bonus. Warehouses were overfilled with wool that will never be used. Needless to say, a large part of their economy is so-called “under the table transactions or trades.”

Their processed food was very expensive because of their value added tax (V.A.T.). So was everything else that needed processing or constructing. Even McDonald’s ice cream. The cones were half of those in the U.S. and cost more than twice the U.S. McDonald’s cone. One the other hand, cheese was considered a byproduct so had very little, if any, value added tax. It was actually less expensive than cheese in the U.S. It came in big “round blocks.” The shop would cut the amount a buyer would want off the block. They had very good cheese.

John E. Brockett