Friday, August 04, 2006

The Alien Returns

from Jacqueline

After almost eleven hours on a 'plane and two hours in the car to get home, I hit the pillow almost as soon as I walked in the door and ... what? Can't sleep. Finally the sandman caught up with me, but here I am, awake just six hours later and at the keyboard already! Actually, I was checking email, then thought I'd catch up with the website to see what the latest post was - but heck, it's Friday! It's me! Eeeek!

Landing at LAX always reminds me of landing in a Middle Eastern city, like Jeddah, for example. I spent a couple of months there many years ago and I always remember coming into land in that heat and dust. Then of course you come out of the airport and there is that same hubbub, that same clamoring of people, cars and taxis trying to connect with each other. Maybe someone will invent a sort of personal heat-seeking device, so that as my husband is tooling along scanning for my wave from the sidewalk, a voice on the dashboard screams, "There she is!" Some people have kids to do that though, so why reinvent?

Years ago, the famous Herb Caen wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle, that when in London he always spent the best part of a morning holed up in his hotel with a big pile of newspapers, because London papers were the best in the world. Well, though they've gone through some changes, I think they still hold the title. Whether it's the political commentary of The Independent, the Times or the Guardian, or, (moving down), the Daily Mail and Express (let's not even go to the Mirror or the Sun), you'll find out more about what is going on in the world in those pages, than you ever will here. And the great thing is that they've just about all broken the tabloid taboo, even the most high-brow, finally realizing that it is easier to hold a tabloid paper than to struggle with a broadsheet - and it seems that even a few USA newspapers are following suit, downsizing on paper for convenience and - more likely - for economic reasons. And another thing I like about those papers, is that you never have to struggle to find the component parts of a story - if it's a long story that starts on page 1, you only have to turn to page 2 to read on. And right now, those papers are sparing nothing to bring home news from the Middle East. While the US might love Tony Blare (oops, I mean Blair), his name at home is so far into the dirt, it may never come out again. Britain and most of her government want an official call for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon, while Tony's been on an American schmooze campaign to feather his post-Premiership nest, and is frightened to say boo to a goose! Now he's on vacation in the Bahamas.

The enlightened Independent newspaper carried a piece yesterday on Churchill's warnings to Prime Minister Lloyd George in 1920, about the situation in "Mesopotamia." Full of death, civil unrest and strife, the idiots couldn't understand why their cobbled-together little region wasn't really working. This is of course where, if I had the techno-smarts of any one of my Naked Authors, I would paste in a photo of Dame Freya Stark.

She's commonly referred to as a "travel writer" which, sadly, does not begin to do her justice. In her time, she was arguably the person who had the greatest depth of understanding of the Middle East, given her travels, her fluency in Arabic, the powerful associations she had made, and her grasp of the delicate balances of power between tribes.

The male politicians of the time asked her opinion regarding division of the region following the Great War - and then didn't listen to her. She was one of the first to predict a Middle East in hell as a result of imperialist nation-building.

But its the people who matter, really. Every day more pictures of children dead in Lebanon. We cannot come near to imagining the terror those families live through day after day. Well, there is a generation in Europe who do understand, who can make the leap of imagination. After war broke out in 1939, for the first several years in Europe, civilian deaths far outnumbered military deaths - some 60,000 people in London alone. Following a direct hit by a V2 rocket, at 16 my mother was buried underneath the rubble of her house for hours until help came. As she was finally carried away in the arms of a policeman, she remembers looking at the house next door and seeing the remains of a little girl being placed into a sack. Her last memory before the bomb dropped was of looking out of the window and seeing the girl playing with her dolls. Now, whenever my mother watches the TV news or sees another front page photo of a blood-drenched dying child being carried from the rubble, it becomes too much for her too bear.

Among other things, I guess blogs are for rambling, so that's what I've done here. Rambled. If I'd been at home this past 10 days, it might have been about whatever was inspiring me, annoying me, or generally perplexing me about life here in the USA. But I've been in "over there" - and amid the hopping life of mid-summer London in a heatwave, there's a government flailing around wondering what to do about a leader who doesn't represent the hearts and minds of the majority of the people every time he opens his mouth to speak. Hmmm ... I could go off on a tangent there, couldn't I?

Here's a last comment, a bit of a chuckle for me. Someone asked me, "Are you still a British Subject, or are you an American Citizen?" Let me tell you, the quips just lined up as I weighed my response. "Well, I said, "I'm a British citizen. And I stopped being anyone's subject a long time ago." Can you imagine it? A subject? A bloody subject, in this day and age? Is it any wonder I left? Mind you, I'm a Resident Alien over here. And you thought those little bald fellows with the pointy eyes were a funny lot ....


  1. Welcome back to your other home, Jacqueline. :-D
    My husband and I are old enough to remember the after affects of WWII, and live with the reminder of it in many ways: my mother in law, Pauline, is English and lived through the London Blitz, and has many memories of it, both good and bad. And her husband, Richard, suffered badly in the Battle of the Bulge. He refused a purple heart from his hospital bed becaue the man in the next bed had been ravaged by a bomb and lost so much more than he. Vietnam affects both of our families in one way or another as well.
    We are off to London late next month, and to Nottingham and then down south to Torquay and Eastbourne - doing business and visiting.
    Meanwhile, I'm trying not to hop from one foot to the other while waiting for Messenger of Truth to hit the local bookstore. :-)
    Hope you recover from jetlag and travel real soon. I had my day off yesterday, following the month-of-travel-from-hell.

  2. Dear Our Jacqueline,

    I threw in a couple of Dame Freya photos, since my sister's name is Freya. Doesn't she look a bit like Sarah Weinman in the first one?

    Welcome home!

  3. I saw those photos and thought--whoa!--our Jacqueline is not only capable of beautiful "rambling" but she's also adept at Googling. Then I find out the pics were provided by our image guru, Cornelia. What a team effort!

    Lovely post, J.

  4. from Jacqueline

    Oh, man, what a team, what pals to have on my side when the techno-fear grabs me. How the heck do you do it - swipe images from Google? Thank you, thank you, thank you, Cornelia, as always. And Patty, thank you for believing in me.

    Marianne - my parents live between Hastings and Rye, so if you know Eastbourne, then you probably know where I've just spent 10 days. It's a lovely area - patchwork quilt fields, country pubs and some peace and quiet thrown in!