25 August 2009

Made me smile....

Just a photo of a hedgehog can do that, but this time there's a joke attached, which won the funniest one-liner prize at this year's Edinburgh Festival.

''Hedgehogs. Why can't they just share the hedge?'' Dan Antopolski, 36, who is known for his surreal stand up routines.

From this link you can also access the runners-up, some a lot funnier than others, and also the most dire attempts at humor amongst the ~7200 jokes that were considered.

What made me laugh out loud, though, was this line quoted in a Guardian review of Sebastian Faulks's new novel on contemporary London, A Week in December. A literary critic has just read a novel written by a rival pundit:

"It was worse, far worse, than he had dared to hope."

The sentiment reminds me of the spiteful but very funny remark Gore Vidal made decades ago:

"Whenever a friend of mine succeeds, a little something in me dies."

For more on the delightfully waspish Vidal, see this 2008 interview in The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/gore-vidal-literary-feuds-his-vicious-mother-and-rumours-of-a-secret-love-child-832525.html

As the interviewer points out, through his friendship with André Gide, Vidal is only "one handshake" away from that other witty wordsmith, Oscar Wilde, who famously managed to joke even on his deathbed:

"Either that wallpaper goes, or I do." [exact phrasing disputed]

17 August 2009

A memorable cuppa

Yesterday Michael and I trotted off to a tea-and-cakes charity afternoon. Our friends Nora and Geoff had joined with other serious but for the most part non-professional cooks to produce a mouthwatering display of goodies.

The event was held in Pullens Yards, an enclave off the Walworth Road in our part of SE London that we never knew existed. The buildings were originally live/work spaces for artisans and small shopkeepers, built in the 1870s. This vision was re-energized a century later when designers began to move back in.

Below are two photos from the Pullens website, which has more on the history of the enterprise at http://www.pullensyards.co.uk/history.php. Such a contrast to the Elephant & Castle shopping center, which we passed on our way there!!

The tea treats were wonderful and warranted mention in Chowhound: For Those Who Live to Eat. Nora made the blueberry cake described—but we never sampled that, having gorged on her lemon poppyseed and death-by-chocolate cakes.

The Cake Committee, Kennington/Elephant & Castle/Southwark, London

A "underground"* place for cakes and tea at Pullens Centre (184 Crampton Street).

A gorgeous spread of cakes. All homemade by people who don't bake for a living. Beautiful stuff with good craftmanship, easily rivaling or surpassing some of the professional stuff I've had at bakeries. Will just mention the highlights:

A blueberry cake with immense clarity in the in blueberry flavour in the frosting, sweet and vivacious, the cake itself wonderfully moist.

A wonderful depth of flavour in a Bramley apple cake, rich almost caramel-like frosting, sweet (cinnamony?) apple, all the flavours coming together with a beautiful natural ease.

A strawberry cream cake of some sort strikingly decorated with candied rose petals.

Simple teabag tea was free, good enough to wash down the sweetness.

* - Not sure if "underground" is the right adjective -- it's not a formal restaurant or anything, essentially several organisers bring cakes that they made. They charge £2 per slice or £5 for a sample plate of 6 of your choice, out of more than a dozen types of cakes. It's not like some hush hush illegal secret thing -- they maintain a blog at: http://thecakecommittee.blogspot.com

More description here: http://petertingdesign.blogspot.com/2...

IIRC, the next event is going to be on 18 Oct (Sunday), according to one of the little printouts that also served as a bill. I think they plan to hold one every 2 months. Profits for this one goes to Kids Company and Help for Heroes. I don't know if they'll keep the same format since this was their first run but it would not surprise me if they were to tweak things a little.

I had stupidly not popped my camera into my handbag, but here are three photos c/o Lu Zhou. The beautiful crystallized rose petals shown in the first remind me of how unbeautiful the ones I tried to make in France were. It would obviously be worth trying to find a better set of instructions.

One of the baking crew was Jake Tilson, who wears many hats besides the invisible toque of a passionate cook. We have a box of his rock cakes with wakame dried seaweed waiting in the kitchen, and I've now ordered two copies of the American edition of his book, A Tale of 12 Kitchens. It received this review from Henrietta Greene, of Food Lovers' Britain:

Jake Tilson's A Tale of 12 Kitchens is a personal memoir that traces his experiences of food as the binding element of family life. As Jake is the author, cook, designer and photographer - not the usual state of affairs I assure you - this is a particularly intimate account that explores his gastronomic roots and influences.

The book reads like a diary-cum-holiday scrapbook, it is accentuated with family photos, hand-written recipes, and images of products and places that may evoke similar jolts of memory in the reader. His travels through, and life in, four different countries - England, Scotland, Italy and America - inspire his collection of recipes, be it Blizzard Duck in Scotland or Thanksgiving Water Tower Stack from New York.

The recipes originate from a variety of sources - his parents' early attempts at self-sufficiency in Wiltshire, family friends in Tuscany, his Scottish parents-in-law and his own time spent in New York and California. They feel like familiar and much-cherished friends and relations with the photos adding texture and context. Jake's descriptions of gargantuan breakfasts in New York, or assembling burritos in hotel bathrooms in LA are vivid enough to make you long to buy a camper van and head for the hills.

Runner up for Food Book in the 2007 Glenfiddich Food & Drink Awards, Jake also tackles such thought-provoking questions such as `Why do we cook what we cook? What has the deepest effect on our culinary habits - is it childhood, marriage, the neighbourhood or what we saw on television last night?'

I defy anyone not to fall a tiny bit in love with Jake. How can you resist anyone who issues instructions on how to build a tortilla press, should you find yourself without one in the California desert?

Geoff and Nora also introduced us to Peter Ting, who spearheaded The Cake Committee. This morning a message appeared in my inbox from Nora with a pdf of an article from the September 2009 issue of Food and Wine. I don't know how to insert that in my blog, but I can put in a link to an abbreviated version on the internet. This friendly, helpful man is another talent to reckon with:


Our delightful Sunday afternoon was a great example of the validity of a statement (paraphrased—exact words lost somewhere in mists of time) our friend Judy Smith made decades ago: "What I like about living in cities is that you may not be doing anything, but you're sure to meet people who are." Certainly true for me.

16 August 2009

Aussie nuptials

Another opportunity for my favorite type of blog post—photos with minimal backstory. These snaps are from the July wedding in Australia of the daughter of one of my best friends. Myrna and I met in Greece almost forty years ago, when our geologist husbands were working in the Othris Mountains. We were born within a couple of weeks of each other, so Myrna flew over to Dorset for our joint 50th, and Michael and I finally made good on a decades-long promise to get to Montreal when our 60th rolled around in February 2008. Time is marching on, so, as Myrna says, we need to start celebrating our birthdays together every five years.

Here are mother and daughter looking more like sisters:

Bride and parents:

Groom and parents:

The Hynes contingent (from Montreal, Toronto, and Boston). Andrew's brother Richard looks more like him than his own twin does:


Husband and wife, a lawyer and the (soon-to-be—dissertation submitted) latest Dr. Hynes, a cognitive scientist:

Familes together:

Wedding party:

Catherine and bridesmaids:

Witty wedding cake (the groom doesn't like sweets):

14 August 2009

"Playing the building"

This one is really for Kate. Michael and I have decided to try to make good on our weekly pledges and actually do something fun out & about in London every few days. It's all to easy to stay attached to our keyboards during daylight hours and to the sofa in the evenings.

So . . . on Wednesday, when yet another postal strike was scheduled and we knew we wouldn't be missing package delivery, we headed to Chalk Farm to check out David Byrne's installation in the Roundhouse, "Playing the Building." Always the iconoclast, Byrne has this time decided to put the audience at the center of the performance, by rigging up an old pump organ to various pipes, beams, and columns in the circular interior. It's a great space, perfect for the "steampunk" aesthetic he's trying to create. The queue moved slowly as each person or pair or couple-with-child sat down at the organ and pushed on various keys to create a personal composition/cacophony. The idea was that the completely unmusical (e.g. me) had as much of a chance as the musical (e.g. Michael) at conjuring up a memorable combination of sounds.

I'll just paste in a series of uncaptioned photos to give an idea of the set-up and atmosphere. Byrne has engineered similar installations in Stockholm and New York City. Quite the renaissance man, he's certainly been busy since the heyday of Talking Heads (http://www.davidbyrne.com/).

12 August 2009

California (ii) 26-28 May

Let's see. Where was I? Palm Springs, if memory serves (quick check here since said memory is faultier by the day). Yes, last photo posted was of the huge wind farm outside the city limits.

Palm Springs does deserve the first part of its name anyway. As expected, there are palm trees lining the broad avenues and presiding over residential gardens. Blue skies, palms, sunshine: all very Californian. There are buildings of more than one story, but not many in the ever-so-slightly shabby old part of town.

I love the sensible drought-resistant landscaping that shows at least some locals are aware that water--or rather the lack thereof--is an issue here. Sensible can be stunning.

Our hotel, Casa Cody, was a pink stucco restored relic from the 1920s and -30s. Charlie Chaplin used to stay here, and it still has the feel of a short-rent bungalows rather than a hotel or motel. Our rooms consisted of small kitchen, living room, bedroom, and bath. Had the new owners not decorated in warm earth/desert tones, the setting would have been right for David Lynch's Mulholland Drive. The photo below was hung over the toilet--making Michael feel right at home.

The grounds were lush, an appropriate setting for the surprising collection of Indonesian pieces dotted around. You could have fooled yourself into thinking you were in Bali rather than an LA retirement community.

The water used to maintain this lawn, however, was nothing compared to the outdoor air conditioning systems installed by almost every restaurant on the main street, including Starbucks. Those wind farms provide the electricity, but where is the water vapor coming from? I'm far from being a green activist, but this really was too much. The temperature was only in the low eighties.

[insert here, 8/14/09, from a Bill Maher new rule on Huffington Post: a golf course in Palm Springs consumes as much water per day as an American family uses in four years]

We had a delicious, you'd-pay-so-much-more-in-London ($76) dinner, washed down with Pinot Noir, at California Pizza Kitchen. This chain (we took Kate to the Plymouth Meeting branch on our way back to Lansdale from Philadelphia airport) was started by two former Beverly Hills federal prosecutors in 1985. If anyone ever finds themselves in the vicinity of a franchise, be sure to try the Cabo crab cakes and, weird though it sounds, pear and gorgonzola pizza (recommended by Casa Cody's manager). We stopped at the Cold Stone Creamery on the way back to the hotel for lemon sorbet in a waffle cone.

Wandering along Palm Canyon Drive, we stepped over stars in abundance: Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Rock Hudson, Catherine Deneuve, Debbie Reynolds, Sonny Bono (he was mayor before he hit a tree skiing, not just a short-timer like the others). Our favorite, though, was spotted by Michael: Borko B. Djordjevic, M.D. - Plastic Surgeon /Humanitarian. Only in Palm Springs.

Almost every shop was still open at 9pm. This is a typically inviting window. There is lots of money here and despite its reputation for catering to the 60+ generation (like us), we saw mostly younger people out & about.

The next day we drove around town before heading for Long Beach, where Michael was scheduled to give a talk at the aquarium that evening. Like good tourists, we gawped at the house where Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra lived and--to quote the guidebook--fought, and then tracked down Liberace's former home to photograph for Mom. They were both surprisingly modest bungalows.

One last glimpse of palms and a colorful metal sculpture that seemed to embody the spirit of Palm Springs--funky and fun.

On Hwy60W, we were impressed by the electronic signs that showed both the speed limit and exactly how fast you were going. Hadn't seen those before. We stopped to collect a sandstone sample before the Gilman Springs Rd exit in Marino Valley and then drove through urban sprawl until Long Beach. The extraordinary purple jacaranda in blossom just about made up for the maniac driver who pulled sharply across three lanes of traffic to exit.

Like Dorothy and Toto, we definitely weren't in Kansas anymore. Florist shops were emblazoned with signs reading ORDER YOUR GRAD LEIS EARLY. Poor Kate--you missed out in rural Dorset. We saw our first Segway. And the Westin Hotel itself, room generously provided by the Aquarium of the Pacific, was très elegant:

We linked up for lunch with John Grace, an old friend—in the sense of duration of friendship, given that he's eight years younger than Michael—from Arco days. He and John and Peter Dolan (an entrepreneur based in London) once considered setting up a company together, Troika. Never happened, but John, an economic geologist, did pursue the Russia connection. Appropriately enough, that's a disguised oil platform at the back right of the picture.
At a seaside restaurant, John and I feasted on pastry-topped Tuscan tomato soup, silky and sumptuous. Michael opted for a good old American hamburger. Needless to say, we came away from the beach with a bagful of sand.

When we returned to the hotel, we had a message from one of our favorite LA Arco friends, Lorraine Vega. She had bought her ticket to the talk, but was suffering from a headache and cough that ended up laying her low for a month with bacterial bronchitis (sound familiar, Myrna?). We haven't seen each other for over twenty years and our meeting would have been one of the highlights of the trip. Here's to a rendezvous on our next California visit!

Linda Brown, the PR rep from the aquarium, kindly picked up us and Michael's props outside the hotel. Finding out that she was 62 was a big shock—there must be something in California water that keeps you looking youthful even without surgery. We then met Jerry Schubel, the CEO, and his wife Margaret, both, like Linda, the epitome of graciousness. While Jerry interviewed Michael to provide a video for the archives, Linda took me around the aquarium. I've spent quite a bit of time today reading about Kentucky's Creation Museum on the Pharyngula website--so different from this experience where the only agenda was to inform and entertain. If we're ever back in Long Beach, we'll reserve a couple of hours for a proper visit. Michael needs to get to pet a shark, too.

The auditorium wasn't full, but the audience was enthusiastic and the talk went really well. There were no hitches with the powerpoint presentation, always a slight worry, and, thank heavens, all the experiments worked. Carting around the materials for these was definitely worth the effort. Below are a couple of snaps from the book signing afterwards. You'll recognize John Grace standing behind Michael in the first photo; in front of the table is Margaret Schubel.

Back at the hotel, we retired to the bar to celebrate, where Michael had a "dirty" martini (with olive juice) and I had a mojita, remembering how much I enjoyed this drink when Kate made a pitcherful for my 60th birthday. Now there's actually something I can order besides a frozen margarita.

The breakfast buffet the next morning was delicious, with—surprisingly, considering the state's citrus production—the first fresh-squeezed orange juice we'd had in California. I took this photo of the flower arrangement on the table to remind me of how much you can do with very little.

After paying $65 for breakfast, a phonecall, and parking (we'd handed over quite a bit of cash for our two drinks the night before) we managed to get Sal, the disembodied voice of our GPS, to wake up and guide us to Highway 101 and Malibu.

09 August 2009


Today was supposed to be devoted to two tasks: getting back to our California trip on this blog (if Kate ends up there, we might need some of those details for future reference) and sorting out broken bits of jewelry that Michael has noticed I haven't worn for a long time. A trip to a repair shop is way overdue.

But . . . the sun was shining and the tide was low, so we decided to head for the Thames and our second mudlarking adventure, scavenging in the river sand for items of no value that nonetheless appeal to us. The stretch of shoreline below was our destination, just over the Millennium Bridge, no longer wobbly; you can see Tower Bridge in the distance. The second photo is a close-up of a non-sandy portion of the "beach," clearer if you click to enlarge it--we haven't started collecting those oyster shells yet, you'll be glad to know. They were once fast food for the poor. Michael won't let me pick up any bones either--though he'd relax this prohibition if I could find one that had been made into a needle or die or knife handle.

A photo of today's haul, including broken bits of glass, china, and the clay pipes smoked by ferry passengers. The china and pipe stems would mostly be from the 18th and 19th centuries.

It occurred to me that we could make a mudlark mosaic of some sort running as a band across the blank wall on our upstairs patio. Think Gaudi and his Barcelona recycling. Michael's more artistic than I am, so the onus of a job like that would fall on him. We shall see.

Neither of us knows how to work in metal, otherwise jewelry or serving plates would be a possibility. The products of several pottery classes I took at Yeovil College when we lived in Dorset ended up--deservedly--in the rubbish, so clunky clay creations are, thank god, not about to litter the flat. Go to these links to see what someone who is clever can do with bits and pieces like this or with the sand Michael collected:



Michael found these links while preparing his much more detailed throughthesandglass post on the same subject. In a nice bit of serendipity, he also came across this species of magpie we had never heard of. Perfect!


The Magpie-lark (Grallina cyanoleuca) is a conspicuous bird of small to medium size, usually known as the Mudlark in Victoria and South Australia and the Peewee in New South Wales and Queensland. It is common and very widespread, occupying the entire continent except for Tasmania and some of the inland desert in the far north-west of Western Australia.

A primarily carnivorous species that eats all sorts of small creatures, the Magpie-lark can adapt to an enormous range of different habitats, requiring only some soft, bare ground for foraging, a supply of mud for making a nest, and a tree to make it in.

Female magpie-lark


08 August 2009

Fascinating fact for the day

from http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/index.html

I'll be stealing bits and pieces from this website again. Irresistible!

Steal one's thunder


Someone 'steals your thunder' when they use your ideas or inventions to their own advantage.


Devices that produce the sound of thunder have been called on in theatrical productions for centuries. The methods used include - rolling metal balls down troughs, grinding lead shot in bowls, shaking sheets of thin metal. The latter device, called a thunder sheet, is still in use today. The bowl method was referred to in Alexander Pope's literary satire The Dunciad, published in 1728:

With Shakespear's nature, or with Johnson's art,
Let others aim: 'Tis yours to shake the soul
With Thunder rumbling from the mustard bowl.

John DennisThe story that lies behind 'stealing someone's thunder' is that of the literary critic and largely unsuccessful playwright, John Dennis. In 1704, Dennis's play Appius and Virginia was produced at the Drury Lane Theatre, London and he invented a new method of creating the sound of thunder for the production. We don't know now what this method was (some texts say it was a refinement of the mustard bowl referred to by Pope, in which metal balls were rolled around in a wooden bowl), but it is reported that after Appius and Virginia failed and was closed, the method was soon afterwards used in a production of Macbeth. Dennis was less than pleased at having his idea purloined and this account of his response was recorded by the literary scholar Joseph Spence (1699–1768) and later quoted in W. S. Walsh's Literary Curiosities, 1893:

"Damn them! They will not let my play run, but they steal my thunder."

The actual words are in doubt and are also reported as "That is my thunder, by God; the villains will play my thunder but not my play!". What is clear is that Dennis's experience was the source of this attractive little phrase.

06 August 2009

A little excitement

On my way back from the funeral yesterday, I was stopped by yellow tape and a rank of police cars and officers as I tried to continue along Blackfriar's Road from the bridge. The side streets were barricaded as well, all the way down to The Cut. There had been, I was told, "an incident." Here's what it was:


Policeman injured as gunman opens fire near Waterloo station

A policeman was shot in the leg as he dived for cover when a fleeing gunman opened fire at him outside a busy London railway station.

By Stephen Adams and Richard Edwards
Published: 7:00AM BST 06 Aug 2009

The officer suffered a grazing wound to his leg caused by a bullet. Another officer was taken to hospital suffering from shock after the incident near Waterloo station in central London.

A manhunt was underway last night after the suspect escaped and members of the public were warned not to approach the gunman.

It is understood the patrolling officers had seen a suspected wanted man on a bicycle and chased him when he refused to stop.

The suspect then produced a gun from inside his clothing and fired at least one shot at the pursuing officers.

Eyewitnesses who had been having lunch in a restaurant described seeing the suspect run past them before turning and shooting twice at the officers.

They ducked for cover as one officer called: "Shots fired, shots fired."

Jill Cartwright, 35, a yoga teacher from Putney, south west London, was eating with four friends at the Thai Silk restaurant in Isabella Street when the man came past followed by two officers.
She said: "We saw the man run past followed by two policemen and we were laughing at it, singing the theme to The Bill.

"He didn't even look to be running very fast, but then he turned around and he fired.

"He was running as he turned and shot.

"It didn't sound like a real gun, it sounded something like a starter gun, but it shocked us."

Several streets were closed and office workers were told to remain indoors and stay away from windows as police began to hunt for the man.

Acting Chief Inspector Malcolm Noone said: "At about 3pm officers from Kennington police station stopped to speak to a male on a pedal cycle on Coin Street, Southwark.

"As the officers approached this male, he dumped the pedal cycle and ran off into Blackfriars Street.

"As the officers ran into Blackfriars Street they were fired upon and the man ran off."

He said two officers had been taken to hospital, one with suspected minor injuries, which may have been a result of his diving out of the way of the shots.

Mr Noone added: "There is an ongoing investigation into the full circumstances and to locate this individual."

Witnesses described the suspect as a white man with sandy-coloured, cropped hair. He was about 5ft 7in, wearing an open-fronted, grey hoodie, with pale-blue jeans.

05 August 2009

Eileen Summers — requiescat in pace

Years ago I bought Michael a novel purely on the strength of its first line: "I am a journalist of the old school; in other words, an alcoholic." Title and author are lost in the mists of time, but these words (approximate, of course) have stuck with me.

I was reminded of them today when I attended the Fleet Street funeral of a journalist friend. She wasn't much of a drinker herself, but at almost 91 years old, she'd met quite a few in her time who were. I'll miss Eileen's wonderful stories of her strange adoptive parents, her flight from their wealthy but loveless home in her teens, the war years she spent dodging marriage offers until she succumbed to the charms of a Yank. He turned out not to be the love of her life. Sadly the man who was died in a plane crash shortly after their engagement in the 1970s. He worked with Walter Cronkite — whom Eileen outlived by two weeks. I'll paste below the brief biography of Eileen Vincent Summers that appeared on the Chartered Institute of Journalists website.

The memorial service was held in St Bride's Church on Fleet Street, the spiritual home for even non-believing British journalists. A crowd of about twenty gathered to say good-bye to this tiny, feisty woman who stayed sharp as a tack even in her final days. Right before we left for France in July, she asked me to print out and mail internet material on her condition so that she could make sure her doctors knew what they were talking about. She had to postpone a planned museum-visit-plus-lunch that we had scheduled: I had CALL EILEEN written in big letters on this week's page in my calendar, since she was sure she'd have the medical profession sorted out by the time I got back. Not to be.

I'll also include at the end a few historical facts for you, Dad, on St Bride's. It's one of the famous Wren churches of London. Or was--only its magnificent steeple (which inspired the design for tiered wedding cakes) was left after the Blitz. It has now been rebuilt quite faithfully and the bombs did uncover Roman walls in the crypt area. This is where the service was held. Afterwards, the group settled into the El Vino wine bar, long a hangout for thirsty journalists. I finally met her good friend Pam Smith, about my age, who has kept all Eileen's acquaintances in the loop during this last illness. She was a delight, and I'm hoping she and her equally delightful husband Brian will join us soon for a trip to Borough Market and lunch at the flat, where we'll lift our glasses to the indomitable woman who brought us together. Pam has promised to copy a photo of Eileen she found when sorting through her papers that I'll put at the start of this post.

I was a short-term, peripheral person in Eileen's life: we met a couple of years ago when she was taking notes for a short article at a PEN panel discussion Michael participated in. Pam, however, who also lived in Egham, was the sort of friend a single, childless older woman is very, very lucky to find. Despite being immaculately and stylishly dressed every time I saw her, Eileen had limited funds and it gradually became clear to me that she relied on Pam to sort out the administrative hassles that arise when you live on a restricted budget and can't simply throw money at problems. Another longtime friend at the memorial service was Linda, a decades-younger American who had known Eileen since their New York days. Although based in Chicago, Linda teaches drama in Oxford every summer, her annual arrival always eagerly anticipated. It was Linda's friend John who read the passage from Eliot's "Little Gidding" during the service, including these words:

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from . . . .

We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration . . . .

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

One more small note: communion was offered, but the bishop has decreed that no wine is now served, just bread. This isn't a reflection on journalists, but a sign of the times. Even consecrated wine doesn't kill swine flu germs.

Eileen Vincent Summers

Eileen was born in London on August 4, 1918 and died on August 1, 2009 – three days short of her 91st birthday.

Eileen was adopted by a couple named Arthur and Lizzie Gladman, who had lost their only son in the Battle of the Somme. Throughout her life she tried to find answers to the details of her real family and origins, but despite her efforts, she was unsuccessful. All records had been destroyed.

Eileen was a writer and a working journalist all her life. This is a quote from a letter Eileen wrote to ‘The Journal’ of the Chartered Institute of Journalists.

“I was particularly taken by Phillip Paul’s recollection of his days and nights as a cub reporter with the Salisbury Journal. I too was a trainee reporter at about the same period, with his competition The Salisbury Times for fourteen months and then for a couple of months of World War II.” Describing her early days as a cub reporter she wrote: “When the editor discovered that not only could I write, I could spell, he let me loose on every type of assignment. From Yehudi Menuhin at the cathedral to inquests, courts martial, police courts and City Council. I had a ball.”

After the war, Eileen married an American, Thomas Summers, and moved to Palo Alto, California, where she became a staff-writer for the local paper. There were long periods when she lived in Europe where her husband had a diplomatic post.

Divorced, after eighteen years of marriage, Eileen returned to the United States where she went to work for The Washington Post as a staff writer. After six years in Washington, she moved to New York where she was an editorial writer for the CBS all-news flagship radio station in New York and then writer/researcher with the Elections Unit of NBC Television.

While working in New York, Eileen fell in love and was engaged to marry John Merriman, the Managing Editor of the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. Tragically he was killed in an airplane crash in 1974 shortly before their marriage.

In a verse from a poem written after John Merriman’s death, Eileen wrote:

“Don’t tell me that you know just how I feel.

Has death for you, with one swift blow

Become quite real?

Does your true love lie dead?

If this is so,

Then yes, you know

Just how I feel.”

After John’s death, Eileen returned to England and went to work for The Oxford Times. She then settled in Egham, Surrey, working as a free-lance journalist. At the same time, she joined the Chartered Institute of Journalists and became a long-serving committee member of the Freelance Division and Trustee of Institute charities. She leaves a collection of plays, short stories, book reviews and poems.

St Bride's Church (from the website linked above):

American Connections

As the home of printing, St Bride's position has always been an international one. However, its connections with America are particularly strong. On 18th August 1585 the first American child of English descent was baptised Virginia Dare. She was the daughter of Elenor and Ananias who were formerly parishoners of St Bride's and were married in the church. A bust of Virginia stands above the font.

On 4th November 1594 Edward Winslow, saltmaker of Droitwich, married Magdalen Ollyver in St Bride's. Their son, Edward, was born in 1595 and after schooling in Worcester he accompanied his father on trips to deliver sheepskins to printers and binders in and around Fleet Street. The register of The Worshipful Company of Stationers records his apprenticeship to John Beale and the young Edward worshipped at St. Bride's. Eventually he became one of the leading Pilgrim Fathers, setting sail on The Mayflower in September 1620.

Edward Winslow went on to hold the office of Governor of Plymouth, Massachusetts three times. He was also known as "America's first ambassador" as he returned to England several times on behalf of the colony.

From a tourist website:

St Bride's, dedicated to the sixth century Irish saint Bride or Bridget, is the parish church of the Press. The church is first mentioned in the records in the 12th century. In total, eight churches have occupied this site; the present building was restored in 1957 from Wren's original plans for the church of 1701, which was destroyed in the Second World War. The first printing press with commercial possibilities was brought to the churchyard of St Bride's in 1500 by Wynkyn de Worde, Caxton's assistant, and writers who wanted their work copied gathered in the area. Milton lived in the churchyard, Pepys was baptized here, Johnson lived across the road and Dickens lived up the road. Eventually, in 1785, the first national newspaper, the Daily Universal News - later The Times - was printed in Fleet Street.

04 August 2009

Will wonders never cease?

Robert's sister was getting a pedicure and she took Kate along. Not only did Stacey convince her to participate in this first-time-ever experience, but next time they get together she's promised to teach our daughter to bake bread. Stacey now works as a secretary for a lawyer in San Diego, but is training in the evenings to become a pastry chef.

01 August 2009

No belfry to roost in

When Michael went to shut the doors on the balcony before we left Laroque on Wednesday, he discovered that once again local bats had taken advantage of the shade behind our shutters. This colony was nothing like the one he found a couple of years ago (see photoshopped image at end that Michael produced after the fact to commemorate about a hundred flapping off into the great beyond). I was cleaning up bat guano for quite a while that time.

My trigger finger was too slow to get a snapshot before most of the bats had flown off, but I did get the few that lingered. Note the one that appears behind Michael's ear in photo 2--it's shown in close-up in the next shot. I'm glad it wasn't that near to me. Since we were concentrating on the main group, we weren't even aware of its presence until we looked at the photos.