Monday, June 30, 2014

Back Again And No Flying Turkeys!

 Well hello again everyone and here I am back in Western New York. And I am very pleased to report that I have not awarded a single Flying Turkey Travel Award for this particular trip. Not even to Air Canada (yes we're back to our old nemesis for the summer as they have proved cheaper than United and you can drive to Toronto and not have to change planes).  I have to say, though, that  I was sorely tempted to award a Special Mention to Heathrow's new Terminal Two but I'll forgive them as they struggle with their growing pains.

Thing is, Heathrow Terminal Two is in fact glorious - if anyone should be sad enough to dream about their fantasy airport terminal, this would be it. The shops were out of this world and there was hardly anyone else there, it having just opened. But the unfortunate thing was, I didn't have time to go to a single shop. We queued for 40 minutes for check-in, the fabled automatic machines having gone on some sort of sympathy strike and no sooner had we got into the departure lounge and within eyeshot of the tantalising emporia than we had to start the long hike to the gate. T2 appears to have taken a leaf out of Toronto Pearson's book and you have to walk up hill and down dale and past endless walls of glass and futuristic sculptures (though at least T2's aren't black) before you so much as get a sniff of a plane. But it has potential. Next time I'll be there early and with a second mortgage. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

See You Next Week

  The Blog is heading off on a short holiday to somewhere blissfully lacking good internet access.
See you in a week! Among the items coming up in the not too distant future: thoughts on a couple of local heroes and on one of America's most bizarre secrets...
  Watch this space....

Meanwhile, here are a Canada goose and goslings up our lane.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Western New York Idyll: Some of Our Neighbours

I always like to make a detour to see the Highland cattle.

Their owner told me they only once slaughtered one and served it up for  a family reunion. "Someone at the table asked, 'Is this someone we know?' And nobody would eat a thing." I think this is an interloper.

The old farm machinery makes a nice touch.  Sometimes, around here, you're never quite sure if it's decorative or not.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Londoner's Rant: Mrs Miniver

. The other day I thought I’d give my American husband a treat.  He’s an Anglophile -  well he would be, wouldn’t he - and he also enjoys old films.
  “I’ve got just the thing for you!” I said, “A real classic and it gives a wonderful picture of Britain. You’ll love it!”. As it happened, it was showing on TV.

  The film was Mrs Miniver,  the multi-Oscar-winning  1942 gem starring Greer Garson as the  plucky British housewife at the start of the Second World War,  comforting her children in the air raid shelter,  welcoming her husband back from taking his boat to Dunkirk, single-handedly disarming a downed German airman, while life in her idyllic village goes on, interspersed with stoically-borne  tragedy.  In the iconic final scene, the congregation gathers  in the bombed village church, the vicar delivering a Churchillian oration and through a hole in the shattered roof, a shot of the RAF flying overhead in V formation to the strains of Land of Hope and Glory.  Stirring stuff.
    In 2009, it made the American National Film Registry, for films worthy of preserving for posterity. It “pictorializes” (sic), they said, “ the classic British stiff upper lip.” 
  It’s well known that Mrs Miniver was intended as propaganda, albeit charming propaganda, to get  Americans to support the war effort. After the credits appeared the words,   “America needs your money. Buy defense  bonds and stamps.”
   Never mind. It was a massive hit in America – and in Britain too. When I first saw it I loved it and cried my eyes out at the end.
  So hubby and I watched. And after a bit we looked at each other,  “Hang on a minute!”
  Living in two countries  does that to you. I was suddenly seeing dear, familiar Mrs Miniver with new eyes.
  What I hadn’t grasped before was that the perfect British wife had an American husband (or a Canadian, turned American husband)  in the shape of  Walter Pidgeon and an American son and a daughter-in-law, played by Teresa Wright, supposedly from an ancient English aristocratic family,  who, in her touching death scene, asked for a glass of, not water, but “wahdurr”.
  This wasn’t a British family;  it was an American family.

  There it all was,  the white picket fence, the giant fridge, the bedside telephone,  the grotesquely large sports car,  the  choir singing Onward Christian Soldiers with an unmistakable Yankee twang. I’m no expert but I’ll bet you the birds twittering in the English garden were American too.  All patched together with a few Cockney accents of varying degrees of phoniness.  
  Not to mention that this wartime  “average middle-class British family” had several servants, wardrobes full of fancy hats and fox-fur stoles  and an apparentlylimitless supply of eggs.
 And they banged on in a very un-British way about the “feudal” system dying out. (Posh girl marrying middle-class boy and lowly station master allowed by Lady of the Manor to win at flower show.)
     Hollywood wasn’t showing  Americans the real Britain.  How could it? Like many other films of its time about “Britain”,   it was filmed in a studio in California. But it showed  something Americans could identify with and so reach deep into their pockets for – and perhaps it also gave British people an image of themselves that they secretly  wanted to see. 
  “So what?” you might say. It was enjoyable,  helped win the War and was made decades ago. Things are different now.
    Only I don’t think they are.  Mrs Miniver , however benign, is a lesson in the manipulative power – and  inherent untrustworthiness - of the silver screen.  We can all name films that blatantly distort historical facts – and America certainly doesn’t have  a monopoly of those. But I’m talking about seemingly innocent examples – like 101 Dalmatians, supposedly set in Britain, which features American  raccoons scampering all over the place. Even the British-made  Downton Abbey,  hugely popular over here, appears to have sprouted an unlikely number of American characters, though at least they’re not pretending to be British.  
    We should be worried.  But no matter how much I tell myself to keep a  critical mind,  I have to confess that Mrs M second time around still made me cry.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ohio Rites

I don't know. There's something so American about this sign. Perhaps the spelling is reassuring for people. The pies were good though. And baking them is a sort of rite.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lancaster (Ohio, that is)

Still in Ohio, we visited Lancaster, a town of lovely-old houses and museums. Including this one, the home of General William Tecumseh Sherman, of Civil War fame. 

There's his picture on the wall. He was the one who marched "from Atlanta to the sea" devastating the defeated South and inspiring the song "Marching Through Georgia" (the tune of which Man United fans know as "Hello Hello We Are the Busby Boys" but I digress)

The guide at the house,had a Southern mother. She probably had a dim view of her daughter's job.
Here are some typical "main street" buildings".

It's that man again!

Lancaster has a glassworks. Here, a demonstration of glass-blowing

(Sorry about the reflection - we had to sit behind a pane of glass.)

More pretty houses

And blossoms

And an Italianate church
This one's mine.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Ohio Flamingo Fantasy

  We were in Columbus Ohio a few weeks ago - a sunny Easter week, with rowing eights on the lake just like on the Thames.

And later a visit to the Zoo and some flamingo art.

Notice the duck muttering, "I don't know these people".

Then deciding to join them.

An altercation or a conversation?

He's seen it all before.

Does my bottom look big in this?

A red panda with a useful vantage point

And showing off a handsome bushy tail.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Lilac Time

Western New York at this time of year is lilac heaven...

They grow almost like weeds and don't seem to have minded the hard winter.

The scent is sweet, almost sad, bringing back tantalising wisps of forgotten memories.

Every house around here has a few, some unkempt and Bohemian like ours, others more neatly coiffed.

The real centre of the lilac universe is Rochester, a couple of hours from us, where hubby grew up and where they have a lilac festival. which I should get to see some day.
  In the meantime I get all sentimental thinking of the old song,
    We'll gather lilacs in the spring again
    and walk together down an English lane....

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Narrow Escape

Chippy is taking his life in his hands. The neighbours' cat, sweet but lethal has been paying visits and the other day I saw what I had long been dreading. She came towards me with Chippy dangling from her jaws.  I rugby-tackled her, screaming "No! Drop him!".  And she opened her mouth and out he came, miraculously unscathed and ran away.  Since then  he has been scampering around as if nothing had happened. But I fear it's only a matter of time.... The cruelties of nature.
  But Chippy is not entirely innocent. My flower beds are full of small, perfectly-formed holes leading to a network of tunnels. We'll see him or his girlfriend, Chipolata, or his brother-in-law, go down one and emerge from another.  The earth underneath must resemble Swiss cheese. I was weeding and spied a new hole and the next minute, out popped a small furry face looking at me as if I was the intruder. Meanwhile, a much larger woodchuck hole, the earth unceremoniously dumped out of it, has appeared just by my new plants. More proof that we're mere hostages to the local wildlife.