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Posts tagged ‘USA’

The question is not what you look at, but what you see – Part Five: U thru Z

Gosh, I jolly well hope none of you were holding your breath for this ‘and finally’ moment because if you were you are surely an unbecoming shade of grey-navy by now.  But ‘and finally’ it is.  My silly series of alphabetic ramblings on a year spent in The New World completes here and not before time, given that it was supposed to coincide with my returning to Europe on 1st December and we are now hurtling through a  not so New Year for which I wish you joy and laughter, peace and content and above all things love, which, I firmly believe, really IS all we need.  Hey presto bongo here we go:

U.  U is for USA naturally enough.  I’m a simple soul and I’m as apt to fall for the properganda and misinformation of others as the next girl or boy.  It’s fair to say that before I had this opportunity to actually be in this place that it did not really penetrate my consciousness just how absolutely vast and varied it is.  And this comes from a person who, in reality, has only scratched the teeniest scritch of New England.  Like Europe, the USA is a country made up of lots of different countries except that they are called States.  Since I take in my stride the fact that Italy is not at all like Germany, Belgium not a satellite of France but it’s very own bird and Spain certainly not a smidge like Britain it stands to reason when I take my silly specs off that California is really not at all akin to Alabama nor Wisconsin analogous to Texas or Maine to Hawaii.  I understood after a while that New England is it’s own special corner of the USA and that it in turn, rather like the place I was born in is made up of five particular personalities who have their own idiosyncracies and peculiaries and delights.  It may seem like kindergarten learning but it really did take living in the place to even begin to understand what a colossus it is.  When I return, which I hope I will later this year and for at least twice as long, I intend to travel and feel for myself why Massachusetts is no more representative of the whole Union than Florida or Alaska or California or The Dakotas.  I should also mention that the British tend to be a bit sniffy about the fact that many Americans have not travelled outside of their own country.  Well my people, I have news for you …. I was brought up by parents who believed that it is essential to understand and know your own corner before you start venturing into foreign lands.  With such a wealth of terrain, culture and, dare I say, history (for we Europeans tend to be snobbish in our assumption that these Americas are too young to have accumulated substantial history and in that hypothesis we are foolishy wrong), in just this chunk of North America without even venturing upwards to Canada or downwards to Central and South America, it strikes me that it is entirely forgiveable to live a life restricted to this continent.

V.  V is for Viagra.  Actually it’s for medical advertising but that doesn’t fit my carefully constructed alphabet so I’m stretching the elastic.  Coming as I do from the land of the National Health Service where we are entirely at the mercy of whatever is passed fit and fiscally viable to prescribe by a body called (eroneously many would argue) NICE, I was fascinated by the sheer volume of advertising for drugs and medical aids all of which are accompanied by  lengthy disclaimers about side-effects  uttered by the voice-over artist at death-defying pace in a crescendo from insignificant rashes through paralisis and loss of limbs to death (I am entirely serious).  Sometimes they are also chaperoned by the statement that if you are allergic to a particular drug you should avoid taking it.  Really? … you know you are allergic but you decide to take it anyway, presumably in a fit of boredom that might be alleviated by a jolly solid and possibly deadly bout of anaphylaxis.  In the case of Viagra, a slinky lady is seen to be skillfully seducing a fellow who is clearly very willing indeed to be enticed, and voice-over man states very distinctly that if you experience an erection lasting more than four hours you should seek immediate medical help.  I nearly choked on my passion fruit the first time I saw this advertisement but when I asked meekly if anyone else found this odd I was greeted by tumbleweed and a sense that I was very clearly a  foreign body.  Or V could be for Vermont.  We visited the North Eastern Kingdom at the outset of Fall and I left a little of my heart there.  Not only did I get to wave at Canada from Newport (and get waved at by an amused train driver hauling huge cargo behind his glorious richly hooting engine) and to see the burgeoning of the incredible gilded spectacle of leaves donning their most outrageous regalia before falling away to leave the trees slumbering for winter; I got to stay in an enchanting log cabin at a magical place called The Olde Farmhouse in Danville  and I got to sate myself on covered bridges which have long been an interest that blossomed into an obsession when Meryl and Clint played out their sweet-sad love story in ‘The Bridges of Madison County’.   Covered bridges are not a purely New England oeuvre, they pop up in varying density from Alabama to Quebec.  Indeed you will find a few in Europe too.  I unswervingly adore them.  They are evocative of so much to me from Headless Horsemen to Beetlejuice and endless galloping horses clattering over them on some or other grainy film on a rainy Saturday afternoon.  I’m pretty sure John-Boy Walton must have driven over one in that truck of his and certainly there were imagined teenaged canoodlings with whoever was the dream squeeze of the hour in my youth peppered with American TV which was surely so much more enticing than anything Oxford could possibly offer a gauche girl like me.  They just seem so romantic and being incapacitated from our usual walks and hikes gave left us free to hunt them down and snap and be snapped in my best Meryl poses all over this beauteous landscape.

W.  W is for White Mountains.  My leg injury put the brakes on our aspiration to hike all the 4,000 footers of the Presidential Range through late Spring and Summer but we did walk up Mount Eisenhower in December (naively without poles nor crampons) which revealed the most exquisite Narnia moment as we hit the snow-line (or more accurately that day, the ICE-line).  I’ll be back and with The Bean we will conquer those peaks and drink in the magnificent  panaramas  this range exposes over New Hampshire and Vermont.  And W has to be for Weather.  I am of the opinion that if those bonkers nutcases that boarded the rickety Mayflower in 1620 had not landed at Plymouth and colonised what became Massachusetts, that it is entirely possible it would have been left to it’s own  devices.  It seems to me, a girl used to a little cold and a little heat that no-one in their right minds would willingly settle in this climate of extremes.  In my year-long tenure the temperature plummeted to -24°F (that’s -32°C) and rose well into the 90°sF (40°sC) with high humidity in summer.  I, being British, am hard-wired to be weather obsessed.  I make no secret that had I my time again it would be as a weather girl and in idle moments I can be found practicing my sweeping hand gestures (with back to map) and seemlessly eddying between hilarious weatherly quips and serious warning face.  Here though my fascination snowballed (quite literally) into a full-blown mania and I found myself lipsinking and second guessing my two favourite weather men Mike Wankum (yes, really and no giggling in the back row please) and the sublime Harvey Leonard.  Both are incumbant on WCVB-TV and were I not happily married I might suggest a meteorological ménage-à-trois whereby we would huddle together and discuss the gravity of all the impending storms that we would watch closely for the viewer to facilitate a worry-free day for them, safe in the knowledge that the W-Team had got it covered.  And of course we would be zealous in ensuring that all were versed in what effect the weather will have on a Patriot Game …. never mind that juggernauts might be crashing off bridges or houses washed away in floods, the important thing, the really important thing is whether The Gronk  is going to get cold toes whilst he struts his finest at Foxborough.  And if you are wondering what The Gronk is – Rob Gronkowski is Tight End for the New England Patriots … well you did ask.  As a point of interest, last winter brought few storms and relatively little snow (which still seemed a fearful lot to me) to Massachusetts but Harvey was watching all sorts like a rear-gunner in a Lancaster bomber presumably swivelling hither and thither on his stool as he craned his neck for the best view.  Despite this, however, he managed to entirely miss the two biggest we had, so twice I opened the back door to let The Bean (6″ at the shoulder) out for her morning airing to watch her quite literally submerge headlong into the snow mountain  and then reverse indignantly shaking legs, tail and ears of the cold white stuff that encased her.  Comedy value rating 10/10

X.  X is for Xing.   The first time I saw a sign saying Ped Xing I thought it was some sort of martial art.  Then I saw Equi Xing and chewed on what on earth it could be for days.  Finally my husband put me out of my misery.  It means crossing.  So Ped is Pedestrian and Equi is Horse aand there are many others including my favourite Moose Xing which they never did but they might have which is quite beguiling to a dull English girl like me.  I don’t know if this is a New England foible but I must comment that America seems to love a little shortening (and not just in pastry).  I find it quite endeering though it did make it near impossible for me to complete the weekly X word in the local paper as I struggled with acronyms and initials and generally had to content myself with the kids korner (stet K) to satisfy myself that I could fill in a grid at all and believe me even then it was barely.

Y.  Y is for Yard.  In France I have a jardin, in England I had a garden and in the US I had a Yard.  This took a little getting used to because in England a yard is generally a concrete area and if it is domestic, typically swing-a-cat-at-your-peril tiny.  In Massachusetts we have 1.6 acres (almost 3/4 hectare) of which much of the back is woodland.  HB2 is proud of the fact that he has left this to be mostly natural not out of laziness but to ensure the wildlife have unimpaired habitat.  We have chipmunks and squirrels as previously noted, we have deer and groundhog and skunk and racoons, turtles, toads and snakes and  bullfrogs who croak their glorious bass choral mass through the night in mating season beating out their territorial warnings beginning with a loan booming bellow and rapidly escalating as not to be outdone they all join in their admonition of none shall pass here; there are mice aplenty which we discourage from the house and there are opossum.  for me, I am ever hopeful that the black bear spotted in our neighbourhood will take up residence in our backyard but so far it has resisted my open invitation to join my Teddy Bears Picnic.  And there are birds.  If pressed I will admit to previously being phobic of birds and yet the birds captivated me when I was incapacitated by my leg injury and I turned into something of a latterday Snow White.  I counted over 30 species from the rudely red Cardinals to the tiny gutsy Chickadee (state bird of Massachusetts) and graceful bluebirds which had me whistling Zipadeedoodah zipadeeay tunelessly; little Titmice with big startled eyes and mourning doves with their soft gill-of-field-mushroom-pink plumage. And occasional visitors including brown headed cow birds, grackles and starlings who fly in lairy gangs and face off like avian Sharks and Jets in a backyard West Side Story.  Raptors too flying in on spec and emptying the yard in a fraction of a flash as their threatening sillouette looms stealthily overhead.  The chipmunks were keen to nibble up the cast offs of the messier birds, sitting sweetly under the feeders and gratefully gobbling the nuts and seeds that hit the deck, their cheeks swelling comically like a child with mumps.  The squirrels were less polite and we eventually conceded that the only thing to do was to give them their own food which they took an eternity to find (squirrel brains are quite tiny I imagine) but once found were bluntly offended if I forgot to replenish them regularly.  And Yard sales.  How I love Yard Sales.  Sometimes they are efficiently advertised for weeks ahead both on a special website and by hanging signs on lamposts and trees and other times  you are driving along and just like that, there it is …. the contents of attic, bedrooms, garage, shed, barn or any combination of the above and more spewed onto lawns sometimes neatly laid out and priced, other times just there and ask me.  You can pick up fantastic bargains or you can find the owners a little over-confident of the value of their legless dining table – it’s all part of the fun.  And finally I must give a nod to one of our neighbours who I am convinced sat with a pair of powerful binoculars trained on his lawn and ran out with nail scissors when a blade of grass was audacious enough to grow taller than his compulsory short back and sides – or possibly he used hair clippers to keep it so epically uniformed but I’m sure he remains appalled at our un-American approach to grass as a status symbol …. for me I’m happy to let it grow awhile because those dandelions are so damn pretty!

Z.  Z  is for Zucchine which ranks high amongst the vegetables that I had to remind myself are named differently than I’m used to.  A zucchine is a courgette, an eggplant is an aubergine, a ruderbager is a swede and so on.  This is not leading anywhere except that I haven’t forgotten my promise that I will write a piece devoted to the tangle you can get in when speaking English in America and vice versa.  Z should also be for Zamboni.  My first Ice-hockey (or more correctly, if I’m in the vernacular, just plain hockey) game was in Cambridge between Harvard and Cornell.  I have been to a couple of games in England where it is a low-key sport but this was much more serious and although I must report that it was not the gmost exciting of contests – end of the Varsity Season and all played out, I imagine, I got the flavour and mostly I got to dream of driving a Zamboni in the break between each period.  I too could sit like a casual cowboy on his non-bucking bronco, ironing that ice to sleek perfection and effecting effortless turns as I float on my grandiose and frankly heroic beast  to the unfettered admiration of the packed stadium.  Or at least that’s how I imagine it would feel.  In fact it’s probably rather a self-conscious exercise and as thankless as the groundsmans task on a cricket pitch …. we see it, we admire it but we never really acknowledge it ….  And finally Z is for Zzzzzz which is probably what you are doing now that you have endured the whole of my saunter through my sojourn in the States.  I thank you for staying with me and I’ll see you on the other side ….

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PS:  If you want to read the other nonsense in this series simply type ‘The Question is’ into the search box – I shan’t be offended if you don’t.  And as your long-service medal, here are  my favourite moments from The Bridges of Madison County.   I am you see, hooked on the memory of you, USA.

The question is not what you look at, but what you see – Part Three: K thru O

A rapid but never vapid retrospective of what on earth this is about:  I leave the United States in two days time and I am giving a little alphabetic eulogy to my time here – time I’ve loved with a piquant sprinkling of things I have loved a smidge less and a dollop of the things that have given me joy.

Today, a  pugilists dream … K-O which is, surely, a knockout but just in case it isn’t, I’ll simply present you with my Kilo to Oscar of what has floated my kayak-O during my New England sojourn.

K.  K is for Kennedy a name of particular significance to me because it is the name I was born to.  In fact as a child, I used to claim that the road in our village called ‘Kennedy Drive’ was named for my father.  My school-friends fell for it for years.  They fell for the fact that I claimed my Uncle in New Guinea had gone native and stuck a bone through his nose too.  I was always a little fanciful.  I need hardly tell you that the Kennedy’s of Massachusetts are, and were, a compelling family.  Whatever your politics, that much is undeniable.  The very first time I entered the USA at Boston Logan Airport the immigration official carefully examined my passport (it was before I married) and said ‘your name is royalty here’.  That covers it.  Quite naturally, therefore, we set off to lay eyes on  splendid Compound at Hyannis Port a few weeks ago and equally splendidly failed having left the address on the kitchen table.  But I can report that the curious curled arm that is Cape Cod is absolutely alluring out of season (I’m sure it’s lovely in season too but I’m a bit antisocial when it comes to sharing beaches) and it must be wonderful to pass summers safely cocooned on your estate on Nantucket Sound breathing the clearest air seasoned with a good pinch of seasalt, the lullaby of the ocean and the winds, gentle to brisk, relaxing you from what must surely be such a taxing life.   I shall go one-day and present myself as a significantly overlooked ‘Ugly Head’ relly.  That’s what Kennedy means, by the way – Ugly Head.  Which was a source of extreme embarrassment when it was discovered at school and probably served me right for my earlier misleadings vis-a-vis the road and the Uncle’s nose.

And K is for Kiss.  I, most recently come from the land of bisous.  To faire les bises in France is the customary greeting.  It involves touching cheeks (from 1-4 times depending on where you are geographically not your social standing) and making an air kiss, but crucially not planting lip on cheek.  Unless you know the person well, when you can actually kiss the cheeks if you are both of the same mind.  Children will present one cheek to be kissed.  Here, people recoil in horror if I look as though I am going to kiss them.  They seem to favour a  sort of bear hug but not a hug as I know it.  This is the hug of a flapping bear who is cringing at the dread idea of any physical contact, even through layers and layers of goose-padding, mittens and salopettes.  Handshakes work just fine but I find it uncomfortably formal with people I know reasonably well.  I fear I have left a trail of the scarred.  New Englanders who thought I wanted to Kiss them.  I didn’t – I simply wanted the most featherlike glance of cheeks but that, I think, is enough to make them shudder.  And K must be for Kindness because it would be quite wrong of me not to mention the kind nature of most people here.  And this is New England were the reputation is for brusqueness and a lack of warmth.  As a rule the people are certainly direct but once you get accustomed to the bluntness it is not rude at all.   ‘The kindess of strangers’ as breathily extolled by Tennessee Williams’ tragic Blanche Dubois is bounteous here, just not at all frilly or frou-froued up.

L.  L is for Liberal, Liberatarian and (flinty) Lobstermen … To explain – I was listening to a radio show called ‘Wait, wait – don’t tell me’ which I am a slave to and it was broadcasting from Rhode Island (more later) and the presenter ran through the traits of the various states that make up New England …. Vermont, he declared is full of Liberals (Bernie Sanders is their Senator as a clue), New Hampshire full of Liberatarians, Maine has a population of flinty lobstermen and Massachusetts is full of smug jerks.  I couldn’t possibly comment.  Really I could not except of course to graciously disagree whilst noting that a term often used for Massachusetts by outsiders is, I’m rather afraid to share ‘the masshole’, so skipping smoothly on I will tell you that L is assuredly for Lobster.  The often rugged coastline of New England is a haven for seafood and lobster is the unabashed monarch of revered crustacea.  Even MacDonalds trots out Lobster Rolls in season (and has the decency NOT to call it a ‘MacLob’) and there are little stands dotted liberally on the roadside where you can chomp a freshmade bun bulging with lobster meat.  Or you can eat in any one of a multitude of restaurants  maybe gently lulled, maybe mildly grated  by a percussive symphony of crunching claw-crackers.  Lobster is part of every gathering at home or away.  In Maine they doubtless feel theirs is superior and I shall just smile beatifically and remember that this is my KO and I don’t want a right-hook to blot my lobster pot this late in my stay.    L would not be L without three references to Lights.  Holiday season has descended and the lights are beginning to blaze.  And this is a blue-chip five star blaze.  Most get it just right … sparkling but not too showy – subtle with a just the right amount of glitz to remind us all that this IS the season to be jolly.  But the few just don’t know when enough is too much and I cannot begin to imagine what the electricity bill is like in January for the homes with not just a light on every corner of the inside and outside of the house and every bush and tree and inch of picket fence but also the seemingly compulsory blow up santa, snowman, reindeer, snoopy, spongebob, minion AND christmas tree.  Some are actually bigger than the house and I genuinely kid you not.  The other L for Light which it would be wrong of me not to mention is the traffic light.  Now call me old fashioned and a little naive but I really do think that there is a value in putting the things on a pole (particularly in the French way which is to have minature set at eye level as well as the big bazookas atop the sturdy stick (or indeed high above the road on a stonking beam).   Here, they are strung like cumbersome fairy lights on strings across the street.  And when the wind blows they dance scarily above you and in any event if you are first in line it is impossible to see what colour is beckoning you without sitting with ones head cocked sideways like a curious parakeet.  And when they change it is straight from red to green with no amber to help you compose for the off, so the next thing, if you have foolishly decided to rest your aching skewed neck for a moment is a rude blast of the horn from the vast truck behind you almost certainly driven by a person who would come up to my navel but who,  on account of the sheer beef of the vehicle,  truly scare me. This maybe designed to get me moving but is tragically likely to produce a magnificent kangaroo-leap of a stall.  And it doesn’t end there.  I’m used to turning right on red now but for the first couple of months my nerves were so frayed that my hair started to shed …. red means STOP where I come from but here, unless expressly forbidden by a sign you are free to turn if the road is clear.  And let me be very clear.  It works REALLY well once you get over the fear factor but the road to being comfortable with it is extremely anxious.  And the third L for Light are the lighthouses that dot the coast of New England.  And mesmerically lovely they are.

M.  M is not merely for moving swiftly on, M must be for Massachusetts (or Massive Chewsets as I amusingly call it when on my own in a darkened room).  This is where the Pilgrim Fathers landed in the Mayflower in 1620, this is where Paul Revere rode through the night to warn that the English were on their way to quash the rebellion, this is where the Boston Tea Party took place and this is where the M for Minute Men mustered and lay in wait, a lethal militia fired up and ready to take unfettered ownership of the land they had colonised for their very own and let no faraway King tax them.   And M is for Maine where we spent a blissful few days in May and where I experienced not a single Flinty Lobsterman but rather a population of hardworking, decent and laid back people who live in a corner of Heaven in my opinion.  If you are British think Cornwall, if you are French think Brittany …. it has the strongest echoes of both on it’s coastline and we didn’t even begin to explore inland.  And it has Acadia (which sounds very Greek and necessitates images of Pan posing with his pipes on little cloven feet with those rather muscle-bound furry legs of his) which is a small but perfectly formed National Park where you can climb a mountain and look over the sea all in one piece and the granite is pink and I could lose myself in it forever.  In early Autumn I was confused by signs popping up everywhere for large or small M for Mums … being a mum myself and probably on the larger taller side of mumkind I was disappointed that my retail value was a paltry $5.  Eventually the predicatably slow penny dropped in my pint-sized brain and I understood that they are crysanthemums and they adorn porches and entranceways and verandas alongside plethoras of plump pumkins and their entrancing tiny baby cousins and really do herald the change of seasons.  In France crystanthemums are put on graves for tousaint and I wonder how such different meanings became attached to the flowers beloved of batallions of Grannies in England and only recently revived as retrotastic there.

N.  N is for New York.  When our youngest daughter was staying in the last gulp of summer we breezed down and back for a weekend.  Taking the Greyhound from Boston (and yes I do know it should be Pittsburg) gave me the opportunity to tire my travelling companions with endless dronings of ‘America’, the Simon and Garfunkel classic.  Given that we set out at 4 a.m one day and got home just 45 hours later, it’s unsurprising that I was a split hairsbreadth from the upper cut to KO me on Broadway.   We did what we set out to do.  We mingled in Times Square, we marvelled at the Empire State (though my Sleepless in Seattle moment will have to wait for another day), we ate monumental and complicated sandwiches in a steaming, noisy deli and I revelled in yelling ‘hold the mustard, extra pickles on the side’ just because I could , we stayed in a tiny appartment in Hells Kitchen, we took the Subway to Harlem, we strolled in Central Park and we took the ferry to Ellis Island stopping to nod to Liberty herself and note that unlike most extremely large statues I did not get my usual creeping feeling of anxst driven unease but rather I found her gentle, unyielding gaze to be comforting.  Ellis Island is levelling, moving, disturbing and hugely evocative.  And I cannot close our speed-dating moment in the Big Apple without mentioning the 9/11 Memorial.  I do not have the words in my frail armoury.  It steals your breath in that  silent lightening way that only the most iconic places can.  I have my memories, I am sure you do too of where you were the day the horror show  played out and our lives changed forever.  This is a beautifully worked, utterly fitting remembering of those whose lives permanently transformed in the worst way possible either by their own deaths or through their own loss or by being there.  And do you know what it really speaks of?  It  speaks of hope.  Which resoundingly smacks the trivia of life into perspective.

O.  O is for Ocean State.   The Ocean State is Rhode Island, smallest state in the Union and not actually an Island.  Go do your own research … I’ve taken far too much of your time already.  We visited very briefly a few weeks ago so that I could say I’ve had a foot in every State in New England and I can report that the diner we visited was top notch.  We popped into Providence (the State Capital) and took the compulsory foolish-grinning picture of self in RI.  I mostly know it, though for the joys of Ocean State Job Lot (Strapline ‘A lot more, for less) … these discount stores are a little like pound stores in Britain.  They have what they have and when it’s gone it’s gone  in general though some things, including many groceries remain.  I buy teabags in Ocean State.  Proper Tetley red boxed tea.  Strong tea.  Tea you can add a dash of milk to, in a sturdy mug and have your spoon stand to attention.  Tea to put hairs on your chest.  Tea that we proudly call ‘Builders Tea’ where I come from.  Not that insipid almost transparent scared of it’s own shadow fake tea that is generally called ‘black tea’ here and ‘thé noir’ in France and is very nice with a slice of lemon or indeed stark naked (the tea, not the drinker – though who am I to stop you except to caution against scalds) as are the ‘infusions’ beloved of the French and the various fruit and flavoured and green teas equalled revered here.  But first thing in the morning, when my life-skills only barely stretch to kettle-teabag-mug-pour-milk-drink it is the toothcurling tanin of a British Teabag that I need.

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And on that note, I will finish today’s jog through the alphabet and go and brew a proper cuppa.

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PS:  I couldn’t possibly leave you without a rendition of the song that nearly had me butchered in Hell’s Kitchen by Two Brains and the youngest bratling.  And by the way, the man in the gabardine suit was certainly a spy …

 

The top and bottom pictures were taken in the Minute Man National Historical Park very close to where we live.   In summer – the third season I passed here

The question is not what you look at, but what you see – Part One: A thru E

On Thursday, I will have been here for exactly a year and to mark this significant anniversary I will be leaving on a jetplane not knowing when I’ll be back again.  As it rightly should, that decision rests with the venerable United States Customs and Immigration Service.

It has been a captivating sojourn in many ways and so as I prepare to depart, I leave you with an alphabetic homage to the melting pot of things that I’ve loved muchly, not loved quite so muchly  and been altogether bemused by whilst living an everyday life in this USA.

Not wishing to tax you, I’ve divided the alphabet into 5 almost even chunks so today we have the Alpha to Echo of ‘Osyth Stateside’:

A.  Let’s start at the very beginning, which is, Miss Andrews tells us, a very good place to start!  A is for American and the first thing you learn here is that being American means  a micro-awareness of your heritage which one is given by way of introduction.  ‘Hi, I’m Delores O’Fanakapan …. my father was Irish-American and my mother was German-American but my Great Great Great Great Grandfather  was actually Swedish-American’.  The builder who is working on this house is Italian-American and always says ‘ciao’ at the end of every conversation but was entirely confused when I spoke to him in Italian.  He’s not Italian.  His ancestors were.  You can buy an Ancestry DNA kit for $99.  I’m altogether tempted ….  Which brings me to A is for Accent.  To be very clear,  I don’t have an accent … I speak what the British would regard as BBC English circa  a distant and all but forgotten epoque, but  here my accent is an object of fascination.  My husband has a Scouse (person from Liverpool) accent, particularly when folded into the bosom of his family,  and sounds entirely different to me.  I  would be ribbed as posh in Liverpool, but here we  collectively have a British accent.   It’s not unsual for people to simply not understand us.  Therefore I have developed a sort of verbal tick – I automatically repeat what I have just said but very very slowly and a little too loudly.  And I smile.  A lot.  As for the language of American English – that deserves a post all of it’s own and it shall get one.  Suffice for now that I speak American like a Spanish Cow in the same way as I speak French comme une vache espagnole

B.  B  is for  Beaver … they live here and are probably no more exciting than a badger is to a Brit but for me they are a source of amazement and delight.  From their tree felling to their lodge building to watching them silkily cutting through the water and stealthily, silently diving under for a quite breathcapturing length of time in the river at the end of the road I am captivated and I will miss them deeply and achingly.  I would include B is for Bear because we have had recent sitings in our town but I haven’t seen one yet so it feels a little like cheating.  Instead I will say that B is also for Biscuits which is VERY confusing for a well dragged up English gal.  A biscuit is what I call a scone and I would serve it with butter and jam and if I was feeling greedily decadent, clotted cream, but here it is served with gravy which isn’t even vaguely brown but palest creamy white and it has bacon or sausage broken up  in it.  What I call a biscuit you call a cookie.  Biscuit means twice cooked, cookie’s are definitely once cooked because they are delectably chewie and often absolutely gargantuan.  Biscuits in my venacular are dry and snappy.  Rather like me.  It’s fine though, no hard feelings – I’m very happy with your biscuits and I’m extremely satisfied with those cookies.  And I do know that you know about scones too … and may I say that B probably should belong to Baking because heavens to betsy you people can bake!

C.  C is for Critters … where I, as an English girl have wildlife in my garden you have critters in your yards.  And they are all SO cute!  C is especially for Chipmunks  with their tails at 90 degrees to their bodies like a flagpole and those squidgeable little stripey faces … honestly and surely, no-one could  say they are not adorable.  I had one in the kitchen on a hot day in summer. I don’t know who was more surprised.  Fortunately The Soporific Bean didn’t notice ….  The critters here include skunks (they walk SO slowly and awkwardly it is hardly surprising that they get rolled over on the roads a fact that is signalled by their singular stench from a great distance) there are turtles and frogs and bullfrogs that belch and groan in chorus all night long in summer, which I find surprisingly restful, and we have a groundhog that lives under our shed, there are raccoons (generally referred to as bandits) with their masked faces and little leather gloved hands and pink tailed oppossums and there are squirrels – big fat bruising greys that are sometimes black and look like they’ve been pumping iron and steroids and little red ones that nip about at a crazy pace and treat me to their finest squirrel pose when they find nuts or corn to nibble.  We also have ground squirrels which I believe to be the love-child of a red squirrel and a chipmunk – perhaps I should try Ancestry.com DNA on one ….

D.  D is for Diner.  I worship at these holy temples.   They vary of course but the good ones …. with wonderful staff who fill your cup with coffee tirelessly and cook breakfasts and lunches or that combined wonderment called Brunch … eggs, bacon, sausage, home-fries and a short stack with oozing butter and smothered in maple syrup must rate as one of the finest of fodders the world over.  And the opportunity to eavestrop on the best of intimate conversations ranging from politics to pumpkins and cosmetics to contractors is irrisitible.  Or I could drive by D for Dunkin’ Donuts (‘America runs on Dunkin’ if you didn’t know) but my husband doesn’t.  In fact recently at our nearest Mall and suffering from terrible bun-lag (a condition discovered by my mother many decades ago which is that moment when you are shopping and you start to fade and only cake will revive you), I persuaded him to queue with me at the Dunkin’ (by the way I don’t think there is a single community,  plaza or mall n Massachusetts, birthplace of Dunkin’, that doesn’t sport it’s own, however small) … he is a man of fastidious palette and I don’t think a Dunkin’ has ever passed his lips – I was so sooooo tempted to go for the Reeses Peanut Butter filled caramel topped cream donut but the look of absolute and abject pain and disgust on his face made me volte face and opt instead for a sober plain pumpkin ring.  It was nice.  It was really nice but the regret will live with me ever more (or until I can sneak one on my own and guzzle it in solitary splendour some day over the rainbow).

E.  E has to be for Election (that Presidential one in case you are in any doubt) but only to note two things.  The first is that I have been genuinely privileged to be able to follow the proceedings at first hand from Primaries to President.  And a privilege it is.  I noted once before, in France, that my opinion is of no interest to anyone but I was fortunate to see it with my own eyes – watch entire news programmes, read several newspapers and journals, watch the ‘Town Halls’, the debates and the interviews, speak to people whose country it is and who were going to vote for someone, as the spectacle, a gruesome bloodbath that might have been more fitting to an amphitheatre full of baying Romans watching Christians wrestle lions and Gladiators Gladiating, unfolded.  I feel extremely lucky and my American friends who have been embarrassed by the antics and apologised –  please, there is no need.  To be in a country which is  electing it’s leader rather than in another gathering snippets and thinking you have the facts is a quite amazing opportunity and I am glad I was here.  What I was horrified at was the manner in which the media conducted itself and I do hope that a little less partisan behavior might ensue one day.  Sadly, I think it won’t.  In fact I have often noted that the British have an unfortunate knack of embracing the worst of this side of the Atlantic whilst seemingly being blind to the many wonderful things they could  grasp and cleeve to and it seems the British media is becoming smitten with the same tune so I fear we just have to go with it and try to retain our own faculties sufficiently to understand when we are being beaten round the head with someone else’s opinions rather than being given a plateful of news to sort out in our own sweet way.  E is also for Enormous.  I thought of making B for Big but it simply doesn’t cover it.  Everything is humungous.  Cars, trucks, cups of coffee, meals out, banners (starspangled and otherwise), TVs, houses – everything is just so much bigger than I am used to and on occasion I have felt like Alice after embibing the cherry tart, custard, roasted turkey, toffee and hot buttered toast spritzer and shrunk herself to teeny tiny.  We drive a mini cooper which is possibly not helpful.  And E is for Eggs.  I’ll take mine over easy …

So there you have it a little stroll through a few of my favourite things and a nod to my not so favourite.  Meet me back here tomorrow and I’ll treat you to my F-J if you can stand it.

Toodlepip

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PS:  The title is from Henry David Thoreau in a journal that he started at the suggestion of his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson.  You cannot, simply cannot be here in this corner of New England without getting immersed in the pair of them.  Thoreau’s impact on modern American thinking cannot be underestimated and it is a further joy to me to have been able to walk in his footsteps on more than one occasion.

The first and last pictures were both taken in Winter when I first arrived.

Truly ‘t is a rare bird in the land

Those of you familiar with my nonsense will know that I refer to my spouse as The Husband with Two Brains or HB². But he has another moniker, one that arose when he wasn’t even in the same country as the protagonist, let alone the same room.

Some while ago, probably 6 months after I moved to France, I was taking coffee with Raymond (adopt French accent, for he is indeed a proud Frenchman). Raymond came into world of HB² quite by chance some 20 years ago. A knock on his office door, a frantic colleague needing help with someone he suspected to be a Frenchman who had appeared uninvited in the lab. Under gentle interrogation it transpired that Raymond had spent all his savings on a single air fare to New York in pursuit of an Astronomy Professor that he particularly admired. He being, at the time, a student and general helper at the Astronomy faculty in Nice. Picked up by the Police wandering aimlessly, he somehow persuaded them to put him on the Amtrak to Boston from where he found his way to Harvard and there the story brought him into my husband’s orbit. Struck by his tenacity, his extraordinary affinity with the night-sky, which is akin to the ancient astronomers who first mapped and tried to understand the world beyond our globe, and touched by his desire to learn, my husband took him in and found him work in his lab. Eighteen months later he returned to France to complete a degree having finally accepted that to be taken seriously in the world of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Cosmology and all the attendent highbrow orbits he fancied dabbling in, he must have a degree. Since that time, Raymond remains devoted to Two Brains and I would suggest with some reason.

Back to the café where I had enjoyed a coffee and a chat with the same Raymond and asked his advice. I was concerned about my husband at the time for reasons I now fail to remember – living lives separated by 3,000 miles nurtures anxiety, or at least that has been my experience. As we stood to say our au revoirs, Raymond clasped me by the shoulders and, as he faire les emphatic bises (the air-kiss-kiss we do in France but with supplementary vigour to impart fortitude), declared that my husband is really un cochon rouge – a red pig. I queried this with a smile intended to make me the fool and a gentle ‘quoi?’ and he repeated ‘il est un petit cochon rouge’ – so in fact not just any red pig , but a small red pig. My husband stands almost 6′ and though of light and lean frame is not one to ever be described as little, particularly in France where most men are of, let’s say more concise hauteur. Including Raymond. To be doubly belt and braces sure that I understood him Raymond then announced in English ‘he is a red pig, a small red pig’.

Later that evening on the phone to The Brains I asked him, having Googled colloquial, slang and vernacular French all afternoon in vain. I enquired in a roundabout Winnie the Pooh sort of casual way what calling someone un cochon rouge or indeed un petit cochon rouge might mean. The answer came back ‘red pig or little red pig’. So not helpful at all. Accordingly spurred by what had now become an obsessive need to understand, I made a full confession, including sharing my troubled mind over he who owns both brains and was subjected to a stunned and complete silence. The identical stunned silence it turned out that Raymond employed a few weeks later when asked what he had meant by calling The Brains a red pig. He claimed he had said ‘un petit cochon rose’ and meant that my husband is more sensitive than he lets on. Less macho, less girder-built. I can firmly report that he did NOT. No sir. Not. At. All. I heard him entirely distinctly and he called my husband a little RED pig. Of course it has stuck. It begged to and would have been dreadfully rude to ignore it.

Therefore, when staying in Boothbay Harbor, Maine as recommended by my blogging friend ‘The Weird Guy with a Dog’ whom I wholeheartedly urge you to check out, and confronted with this wingèd porcine outside a pretty store selling eccentric ironwork, I was minded to abduct it but made do with a photograph for now. I perfectly intend to own it when we have a house to put it on – after all who can resist such a wondrous hog, seemingly dancing in the air, gleeful cheeks a-puffing, perky ears a-flapping and that tail uplifted with such blithe abandon. Nothing at all like my husband but portraying perfectly the joie de vivre I suspect we all aspire to and with the added advantage of telling you which way the wind blows. It is a rapturous porker, a piggy I will dream of until I return to make it my very own. I was inclined to share this story by the Weekly Photo Challenge prompt this week ‘Rare’ – if it piques your interest, you can see a sensational selection of entries here.

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PS: The quote is Martin Luther, Priest, Scolar, questioner and reformer ‘A faithful and good servant is a real godsend; but truly ‘t is a rare bird in the land’. Raymond has been a good and faithful servant to The Brains these more than twenty years and as you will discover when I write more of him is surely one of the rarest of birds you will encounter in a lifetime. Actually Luther was uncommonly fond of his rare birds giving the accolade to wise princes and even more to upright ones. That would probably apply today though to politicians rather than princes, I would suggest.

… with great love

The world feels particularly alarmed at the moment.  The U.S are afeared at what their election will bring given that one candidate is a proven loose cannon  and the other a proven liar.  Last week a woman who I knew for a short while as a colleague was savagely and barbarically shot, kicked and stabbed to death whilst going about her work as a Member of the British Parliament, serving constituents who had elected her for her talent and energy and goodness and days before that a twisted maniac massacred 49 innocents just being themselves in a Gay nightclub in Orlando.  Today my country of birth opted by a slender margin to exit the European Union and exercise it’s right to navigate the world in splendid isolation.   All of these things are quite shocking to digest.  I need not and will not comment – my opinions are of no interest to those taking the time to read my words but I do have something that I hope might strike a different and more harmonious chord.

I am currently in France having been whisked here by a circuitous route to delay my guessing the destination by HB² (my husband) so that we could spend our wedding anniversary in the place we were married three years ago.  Today I am sitting at my table in the place I call home.  My world is rosy.  I am fortunate.  This week along with the delightful, other things have happened in my personal life that could certainly anger me, engender hatred and lead me to feel that the best thing is to curl up in my cave and live my life as a strange old hermit (complete with splendid false beard).  But being the cussed optimist that I work at being, I know that I am better placed and better off endeavouring to find value in the way things are trying to effect other lives as decently as I can.  Last week, the extremely lovely  @Turtleway whose beauteous blog you will find here graced me by beginning to read every post I have ever written.  This is either brave or foolhardy but in any case  remarkably flattering.  She asked me in response to a post I wrote about Oradour sur Glâne in France, which was the object of a genocide in the dying days of WWII how we can avoid hating when we come across atrocities.  Which we do almost daily with modern news transfer being as rapid as it is and Social Media rampantly passing on the attrocious and the marvellous in an entirely unfiltered manner.  I thought for some days before I replied and then I said this:

‘The first thing I must say is that I understand hatred. But it was my youngest daughter, then aged about 10 years old who asked me to stop using the word ‘hate’ because, she said,  we should never actually hate anyone or anything.  By definition it is a cankerous emotion. She is now 21 and her views have inevitably become a little less pure but she remains true to the essence of what she said. For my part, I feel that hating and being angry are well and good but that they don’t resolve anything, they do not bring back the dead, they do not comfort the bereaved and they do not heal the wounded. In fact they probably feed the perpetrators. And I refuse to grace wicked, evil people with anything that might make them feel anything other than the odious bile that they have become. So I try instead to count my own good fortune and to understand what I can do to help. I am a highly emotional person by nature and tend to ricochet between highs and lows without warning. My own balance is maintained by seeking out the good in every situation and by attempting to not fuel the fire with a whirlwind of anger but rather to damp it with the dew of decency. Different people use different mechanisms. I must stress that I am not perfect. I feel anger and rage and bitterness and fury and sometimes I let those feelings begin to tarnish my insides. But I try to remain mindful and conscious and to take a beat and if necessary many many beats whilst I get to a mechanism that can quash the negatives and allow the positive energy to release so that I can be of some use. This is not forgiveness, this is not excusing this is simply trying not to become dissolved by fury and outrage but rather to evolve by maintaining a stance of dignity and warmth of spirit.

The world we live in is full of hatred.  Today Social Media is positively crackling with rancor and bitterness or exultation and self-congratulation depending on which side you take at the result of the self-proclaimed ‘Brexit’ vote.  It turns into yet another reason for people to sling mud.  I choose not to.  I urge others to join me.  I hope one day you will.  And to paraphrase John Lennon, the greatest of pacifists, the most gifted of men, diabolically slain so many years ago by a twisted soul, maybe, just maybe one day the world will live as one.’

Here are two little beetles simply working together, spreading their beetle love and working as partners to further beetlekind.  This ties in nicely to the photo challenge this week of which  here you can find lots and lots of far more admirable examples  And yes, using a picture of beetles when referencing a Beatle is entirely deliberate.

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PS:  The quote comes from Mother Teresa of Calcutta – ‘None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.’

For the trees have no tongues

Emotography …. I have Claudette at  ‘To Search and to Find’ (strapline ‘happiness in every day’ which I love) to thank for Emotography.  Its so alluringly simple …. post a picture, link to her site so she can include it in her gallery of the week and give, in as many or as few words as your mood dictates, the emotion that prompted the picture or that you felt when you saw the result.

For me today it is HOPE.  When I came upon this scene at Vaughn Hill, Bolton here in Massachusetts it shouted of The Lorax, my favourite of Dr Seuss’s extraordinary catalogue of books read to me as a small child despite being non-American because we had best friends from Boston – he, Hoops,  an English professor she, Betty,  once legendarily said to me, when I was denuding her greengage tree of fruit ‘see how Hoops just bleeeends with the waaaallpaper’ causing me, a gauche English girl to nearly drop plum straight out of the tree so irreverently funny was the image of this studious professor simply a disembodied head, his shirt of palest apricot blending with the silken walls of their drawing room.  The Lorax is a classic.  And of course I read it in turn to my own children.  It co-exists as a children’s classic with  ‘Winnie the Pooh’ and ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, it stands with ‘The Wind in The Willows’ and so many others here un-named as the finest books to read to children and for children to read.  But the message – the message is clear to us all.  Children and adults alike.  These dry lifeless trees standing defiantly in the water, for all the world like the Truffala’s in The Lorax remind me and should remind us all that we must protect what we have.  Be it from feisty little worms (to which these trees have succumbed) or to the greed of industrialists making their own version of Thneeds.   I have hope that we will.  Because we can.  If we will.

I am The Lorax.  I speak for the trees ….

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For the trees have no tongues

Apart from talking for the trees I taking the liberty of suggesting the following that they might enjoy the value of taking part with Claudette in her Emotography weekly event:

http://myfoododyssey.com/

https://poshbirdyblog.wordpress.com/

http://francesays.com/

https://thechangingpalette.com/

Joie de vivre

Here is The Bean in a bag.  A Bean bag if you will.  She looks so full of life, so vibrant.  Which she is.  A positive ball of energy madly running around nose to the ground sucking up whatever scents are assaulting her snout with a joie de vivre that leaves us breathless much of the time.  This particular day was excessively hot so we popped her in a handbag to save her overheated, fatigued legs.  We are careful of this Bean.

Last September we made the trip from home in the Cantal to Paris (about five and a half hours by car).  I had an appointment with the US Embassy and in deference to my tense disposition at the thought of the impending Green Card interview, my husband booked us into our favourite Hotel des Dames du Pantheon.  We have stayed before and The Bean is treated like royalty and always referred to by name by the excellent and delightful fully multi-lingual staff.  As ever we were given a room with a ‘vue impenetrable’ of the Pantheon in all it’s beauteous glory.  I had an appointment with an Embassy endorsed physician (there are two of them in Paris) for my medical.  I was nervous.  I’m not very good at medical for me.  During my morning away being examined by this charming Irishman, having chest X-rays and blood tests and vaccinations for things I have never heard of and am sure I certainly don’t want to be acquainted with, The Bean reclined regally in our room.  She had taken the air of the Cinquieme Arrondissement before breakfast, enjoyed a little smackerel of brekkie stashed in a napkin and smuggled back to the room for her delectation and was entirely happy to be fully relaxed and generally recumbant.  In the afternoon we walked.  She doesn’t get to run much off the lead in Paris but people are largely very dog-friendly and she is always happy to take a petit café an apero or better still, a meal with us because folk have a habit of slipping her a pat and a morcel of something nice.

The following day we made our way by car (which had hitherto been parked in the underground carpark nearest the hotel) to the Place de la Concorde.  We were a little late out of the starting gate and had to be at the Embassy promptly at One to get through security.  These were our emphatic and clear instructions and we did not want to put a foot wrong.  We had about 49 minutes to park the car,sneak a quick lunch, return to the car to deposit dog and get in line for the main event.  Lunch would need to be somewhere around Fauberg St Honoré which runs along the back of the Embassy and about 5 minutes walk from the car.  We hot-footed it, taking lengthy and rapid strides towards our goal of a likely lunchery.  The street is fairly narrow and we were stuck behind a posse of rather bulky people walking excessively slowly.  So I put my  foot on the imaginary throttle and powered past, The Bean (the Athletic Bean as she perceives herself) gambolled along behind me.  It must be noted that I was at this point in my life uptight to boil-over point.  We had been waiting for two years for this moment, jumping through a seemingly endless series of hoops and I had absolutely no idea what questions I was going to be asked.  It is rather akin to being asked to interview for a job but with no job description to guide the prep.  As I passed the entourage a woman’s voice rang and twang in my ears ‘oh that poor little thing being dragged and choked near to death’.  I snapped.  The world slowed down as I span round like Wonderwoman and eyes flashing squared up to the offender.  ‘She is neither dragged nor choked so I suggest you SHUT UP!’ I spat – my clipped, polished and perfectly enunciated English worthy of Maggie Smith at her most pithy.   The woman was clearly appalled at this deranged firebrand addressing her.  I imagine she had assumed I was French.  Assume as my youngest daughter reminds us makes an ASS out of U and Me.  For my own part I have only just recovered my equilibrium, so livid was I at the unjustness of the flung accusation.  It was only as I glided on my way, sure in the knowledge that I had put that wench squarely in her place, that it occurred to me. She being American and in the street that runs down one side of the Embassy building that she might, might easily be the same person who would interview me for the fabled Green Card that very afternoon …. mercifully this was not to be an occasion to add to my overstuffed portfolio of ‘oh bugger’ moments.  If she is on the Embassy staff she at least wasn’t confronted by me twice that day.  But not for the first time, I wished I was that person who has the ability to just waft by situations.  Lunch did not slip down easily as the lump in my throat expanded.  The Bean, yet again was the winner …. she rather likes saumon fumé au fromage frais de chêvre though I believe she was less than enamoured of the salade.

Bean Bag!

Bean Bag!

PS:  I post this in response to the Daily Press Weekly Photo Challenge entitled Vibrant.  For me vibrancy is about a state of being not simply about vivid colour (though that is a reasonable interpretation of the word and many have quite brilliantly here) and The Cruelly Treated Bean is vibrancy incarnate.

Fractured pillars frame prospects of rock

France is speckled with more than her fair share of rugged fortresses and fairy-tale chateaux and every shade and hue betwixt, between, beyond and behind.  This one (le Chateau d’Arouze) stands dominant over le Vallée D’Alagnon in the commune of Molompize which has it’s own unique micro-climate enabling it to pioneer the revival of Cantalien wine-making.  We walked the terraces and we conquered the Castle. I have a tendency to hoover up the ambience and atmosphere of  buildings to the extent that my life imagined appears to play out within and without them and I find myself a player in my own drama without ever needing to put pen to paper.  This one did not disenchant as I swished and swooshed and scrambled and scaramouched my way around it, the fantasy trumpeting loud in my head all the while.

HB² (that’s my husband with two brains for new readers) took this sublime shot which seems to me to indicate weightlessness on several levels – the bristly half grown beards of grass like immature goaties on the tops of those ancient towers seem drawn upwards as though absolved of gravity, the stone skillfully, artfully placed so long ago (in 1309 for pedants such as me) reaches heavenwards vainly trying to touch the clouds, themselves apparently weightless wafting serenely and, I always think, a little scathing of that which they float effortlessly above.

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I’m responding to the prompt ‘weightless’ in this weeks Daily Press Photo Challenge …. all the other, more marvellous entries are here.

PS:  Sylvia Plath, that most fragile of souls, who I love thoroughly and unashamedly wrote the poem that I snatched my title from.  That she was born in the same year as my still living mother but died only three years after my birth has always resonated  poignantly with me.  Now it suddenly strikes me that she was born so close to where I am making my home for a while in Massachusetts and the echoes ring more shrilly still.

Through portico of my elegant house you stalk
With your wild furies, disturbing garlands of fruit
And the fabulous lutes and peacocks, rending the net
Of all decorum which holds the whirlwind back.

Now, rich order of walls is fallen; rooks croak
Above the appalling ruin; in bleak light
Of your stormy eye, magic takes flight
Like a daunted witch, quitting castle when real days break.


Fractured pillars frame prospects of rock;
While you stand heroic in coat and tie, I sit
Composed in Grecian tunic and psyche-knot,
Rooted to your black look, the play turned tragic:
Which such blight wrought on our bankrupt estate,
What ceremony of words can patch the havoc?
Conversation Among The Ruins
Sylvia Plath

 

 

Miles to go before I sleep

‘The woods are lovely, dark and deep’ … if you know who wrote the lines you have a clue to where I am and indeed the place that is now home for some time to come.  Fancy a guess? Leave a comment below and those of you who already know keep your council a while longer if you please.

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The picture is in response to the Daily Press challenge to greet this nearly new year and titled ‘Circle’ – here are the other several hundreds of wonderful entries.

This place where I landed a week and a day ago has the most unimaginably beautiful light.  Gentle, pale, soft, benign and the reflection in the frozen pond of delicate sky charmed us as greatly as the ripples made static circles by the freezing puff of winters breath

Here, to make my test entirely untesting is the poem that gave me the line that seemed so apt to title this new chapter in my life:

 

 

 

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
The little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’

Robert Frost