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Derek Coleman: Looking back on four years in the states

Jan. 04, 2013 @ 10:40 AM

In the words of my countryman, John Lennon, we have another year over and a new one just begun. This will be my fifth year here in Putnam County and the fourth one I have had the privilege of being able to write this column to talk to the wonderful people who live here.

I guess some of you are getting used to me now. I received quite a few emails in 2012, I was recognized in superstores and in gun shops and I shook hands with readers in the street and in fast food restaurants. It’s good to know people enjoy and are prepared to comment on my musings; one of the first things you learn as a writer is that your most useful tool is feedback.

It was a year of rather mixed emotions for me. It started badly with a phone call early one Friday morning in January. My mother, in the hospital for a relatively minor ailment, had contracted pneumonia and was not responding to treatment. I managed to cross the Atlantic and get to the heart of England in just 13 hours and then spent the next day at her bedside as she peacefully passed away.

That rushed trip to my homeland brought home to me how acclimatized to living in America I’d become. In March we discussed the differences in driving that are required in Britain and America and how my skills at driving on the left had faded a little since I was last there.

April brought the 100th anniversary of the loss of the Titanic and I was able to talk about Fred Fleet, the lookout who first spotted the iceberg that signaled her fate. Later in the year, this gave rise to an article on the loss of the Sultana way back in 1865.

In June, we talked about West Virginia’s birthday and Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee as well as some of the older and quainter pubs of Britain. Those pubs were busy in July as London hosted the Olympic games and the U.S. dominated the medal tables again.

In the summer I joined Putnam County Gun Club. In Britain of course I was not allowed to own guns but I have several now I’m here, mostly historical reproductions of black powder weapons. I don’t hunt but I do enjoy practicing against paper targets and apart from fishing and watching soccer this is my only sport. Writing is what I do most and in this column we talked about subjects as diverse as Davy Crockett, Gutenburg’s printing of the first Bible and some quirky facts about Britain. All of it was fun because it meant research on the Internet, which is something I greatly enjoy.

In September, the news from across the ocean was not so good with the gunning down of two unarmed police women in Manchester. I have not discussed the events in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, in this column. There is continuing debate about that and I leave that discussion to wiser heads but, for what it’s worth, I will repeat that England is a country where it is illegal to own guns yet the bad guys still get them and only the innocent seem to suffer.

October is when I got to try the local urgent care facilities after crushing a finger. The wound has healed now of course and I am able to use the digit once more. One thing the incident taught me was to take care when using a mattock.

The biggest project we have undertaken this year is building an addition to our house. When we started at the end of April, I had few building skills. I’m still not an expert at anything but I’ve learned a lot, especially from David and Kathy, Lori’s parents who donated many hours and their considerable knowledge and skill to enable us to build our home office ourselves.

I’ve also learned from Lori, who worked long and hard while I was doing the day job and who has more knowledge and skill about doing this kind of project than I could ever hope to accumulate.

The building work is now finished, the room is painted, the floor laid and we have furniture. I’m actually sitting in it as I type this and I must admit all the effort was well worth it — even though its completion means we move on to the next item on the ‘Honey do’ list.

2012 had its good and bad with improvement toward the end of the year. November saw my brother’s visit and Christmas was good in our household. Santa was very generous; we ate well, enjoyed visiting with family and friends and heard that my grandson will be spending a couple of weeks with us next summer. Now we are looking forward to whatever else 2013 brings for us and both Lori and I wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

Derek Coleman is a part-time writer who is a native of England and who now lives in Hurricane, W.Va. He can be reached at tallderek@hotmail.com.