The question is not what you look at, but what you see – Part Two: F thru J
To recap – I will be leaving this New World on Thursday 1st December, exactly a year after I arrived from Europe. To celebrate my year here I am making a little tribute to what I will miss and what I won’t miss so much, by way of an alphabetic account surgically divided into five to be posted on my five last days. If you want to catch up simply type ‘The Question is’ into the search box and you will be magically transported to my plentious tome. Procrastination, get behind me … here come my Foxtrot to Juliet tidily presented in their rightful order:
F. F is for Freedom. And before you think I am going into a diatribe about the land of the free or freedom of the individual or freedom of speech, rein in your horse because I’m not. If you only know me a little by now you surely know that making such political statements is not my style. Mostly. I’ve got as many dents in my halo as the next girl and satin knickers can make the best of us slide off our pedestal from time to time but in general and particularly when I am a guest (as I have been here), I keep my mouth and my typing fingers taped. So F is for the Freedom Trail The Freedom Trail runs through Boston for 2 ½ miles and leads you through the area where as Bostonians have it, history was made and the course of the world changed forever. And I can’t argue. In effect what you are seeing are the collection of places that formed the end of English occupation and rule and successful struggle for Independent free rule for the people who had made this place their home. That the people are proud of it is entirely justified, athough I do think the term Boston Massacre might be a teeny bit optimistic for a death toll of 5 at the hands of some British soldiers which in terms of modern gun crimes in this country is frankly feeble. Ooops – sorry, I said I wouldn’t be provocative so on that note I will step decorously back into my gilded cage and recommend anyone who ever has the chance, to visit Boston which is undeniably a beautiful city and assuredly oozes and reeks the history on which this great nation was built.
G. G is for Gobbler. In my recent post on Thanksgiving and Christmas, I talked a fair bit about Turkeys. What I didn’t mention is that for me, the live wild ones register high on the excitement richter scale when I spot them. You’ll round a corner and come to a halt as a rafter of them saunter casually from one side of the road to the other, you can spot posses of them pecking idly in gardens and cemetaries and it is common to stumble upon a gang of them in a parking lot seemingly preparing to queue for a donut or pick up some groceries. The collective nouns for Turkeys, by the way, are rafter, gang or posse which conjures marvellous images of the Wild West for me and a gang of turkeys-gone-bad in secret locations high in the rocky wilderness, plotting their next violent bank robbery whilst the good-guy turkeys collected together by the Pinkertons are gathering in a posse to bring these no-goods to justice. I haven’t decided whether there are horses involved nor if it is safe to allow them a saloon … would alcohol just make it ugly? Anyway, back on point – imagine my delight that on Thanksgiving morning, aided by my amazing Allard Brace which enables me to walk and run as elegantly as I did before my accident, which is not to say that I will ever be graceful but simply that it is my normal gait rather than the comedy-clumsy carriage caused by being left with ‘drop foot’, honestly imagine my delight as I lined up to run our local Turkey Trot which is riotously called ‘The Gobbler’. I truly gave thanks at the end when I picked up my time and it was only seconds slower than I had been before my sorry tale of busted leg woe and that Gobbler has spurred me on to knowing that I can get back to full fitness which in turn means I am able to pursue a couple of personal goals that I had thought had been crushed. Back to the feathered colossi …. my husband was almost taken out by a low-flying one not so long ago – in the retelling it seemed to resemble one of those huge, lumbering Lancaster Bombers en route to the Rühr Valley to release Barnes Wallace’s recently perfected bouncing bombs to destroy the Möhner and Edersee Dams. In this case, the bomber had failed to gain sufficient altitude and was heading straight for the windscreen of the car. Given the sheer bulk of the birds in question I am confident that a lucky strike would have been extremely unlucky for them both. I am also relieved that it didn’t release an egg in its moment of horror when eyeball to eyeball with Two Brains it thought it had gobbled it’s last …
H. H is for Halloween. In Britain and in France Halloween is creeping in and becoming a tradition but I can honestly say that Europeans have an awfully long way to go before they can say they are fully conversant with this bad boy. For a start, I have never EVER seen so many pumpkins. And practically every house is decorated with jackolanterns and black cats and witches and ghouls and sinister cobwebs and whilst trick or treating is, I am told, mildly on the decline, you still witness tiny, small and slightly larger children dressed as every conceivable and many inconceivable incarnations of their own or their parents imaginings, with their predictably enormous bags to contain the booty that is on offer at all houses not inhabited by grouches (whose porch lights tend to be forthrightly turned OFF). Many communities have special events and they are all about Fancy Dress. If you are a runner, expect to run in costume if an event falls on or around Halloween. And the next day …. the day that I thought I would nip in and pick up a cut price pumpkin to put out for the critters. Gone. Not a pumpkin to be had. Whether this was because the locust hoards had grabbed every last one or whether it was because they are swept away to make way for Thanksgiving and pies of every conceivable type imaginable (and some that shouldn’t BE imagined) I know not. But I do know that my smart plan to feed the squirrels backfired and I shall have to be niftier another time.
H is also for Harvard which in reality is the reason I am here. Two Brains is a well-seasoned Harvard boffin and has been these past 27 years. That is why he is here and that, by proxy is why I am here. But Harvard as you quickly discover is NOT in Harvard. Harvard is a lovely town just west of where we live and contains a place called Fruitlands Museum which provoked my recent borderline obsession with birds (more later). Harvard University is in Cambridge which in a personal way is fortuitous. I’m English born and from Oxford. Cambridge are Oxford’s arch rivals. When I was introduced to my husband I presumed, knowing he was a Professor, that when he said he was based in Cambridge he meant OUR Cambridge and although that is a teeny hike West to East in England it is inconsequential in the context of facilitating the possible blossoming of a romance. Call me slow. Call me dense, dopey or downright retarded but the fact is that it was quite some while later that I realised that he actually meant Cambridge Massachusetts …. fortunately by that time I was a sufficiently smitten kitten to fling caution aside, ignore the doubters who gave grave warnings about a long distance relationship and these few years later, I can graciously report that it was the best decision of my life. Kismet dresses in many kimonos but tends to favour an open heart.
I. I is for Ice-cream. Mainly it is for Ice-Cream parlours like Erikssons just over our town line. These shrines open up some time in April each year and close again at the end of summer presumably when the student workforce returns to school. The array of flavours is staggering and the size of a single scoop is positively swoon-worthy. I always have two. On summer nights people gather in their cars and park up in the heat and pick up dessert on the fly. For me it is the most delightful incarnation of what I imagine American Tradition to be. I’m from the Happy Days, American Grafitti, Grease era and these places somehow seem to evoke that time in my past when I dreamed of being in an imagined American dreamland dancing, cruising in an open top car with a bench front seat and being what seemed to be the epitome of free-as-a-bird young. Envision my glee when my daughter was staying and we took her for one last ice-cream before she flew back to England and a whole platoon of vintage forties and fifties cars paraded into the lot. The owners were delighted that we wanted to take pictures and affably invited us to sit in the cars ‘that’s the whole point of having it’ said one. Sadly the pictures are on HB2’s phone and despite having a cavernous intellect he has never been fully in control of a cell-phone and thus they are entombed and I can only offer my meagre descriptive powers to try and evoke them to life.
J. J is for Jeopardy. It’s fair to say that I am obsessed with this iconic quiz show. Alex Trebeck hosts us 5 or 6 nights a week and I sit glued and giving my answers in the acknowledged style. For the unititiated this means that if the answer is a person you must preface with ‘who is’ and if it is anything else you preface ‘what is’. In Britain we had a programme called ‘Mastermind’ and my definition of a triumph was when I answered a question in a contestent’s specialist subject (in other words they were some sort of an expert) round correctly which they either couldn’t answer or got wrong. My definition of a triumph here is when I can answer a question on Americana correctly that none of the contestants get right. This tends to bring forth an unseemly whoop and sadistic grin and I transform into something eerily resembling Ghengist Khan after a successful pillage. And this is probably why it is time for me to take a gracious pause from this country and leave you all in peace for while. But not before I have noted that J is also for Jelly which I call Jam and Jello which I call Jelly. And J is for Jiffy-Lube. This is a national chain and I am sure they are absolutely wonderful but I can assure you that we would never EVER call a place by that name in England for the same reason as in France it is unwise to ask for Vaseline …. we tend to associate the word lube with something you slather on your nethers when the lights are dim, the music breathy and the atmosphere hot. Which explains why this overgrown schoolgirl has a peurile snigger to self everytime I pass one ….
PS: You surely were waiting with breath a-baited for the predictable PS and never one to disappoint, here it is. Jeopardy first came to my attention unwittingly in the marvellous movie What is ‘The Bucket List’ with the incomparible Who is Jack Nicholson and Who is Morgan Freeman (whose character -Who is Carter Chambers – is as obsessed as I with What is Jeopardy) – here’s a snippet if you care to watch it.
The top and bottom pictures were taken in Spring the second season I experienced here.