Canary Surprise

My wife received an email yesterday from a former neighbo(u)r of ours. She’s flying to the Canary Islands today. She and her husband are selling a holiday flat they’ve owned there for several decades.

The Canary Islands. Wikipedia. [Screen capture by me, 2015.]
The Canary Islands. Wikipedia. [Screen capture by me, 2015.]

In the message she explained to Mrs. Nello that she’s taking Frontiers (the paperback) along. (She doesn’t do Kindle.) She wrote she hadn’t read it yet and is looking forward to it for the airport wait and plane journey. She wanted Mrs. Nello to let me know.

Hmm, I wonder…. what she’ll…. think of it?:

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Mes Amis

Hot chocolate:

Hot Chocolate, Mes Amis, Beckington. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Hot Chocolate, Mes Amis, Beckington. [Photo by me, 2015.]
I had that yesterday afternoon, at Mes Amis. It’s in Beckington (which sounds like a great surname for a fictional English character in a novel), Somerset.

And, yes, it was delicious. :-)

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Dirty Foreheads

As you may know, yesterday was Ash Wednesday for many Christians. I’m not an “obsessive.” But I do try to observe reasonably.

After getting ashes at church, I stopped in at a small supermarket. At the check-out, the woman cashier – in her late teens to early twenties, I guess – chatted with me briefly. Suddenly, she looked at me a bit strangely.

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Americans Make The Movies (And At Times, We’re Really Sorry)

I’ve spent much of the last 25 years often as the (only) American in the room – be it with family, friends, or workplace colleagues. As you know if you visit here regularly, I’ve now also spent several years writing novels in which I’ve created characters sourced from some of my (especially early) “travel” and “expat” experiences. They are full of types of people I’ve encountered, and even cherished, and what I’ve seen here in Europe.

I can’t begin to list the nationalities I’ve met in just London: nearly every European country; Africans from Egypt and Morocco all the way to South Africa; Afro-Caribbeans; Middle Easterners; Indians; Chinese; other Asians; Canadians; Australians; New Zealanders; Brazilians; even a few other South Americans. And all the religions: not only Christians of course, but Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims. It feels like a far more “diverse” city than even New York.

I will always remember a Pakistani student, right after 9/11. He offered me personal condolences. He flat out called the attackers “terrorists”: no qualifications, no hesitation.

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Slurring Language

Black British screenwriter and director Amma Asante jumped in on CNN yesterday in defense of actor Benedict Cumberbatch. He’d used the word “colo(u)red” on a U.S. TV talk show. She feels the anger directed at him for saying it is missing the point:

Opinion: Cumberbatch misspoke — now let’s get over it and fight real prejudice

Two countries separated by a common language. To understand Cumberbatch’s employing it requires first remembering that he’s not an American. It is now a decidedly “old-fashioned” word here in Britain, yes; but it is not unheard of coming very occasionally from younger whites (like Cumberbatch), although it’s far more likely to be uttered by one born before “1945.”

An older person I know had straight-faced congratulated me this way upon Obama’s election in 2008: “You have a coloured president now. America’s so much more open-minded. It’s wonderful.” Based on the contexts, as I’ve heard it, it is used as synonymous with “black.” Although it could certainly be tossed out as a slur or a put down, that’s not how I’ve (mostly) heard it said.

But how we internalize others’ descriptions of our race or ethnic background is intensely personal of course. I am not black and I would not presume to speak for anyone else as to how they interpret any description leveled at themselves. That said, the language issue raised there led me to recall a vivid, personal experience.

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Strolling By The Royal Crescent

I know, I know. [Hangs head contritely.] Sorry. I went all “academic” yesterday.

You may know I used to teach “Politics of Western Europe.” That guy on Fox just reminded me of a few students I’d known. Aside from the “French and perfect” finish, ;-) I realize now it was rather too heavy a post.

So today it’s back down off my soapbox. Hey, how about some Bath photos? Georgian English splendo(u)r.

First, a close up of a portion of one of those big, fold out walking maps:

Map of Royal Crescent corner area, Bath. [Photo of map by me, 2015.]
Map of Royal Crescent corner area, Bath. [Photo of map by me, 2015.]
I took these yesterday afternoon. We’re probably moving (yet again) in a few months, and were out apartment [flat] hunting:

Upper Church Street, next to the Royal Crescent. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Upper Church Street, next to the Royal Crescent. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Royal Crescent. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Royal Crescent. [Photo by me, 2015.]
View of part of the Royal Crescent, looking over a corner of Royal Victoria Park. [Photo by me, 2015.]
View of part of the Royal Crescent, looking over a corner of Royal Victoria Park. [Photo by me, 2015.]
The Royal Crescent homes were built starting in 1767. They are probably the quintessential “symbol” of Bath. So I decided to go all “tourist” myself and grab a few photographs.

It’s a shame it wasn’t sunnier. It had been. But by the time I took those it was approaching 4 pm, and the sun was fading for the day.

Have a good Tuesday, wherever you are in the world. :-)

“And where are you from?”

On our way out of church this morning, the priest asked me, “And where are you from?”

He may merely have been asking where I was from in the U.K. It wasn’t our “regular” church. Nonetheless, I was startled.

I thought: Gee, do I look like I’m not from here? I’m sure, to some extent, I don’t.

As we shook hands, I replied, “I’m from New York originally.”

The look on his face indicated that answer was a surprise. I suppose he had indeed figured I was going to say Bristol or something.

But I often don’t know how to answer that question. I was born in New York City, and when asked where I’m from that’s my initial answer. I grew up on Long Island, in Suffolk County; but most Europeans haven’t a clue where Suffolk County is, and they usually associate “Long Island” either with the Hamptons or The Great Gatsby. And, here in England, there is a Suffolk county too – the “original” Suffolk, of course.

US Embassy London on Google. It's closed today, Sunday.
US Embassy London on Google. It’s closed today, Sunday.

I’ve also spent much more of my adult life outside of the U.S. than inside of it. But I always feel American, and like a New Yorker. And I even still feel like a Long Islander – even though I have for years had no ties to Long Island whatsoever.

I don’t think I’ll ever not feel that way. We can move wherever in the world, but is where we are born and reared imprinted on us for life? Seems so.

Just a little “quiet reflection.” Hope you’re having a good Sunday. :-)

A World Of Distractions

Enough of this and this is how you DON’T finish a manuscript. My wife had to be in central London early Friday. So we drove from Wiltshire to Enfield (the M4 again, but no Sara Bareilles this time) on Thursday night to sleep over at my in-laws.

London, Thursday evening. Temperature in centigrade. It's not Buffalo.
London, Thursday evening. Temperature in centigrade. It’s not Buffalo.

I was to spend the day at their house. I had brought along my Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (as well as all other required electronics). I thought I’d have a few hours to do some writing quietly.

What on earth was I thinking?

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I Admit It: I Like Sara Bareilles

Yesterday, ending their nearly week-long, post-Christmas visit, we drove my in-laws home to Enfield. After depositing them, and a quick lunch, we returned to Wiltshire. It’s about a 2 hour, 15 min drive each way.

So Mrs. Nello drove to London and I drove back. During the day, she began to develop a bit of a cold. No surprise: her parents had them too. Half of England seems to have the sniffles at the moment. (I’m still okay, but fully expect now to get sick also within days.)

The weather had been great, but cold (by English standards) – clear and frosty:

Frosty Wiltshire farmland, not far from our house. Photographed earlier in the week. [Photo by me, 2014.]
Frosty Wiltshire farmland, not far from our house. Photographed earlier in the week. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Friday was warmer, sunny and pleasant; but that was apparently a blip. Wednesday into Thursday, frost gave way to the rain. It is rainy again this morning. (I can hear it hitting the house. It’s about 7 AM as I write this.) Everyone has been mostly inside, sharing germs.

At one point, I glanced over at Mrs. Nello as I drove; and I saw she was snoozing. Much of the M4 is long, straight and dull – especially in the dark of an early evening. Tired of the radio, I decided to play a Christmas gift CD.

That’s right: it was a Sara Bareilles CD.

And I like it. “The Blessed Unrest.” That one.

Eh, men reading this: don’t judge me. I like her music and her voice. I especially like “Brave”:

SaraBareillesBrave

In one of her other songs on that CD, she sings about Queens, New York too.

Okay, yeh, another song happens to be entitled “Little Black Dress.” Never mind that. I didn’t know that song existed until I got the CD.

Wait. Why am I justifying myself? I have nothing to be guilty about!

I know what you’re thinking. You’re smirking. But I can prove I’m a man. Here. Look. These are the books I received for Christmas. Here’s the list:

A Subaltern on the Somme.”
The Battle of Kursk.”
Wellington: The Iron Duke.”
War and Remembrance” (for after I finish “The Winds Of War”).
General Richard Montgomery and the American Revolution: From Redcoat to Rebel.”
Trajan: Optimus Princeps.”

Does it get any more “guy” than the likes of those?

Hmm. Suddenly I also remember attending an Alison Moyet concert (longer ago than I now care to recall) with a girlfriend. At some point, it hit me that I was one of about the “50 guys” in the audience of a few thousand. Or so it seemed anyway.

[Shrug.] I suppose we never really change. As a teen, and in college, I always gravitated more toward “girl friends” than “guy friends.” I had guy pals, but I always preferred hanging out with women.

There were guys who made fun of that tendency. Somehow, you’re supposed to want to do lots of “guys only” stuff – with no women around.

I’ve never understood that. “Men’s only” clubs? Seriously? Why the hell would you – as a man – not want women around?

Probably to feel freer to lie about the women you don’t actually know, that’s why.

Eventually, those same “guys only” types also end up wondering how you know the cool girls you do.

It’s not rocket science. Younger men, take note. ;-)

Have a good – and healthy – Saturday, wherever in the world you are reading this. :-)