Donal Blaney writes:
It is often said in Britain that innovations, trends or ideas that begin in the United States will pass into British society and culture after five years, and then into European society and culture some time after that. These trends may be musical, dietary, lifestyle and often ultimately political.
Recent years have seen the spread in Britain, and even in Europe, of hip-hop and rap in the musical sphere. Britons in particular have devoured an ever growing number of Big Macs and Starbucks coffees in keeping with the habits of their American cousins, with equally negative effects on the waistline. In response Britons too are fast developing the health conscious reaction to the dietary ills of recent years with a plethora of gyms opening up around the country.
And political trends often translate from across the Pond too: a powerful Reagan was followed by a gentler, kinder Bush who, in turn, was followed by a social democratic spinmeister in Clinton - so in Britain a powerful Thatcher was followed by a gentler, kinder Major who, in turn, was followed by a social democratic spinmeister Blair.
Yet Britons and Americans must realise that these trends do not only travel in one direction. While it is inevitable that such traffic may ordinarily move from the Western Hemisphere eastwards, there are increasingly occasions where the United States does look towards Britain and Europe - not least in respect of its jurisprudence, where the United States Supreme Court has, in recent years, taken far more consideration than is proper of the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.
A story that has secured some media prominence in Britain in recent concerns Patrick Agin, a 17 year old student at Portsmouth High School, Rhode Island. His hobby is re-enacting medieval battles, an interest that developed out of his mother's work in making and selling period clothing. Patrick's graduation photo - or at least the photo that he submitted - shows him dressed in chainmail and armour wielding his favourite sword. He is one of 35,000 members of the US-based Society for Creative Anachronism.
The humourless principal at Portsmouth High School, Robert Littlefield, has said that the flagrant wielding of a potentially dangerous weapon was a clear violation of school regulations. It is to the credit of the otherwise awful American Civil Liberties Union that the ACLU has filed a case on Patrick's behalf.