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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“It is America. Everyone goes to university!”

The first two novels laid the groundwork. As they are an ongoing tale (although could be read as stand alone books) with most of the same characters, writing them I’m naturally with them for years – literally – watching them change. And I’ve said before that, given their ages, that some of them even feel at times sorta like adult kids of my own.

Who’s my favorite? I’m not saying: What “parent” would ever answer that? They are by now so distinctive in my mind I think of each of them are pretty remarkable (in both good and not so good ways), and I can’t honestly say any one of them is “my favorite.”

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a classroom with a teacher.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a classroom with a teacher.

In Distances, “Béatrice” will finally visit the United States. She won’t be going to New York or other tourist spots, though, only to New England. She’ll see one part of New England in particular:

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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. :-)

Carded At The Border

Having enrolled online before we went to the U.S., upon returning to the U.K. on Saturday I was allowed to join the U.K.’s Registered Traveller scheme. It enables some non-EU passport holders to enter the country through immigration e-gates at international U.K. airports, as well as the Paris, Brussels and Lille Eurostar terminals. No more filling out a landing card.

To do so, I had to mention it to the young woman border agent – on seeing her I thought she rather resembled singer Leona Lewis – who happened to be processing me. She knew what I meant immediately. She followed by asking for my invitation letter.

I handed it over. She scrutinized it and questioned me further. I passed muster. She concluded the formalities, “That’s fine. Let me get you a membership card.”

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a UK flag
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a UK flag

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No Plans To Evacuate (At This Time)

In 2006, the U.S. State Department helped organize a mass evacuation of U.S. citizens from Lebanon during the Hezbollah-Israel war. However, currently, there seems no similar urgency on the part of the U.S. to evacuate a far smaller number of U.S. citizens from Yemen. Lawsuits have even been filed challenging the government’s not doing so.

As of April 11, this is what the Department of State has to say:

Yemen Crisis Update, April 11, 2015
Yemen Crisis Update, April 11, 2015

The page continues in sharing how Americans can perhaps leave courtesy of “third party” assistance, such as India’s:

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Post-Flight Reflections

Our British Airways flight from Boston to Heathrow on Friday evening was full. According to the Captain, there wasn’t an empty seat on the plane – and it was a 747-400. So Going Global’s piece on U.S. domestic air travel numbers being higher than in years might well be said to apply to transatlantic flights too:

Screen capture of Going Global, April 11, 2015.
Screen capture of Going Global, April 11, 2015.

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