Viewed From This England

We’ve been watching the political-melodrama U.S. TV series Madam Secretary. But you don’t need to know the details of the program to get this post. I thought I’d use it as a basis for some “fun” today – it’s Friday – mostly due to the episode we just saw and because, as you probably know, my wife is English (and we have been married for, uh, quite a few years).

In that episode from its 3rd season, the U.S. Secretary of State’s twenty-something spoiled, mouthy, annoying pain in the neck for the previous two seasons and now continuing to be so apparently daughter has returned to Washington recently after a summer in Oxford with her English fiancรฉ.

In the kitchen, unexpectedly she gets all emotional and reveals to Mom (the Secretary of State, I repeat) that she was like wow really unhappy with her English husband-to-be when they were in England. Suddenly, she announces she doesn’t want to live there. She says she hated the place.

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This Writer’s Yesterday

What do novelists do all day? My uncle had told me any writer gets asked that question regularly. So I thought that I’d try to explain what this one did … yesterday.

Now that the holidays are over, I have no excuses. I’ve decided to target finishing Conventions by the end of January. We’ll see if I can live up to that; but planting a timescale flag is necessary or one is apt to drift. However, even if I can manage that, with all that follows after the last word is “officially” written, it will not be available probably before March.

As you may know I try to write a blog post here five or so times a week. But as you may have also noticed I have fallen off that pace recently as I have found myself working increasingly on the last stages of the book. To give you all a morning wave, yesterday I chose Instagram:

It was not a great weather morning here early yesterday as well. So I posted that Knebworth Park summer photo. (But the sun did come out eventually during the day.) Not long after I’d posted it, I was off and running…

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A Not So “Ordinary” Girl

A new follower caught my attention the other day. She did so not so much because of her amazing blog. Rather, I was struck by her utter lack of one.

In her WordPress gravatar she calls herself an “ordinary girl” and writes that she’s not social, but uses social sites to explore. She says nothing about her age or where she lives. She also notes she hopes to travel someday, but hasn’t had the chance.

Statue of Liberty and World Trade Center's Twin Towers, from the Liberty Island ferry. [Photo by me, 1991.]
Statue of Liberty and World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, from the Liberty Island ferry. [Photo by me, 1991.]

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A Recollection Of A Christmas Past

We drove down to north London yesterday to visit relatives:

On the A1(M) on Sunday. No, I was NOT driving. [Photo by me, 2016.]
On the A1(M) on Sunday. No, I was NOT driving. [Photo by me, 2016.]

It being yet another Monday, it’s time to get back to work.

I hope you’ll excuse a Christmas recollection, but it’s that time of the year again. You’ll understand why in a moment. Let me explain…

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It Takes A Village (In England)

I had a haircut in the village yesterday. The woman who cuts it regularly has previously told me she’s 22 years old. She also has a half-brother who lives in the United States (in the Midwest) and is married to an American woman.

Let’s call her “Sophie.” I don’t know much about her non-work life, only that she grew up in, and lives in, nearby Hitchin. But I was surprised when she told me that despite where her half-brother lives, she has never been to the U.S.

Our rainy front garden. Hertfordshire, England. [Photo by me, 2016.]
Our rainy front garden. Hertfordshire, England. [Photo by me, 2016.]

I had increasingly taken it for granted that most English younger people travel on some level internationally, especially to the United States. She said she has been to “the continent” – to France and to Spain. But that’s it.

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Once Upon A Time, There Were Only Blogs…

We don’t think a lot about it. But we have to remind ourselves how potentially dangerous spending too much time in front of screens may be. By midday Friday, I found myself developing a terrible headache.

Too much time writing and staring at my Microsoft Surface in recent days had probably been the main culprit. I do try to take breaks when I’m at the screen for a long time. “Ten minutes” every hour at least.

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Weekend In Belfast

My wife and I ventured to Belfast for Saturday and Sunday. It was our first time there. It was also an eye-opening experience:

“Welcome To Belfast” over the terminal at Belfast International Airport. [Photo by me, 2016.]
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That 9:30 Lecture

The other day I mentioned that my niece – who’s 18 – has started university this week in Belfast. (She’s at Queen’s.) It’s her first extended time away from home without her parents around. I believe her previous “separation” record was when she was 15: she had flown with us – uncle and aunt – for two weeks in New York and in Florida, just us three.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a pencil and back to class text.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a pencil and back to class text.

If you are just starting out, university will seem unfamiliar and maybe at times intimidating. You are thrown back largely on yourself for perhaps the first time. Within days, though, trust me, it will all start to make sense.

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“It will not be prudent, you guys…”

New students at Clark University in Massachusetts have been advised against using the expression “You guys” because it is deemed sexist.

Screen capture of Twitter.
Screen capture of Twitter.

No alternative specific gathering greeting is suggested in the New York Times article that tweet references. We know American southerners famously say “y’all.” The British may say “You lot.” (However, reading the article “You lot” may not be acceptable either given its use by someone sometimes suggests the speaker is claiming superiority to the group being addressed.) Or maybe we could go for “Comrades?”

Kidding aside, I do not recall hearing “You guys” when I was in university in the 1980s and early 1990s. It has really taken hold in the last 20 years or so. I’ve never used it seriously myself.

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