In August of 1982, exactly forty years after my first visit to the United Kingdom, Dr. Roger Vaughan, the Director of Productivity for British Shipbuilders retained me to lecture in a number of cities in both England and Scotland. Because I would be four days in Newcastle upon Tyne, thoughtful Roger arranged for me to stay at Linden Hall, a former country estate that had been converted to an inn just the year before. The closest village was Morpeth.
The manor, having stone walls of at least two-feet thick, is located in the midst of a vast expanse of beautiful meadows and wooded areas. All rooms were richly appointed and, in keeping with the atmosphere, activities in the dining room were formal. Thus during the few occasions when I was alone I preferred the adjourning carriage house where informal cafeteria-style meals were available. I was then fifty nine, but a subsequent event disclosed that at least one person regarded me as impertinent young American.
Two couples who seemed to be in their mid seventies were at the food counter with me. When my Brooklyn accent was overheard, one of the men said, “You are from the States also.”
He and his wife were guests of the other couple who were British, he explained. He then asked how I came to be at Linden Hall where he did not expect to meet another American. I simply answered, “The reservation was made for me by British Shipbuilders.”
That provoked his further curiosity and he asked about my specific mission. I replied, “I’m here to teach Japanese shipbuilding methods.”
I was suddenly attacked from the most unexpected quarter. The little British grandmotherly type slammed her tray on the counter. She put her hands on her hips and actually stamped her foot as she scolded me, “Young man! We have the finest shipbuilders in the world!”
I meekly replied, “Yes madam.”
I left it for someone braver than me to argue with so staunch a defender of the British Empire.
Copyright © 2006 (text only) by Louis D. Chirillo