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.
And I remember one – the first one to suggest it – saying these sounded like bombings.
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:
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.
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.
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….
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!'”
Best-selling author Harlan Coben has accidentally ended up in hot water with…. Poland:
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.
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.