“Just write that Austria lost”

Long-time singer/ performer Madonna has readily admitted she’s interested in “being provocative and pushing people’s buttons.” Presumably this rates as another effort at being so. The Guardian:

….Speaking to French radio station Europe 1 in an interview … Madonna said “antisemitism is at an all-time high” in France and elsewhere in Europe, and likened the atmosphere to the period when German fascism was on the ascent.

“We’re living in crazy times,” the 56-year-old singer said, calling the situation “scary,”….

….“It was a country that embraced everyone and encouraged freedom in every way, shape or form – artistic expression of freedom,” Madonna said. “Now that’s completely gone.

“France was once a country that accepted people of colour, and was a place artists escaped to, whether it was Josephine Baker or Charlie Parker.”….

That commentary has unsurprisingly attracted attention in France. If you click on the picture below, or here, it will take you to the interview. Her words are translated into French, but one can hear her speaking English:

Europe 1 screen grab.
Europe 1 screen grab.

Obviously she has read and heard various things over the years, and knows just enoughdinner party” banter to sound informed. Listening to her throughout her career one has never been able to suppress a feeling that she is the proverbial “mile wide and an inch deep.” You never quite believe she knows nearly as much as she appears to position herself as knowing.

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Admitted Adulterers Around The World

February is ending. Spring approaches (in our northern hemisphere). And a bit of interesting “research” has come to light in recent days:

Screen capture of the UK Independent newspaper.
Screen capture of the UK Independent newspaper.

Thailand by a mile? And the following nine are all European countries? Topped off by Denmark?

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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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Novelist Uncle Is In The Building

Well, I had an email exchange with my uncle last night. He knows now about my books completely – including my pen name and what underscores the stories.

The mask is off.

Wires everywhere! Part of my desk. [Photo by me, this morning.]
Wires everywhere! Part of my desk. [Photo by me, this morning.]

I can’t reproduce much of his note back to me. Lots of it is family stuff. But these extracts should give you the gist:

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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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Reviewing The Reviewers

As any author knows, reader reviews can’t be ignored nowadays. Amazon is central in that change. Readers may praise, but authors now also need a skin as tough as iron too.

Authors aren’t alone. A business owner we know got an appalling review a few months ago on a non-Amazon site from a customer who’d – we were told – had a personal ax to grind. It was “1 star” followed by a single, vitriolic sentence. (How classy.)

I recall a B&B owner where we stayed some years ago in Canada telling us of a recent guest (and she said she suspected who it was) who’d given her a poor review on TripAdvisor because he didn’t like the breakfast. She told us that he got exactly what everyone else got (which was exactly what was promised), and never complained to her in person which, she said, would have at least allowed her to have addressed what he didn’t like. Instead he left having said nothing and scribbled something negative online, which she thought was unfair and even nasty of him.

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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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The Most Attractive Accent In The World?

The U.K.’s Independent newspaper reports a poll of “11,000 people” surveyed in “24 cities around the world” found that “a British accent is the most attractive accent in the world”:

More than a quarter of respondents preferred a UK accent with people in Paris, New York and Sydney the most keen, The Time Out Global Dating Survey found.

My wife has regularly joked to me that when we are in the U.S., she gets the feeling many people are not actually listening to the content of what she is saying, but are instead just listening to her saying it. ;-)

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