Ten Years On: The Day’s A Blur

July 7, 2005 was like any other normal day. A few days a week I took public transportation – either overground train, or tube – to my university office in north London where I then worked. Other days I drove. I liked to vary the commute.

That day, I’d pre-booked the car in with a dealer for a routine service, so drove to work a bit early. Being near the college, they would send someone over to my office, collect it, work on it, and return it by the end of the workday. Ho hum.

As usual, by 8:30 they’d picked up the car and taken it away. I think it was on my desktop sometime around 9:30 when I first saw the BBC web site update: there were rumors of electrical fires/ explosions in a couple of tube stations.

Very odd stuff, to say the least. I remember colleagues shaking their heads.

Screen capture of BBC web site.
Screen capture of BBC web site.

And I remember one – the first one to suggest it – saying these sounded like bombings.

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“There never will be anything more interesting in America than that Civil War never.”

Following the murders of nine African-American churchgoers in South Carolina, old social media photographs of the white supremacist arrested for it naturally surfaced almost immediately. In one, he’s wearing jacket patches of the apartheid South Africa flag and the white minority government Rhodesia flag. In another, he’s posing on a car displaying the Confederate States of America emblem.

His embrace of the latter has revived arguments inside the U.S. about the post-Civil War tacit understanding under which the United States became one country again:

Screen capture of Vox.
Screen capture of Vox.

That Vox piece is the sort of thing that leads one to wonder if supposedly well-educated members of the media have ever read a serious history book?

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Monasterboice, County Louth

Yesterday was the first time I’d seen this, which is off a quiet side road, north of Dublin. From where you park, you’d think it’s merely an old cemetery amidst the ruins of a couple of old churches. But it’s much more:

Photo by me, 2015.
Photo by me, 2015.

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A Stranger’s Funeral

Last weekend, at Mass the priest had announced a funeral service would take place on Wednesday at lunchtime. He also explained that the deceased would have only a small contingent of family and friends present. What really caught my attention was when he observed if any of us in the faceless congregation could make it, it would be appreciated.

When he said that, I made a mental note: if I could, I would be there. I awoke yesterday morning and remembered it. Working at home as I do, there was really no excuse not to go.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a cross.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a cross.

As you may know, Roman Catholicism and I have had a bit of a “complicated” relationship over the years, and my books reflect that. I packed the novel-writing away for all of an hour or so. As I closed the front door, I reflected on the fact that I could not recall ever before having been to the funeral Mass for a total stranger.

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The View From The Roof

The other day, Travel and Leisure offered an architectural expert’s take on the newly opened One World Trade Center observatory:

Screen capture of the Travel And Leisure web site.
Screen capture of the Travel And Leisure web site.

Seeing that article, I couldn’t help but recall one thing that made the old WTC observatory view extra special: the view of the massive twin tower next door. I slotted that experience and memory into Passports:

….As their elevator sped upward, their stomachs dropped. In moments, they were at the 107th floor Observation Deck. The North Tower stood majestically next door, and this was one of those days the rest of the view went for some fifty miles….

And, unlike on the new building, you could also venture upstairs from the indoor observatory and wander around outside:

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“Darling, he’s written about us!”

Happy 1st of June. And we didn’t meet them halfway. We went to them. Yesterday, we drove to Christchurch (about an hour and a half away) to visit with a former neighbor couple there.

In a sense, it felt like “going home.” The town is much the same. And the house we’d owned for a decade until 2013 – well, there it stood. (They aren’t huge fans of the people who’ve bought it. We’ve never laid eyes on them and still haven’t.)

The husband (he’s about my father’s age) and I were alone at one point and chatting. He told me they were in Tenerife, in their flat (in the end, they didn’t sell it), and his Mrs. was sitting in the lounge reading Frontiers. “Across the room,” he said to me, “I hear this laugh, and she looks at me, points out a page, and says, ‘What did he do?! That’s me! The so and so! Darling, he’s written about us!'”

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a blank frame with drawing tools.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a blank frame with drawing tools.

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Harlan Coben Inadvertently Offends Poland

Best-selling author Harlan Coben has accidentally ended up in hot water with…. Poland:

Screen capture of author Harlan Coben's Facebook page.
Screen capture of author Harlan Coben’s Facebook page.

The power, and danger, of words. An English e-book version of one of his novels had the phrase “Polish concentration camp,” which in English could easily be read as implying it was a concentration camp run by Poles or by the government of Poland. Coben writes in that Facebook post above that the error has been “corrected” to “concentration camp located in Poland,” but the old e-book version is still floating around out there and he’s trying to get it stamped out.

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“Why am I crying?”

Twenty years ago, seeing this in person for the first time….

A view of graves at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. [Photo by me, 1995.]
A view of graves at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. [Photo by me, 1995.]

….I was overwhelmed emotionally and I’ve never forgotten it.

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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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