October 12, 2007  
(Mis)Adventures in Travel

In 1994 I was a partner in an English company producing hand painted chess sets, decorative boxes, and giftware made from cold cast marble. To compete more effectively my partner Daryl Herrington and I planned to travel
to China to investigate opportunities, and find manufacturers who would produce our products, with the same quality level at a lower cost. We would then be able to offer our products to a potentially larger customer base.

Daryl lived in the Borough of Minehead in Somerset, England. We agreed to meet at Heathrow Airport, drive to his home, and spend 5 days working with our British suppliers. We would focus on business and allow ourselves time to tour. I arrived on a Sunday and was met by Daryl waiting with a cart to carry my suitcase. He nodded and smiled as I walked toward him I said, “Hi Squire, great to see ya,” I was glad to see him, and we gave each other a warm hug. “I see you’ve rented a cart for my luggage. How much did the cart cost ya?” I said. He replied, “Unlike in the U.S., they’re free”. I thought to myself free carts, high taxes, God Bless America - I’d rather pay for my cart! He led as we walked towards his car, a subcompact mini, mini, mini ???

Once in the car Daryl suggested we stop and visit some historical places on the way to his home. We visited Stonehenge, stopped at an English Cottage for tea and a scone, and then stopped and toured a castle with 92 rooms and no baths. We then stopped at an old Anglican Church. I also suggested we look at the headstones in the cemetery, on the church grounds. I’m fascinated by grave yard stone epitaphs. Reading the headstones tells much about the people who came before, and I enjoy looking at the sayings and dates on the tombstones. During my stay we would visit Stratford on Avon, Bath, and then tour the city of London.

As he drove I enjoyed viewing the pastoral settings, rolling hills and pastures; it was an ocean of greenery and very pleasing to my eye. We observed the sheep, other livestock and visible forgotten farming techniques. I felt very much at peace and understood how a poet could be inspired to write with passion and emotion in such a setting.

Minehead is a tourist town situated on the Black Sea. We arrived at Daryl’s home and were greeted by his wife and children. I distributed to them coffee, chocolates, and small gifts that I had stored in my bag. They were delighted.

I was shown my room, which overlooked the Black Sea. I looked at the water. It was dark and angry and crashing against the rocks. I knew there wouldn’t be many tourists; they wouldn’t arrive until summer when the sea would be calm and peaceful. After all, that’s why they visit; to swim, tour, shop and have fun.

After dinner and an hour of conversation, the jet lag hit me, so I decided to take a relaxing bath before going to sleep. I was honored to be the first to use the bath tub that night; hot water required using energy, and the cost of energy in England is expensive. The last one to take a bath would bathe in cool water. I was in an old home with a huge old-fashioned tub like the one we had in Brooklyn when I was a kid. As I sat in the hot water and closed my eyes it was then that I realized how much I missed my rubber ducks.

We used the next day to determine pricing factors so that we’d be prepared to negotiate fairly. That evening we went to a local pub. I had a beer, looked around, and suddenly felt out of place. When I asked to be directed to the bathroom, I was asked if I wanted to take a bath – instead I was directed to the loo. I’m used to the “King’s English”… (that’s Kings County, New York) and these people spoke funny. Since the pub was local, people knew one another. I felt uncomfortable as the new kid on the block. I was introduced and met a lot of wonderful, interesting people. I was shaking hands and hugging people when Daryl said, “We don’t do the hugging part.” I soon learned that hugging people one meets for the first time is not considered normal behavior, but to quote my brother Herb as he ran naked outside our Aunt’s house (he was ten at the time) “Don’t worry Aunt Lillie, no one here knows me”. The second evening I was greeted with a “Hello Yankee, welcome back”.

At our factory I was referred to as “Mel, our man in the States”. Daryl was referred to as “Our man in Minehead.” I greeted the employees at the factory, opened my goodie bag, and distributed the sweets I brought with me. We visited suppliers and contractors during the week, always allowing special time for touring, window shopping or relaxing in the quiet of the countryside. Daryl’s a kind, sensitive, reserved, laid back person and we complimented each other with our differences.

I enjoyed looking at the detail and fine old world craftsmanship of the architecture of many of the older buildings. They were built when craftsmanship and craft guilds took pride in their work and detailing made the difference. The English also have respect for tradition and will renovate rather than tear down and rebuild. I also am a fan of Gothic architecture, so I really enjoyed that part of my experience.

In the USA today most buildings reflect our thinking and lifestyle; they’re built fast with a minimal amount of decorative art. I’m not criticizing the way we build, I’m just saying it’s different and I prefer the artistic design and decorative work as seen on old buildings in N.Y.C. and Chicago. As much I enjoyed touring England, I love living in the U.S.A.


-When eating out most everything was a la carte i.e: in an Italian restaurant, the bread and salad were extra. In a Chinese restaurant, noodles, soup, and rice were extra. In a Greek restaurant, bread and salad were extra.

-Most cars are sub compact since gas is costly.

-Heat gets lowered at night and the hot water heater is shut down; oil is costly.

-The majority of the people do not understand Yiddish.

-People are more fit and walk to their destinations.

-An American is always recognizable, he’s the fat one.

-The pub is an important meeting place for locals, used for socializing with neighbors and friends over drinks and food. It’s usually split into 2 sections- one side for couples and families and the other side for men.

-Very few people do the Chicken Dance and the Hokey Pokey.

-There is a minimal number of TV channels.

-Most people are secular.

-Although socialized medicine is available to everyone, people still purchase health insurance policies so that they can get the care when they need it.

-July 4th is not a holiday to be celebrated.

-Most people are frugal, live simple lives and enjoy life.

Goodbye England

On Thursday we left Minehead by bus for the airport for our flight to Hong Kong. I was surprised when a woman got on the bus to sell sandwiches, snacks, tea and coffee. I guess she was the stewardess and I found that, and her quite charming.

We checked in, showed our passports, our luggage was searched and we proceeded to security where we were again searched, and passports were checked before proceeding to the gate.

Ten minutes in the air and Daryl was asleep; twelve hours later we were in Hong Kong.

Welcome to Hong Kong

“How did you fly from America to London without a passport? How did you fly from London to Hong Kong without a passport?”

I was in an interrogation room at the Hong Kong Airport. The interrogators, thinking they struck gold and found a live one (but it was only me, Mel Yahre the fat guy,) were trying to trace my steps backward to determine how my passport was stolen. I explained that I didn’t know how my passport disappeared but I needed their help.

“You’re going to have to fly back on the next plane to England; we cannot allow you to stay in our country.”

Then another interrogator entered the room and he started from the beginning. Wow, I never thought that this could ever happen to me.

“I’m a businessman, and I’m scheduled to spend a month between Hong Kong and China, and am looking for sources to manufacture various products. My associate, Daryl Herrington, has cleared customs and is waiting for me in the airport. Is there a way I can get a temporary stay and get a new passport from the U.S. Embassy?”

“Yes, we’ll give you a 72 hour stay to get a passport from your government or leave”.

How did I get in this predicament, let me start from the beginning.

To be continued….

Enjoy the changing of the leaves (the leaves have already changed on one tree in North Florida)…eat kosher, and have a wonderful October.
Shalom, Mel (the fat guy)

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