Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving in the UK, a special memory

Years ago, I was part of a student-teacher exchange from California State University, Long Beach to Winchester, England.  We were a group of seven young women, I was the oldest, who stayed at King Alfred's College while we were student teachers at the various schools in the area.

My dorm room which was private, overlooked a small street and an ancient Roman wall.  I was still in awe of all the buildings and artifacts from Winchester's history--Winchester Cathedral, Jane Austin's home, St. Catherine's Hill, a hill fort mentioned in a Thomas Hardy novel, the old pubs, and Winchester College, a public school I visited and so much more.  I often thought if I could just place all the memories and atmosphere in a bottle and inhale them from time to time, to revisit this special time in my life, it would be wonderful. 

Thanksgiving was a few days away and we were all feeling very homesick.  We had been in Winchester since September and even though the experience was rewarding in so many ways, we were missing our family and friends.

In our student mail boxes we all received an invitation -- to a Thanksgiving dinner to be held in the main dining hall (not as elaborate as the one in Harry Potter), but large enough for all our meals.  What could this mean, we all thought?  Thanksgiving, we knew, is not celebrated in Britain.

Thanksgiving day arrived.  We dressed up for the occasion and walked to the dining hall.  It was beautiful.  The staff had made such an effort to make our American holiday special for us.  The cafeteria was transformed -- complete with candles, table cloths, sherry and wine.  I was seated next to John Cramner, King Alfred's College principal (a special seat for mature students?).
Mr. Camner was the epitome of a British gentleman, handsome, white haired, and a good conversationalist.  I learned all about "Bread Sauce" which I had never had before and was told by Mrs. Cramner that I could buy it at Sainsbury's. After the toasts, we began the meal which did include turkey.  I had to do a reality check, here I was so far from home, having Thanksgiving dinner in England with the head of a British college.

I even remember singing, "My Country 'Tis of Thee," and the Brits singing "God Save Our Gracious Queen."  We felt so welcome, thanks to our British hosts.

As we walked back to our dorm rooms in the twilight, our homesickness disappeared, and we counted as our very good fortune, the opportunity to study and learn and experience a unique city in the United Kingdom, Winchester.

A Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, even if you do not celebrate the holiday and a special thanks to my husband who made the adventure in England possible for me while he stayed in California for three months and ate frozen dinners.

PS  King Alfred's College is now the University of Winchester.

Any special Thanksgiving memories that you remember?  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

National and International News- - looking for a positive article

My favorite morning activity is reading the newspaper, especially the Wall Street Journal, so much quieter on the ears than watching TV news.  So as I drank my coffee this morning this is what caught my eye:
Dover Press, Clip Art

   "Violence Reaches Israel- Syria Border"
   "FBI in Petraeus Case Under Security"
   "Afghan Women Fear Rights Will Erode"
    "Xi Inherits an Economy That Needs Work"
    "Lenders at Odds Over Greek Debt"
    "Green Party Shakes Up German Politics"
    "Spanish Bank Freeze Foreclosures"
    "Sex, Lies and Gmail"
    "Earth to GOP:  Get a Grip"
    'Turkey's Islamist Turn, 10 Years Later"

But there is good news:  "U.S Redraws World Oil Map"  writing that shale boom here will surpass Saudi Arabia oil production by 2020 and "Looking Past Fiscal Cliff to a Genuine Tax Overhaul."

And in the front section, a book review: Ian McEwan's latest, Sweet Tooth.  It is a spy novel and looks good.  Atonement was excellent.

In the back section:  "New Rules for Flirting," and a music review, Mary Black, an Irish singer and songwriter who just had a successful opening night in New York.  Her new album is "Stories from the Steeples,"  featuring Irish, Australian, and British song writers.

So there it is - - choices.  The U.S. is not the only country to have serious economic problems and scandals.  Look at the trees, not the forest.  Count your blessings, read a good book, flirt a little, buy an album from a artist that is unfamiliar.

Tomorrow, a real pleasure - - the Van Gogh exhibit, which we will see with friends from out of town.  It should give me more positive "trees" to write about.  

Are you a "Forest" or a "Trees" person?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Orion's Belt, Shooting Stars and the 2012 Election

"The fault Dear Brutus in not in the stars, it is in ourselves."
                                                     --Julius Caesar,  I, ii, 134

I have two sons who reflect our divided country.  My oldest son went to a little college in the southwestern part of the state, the other went to the University of Colorado in Boulder.  The first works in the private sector, the second is a teacher.  They hold opposite political views.  But I love them both dearly, we just do not discuss American politics.  My Republican son and I had a long telephone conversation late last evening.  And I felt better that we could talk.  I hope that they are proud of their mom who at her age still cares enough about our country to go out and work for her political candidate with passion and conviction.

Having a hard time sleeping last night after the election,  I stepped out onto our deck and looked up at the stars which are especially bright at 4 AM and looked for Orion's Belt and there it was - - the one constellation that I can always recognize.  And I saw a shooting star!  I felt at peace, and ready to begin a new day.  

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Jersey Shore: "It's gone"--but not Wildwood, New Jersey

New Jersey shoreline - - devastated after Hurricane Sandy,  but not Wildwood, New Jersey, not quite.

It's hard to imagine the effect of Hurricane Sandy living here in Colorado.  But I have relatives in New York, and have not heard from one of them.  Being without power, dark and wet, the uncertainty of tomorrow--there are no words to describe it.

Wildwood, New Jersey in happier days
One article in the Denver Postsays that the 127 mile New Jersey coastline will never look the same.  A  photo showed a roller coaster from a Seaside Heights, amusement park, partially submerged in the high tide.  One paragraph caught my eye.  It described Wildwood, the most popular beach, which is on the southernmost tip of the Jersey shore, with not as much damage, and the promise by officials that it  could be fixed by Memorial Day.

Wildwood,  the memories come streaming back,  a place where as a little girl, I vacationed with my family, escaping the hot summers in New York City.  I still remember the boardwalk; I was only four or five.  I remember the ocean, the amusement park, being teased by my cousins who took me on the scary ones, the gypsies who told your fortune and seemed very exotic to me, sandy bathing suits, the smell of salt air, and so much more. 

These were not posh areas, but places "down by the shore" where families from all backgrounds could enjoy the water and get away from big cities, with boardwalk fun, salt water taffy, friends and family.  Some stayed only for a weekend, some longer, in inexpensive cottages or rooms you could rent.

In a later era, Bruce Springsteen, in his song about "Sandy," describes boardwalk life - -  the name is prescient.  It can be seen on You Tube - - "4th of July, Asbury Park, New Jersey, 'Sandy'"

New Jersey - -  setting of movies, Broadway shows, television shows - -  will come through this.  Their citizens are tough, hard working and determined.