Category Archives: America

Resistance

Seems like I am beginning to establish a pattern of nomadicity.  Routinely trekking  from the Isle of Britain to Brittany.  This time an entourage in tow.  As usual I find it hard to shake my day job and thoughts of Pakistan comes flooding, quite literally.  I am unable to resist thinking and feeling for those who have suffered and who are suffering.  So day one I find myself at the American cemetery in St. James.  Rows of white headstones causing the tears to pour down my cheeks.  My two boys too are moved.  Having watching Saving Private Ryan only days before – they can visualise the ghastly deaths of the 4,500 American soldiers whose bodies lay here.  All died in the summer of 1944.  A single American family are also pacing somberly around the graveyard.  They take photos and the  younger ones pat the older ones on the back.  We are voyeurs to their grief, but feel it non the less.  My grandfather was tucked away in India during the war – flying missions over Burma.  During the Normandy landings he was far away in Asia.

Oh happy holidays – I attempt to prise myself away from conflict and up to Avranches.  But this is another significant site from the war….it’s hard to avoid the Sherman (no, not “German”; “Sherman) tank in the centre of town and as we take in breathtaking views of the Mont St. Michel from a pretty sun-flower filled botanical garden, my 8 year old boy can’t stop imagining the bullets flying as the Americans break through the German front.  He dances across the lawns and poses dramatically as the Statue of Liberty.

We buy pétanque, the sunshine appears and we head for the beach at Jullouville.  Holiday and laughter at last.  And I checked – no D-day landings on this beach. We might even get a bit of a tan.

But I’m not getting complacent.  As we drive south in a few days – we are making a stop at  Oradour Sur Glame.  Resistance is futile.

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From New York to Glastonbury Festival

New York follows me hereYeah yeah yeah I went to New York.  My life has moved on quicker than my ability to blog about it.  I am not heartbroken, although I DO prefer to blog in real time and not with hindsight (it is of no benefit I find).  New York was…well, I am sure there are a million blogs about New York.  Wait, I’ll check out a few recommendations for you link link link.  I worked very hard at the UN (see some slightly more official blogging on the world bank site) and I bigged up the clients – actually, minor corruption issues aside, the UN IS pretty cool, and despite my previous rant on the likes of Clooney – I thoroughly approve of his Blue Hats endorsement.

 

So skimming briefly over New York here – it was mostly work; one groovy drunken night out in East Village with some media types who were impressed with the capacity of my pal from Kosovo to consume St.Vincents (girly gin based cocktails); a bout of shopping in a huge electronics store run my thousands of orthodox Jews; and a brief excursion to the apple store (where I narrowly avoided an encounter with Riana –a-a-a-a) suffice to say I DIDN’T make the most of it.  Nor did I meet up with fellow bloggers as I hoped…I am beginning to wonder whether other Blogcatalog bloggers exist in real life, or whether BC run a cunning software programme which invents helpful friends for me and is ultimately designed to make me fork out money on domain names (it’s working so far).  Sorry that’s a little unfair to Benny – I am sure he is no figment.

 

So that was New York and this is Glastonbury.  Rock and roll.  3 days in the mud and sunshine drinking cider and feeling young at heart.  Well…erm….sort of.  My mum does kind of live in the village so I have to confess my nights were not spent under filthy canvas, but under fine linen sheets.  And, I caught myself in work mode on more than one occasion making comparisons with El Fasher IDP camp in Darfur.  The close proximity, the stench, the rubbish.   They even have an annual arts and music festival there (I bet you didn’t know that).  Clearly there are some obvious differences.  Like war, rape, abuse, tribalism, abject poverty (as opposed to gross indulgence) and of course the residents aren’t able to stuff their cheap Tescos sleeping bags into the back of their Renault Clios and zoom home to the luxury of a hot bath.   But one thing DID cross my mind.  Why doesn’t Michael Eavis and his posse get involved in humanitarian relief?  I know they raise millions for charity (Greenpeace, Oxfam, WaterAid this year- but with the exceptional ability to facilitate 180,000 people (not official figures, just a guess based on a rough head count after a few bevies),  collect 800,000 million gallons of human waste from 2,500 toilets (ish), and operate a pretty efficient refuse collection service – I’d think the Eavis family would be pretty well placed to have the know how to offer emergency relief after eathquakes or other such natural disasters (or even man made ones).   The healing field would be a great asset too.

 sorted for recycling   

Yes.  I must have been really fun to be with.  No wonder my teenage daughter decided to disappear with a couple of friends during the Hosiers just to annoy me.  (in 900 acres forget needles in haystacks, think more needles in New York City).

 

This is the world’s biggest open air arts and music festival, ladies and gentlemen.  But to say I got away from work and relaxed completely was probably a bit of a stretch.  The Glastonbury experience with three kids and your mum isn’t traditionally rock and roll – but I tell you I had as much fun watching a man climb into a green balloon in the circus tent and seeing my son learn to unicycle as I did rocking to the Wombats (and the dulcet tones of Elbow, of course).  And no, I didn’t see Jay Z, Biffy Clyro was a more attractive prospect at the time.  The point is I was back in the land of my birth (ok…perhaps another slight warp of the truth – I was born and raised in inner city Bristol not the mysterious Vale of Avalon – but the cider is the same, my lover). And I haven’t failed to notice that the inaugural festival was held around the time of my birth.  OK, now you know too much.

Caroline Jaine in Pilton

Trying not to be in the same country as George Bush

 So I am now entrenched on floor 11 of Beekman Towers.  The longest day of my year is now fading into dusky quiet (all that stuff about New York never sleeping is crap).  I eventually got some food.  I asked for Asian Vegetarian, which normally guarantees a curry and dhal of decent temperature, but America airlines don’t dabble in such foreign muck, so I had to settle for a sort of slop that reminded me of Rohan Candappa’s  description of school dinners in Pickle Head (“raisins really have NO PLACE in a main course” – I recommend the book, it is a VERY funny read).  This was followed later by pizza (c’mon, you kidin’ me right?). 

The chap sitting next to me was perhaps the least friendly New Yorker I have come across.  He really didn’t want to talk to me at all, so I invented a nasty story about his week long visit to see a “friend” in London, which included rent boys visiting his B&B in Victoria.  The only gem he offered was a grandiose slating of his President (who has just been less than well received in Europe this week)   At one stage he asked whether I was trying not to be in the same country as George.  I made some quip about Ban Ki-Moon stalking me as he too was in London (considering I was heading for the UN this week I thought it relevant) but it went over his head and he was lost to his book, and I happily went back to mine (more Bonfiglioli).

 

The weather was pretty good on landing.  Which was a surprise because my original flight was cancelled because of poor conditions in JFK.  Well.  It was a lie wasn’t it?  I KNOW it was cancelled because they didn’t sell enough tickets.  I was told this truth many times (and rather emphatically) by my fellow travellers.   I adore old aged Americans, especially New Yorkers.  I cannot for one moment imagine my grandmothers generation wearing baseball hats and jeans and big white trainers (sorry, sneakers).   The all have such loud opinions – I want to seat them on park benches in Central Park and give them brown paper shopping bags (perhaps some could be jogging in flannel jogging suits, towel around neck).  I actually forgot how much New York looks like (or IS) a movie set.  It’s not just the steaming manholes, the fire escapes, the fire hydrants (fire theme emerging here) – it is the very people themselves.  No matter what origin there is a sense of being a New Yorker – which is strong like glue and chipper and friendly and proud.  Whether they are driving taxis, working in delis, swanking along 5th Avenue with dogs in their handbags, they all belong here.  And I can be marvellously British here (which I felt less able to in Bonn for some reason).  I like it.  At least for a couple of days.