"For decades I prayed for a woman Prime Minister, then we got Margaret Thatcher," said Sam(antha) dismissively at a local village store, "this woman [Sarah Palin] scares me."
Here in the village of Monknash, 38-residents strong and sitting high above the Glamorgan Heritage Coast, is a microcosm of rural Great Britain. The Plough and Harrow pub was built in 1383 from stone and timbres of ships deliberately crashed on the rocks below. Landowners tied lanterns to sheep necks to confuse sailors and many believe the pub to be haunted since shipwreck bodies were stored in the bar until coffins could be made. There is not a better place on earth to discuss the most exciting election in American political history.
I sat with several locals over a pint of Thatcher's Black Rat Ale. The only Yank in the village, I've gained only slight acceptance as the outsider. Sitting next to me is an antique business owner who prefers to remain anonymous. He's "fed up with all government" and will vote for change in the UK... for the Conservatives. He would not give his choice for the American race but did say, "Gordon Brown is a good enough guy but just unlucky being PM at this time" and seemed to think Americans will vote for a change from Bush's party.
Twenty-three-year-old bartender Alistair is a tiny bit more outspoken. He holds little respect for politicians calling them "two-faced" and "not trustworthy." We talked about how young people in the USA seem more involved than in the past and yet here not many become involved. "It's the UK way," he said, he and a colleague could only think of one young guy ahead of him in class who was a member of the Conservative Party but most have no interest.
He says he reads all of the pub's newspapers and finds "I can relate to Barack Obama he seems to speak a bit more from the heart" while McCain seems "to go strictly by the book. You cannot figure out who he is and how he's different."
Now anyone new in this village is greeted with skepticism and suspicion. While walking to the beach one morning I met a neighbor. Mentioning that I lived in the farm on the hill, this woman whom I'd never before met replied, "yes, I know..." After five years of mostly keeping to ourselves, things have improved.
A few weeks ago, Gayle, a South African transplant, was initially suspicious of Obama, and with the history of her country, one could understand having grown up in the apartheid regime. To her credit though, as I talked about the campaign periodically, she went out and bought a copy of Obama's book.
She said yesterday, "I was very impressed with his story and what I've been seeing more since you and I started talking." She was less impressed though, mostly because she had no frame of reference, with all of the Chicago stories. When I asked hypothetically who she would favor if she could vote, her answer was, "clearly Obama, the old guy is just scary."
Said Alistair, "politicians have lost touch, they seem so far away." When I asked him who he favored in the election, he said, "Obama. He seems to have stronger character than the old guy." But then he added, "what do I know, I work, make sure I have my [cell] phone topped up and surf as much as I can."
I tried to get a finger on the pulse of the community so I asked Gareth, known as Miv, the pub's owner. In an earlier phone conversation, he said simply, "no one here can understand the choice of Palin as VP." I assured him it was a mystery to us as well.
But it was Philippa, a local recruiting business owner, who summed it up best, "to be honest the whole thing has just been bizarre, the behavior of calling each other piggies and things? It's just bizarre, I just don't understand it. It's all so peculiar."
So that's the definitive word from Old South Wales. I've got the next round, Cheers.