“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?

Continue reading

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. :-)

Bath, A Birthday…. And Crazy People

After yesterday’s heavy post, let’s have some photos for New Year’s Eve. With my in-laws, we took my now newly 20 year old nephew to lunch at Cote Brasserie in Bath on Tuesday. A couple of Bath snapshots:

Bath Cathedral (with an England flag flying) [Photo by me, 2014.]
Bath Cathedral (with an England flag flying) [Photo by me, 2014.]
Road junction in Bath. Note the sun drenched buildings in the distance. [Photo by me, 2014.]
Road junction in Bath. Note the sun drenched buildings in the distance. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Back on Monday evening, we’d already – three of us – had a birthday brandy at home, including my nephew. This being the U.K., it is perfectly legal for 18, 19 and 20 year old adults to consume alcohol. I know some of my fellow countrymen may be shocked and scandalized to learn that…. but, please, no fainting spells. ;-)

One way to observe a 20th birthday. [Photo by me, 2014.]
One way to observe a 20th birthday. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Having a walk at a favorite spot earlier on Monday, I grabbed a photo of some people next to the Westbury White Horse who thought they could fly:

On Monday afternoon, crazy people about to jump off an extremely high hill, just next to the Westbury White Horse. [Photo by me, 2014.]
On Monday afternoon, crazy people about to jump off an extremely high hill, just next to the Westbury White Horse. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Have a Happy New Year, wherever you are in the world. :-)

That’s Cricket

Happened to see this tweet this morning, and it got me thinking:

image

Many Americans may not like soccer, but at least they get what’s going on: each team want to get the ball into the opposing team’s goal somehow without using their hands.

Cricket is certainly more complicated. I won’t even attempt to explain nuances. In simple terms, it’s not unlike baseball. However, there is nowhere that’s a “foul ball” – everywhere is in play.

To score runs, after the one who is being “bowled” at makes contact with the ball and decides to try to run, both batsmen run back and forth between the wickets accumulating runs until they don’t want to risk being run “out.” A batsman is “out” (like a runner in baseball) if the fielding team somehow knocks the batsman’s wicket down. Every time running batsmen switch wickets (and they run carrying their bats), it earns their team 1 run.

A ball hit that rolls across the marked field boundary is an automatic 4 runs. (No running between wickets is required.) One that clears it on the fly is 6 runs. Hence the term one often hears in places like Britain and Australia: “Hit for 6.” It’s like saying “home run.”

The teams do that for two “innings” – for 10 outs per team; hence the high scores. That’s essentially the gist of the game. Once I figured out what they were trying to do, I admit I was hooked.

The first time I really paid close attention to a match in progress was during the 1999 World Cup. It was Australia vs. South Africa – and if you know cricket you know to what I’m referring. Two names: Lance Klusener and Allan Donald:

What an introduction to the game. My wife also warned me afterwards, “It’s great fun to watch at times, but don’t think it’s always that exciting.” ;-)

Have a good Monday!

Snow In England – Don’t Leave The House

It hasn’t snowed here overnight in London – fortunately. Parts of the country to the north got a several inches, though. That led to the predictable abandoned cars, stranded motorists, and people seeking refuge in churches, etc., and so on.

The BBC reporting on a couple of British snow. [Screen capture by me.]
The BBC reporting on a couple of British snow. [Screen capture by me.]
Yorkshire gets snowfall, and several inches is almost never a laughing matter anywhere. Still, England in a snow generally is perhaps best-described as a lot like snow in, say, Atlanta: it happens in winter occasionally, but no one ever seems honestly prepared for it. Local governments don’t own garages full of plows and salters. It just isn’t worth the investment for a couple of days a year of snow.

When it snows even a couple of centimeters/inches in southern England especially, it’s utter chaos. I will never forget about a decade ago taking 9 hours to drive roughly 10 miles in north London. A dusting or so fell in a late afternoon, and by the time we (in my then office) all had left work – early! – at around 4pm, the buses weren’t running, the Tube was shut, and the trains were a mess.

As for the roads, don’t ask. No one in southern England knows what a winter tire is of course. Far worse, some people seem not to comprehend how to drive in snow. First of all, you take it easy. Snow is, after all, uh, slippery.

Cars hit each other at traffic lights, or slid off roundabouts. Some drivers were going too slowly to take hills and got stuck; or others took them too quickly, got to the top and slid down the other side and crashed into parked cars. I saw several drivers give up, turn their cars off, and walk away.

It was surreal. It was like a Hollywood, end of the world, disaster flick. I was waiting for Morgan Freeman to rap on my car window.

But I made it home…. around 1am.

To add to today’s “fun,” King’s Cross train station in London is actually closed due to “overrunning engineering works.” Seriously. No fiction author would dare invent this stuff. If you wrote it, you’d get laughed for being totally unbelievable. ;-)

Merry Christmas

It’s almost upon us. If you celebrate, I hope you have a Merry Christmas. If you don’t observe it, I’d like to offer you best wishes for the coming year.

I almost forgot. You have to see it. Hey, you like our tree? The tree stand is doing its job well:

Oh, Christmas tree. Oh, Christmas tree. [Photo by me, 2014.]
Oh, Christmas tree. Oh, Christmas tree. [Photo by me, 2014.]
We spent yesterday in Bath doing last-minute shopping. It is one of the most attractive city centers in England. One of the possible reasons: some of the shops. For example, it seemed everything in the Hilfiger store started at £100 and only went up from there.

Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit. Still, by comparison, £60 shirts at the shop in Bath would’ve probably gone for $45 at the Woodbury Common Outlets Hilfiger in upstate New York. Yep, they don’t call Britain “treasure island” for nothing.

In some ways it has been a very mixed year. Yes, I got Frontiers finished. And my Dad survived heart failure. Those are certainly positives.

On the heavily negative side, we lost someone who is utterly irreplaceable. An emptiness that will never be refilled will stay with us forever. This is the first Christmas without her and I’ve been trying not to think about that. Instead, when her absence crosses my mind (as it is now), I’ve tried to imagine that, come mid-January, she’ll just suddenly appear via a text or a phone message, saying she’d just got back from Rome, or Dubai, or Chicago, and her parents also introduced her to yet another man she’s not really interested in, and she wants to meet up for lunch at a brand new restaurant she’s been wanting to try. But I know that won’t happen of course.

There’s no law written anywhere that says a next year has to be better than the last. Sometimes it’s definitely not. But let’s be optimists anyway, not only about our own lives, but about the wider world as well that 2015 will be better for all of us.

We have some fun here too as you may know if you stop by regularly. We have to laugh now and then. I just wanted to use this short post also to thank you again for reading and following my modest, novel-writing site. :-)

Absolute Must-Haves Der Saison

I ordered a pair of Merrell walking boots from Amazon.co.uk. Upon opening the delivered box, other than my shoes I found some additional advertising. No surprise that, of course….

Vinos.de
Vinos.de
Absolute Must-Haves Der Saison.
Absolute Must-Haves Der Saison.

….other than the fact that, umm, as you may have noticed from those photos, the leaflets are in German. By that I mean those ads are entirely in German. (Aside from the obviously borrowed English.) Not a trace of any other language.

Not even, uh, French? Is that allowed? ;-)

Hmm, I do have to say, though, that’s a pretty good deal for that Spanish wine, from a German web site, sent to me unsolicited in England (and that, other than a few words, I don’t know much German).

Welcome to the European Union! ;-)

Have a good Thursday!

“Good grief, that’s just embarrassing….”

Writing, you are your best critic in some ways. If something bothers you as you re-read, it’s definitely not quite there. As in everything in life, listen to that little voice inside you.

I had a moment like that yesterday. It was only a few lines, but it just didn’t read quite as I wanted. Arrgh!

So, on the verge of publication, yep, yesterday I rewrote some of a Frontiers love scene.

I’ve discussed this problem previously. “Intimacy” is so difficult to write well. A real pain. There’s the narrowest of lines between “Got it! That works!” vs…. “Good grief, that’s just embarrassing….”

That issue off my chest (again), how about a “romantic” landscape photo for midweek? Iford Manor, Wiltshire:

Iford Manor, on the River Frome, Wiltshire, last Sunday. [Photo by me, 2014.]

It’s not a “Carson, would you please ask the new chauffeur to bring the motor around,” Downton Abbey type of manor. However, the house is thought to date originally to the late 1400s. Its garden was used a few years ago for a wedding in an episode of the TV series Mistresses.

Have a good Wednesday. :-)

“God, she’s younger than my daughter!”

My HarperCollins novelist uncle was messaging with me on Saturday. He’d just spoken to my mother (his sister) about my father’s pending heart surgery. He also dropped in yet more authoring advice:

Engaging with a writer uncle on Facebook Messenger about writing when he doesn't know you have already written one book and are nearly finished with the second. [Screen capture by me, 2014.]
Engaging with a writer uncle on Facebook Messenger about writing when he doesn’t know you have already written one book and are nearly finished with the second. [Screen capture by me, 2014.]

On Facebook, as you can see, he’s not always exactly, ummm, a wordsmith.

His first novel appeared in the early 1980s; and he has also written short stories, screenplays, and, recently, a stage play. “I’m why they have editors,” I vaguely remember him once saying. I also recall some years ago how, when one of his books was being edited by “some 21 year old” woman and evidently feeling his age a bit, he shook his head and harrumphed to me, “God, she’s younger than my daughter!”

Free Stock Photo: A pair of glasses with an open book.
Free Stock Photo: A pair of glasses with an open book.

Yes, life is indeed endless “fictional” source material. ;-)

I started this “I think I’d like to write a novel” tease with him. I admit this little game is entirely my fault. But now he won’t stop offering me advice.

So now I just have to figure out how to get out of this “literary” corner into which I’ve painted myself. :-) Hope you have a good day. Happy Monday [grumble, grumble].