Monthly Archives: May 2014

Gratitude

A heartfelt thanks to all my friends,

While on our jolly way we wend.

So many have come through for me,

To wish us well, not misery!

Just one blogger I’ve met in person,

‘Cause the world’s too large you’ll hear me cursin’!

And yet that’s where adventures lay,

To seek anew another day.

So should you ever venture near,

Make contact! And we’ll drink some beer

Or wine or tea or your beverage of choice.

I’d love to meet and hear your voice.

Your written words have helped me through

The mush upstairs – my mental stew.

I’m not the only one to be

Confused. You’ve shared your thoughts with me.

You don’t advise or judge or preach,

But say life’s road is there to teach.

I was running out of blogging stuff.

But soon I’ll have more than enough.

While we work out our future’s bugs,

I say thanks again and grateful hugs.

HUGS

If you have just stumbled on my blog this poem is in response to the outpouring of support, good wishes, hugs and shared experiences on my previous post Confused DNA and our impending departure to parts known and unknown which was alluded to on this post.

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Confused DNA

The Chesapeake Bay – Landsat photo
The Chesapeake Bay – Landsat photo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Until John Cabot, that well-known Italian explorer (otherwise known as Giovanni, Juan Zuan, Zuam or Zoane depending on how he felt that day) started poking around in 1498, Native Americans were the only residents of Maryland’s rolling landscape and bountiful Chesapeake Bay. The English decided to set up house in Maryland in 1634, hence my propensity for speaking the King’s English. While Congress was still busy penning the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Maryland was doing its own thing with a state constitution “of the people only . . . .” already dumping allegiance to the King of England.

Chesapeake Bay
Chesapeake Bay (Photo credit: slack12)

Technically the state of Maryland is in the south being south of the Mason Dixon Line. Virginians would dispute that as they claim “the south starts here.” Maryland remained part of The North during the Civil War but with much Confederate sympathy in the state, men staying put to face the bloodshed in the Union Army numbered only two to one to men fleeing south to join the Confederacy.

Brother fought brother as Maryland was a border state, spanning the north and the south, with planters using slaves, but free blacks in the state numbering nearly fifty percent before the war even started.

My mother’s family stayed firmly rooted with their farm in Maryland since the 17th century. My father’s family came from North Carolina and shunted between the south and the north.

Stick with me. I’ll pull this together soon.

English: Daniel Harvey Hill
English: Daniel Harvey Hill (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My great, great, great uncle General Daniel Harvey Hill, born in South Carolina, served under southern General Lee but never resided in Maryland. He only set foot in my home state to take part in Lee’s Maryland Campaign culminating in the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day of battle in U.S. history with a shocking 23,000 casualties. What had been instilled in me as a child, a sense of pride for my ancestor now fills me with shame, both for the senseless slaughter and the principles he defended.

So it’s in my DNA to be confused.

Am I a southerner? Don’t think so. What’s with boiled peanuts (or chitterlings, hog jowls, turtle soup or grits)? Why would you want to eat them? Am I a Northerner? Don’t feel like one.

The fact is, though I would never give up my American passport and am a loyal and patriotic American despite the George W. Bush years, I don’t feel like an American any more – north, south, east coast or west coast. Like Maryland’s history, my history is more convoluted than Italian tax laws.

I feel more European, more English. But I’m not European. I’m alien to them. Although my accent sounds English to Americans, it sounds American (or Australian, Canadian, Kiwi, Dutch or German) to the English. The Brits can’t place my accent any more than I can place myself. The term to encapsulate my curious mix used to be mid-Atlantic. I feel more cast adrift. Unanchored.

Divergent plate boundary: Mid-Atlantic Ridge
Should I start swimming? Divergent plate boundary: Mid-Atlantic Ridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And detached. Detached from English family and friends and – although this is a very banal admission to make – detached from my stuff. I would like to start unpacking my kitchen equipment. Then after getting rid of two non-digital TVs, a washing machine on its last legs, a desktop computer from the ice age and at least three jackets with shoulder pads, we’d still have nothing to sit on. But we need a house first. Then I could prepare a delicious meal whilst dressed in decade-old clothes and we’d eat off our laps whilst sitting on the floor.

All the old feelings are starting to surface again. A displaced person. I never really considered myself as an immigrant when I moved to England in 1975. At the time it seemed temporary, part of traveling. Even though I was resident for many years in the UK, I never fully assimilated. Does one ever in a country not of one’s birth?

Cover of "A Connecticut Yankee in King Ar...
Cover via Amazon

So I’m confused, as confused as Mark Twain’s Hank Morgan in “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” who after a knock to his head in 19th century New England comes to in merry ol’ England 13 centuries earlier. He manages his circumstances by remembering a 6th century solar eclipse from his history studies in Connecticut. As a trick he pretends to “blot out the sun” and quickly becomes pals with the king laying claim to a percentage of the country’s GDP. Could I pull off something similar? Would it help me to feel at home?

Have you moved away from your place of birth? Would you? Could you? Am I doing the right thing?

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Travel Theme: Metal

A metal wheel:

Chevy Silverado

A metal model:

Chevy Silverado

A most unflattering selfie, a reflection in a (convex I’ll have you know!) metal door:

selfie

A big lump of metal – up, up and . . . . . . . . . :

Chevy Silverado

. . . . . . . away!

Chevy Silverado

Our truck is off on its travels without us. After a little sojourn in LA it will be taking a sea journey through the Panama Canal!

Which way now indeed?

Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Metal

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Travel Theme: Blossom

Beziers Flower Market, France

Flowers are a necessity, not a luxury. Did I choose our B & B in France because it was close to the Beziers Flower Market? Possibly.

Beziers Flower Market, France

So many lovely blooms. How could I ever make a decision?

Beziers Flower Market, France

My choice:

No, not him! The flowers in his hand!

Beziers Flower Market, France

Bloomin’ big blousy blossoms!

peonies, flowers

peonies, flowers

peonies, flowers

They are peonies by the way. And his name was André. He wasn’t for sale.

Ailsa’s Travel Theme this week is blossom.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Work of Art

Far from being an artist myself, I look for art through my camera lens.  Nature seldom disappoints. A much anticipated trip after our boat trip on Lake Powell to Rainbow Arch was a tour of Antelope Canyon.

On Navajo land, an Indian guide  takes you from the the town of Page Arizona on a rather hairy exhilarating ride in an open top truck through streets, then tire-sucking sand dunes to the entrance of the canyon.

Our patient Navajo guide, Bruce, pointed out good camera angles and whimsically named rock formations to overexcited tourists crowding through the narrow slot canyon.

An ordinary hole in the rock? Not so much:

Antelope Slot Canyon, Page AZ

The play of light on the water carved rock was astonishing:

Antelope Slot Canyon, Page AZ

“Lincoln’s Nose!”:

Antelope Slot Canyon, Page AZ

“Monument Valley”:

Antelope Slot Canyon, Page AZ

The site (we were told) of the original National Geographic photograph that captured the public’s imagination:

Antelope Slot Canyon, Page AZ

What more can I say? Wow! Nature doing the work for me.

Antelope Slot Canyon, Page AZ

Guided tours only through: Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation.

Press the blue button to join the challenge:

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Weekly Photo Challenge: On The Move

Lake Powell, Utah, Arizona

The best way to see the upper reaches of the stunning Glen Canyon is to be “on the move” on a boat on Lake Powell. The Colorado River was dammed above the Grand Canyon, creating the lake.

Lake Powell, Utah, Arizona

What’s that speck in our wake?

Jetski, Lake Powell, Utah, Arizona

Jet skiers having fun jumping our wake!

Lake Powell, Utah, Arizona

The only way to see Rainbow Bridge is by boat. The rock arch is static, not fitting this week’s theme, but I’m sure the people – see tiny dots at base of the left side of the arch – are “on the move!”

rainbow Bridge, Lake Powell, Utah

I’m a bit slow off the mark with this challenge as they are published each Friday and it’s Wednesday already. My brain is a bit sluggish. I seem to have been struck with some strange virus that most affects me from the neck up – headache, earache, nose-ache! and eye-ache! It’s like a cold that hasn’t come out except for the occasional volcanic sneeze that makes himself jump and utter obscenities.

Gazing at old photos seems all I’m capable of at the moment.

For details of the challenge, push the blue button!

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Travel Theme: Rivers

Ailsa of Where’s my Backpack? has posted her travel theme this week of Rivers. Visit her post to learn how to join the challenge.

At first I thought I hadn’t any photos of rivers. But guess what? I’ve got loads. Oh no! I hear you say. I’ve whittled the number down to just a few (phew!):

The Niagara River tumbling over the falls from Lake Erie to lake Ontario:

Niagara Falls

Our practically mute and taciturn river guide at Magnolia Plantation near Charleston, South Carolina, cutting a wide swathe through the algal growth on the Ashley River and scaring away all the wildlife except Batman and Robin here:

In the town of Confolens, France, the river pictured is most probably the Vienne but possibly the Goire, as Confolens is at the confluence of the two rivers as the name suggests. Or I may have just made that up.

Confolens, France

The Chicago River. Happy daze in the Windy City on a not so windy day. We were gorging on Chicago-style hot dogs while others engaged in more energetic pursuits. Note the distinctive Willis Tower in the background:

Chicago River in Chicago

The Deschutes River in Olympia, Washington State after a heavy rain. Just upriver was a ‘no swimming’ sign. As if.

Deschutes River, Olympia, Washington State

“Drove my Chevy to the levee. But the levee was dry.” We didn’t drink whiskey and rye on the levee of the Mississippi River at St. Louis Missouri.

Chevy on the levee, St. Louis MO

The Rio Grande River at Big Bend National Park – Texas to the left, Mexico to the right:Rio Grande River at Big Bend National Park

Jude, at Travel Words asked in her Travel Theme: Rivers, have you taken a river cruise in England? Yes I have! And there is the very boat on the River Avon in Bath, England. We traveled upriver above the weir. What is a weir? Look here!

Avon River at Bath

Scared half to death as himself towed our travel trailer in narrow lanes of heavy traffic across the George Washington Bridge over the Hudson River in New York City, I didn’t dare reach for the camera so Wikipedia will have to suffice:

George Washington Bridge
George Washington Bridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At this distance it looks a doddle. It wasn’t.

Is doddle a word in common usage in the United States?

 

 

 

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Airport Gestapo – The Final Chapter

. . . . previously, I’d caused havoc, embarrassment and humiliation at Heathrow Airport and we were momentary illegal immigrants in Canada after having been awake for nearly 24 hours on our way to Seattle.

View of Calgary downtown from International Ai...
Imprisoned at Calgary Airport!  
View of Calgary downtown from International Airport (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Zombified by tiredness we stepped out of an elevator at Calgary Airport and appeared to be behind the U.S. customs desks, tourists to-ing and fro-ing on the far side of them, shops and departure gates splayed out beyond. Treading very carefully after falling foul of Heathrow Gestapo security, we approached the first human we could find.

“Excuse me,” I said in a little girl’s voice. Not intentionally, mind you. He just looked so very big and I was feeling like Alice.

“Can I help you?” he asked. Oh, yes please. Give me a fireman’s lift to the first aid room, find a cot for me to lie down on and put a cold compress on my forehead.

I lost track of the people we asked for directions, the forms we handed over, the snaking empty mazes we trudged along, eventually passing go, saying goodbye to our suitcases again and, oh goody gosh, going through security.

Thankfully they didn’t seem to be expecting me. Our boarding cards and passports were inspected for the 43rd time and we were directed to a security queue. It was the same drill as at Heathrow except everyone was taking their shoes off so I meekly followed suit.

As our boarding cards were scrutinized for the 44th time the proceedings came to a halt.

A young blond Aryan looked at our boarding cards, looked at us, looked at the boarding cards again and squinted, showed them to her colleague, who looked at us then called two other colleagues over who all peered at us while pointing at our boarding cards.

I wanted to cry.

If it would have made them happy I would have laid down on the conveyor belt and gone through the luggage x-ray machine myself.

“I’m sorry,” blondie said, “you’ll have to go to that other line.”

“What?” I had heard the actual words she said. I just hoped she’d change her mind. Jimmy was putting his shoes back on without further questions.

“That other line,” and she pointed.

“Where?” My poor brain was shutting down and I wanted to be really, really certain she meant what she said.

“Over there by the wall,” she enunciated very carefully. My jacket, handbag, computer and shoes, all neatly laid out, taunted me from their trays. Jimmy wouldn’t look at me and was wheeling away.

With a last punch of stamina, I put myself back together, walked to the other line, unloaded into the trays and watched it all whiz away on the conveyor. Good riddance.

Our boarding cards had taken a little side trip, courtesy of the security staff, who perhaps didn’t have enough to do as they outnumbered the passengers. The boarding cards were walked round the whole area by various staff and admired by all and sundry as though they were showing off a cute puppy.

In my socks I stepped through the security scanner, where I was stopped yet again. “You’ve been chosen for security screening through our airport. It’s on your boarding card.” I’d already forgotten about the boarding cards. They were still being passed around for the staff to marvel at. “It has four S’s on it. Would you like me to search you or do you want to go through there?” She pointed to Jimmy, who in my dazed and weary state I’d also forgotten the existence of, standing in a round glass case in a familiar Hands up! stance. The virtual strip search.

English: Body image scanner cartoon avatar, ge...
English: Body image scanner cartoon avatar, generated by software in lieu of actual body image, proposed for use in U.S. as airport screening method. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I looked at him. I looked at her. “Ma’am?” she asked.

She looked at me.

“I have no idea.” I was so worn down by officialdom I was completely unable to make a simple decision.

“Why don’t you step through there?” she said kindly.

“Okay.” She could have been sending me to a firing squad for all I knew. Or cared.

After asking the way out of security, being misdirected and taking only two more wrong turns, we found our departure gate for Seattle and sat down.

“Can I see our boarding cards?” I asked Jimmy.

I held them up side by side. “Yours has the four S’s on it. Not mine.”

“I know.”

“You were the one security was tracking this time.”

“I know.”

“They picked you out to track through Calgary when we checked in at Heathrow and marked your boarding card, long before my snit in security.”

“I know,” he said, smirking.

“It was nothing to do with me not taking my shoes off.”

“Nope.”

“Let me see the boarding cards for the London/Calgary leg.”

“I threw them away.”

“Why?” I asked on a note of rising mania.

“They’re no good now.”

“I know that but I’d still like to see them.”

“Well you can’t.”

“I’ll bet mine for Heathrow has the four S’s on it.”

“Possibly.”

“Choosing me for a security search and tracking was completely random.”

“Probably.”

“You let me think it was my fault that we were screened.”

“Yes.”

I was too tired to give him a piece of my mind. I’m not sure there was a piece of it left to give him.

The flight to Seattle must have been uneventful as I didn’t feel inspired to write about it. That or we took a taxi from Calgary. I don’t remember now.

English: Security checkpoint at Seattle Tacoma...
Do you see what that sign says? Tiny print, right side of picture – Wrong Way. You betcha! I’m never going through security again. Ever. Until the next time. English: Security checkpoint at Seattle Tacoma (SeaTac) International Airport (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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