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Showing posts from December, 2017

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Have Broom Will Travel [memoir]

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Halloween 1995, Batman and me
My history is littered with Halloween fails. Before I became a mother the question of what I was going to be for Halloween terrified me.


1958:  Halloween on a blazing hot afternoon in Tripoli, Libya. Age 5 All the military brats from Wheelus Air Force base were going to a Halloween party in an airplane hangar just outside Tripoli. Lots of civilian kids—mostly Brits and Yanks—whose parents worked on the base in various capacities were invited which meant my brother and I got to go too. Our dad, who spoke Arabic fluently and had been with British Intelligence during the war, had something to do with managing the PX on the base. My brother went dressed as a hobo, his cheeks smeared grey by my mother with a piece of burnt cork, while his friend, the older boy who lived next door, dressed up as a woman—a pillow stuck down his sweater shaped into clownish balloon-sized breasts and big red sticky lips. I went as Minnie Mouse in a cheap, cellophane-thin, store-bough…

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

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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

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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 …