“Mrs. Hall-Surrey” Sees “Herself”

Well, our former Christchurch neighbo(u)rs are back in England from Tenerife. She surprised us with a phone call last night. We’re going to meet for lunch in the near future, roughly halfway between here in Wiltshire and where they live 6 doors away from our old house in Christchurch.

During our short chat, she said she’d finished Frontiers a few weeks ago. Shameless plug from me here: She said she liked Frontiers even better than Passports. She also declared she can’t wait for the next book to see what else could possibly happen.

So, uh, no rising high expectations there for me to meet!

Christchurch. [Screen capture of Wikipedia by me, 2015.]
Christchurch. [Screen capture of Wikipedia by me, 2015.]

She loved that I wrote about Christchurch again. In Passports, I’d just dropped in a quick mention. But in Frontiers, I decided to go all out: I filled a chapter.

And she did indeed figure it out. She saw “herself” on the pages. A first-class person and good sport, she is greatly flattered I used her and her husband as the basis for Englishwoman “Natalie Hall-Surrey’s” parents….

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The Morning After

Had a Friday night with friends in Bristol. Awoke to this view this morning:

View of Bristol, England. [Photo by me, 2015.]
View of Bristol, England. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Last evening, I vaguely recall a dinner that included pleasant amounts of Prosecco (enjoying it while it’s still available!), white wine, and Port.

Hey, look what I found in their kitchen early this morning:

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The Lovely Canines In Our Lives

Our friends’ 11 year old female black labrador collapsed the other day. They got her to the vet. But before the vet could do anything, she was gone.

Hearing that sad news, I immediately thought of her as a puppy on a 2005 Isles of Scilly holiday she’d been on with us all. Funny how on hearing such bad news one instantly recalls that sort of thing. I have photos of her on a PC in America during that trip. She was an absolute little star.

Our own 10 year old hound (half English springer spaniel/ half labrador: a “springador“) is now living with my in-laws in London. We’ve moved and traveled so much in recent years, they had him for months at a time and eventually just took him in “semi-permanently.” Although he has been twice to France on holidays with us, that is the extent of his foreign travel; he couldn’t be packed up like cargo flown back and forth repeatedly to America with us: we wouldn’t have ever subjected him to that “treatment.” (I’ve read Air France allows dogs in the cabin, but they can’t be more than 10 kilos. We have thought, hmm, maybe a strict, pre-flight diet? ;-) )

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Stonehenge

Although it’s only 45 minutes away from where we live now in Wiltshire, and had been about an hour from where we’d lived previously in Dorset for a decade, we had never been to Stonehenge.

Saturday night, on impulse, we thought, “Well, why not on Sunday?”

Rule 1: Try to get there as early as you can. It opens at 9:30. The web site encourages pre-booking, which we did. Early arrivals have no trouble parking (finding parking can be exciting in Britain) and the magnificent attraction is pleasantly “serene.”

That doesn’t last long. By the time we left about 1 PM, the car park was much fuller. At least two dozen coachloads of visitors had appeared as well.

Welcome to Stonehenge. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Welcome to Stonehenge. [Photo by me, 2015.]

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Confronting National Stereotypes

Yesterday, I had a terrible headache which virtually incapacitated me all day. I’m not 100 percent my old self yet, but I finally feel a bit better this morning. I can at least function. (When I get a headache, I can become very ill.)

While I was waiting for the pain to subside, I stumbled on this on Twitter from the Matador Network. It’s an entertaining travel and international site, which (full disclosure) also follows me on Twitter. I thought it was worth a blog post:

Twitter screen capture.
Twitter screen capture.

The tweets that went back in response were about what you might expect. However, one of them included an old canard. It’s hard to tell if the tweeter, apparently a man, was joking; he may well have been trying to be lighthearted. The sixth tweet down: it’s about women who (apparently use too much) perfume and don’t shave (under their arms):

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Spinning Out Of Control

I’m sure some of you reading this were born in the late 1980s and 1990s. The era of which I write about in the novels is therefore in a real sense “history” to you. It pre-dates either your consciousness of the wider world…. or even your birth itself! ;-)

Strasbourg, France. Home of the European Parliament. [Photo by me, 1996.]
Strasbourg, France. Home of the European Parliament. [Photo by me, 1996.]

It’s trite to point out that one can’t hope to begin to understand the present without understanding the past; yet it’s absolutely true. And trying to appreciate the human outlook of any “past” is a vital aspect of that effort. This article in Die Zeit about Germany’s attitude and approach to the world since 1989 could in large measure apply elsewhere in Europe as well as to the U.S.A.:

A quarter of a century after the fall of the Berlin Wall … we’ve woken up and it feels like a bad dream….

….Crisis has become the new normal. The years between 1990 and now were the exception.

The psychological repercussions of this fundamentally new situation on Europe’s political elites are both brutal and curious at the same time. Those aged 45 to 65 currently in positions of power have only known growing prosperity, freedom and cultural sophistication. They were, and to a large extent still are, predisposed to exert themselves only modestly, act responsibly and expect that they could enjoy the fruits of their labor. And suddenly history has unceremoniously grabbed them by the scruff of the neck. Do we really need to fight now? More than ever? And what does our cardiologist have to say?

I’m sharing that article and writing this post because that piece hit me hard. I fall into the “early part” of that age group; but I was certainly not “powerful” in 1989. (Nor am I now!) Speaking here only for myself, of course, I also vividly recall the post-fall of the Berlin Wall atmosphere: it fills my novels and is meant to do so.

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The World’s Sexiest Nationality?

Previously, this blog has dutifully shared what we are informed are “the most attractive accents” in the world. Now this, as reported by a well-respected Irish media outlet. Understand, it is offered here purely for any “research and reference” purposes you may have:

Screen capture of the Irish Times.
Screen capture of the Irish Times.

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Sneak Peek: Relaxing (Too Much?) Over Beers

“James” had not been a international traveller. He had never been to Europe until he visited France for the first time at age 29. Subsequently, he would find himself in various encounters with other Americans in Europe.

One example was a retired soldier who truly inspired him:

“I parachuted near here on D-Day,” he announced.

Another was an expat who left him feeling puzzled:

“We’re from L.A.,” she said. “My husband works in Paris, and we’re on vacation. He had to go to the States for a time by himself. I thought the boys would like to see Normandy.” She concluded as one of her sons gestured restlessly that he wanted to sit on her lap and she waved a hand trying to dissuade him.

And another was a study abroad student who turned him off totally:

“Natalie,” James interrupted in turn, “this Amber isn’t really an average American girl, trust me. She sounds demented.”

He hadn’t really made an American friend while he was abroad.

Time for another “sneak peek.”

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Relaxing London Saturday

We missed the rain: it rained earlier. Back from a morning stroll:

Bluebells are still out. [Photo by me today.]
Bluebells are still out. [Photo by me today.]
Rare this field is ever so unpeopled. [Photo by me today.]
Rare this field is ever so unpeopled. [Photo by me today.]
New signage for 2015. [Photo by me today.]
New signage for 2015. [Photo by me today.]
Although I have War and Remembrance with me on this visit to the in-laws, I don’t plan “to think” too much today. (Now, no snickering about when do I actually think!) Simply I hope to enjoy some “quiet” time.

You have a good day too, wherever you are. :-)

Coming Tomorrow!

Happy Sunday. I’m having a rest today. So no profound, thought-provoking travel, expat or literary blog post. Sorry.

While “relaxing,” I should finish The Winds of War…. TODAY!

I merely want here to offer a coming attraction:

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a megaphone and announcement text.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a megaphone and announcement text.

I want to invite you. While certainly in line with what this blog revolves around overall, tomorrow – on Monday at 8 am UK time/ 3 am ET US – I’ll share a post that is rather different. Here’s my only hint:

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