Lincoln Bailgate

Spring has already arrived in England. The daffodils and crocuses are in bloom and the grass is green. Colin, my nephew, is eager to get on his fields and get the Spring planting underway. The warm Gulf Stream brings heat early to this part of the world, and the sun is up by six and beginning to have some strength.

On the cobblestone streets of this quaint provincial town are streams of shoppers, tourists and tradespeople who have barely missed a beat from their regular rounds since last autumn. Everyone complains bitterly about how cold it was last winter here, but there really was only a couple of major dumps of snow, and even that disappeared pretty quickly. Hardly worth a headline in a Canadian newspaper.

Street life is therefore possible for almost the entire year, and as a result there are little stores and shops, teahouses and pubs on almost every corner. Lincoln Bailgate, the part of town closest to the cathedral, is particularly thick with them, although Lincoln High Street is similarly busy. The Bailgate and High Street have been closed to traffic for years, as long as I have been coming here. People move around freely, from shop to pub without having to risk injury by dodging cars and trucks, as we do in Canada.

Because of our weather, our lack of city planning, our obsession with the automobile and our indolence, we in North America have allowed our street life to be choked by featureless malls. That hasn’t happened in England, nor in Europe. They have kept their charming individuality and the sturdy independence of their shopkeepers in defiance of the modern trend toward a uniform blandness. In terms of the quality of social life this gives, they win, we lose.