Losing One’s Train, by Vernon Lee

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In this classic essay, Vernon Lee shows us how life and discovery are phenomena that occur while we are busy running after trains. Lee (1856-1935), a member of the Aesthetic Movement, lived long before our current digital age of high tech toys, but she nevertheless already realized its implications. As she wrote in one of her essays:

There is an unlucky tendency … to allow every new invention to add to life’s complications, and every new power to increase life’s hustling; so that, unless we can dominate the mischief, we are really the worse off instead of the better.

Losing One’s Train, by Vernon Lee (8:49)

A Proposal to Girdle the Earth, by Nellie Bly

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Summer is vacation time, but some among us aren’t content with a week or two at the beach, but go all out. Journalist Nellie Bly, for example, thought it would be relaxing to “girdle the earth” in under eighty days, using Victoria era technology. In those simpler, pre-Facebook days, “travel” still meant something!

This excerpt is taken from Bly’s book Around the World in Seventy-Two Days, first published in New York in 1890.

A Proposal to Girdle the Earth, by Nelly Bly {15:22}

A Place to Hang Your Hat, by Bruce Chatwin

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Man’s real home is not a house, but the Road, Bruce Chatwin wrote in his book The Songlines in 1988, and … life itself is a journey to be walked on foot.

I’m inclined to agree with him, because who, as Pascal would say, is content “to sit in a quiet room alone”? And yet, if I were hunting for a pied-à-terre in London, I’d set about it the way Chatwin did – and hire the same decorator.

A Place to Hang Your Hat, by Bruce Chatwin {14:56}

A Fourth of July Oration in the German Tongue, by Mark Twain

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In 1878, while travelling with a friend through Germany, and trying to learn German along the way, Mark Twain supposedly had a dream in which, according to his notebook, “all bad foreigners went to German Heaven—couldn’t talk and wished they had gone to the other place.” Tonight’s “Fourth of July Oration in the German Tongue” gives a taste of what that Heaven is like – and may also point to the benefits of “the other place” of his dream…

To listen to his famous lecture on “The Awful German Language”, in German, scroll down the main page.

A Fourth of July Oration in the German Tongue, by Mark Twain [5:47]

Lederhosen, by Haruki Murakami

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Buying holiday souvenirs for loved ones who have had to stay home, tending the hearth and watering the plants while you’re off raising hell on a beach somewhere, can be a tricky business. Sure, we all like receiving a coffee cup or ashtray from some exotic locale, even if we never give the thing a second look. If we were smart, we’d leave it at that, because it’s never a good idea to order souvenirs from someone else’s holiday journey: Not only will you probably be disappointed in the gift the other person brings home for you, you will also likely spoil that person’s trip, forcing him or her to run around looking to fill your order rather than enjoy his or her last hours on the beach or the terrace before returning home to reality. Don’t believe me? Then try out tonight’s story, which tells of the perils of German souvenirs. So the rule still stands: When in doubt, just buy them a T-shirt…

Lederhosen, by Haruki Murakami {16:50}

The Concorde, RIP, by Bruno Maddox

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After recording this podcast, it occurred to me that I myself wouldn’t half mind taking a holiday somewhere. It wouldn’t half to be a flight in the Concorde to New York City. In fact, a slow regional train to the Baltic coast would do the trick. Maybe I should just buy a ticket and… let it happen…?

The Concorde, RIP, by Bruno Maddox {14:14}