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Peter Panned: The Peter Pan Statue in Kensington Park

Before my husband and I visited London in May of last year (2017) I spent Fridays taking a virtual walk of the city, sharing what I learned via my friend google in a weekly post called Above Ground on the London Underground. That’s when I first visited Peter Pan in Kensington Garden.
At the time Joy, fellow blogger and host of British Isles Friday commented that she found the Peter Pan statue difficult to photograph. After visiting the statue for myself, I can only say, No kidding! I couldn’t get a really good shot either. But I wonder, does the fault rest with the photographer or the subject?

J.M. Barrie commissioned the statue from Sir George Frampton and secretly had it installed in Kensington Park—without permission—in the middle of the night, as if Tinkerbell herself had flown it into place. 

According to the announcement J.M. Barrie himself had published in the Times  ...
“There is a surprise in store for the children who go to Kensington Gardens to feed the ducks in the Serpentine …

Made on Location: Free Willy [memoir]

On any other Sunday that summer of 1992, on location up in Oregon for the filming of Free Willy, I’d be digging shamelessly into a steaming stack of blueberry hotcakes, purple compote oozing out all over the place. The Pig’n Pancake in Astoria were famous for them, and I usually couldn’t wait to wade in. I didn’t need—and didn’t want—the calorie breakdown to know the pancakes were pound packers, all buttery and crazy delicious, the kind of food I would normally eschew in favor of leaner fare like two eggs scrambled, cottage cheese on the side, one piece of rye toast. 

The rules are different when you’re on location. When you’re on location, stressed to the max working as production coordinator on a big Warner Bros. movie like Free Willy, you (me) reward yourself (myself!) with a guilt-free weekend treat. My fiancé and I had walked the half mile down the road from the Red Lion Inn where the film crew was housed and we planned on walking the half mile back. A full mile. That had to count…

British Isles Friday: Parakeets in the Park

Parakeets in the ParkOn a beautiful day in May, 2017 my husband and I walked through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. It’s really not that easy to tell where one ends and the other begins. We were looking for the Peter Pan statue (next week’s post) when we came across a small clearing cluttered with people holding their arms in the air, offering perches for surprisingly green birds fluttering in the air. Parakeets, and so prevalent, and with so many people standing about in their midst I stupidly assumed this must be some sort of birder club gathering. Ding dong me! I didn’t know the birds were wild and the people were just regular folks like us trying to get a better look. 

Doing a little post-trip homework I discovered the parakeets are so abundant in the park—and the inner mile they’re actually considered a bit of a nuisance by some people! I wish I’d known before the trip that all I had to do was bring a slice of apple and I could get the birds to land on me too!

I thought this wom…

Throwback Thursday: Another day, another mass shooting

Throwback Thursday. I sometimes use the day as an excuse to look back, pull up some older piece from the past. I don’t have the energy to do that today, not after the monstrous mass murder of 17 people in Parkland, Florida yesterday. I’m not just heartbroken and heartsick, I’m sick and tired of it. 

If I do look to the past, I know nothing will change. Nothing changed after the Sandy Hook massacre in December 2012, when twenty—mostly small children—were killed in cold blood. Nothing will change this time. 

Especially not with the current administration in place. Trump actually just rolled back an Obama era law that put those who received Social Security checks for mental illnesses and people deemed unfit to handle their own financial affairs to the national background check database. [NBC: Trump signs bill revoking Obama era law]

Trump basically said that even if you have mental health issues, go ahead buy a gun. Better yet. Buy an AR-15. Why kill one person when you can mow down a few? …

Albertopolis: Prince Albert is in the park

The Albert Memorial in Kensington GardensIF there is a heaven, it’s lovely to think that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are happily reunited for all time. Watching the second season of Victoria, Lord Melbourne finally out of the Queen’s head, we see the young Victoria’s absolute devotion to her handsome prince consort. I’d be swooning over Albert too if he looked like Tom Hughes. The real Queen’s devotion to her man—besides bearing him five children—begins with her commissioning of the Albert Memorial in honor of the prince consort who died in 1861.
We ran into the Albert Memorial last year on our trip to London when we were walking in Kensington Gardens. As you can see in the top picture, the memorial is directly to the north of the Royal Albert Hall.

Royal Albert HallVictoria’s love and devotion is further evidenced—remember, Victoria wore black for all the remaining days of her life after his death—by her naming of the Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences in 1867 when she laid th…

You Can Have Your Snow Day #ThrowbackThursday

Photo by Adam Kloketka via My Modern MetI love the snow. As long as it’s out and I’m in. Despite the romantic appeal of the sound of the crunch of snow beneath a pair of brand new leather boots on a starlit Christmas night, snow is cold. Too cold for me.

Growing up in Canada, winter days could get so cold that not only did the freezing temps blanket the ground with two feet of white fluff, a severely cold winter could cause the falls to freeze over completely. That's happened this year, the cold snap transforming the falls into something from a sci-fi flick.

Back in my day, along with those snowfalls came some painful cases of popsicle toes. As a child, I’d hobble in from outside and stand next to the radiator, pain stabbing at my feet, tears pricking my eyes while my mother gently unbuckled my snow boots so she could rub my numb feet back to life. 

Living in Southern California my snow days, thankfully, are far behind me. Winter—real winter—has just never been my season. Even when m…

Victoria & Albert: How does it all end?

The V&A Chandelier by Dale Chihuly at the Victoria & Albert Museum*
Watching the new season of Victoria, the young queen played the beautiful Jenna Coleman and Prince Albert by the equally gorgeous Tom Hughes, I find myself wondering how it all ends. How does this tender young queen, seeking out her own voice, come to spend so much of her life in widow’s black? When does Jenna Coleman’s lovely Queen Victoria turn into Judi Dench’s aging powerhouse?

Albert lives until 1861, at which point he dies at the age of 42, of what was probably stomach cancer. Victoria, who herself said she ‘moved not a finger, didn’t put on a gown or bonnet if he didn’t approve it,’ was devastated. 

According to the whole of England went into mourning, sharing the queen’s pain in an outpouring of grief that wouldn’t be seen again until the death of Princess Diana 136 years later.

“The Blue Room in which Prince Albert died remained unaltered for the rest of Victoria’s life, a snapshot of …

That time I wanted to pass myself off as Joyce Carol Oates #TBT

I submitted my first piece of writing when I was seventeen, a story about my first job, working at the employee cafeteria at General Telephone where my mother was a dispatcher. Rolling the 20# white bond backed by a sheet of thin blue carbon paper into my Smith Corona, I typed it out slowly, carefully, on a piece of erasable paper—and mailed it off to Cosmopolitan along with a cover letter. Not just to any editor at Cosmo, by the way, I sent it directly to Helen Gurley Brown. 

The piece itself, meant to be comical, was full of clumsy attempts at self-effacing humor.  I strived for a similar tone in the cover letter I addressed to Brown, completely clueless that the high powered editor in chief wasn’t the one reading unsolicited manuscripts. After I signed off I added the following PS. I could have said I was Joyce Carol Oates. What I thought that would accomplish I can’t imagine. That an unsatisfactory submission would get published because of a lame joke? 

No surprise, in the SASE I’d …

That Last Dance

Thank you to everyone who reached out to me with suggestions on how to identify the man sitting next to my dad inthe photo I shared last week. I've attempted to contact the Libyan embassy—who I have a hunch have bigger fish to fry—but we'll see. I contacted them on their twitter account which seems odd, I know, but the only way to email them is via a form which doesn't enable one to attach photos. If the twitter request doesn't get a response, I'll try snail mail.

Still thinking of my dad, I thought some of you might be interested in a 'thinly veiled' short story based on our father-daughter relationship that appeared in Purdue University's Literary Magazine SKYLARK back in 1992. 

With apologies to Joy for this thinly veiled attempt to piggyback onto British Isles Friday, the only connection being my British blood. 

Last Dance
Shannon squeezed some Lubriderm into her palm and took her father’s foot with its familiar high and bony arch in her other hand. She…

A question on the anniversary of my father's death

My dad, on the right.
I woke up this morning thinking about my father. He died 26 years ago today, and since it’s British Isles Friday I thought I’d share a few pix of my very British old man. I also have a question about the old family photo above. I believe it was taken sometime in the 1950’s when we lived in Tripoli, Libya. There is another photograph somewhere of the larger group at what appears to be some sort of professional gathering or meeting, a handful of men and one woman sitting on chairs at either side. My father, ex-British Intelligence, fluent in Arabic, was working for the American government at the AFEX, the Army & Air Force exchange store at Wheelus Air Force base in Tripoli at the time. I don’t know the exact nature of his work but while he was investigating some unusually large financial losses he learned that an American he became close friends with turned out to be embezzling funds. That must have been one helluva an awkward friend breakup! 

What I’m really cur…

Queen Me

Updated 1/5/2018
With the popularity of The Crown, seasons 1 & 2 streaming on Netflix, I wanted to share my thoughts on Princess Elizabeth.

I haven’t lived in England for years and years. And years. Basically a very long time. The kind of time you cough into your hand over, trying to hide the exact humungous number of years. Long enough ago that any reasonable person could be forgiven for calling me an American. But beware, should you say anything negative about the UK or Queen Elizabeth, my British roots will start showing and my British blood will start boiling. I’ll start flapping my British passport in the air, and put on my best True Brit voice. While I’m very much an American, I’m British by birth, born in 1953, in —as I’m fond of saying and saying—a scene right out of Call the Midwife. I’ve got a thing for the Queen from being born so close to her coronation day that my parents gave me Elizabeth for my middle name. Just a few days shy of being named Elizabeth Simone instead o…

Looking for my great-grandfather's grave at a British Cemetery ... in France.

British Cemetery, Courcelette, France
My husband and I spent last May hitting a few of the European hotspots Americans have been visiting for eons. London, Paris, Rome. The Cote d’Azur. One of the places we stopped at isn’t on everyone’s list: a trip to a cemetery about an hour north of Paris.  

Learning in 2015 that my grandfather and great-grandfather both fought in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette in the Somme in France in the autumn of 1916 sparked my interest. Finding out that my great grandfather, George Hayden actually died there and was buried there, is what ultimately spurred our trip to Europe. I was born in England but hadn’t been home to England or the continent in almost 30 years. Why not make the most of it, visit the grave to pay our respects and squeeze in as much of Europe as we could over the course of a month, pushing our budget to the limit? Why not?

As it turned out, there were so many amazing sights to see that we left our visit to the cemetery until the end of our t…

Dreaming of France: 29 Avenue Rapp

Scrolling through my Instagram& finding this image, I’m surprised I haven’t shared this particular French door for Dreaming of France before. 29 Avenue Rapp boasts what might be the most famous door in Paris. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful.

Designed by Jules Lavirotte in 1901 it’s a striking example of Art Nouveau architecture and features the very risque sculpted Adam and Eve above the door. I first saw the building in the movie Gigi as the building where Gigi's Aunt Alicia lives and where Gigi goes for her lessons in how to catch the right man. Preferably someone rich like Gaston.

Naturally when Mark and I visited Paris, we had to pay the building a visit. What struck us about 29 Avenue Rapp was how many people just walk on by, as if were nothing special, just another old stone edifice, the door, just another entry. I think even if I lived on the block, even if I saw the building and its door every single day, I would still have to pause and take it in. Not a whole …

A + for The A-Word

Have you discovered The A Word yet? The show is a BBC adaptation of an Israeli drama series called The Yellow Peppers. The A Word, in case you didn't know, is autism. The series stars Morven Christie—who we love in Grantchester—and Lee Ingleby, 2nd banana to George Gently, as the parents of an autistic boy named Joe. Joe, played byMax Vento, is ten and spends most of his time listening to music on his earphones. 

As with most autistic children, a regular schedule is vital to Joe’s comfort level. After school he is used to going to the playground before they walk home. When Joe’s parents decide to send him to a school where his needs can be met more appropriately met, they have to travel a long way from their home in the lakes district all the way to Manchester, so that schedule takes a radical shift. His parents determination to understand their son and do their best by him is incredibly moving, and understandable to every parent out there.

There are other characters in the show, Jo…

Dreaming of France: Picturing Paris

Bonjour! Can you guess where, precisely, this picture was taken? I love the diamond motif on the staircase, and the diamond pattern the lattice-work trellis creates on the wall. I shot the photo in France when we were there last spring, but where exactly? It took me a moment to remember where until I spotted the man tucked beneath the stairs. 

So who was he and what was he doing? He isn’t Harry Potter, I can tell you that. An American tourist? A French student? I’m not sure. What was he doing? Drinking a cup of coffee. Perhaps a Cafe Américain or maybe a cafe au lait. Chances are it was espresso. 

Where? Any guesses? I’m betting some of you more experienced French travelers will be able to pin it down. 

The answer: Starbucks on the Boulevard Saint Michel just down the road from Boulevard Saint Germain. Located quite near our hotel, Cafe de Flore and Deux Magots were both just up the street but on that occasion I just wanted to grab a coffee and take it back to our room. No muss, no fuss.…