Friday, 29 July 2005

"One Step Closer" - Doobie Brothers, 1980

Can it really be that we're one step closer to peace in Northern Ireland? We can only hope!

Here's a link to the BBC's Northern Ireland news pages.


Thursday, 28 July 2005

"Very First Time" - Pieces of a Dream, 1997

If you think you are having a bad day today, put yourself in the shoes of poor Gordon Strachan...

Last night was his first outing as new manager of Scotland's Celtic Football Club, in a European Champion's League match against a team called Artmedia Bratislava. Frankly, I'd never heard of Celtic's opponents before last night. Now everybody in Britain knows who these guys are. They crushed Celtic by an astonishing score of 5-0 in the first of two match-ups the two teams will have. The other one will be next week, in Glasgow. It seems nearly impossible that Celtic can can perform well enough in next week's match to get the chance to advance to the next round of Champions League matches.

Strachan is one of my favorite sports personalities here. He seems like a very interesting fellow without the massive ego of so many UK football managers. (Both Mourinho and Ferguson immediately come to mind...) I hate that this has happened to him.

I may have to be prepared to do a lot of praying during next week's match.

Here is the BBC's take on last night's game, and here is another one from London's "Daily Mail" newspaper.


Listening To: "From Hell to Breakfast", Various Artists (a Sugar Hill compilation of Texas singer-songwriters)

Sunday, 24 July 2005

Photo: Aunt Blanche Tries Her First Crispy Duck...

(Please click on the image to see a full-sized version!)

Thursday, 21 July 2005

Photo: Aunt Blanche Visits the UK

By popular I am with Aunt Blanche, enjoying the English summer weather!


"On and On" - Stephen Bishop, 1976

I'm sorry that I haven't written a Lord Celery item for quite a few days. We have a very distinguished guest here with us in North Oxfordshire. My Aunt Blanche is here from New Mexico -- for her first-ever trip to the UK!

She's brought some really nice weather with her. But unfortunately, as you may have heard, there were more bombings in London today. We're watching reports about it on TV.

Before this morning, John and I had thought that we'd leave it up to Aunt Blanche whether or not she wanted to go into London for sightseeing. After all, it's a shame to be here in England and not get to see Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, etc. But after today's London bombs, I think the decision has been made for us. We just won't take her into London at all. What a shame, too.

Even worse, though, is that John will be going back into London on Monday, when he goes back to work after his week of vacation this week. And I'll be teaching in London again in just a few weeks. Life goes on.

Anyway, we're all fine. But I'm sure there will be some injuries after today's events. As the Prime Minister of Australia has just said on TV, terrorism is the enemy of all free people. It's a dreadful situation. Once again, though, the British people seem to be staying calm and strong...and brave. And I'm impressed that Aunt Blanche wasn't too frightened to make her 2-week trip here last weekend...a trip we'd been planning for months and months.


Thursday, 14 July 2005

"Insensitive" - Jann Arden, 1995

I've just had a very odd experience.

Today, throughout the UK (and hopefully in other parts of the world as well), we observed two minutes of silence at noon to honor the victims of the terrorist bombs in London just one week ago today. I had understood that people in London were being encouraged to leave their homes and offices at noon and go outside to show solidarity with the silent tribute. Here's a link to a photo, taken in London, by an Associated Press photographer. I didn't know if it would be handled in that way in other UK locations or not. But it least it was here in Oxford. My colleagues and I went outside just before noon, and we were really pleased to see that others had done the very same thing. Using my mobile's camera, I snapped this shot across St Aldates, across from our office. Even some Oxford municipal workers stopped what they were doing, pulling their vehicles over to the side of the roadway.

So you may be wondering why I've chosen "Insensitive" as the title of this Lord Celery entry. It's because of two things that happened during and just after the 2 minutes of silence, as we were standing outside.

The first was that a carload of young Muslims pulled up just in front of our building, just before noon. They stopped the car and just sat there. I thought it was a kind gesture, given that there were people standing outside on either side of the street. They weren't talking or listening to the radio or anything. I assumed that they were honoring the silence. However, just before the two minutes were up, another young Muslim woman came racing out of one of the buildings across the street. She noisily jumped into the car with the others. The driver did a screeching U-turn in the street, right in front of me, and they raced off in the opposite direction. So much for my theory about why they had stopped.

And then the second thing happened. Just as we were dispersing, a couple walked right in front of me on the pavement. They were obviously British -- English, I think, although I'm not sure enough of regional accents to say which part of the UK they were from. But as they walked by the group from my office, the man said something like, "Well, I'll bet most of the people out here are foreigners...and they are the ones who are blowing us up." My colleagues and I looked at each other in amazement.

That kind of mind-set scares the stuffing out of me at the best of times. Today, it made me feel extremely sad.


Wednesday, 13 July 2005

"Rocket Man" - Elton John, 1972

NASA will try to launch the space shuttle Discovery later today. I'm keeping fingers and toes crossed for their success this time...

I love the space program. It's one of the ways we humans can continue to fulfill our need to "explore".

I'd be with them if I could. (Well, I'd need to be younger, have better vision, and have the ability to understand complex mathematics. Maybe in my next life!)

God speed, Discovery!


Tuesday, 12 July 2005

"Mack the Knife" - Bobby Darin, 1959

I should have written about this last Saturday the 9th, but I was too mentally and physically exhausted from last week's events in London to do it without crying too much. But I've just learned of the unexpected death of a beloved dog belonging to a colleague of mine here in the UK. I feel so terrible for the loss she and her husband are experiencing. Now I feel I can -- and should -- write this piece.

On the 9th of July, just 4 years ago, I had to have my 16-year-old West Highland White Terrier, Mac, put to sleep. He'd been my roommate since Easter weekend of 1985, when he was only 8 weeks old. He went through all of the ups and downs of my life with me. Together, we moved from Houston to a high-rise apartment in New York City and then back to Houston again. He was a grand little fellow. I still miss him like crazy.

I have preserved a web site for Mac that I assembled for fun a long time ago, and you can find it
RIGHT HERE. (Be sure to click on the link at the bottom of the first page, which will take you to Page 2!) I've maintained the website by popular request and also as a tribute to Mac. It keeps him alive, in a way. And it's amazing how much e-mail I still get from the site, from people who are seeking information about Westies. They write me really wonderful notes about the photos and commentary on Mac's pages!

To help in that regard, if you are interested, you can get some great information on West Highland White Terriers from the following websites:

The West Highland White Terrier Club of America

The West Highland White Terrier Club of England

Interesting and entertaining article about Westies from "Dog & Kennel" magazine

Someday, John and I will have a Westie...or maybe two...once we're together full time and more settled.

One of my all-time favorite sayings about Westies came from the announcer for the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York City. He used to say, "When you're in a room with a Westie, you will be reminded of your good fortune at regular intervals." That sums it up!

Mac, ol' boy, you are STILL being missed... just as my colleague's dog is being missed terribly today.


"London Calling" - The Clash, 1979

As an American living in Britain, I'm really embarrassed this morning.

The US military have apparently told American servicemen and servicewomen, and their families, to stay away from London after last Thursday's attacks. In fact, more specifically, they are supposed to be staying completely outside the M25 (also called the "London Orbital" -- one of the coolest road names ever). That means that they wouldn't even be able to go visit John at his home in Hertfordshire, since he's just inside the M25.

I don't recall the British military giving similar advice to their soldiers after 9-11. Am I wrong about that?

It makes us Americans look like cowards. And generally speaking, we're not. Having said that, though, we have often been proven to be hypocrites. Perhaps we don't sell out as often as the French seem to, but we've come close at various times during our country's history.

What's my personal opinion?

Well, to be honest, I'm pretty glad that I don't regularly work in London and use the Tube system all the time. I lived in Manhattan for over 7 years in the 80's/90's, and I was delighted when my job shifted from Lower Manhattan up to Midtown so that I didn't regularly suffer the punishment of the NY Subway system. So I'm not just dissing London's Underground. I just don't like the idea of spending too much time trapped underground ANYWHERE.

However, I am scheduled to go back into London to teach again in August. And I certainly won't refuse to go. My dear aunt from New Mexico is coming to see us on Saturday, for two weeks. It will be her first trip to the UK ever. If she wants to go into London on a sightseeing trip, I certainly wouldn't say no. I'll leave it up to her. But I would understand if she'd prefer to skip seeing Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, etc., this trip.

And do I wish that John didn't commute into Central London to work every day? Absolutely.

But we must not let terrorists run our lives either! I don't think any of us should take unnecessary risks. But neither should we let the possibility of a terrorist attack take over and run our day-to-day lives. We have absolutely no idea when and where the next strike could come. But I also could be hit by a bus in the Oxford city centre this afternoon -- or fall in the shower and fatally crack my head open
-- or get hit by lightning -- etc., etc., etc. I figure when my number's up, then it's up. And as my mother used to say so often, "If you're living right, you don't need to worry about it."

I can't blame people here in the UK for being upset and angered by this reaction from the US military. It makes us seem like overprotective wimps.

(Thanks, John, for the title suggestion today!)


Listening To: "Sweetwater" - Tres Chicas

Monday, 11 July 2005

"It Only Takes A Minute" - Tavares, 1975

I just did this...and you might like to as well, if you're a blogger!

(Well, actually, it will take about 15 minutes...but that was the most appropriate song title I could come up with!)


"Something To Talk About" - Bonnie Raitt, 1991

I can't think of a better title for today's blog. I seem to have an unusually large volume of "stuff" on my mind today...

>>> Last week's bombings in London. I've found a fascinating online diary being kept by a Londoner who survived the bombing of the Tube train on the Piccadilly line between Kings Cross and Russell Square stations. She has a wonderful way with words. Like me, I think you'll be amazed at her strength of character...while still being utterly human and so very honest in her reactions. I wish I could meet her.

>>> Hurricane Dennis. I feel really bad for what the people along the Gulf Coast of Alabama and Florida are going through. I was in Houston for Hurricane Alicia back in 1983, and it's no fun at all. The National Hurricane Center's website is a very interesting, useful place to bookmark...whether you live in the US or just care about people who do.

>>> On a better note, CONGRATULATIONS to Juan Pablo Montoya for his victory yesterday in the British Grand Prix race at Silverstone! No, John and I didn't go but watched from the comfort of my house -- even though Silverstone isn't that far from where I live. If you're interested, take a look at F1's own website. You might just get hooked, like we are!

>>> ICE "In Case of Emergency". It's a really terrific idea, started by the East Anglian Ambulance Service here in England, to help emergency workers quickly find contact information for injured victims of accidents, etc. Maybe my posting it here will help spread the word just a little.

>>> After thinking more and more of the events of last week -- and of the reaction toward Muslims in the US after 9-11 -- I do hope that people will remember that the Islamic faith does NOT sanction terrorist activities. I'm hearing on the news that many British Muslims are now afraid to leave their homes for fear of public reprisals for last Thursday's London bombs. Take a look at this statement from the Islamic Cultural Centre and the London Central Mosque. I don't know what else to say. No matter how good my persuasion skills might be, many people in this world will stubbornly remain narrow-minded bigots.


Listening to: "Tambourine", Tift Merritt

Thursday, 7 July 2005

"What A Difference A Day Makes" - Dinah Washington, 1959

What a difference a day makes. No kidding...

Today's bombings in London have reminded all of us, sadly, how unstable and scary the world can be these days.

John and I are both just fine. Both of us were in areas about an hour before, and John just after. Our timing was just very lucky this morning. And we've actually gotten back to John's house in Hertfordshire before dark, something we didn't expect given the state of mass transit in the London area right now.

As of this evening, we're hearing that 37 people died in London today, and at least 700 more were injured. Here's a link to the BBC's latest report.

I don't know what else to write...except I can post the following photo taken with the camera on my mobile phone late this afternoon. I took this at a newspaper seller's stand near where I was teaching in London today.


Wednesday, 6 July 2005

"Oh Happy Day" - The Edwin Hawkins Singers, 1969

This is a very happy day here in the UK. London won the bid for the 2012 Olympics! Wow! I thought for sure that Paris was going to win.

I'm looking at tonight's London "Evening Standard", and a couple of headlines have caught my eye. One of them is, "This is the best day London's ever had." The other is, "Thanks Mr. Chirac, you won it for us."

Enough said! Wouldn't you love to be a fly-on-the-wall when Tony and Jacques meet at the dinner at Gleneagles tonight? I wonder if Chirac will say anything nasty about British food when sitting at a dinner table in Scotland tonight?

Well done, London...and Britain! I'm teaching in London this week and was delighted to be there today to feel the excitement! My students and I heard the screams of surprise and delight today when the announcement was made, and that was very cool!


Monday, 4 July 2005

(Hey Baby It's The) "Fourth of July" - Robert Earl Keen, 1997

HAPPY FOURTH to all of my American family and friends!

Did I get to celebrate today? Nope. I'm teaching in London all week. But a few of my students wished me a "happy Fourth of July" today, so that was nice.

And John's making me quesadillas tonight to celebrate. YUM! I couldn't ask for more than that!


Sunday, 3 July 2005

"We Are The World" - USA For Africa, 1985

Yesterday was "Live 8". What a great day of music it was! I hope that Bush, Blair and the other six world leaders meeting in Scotland this coming week are paying close attention to the many thousands of people who signed the online petition or sent in text messages in support of the Live 8 cause.

Even my little village in North Oxfordshire got into the act. Draped on the top of the parish church, in the middle of the village, was a "Make Poverty History" banner! Hopefully, if you click on the images below, you can see a larger version of each photo.

I hope all of you watched the Live 8 events yesterday...and will do your part to support this important cause.

By the way, what a thrill to see Paul McCartney perform with U2, to open the London Live 8 concert. And what about that Pink Floyd reunion? Wow! That was the treat of the day for us!