Oh! The Places I’ve Been – “L” is for LONDON


Almost halfway through the A to Z Challenge! I hope you’re enjoying your armchair travels. As I stated back at “A is for Austin,” there are many people who have traveled farther and wider than I. And one of them is my new friend Lottie Nevin. Man, I just adore this woman, and we’ve never met. Just follow her blog and you’ll understand.

Besides being a wonderful blogger, Lottie is a most talented photographer. These are her photographs, and I couldn’t be happier to share them with you.

My husband and I traveled to London in late 1997, just months after the tragic death of Princess Diana (and every window had something with her smiling face: a coffee mug, a sweatshirt, a canvas book tote). We had a fabulous time and I did take photos, but on film, and I couldn’t find the prints anywhere. Hence my friend Mrs. Nevin to the rescue.

Thames and Tower Bridge - photo by Lottie Nevin
Thames and Tower Bridge – photo by Lottie Nevin

The highlight of our trip to London was the Tower, for sure. Oh, there’s plenty to see. You all know that – Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s, Parliament, all of it. Yes, see it all. But one thing few people know about is the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower. Not to be missed.

Trafalgar Square - photo by Lottie Nevin
Trafalgar Square – photo by Lottie Nevin

Now, English food has received a bad rap over the years, and I understand. Bubble ‘n’ Squeak, Bangers and Mash, Spotted Dick. Poor chaps. But listen! They have the best Indian food around! Eat curries!

The Globe Pub, Southbank - photo by Lottie Nevin
The Globe Pub, Southbank – photo by Lottie Nevin

Besides eating great (!) food and walking through churches, you must go to the theatre. We had the extraordinary experience of seeing the legendary Jim Dale star in Oliver! at the London Palladium.

Berwick Street, Doho - photo by Lottie Nevin
Berwick Street, Soho – photo by Lottie Nevin
Phone boxes, Hanover Square - photo by Lottie Nevin
Phone boxes, Hanover Square – photo by Lottie Nevin

London was fantastic, but we did travel away from the capital. Leeds Castle, Dover, Windsor, Canterbury – time will run out long before your list of “must-see’s” is finished.

X is for Xue Xinran


  Xuē Xīnrán (薛欣然, pen name Xinran), was born in Beijing in 1958.  She was one of China’s most successful journalists, and in 1997, moved to London where she began writing books.  Xinran focuses on the lives of Chinese women in her memoir, The Good Women of China (2002).

Her second book, Sky Burial (2004), relates the story of Shu Wen, whose husband joined the Chinese army a few months after their marriage in the 1950s, and was sent to Tibet.

In 2006, she published What the Chinese Don’t Eat, a collection of her columns from The Guardian from 2003 to 2005.  The collection covers topics from food to sex education, as well as the experiences of British mothers who adopted Chinese daughters.

“Early one spring morning in 1989, I rode my Flying Pigeon bicycle through the streets of Nanjing dreaming about my son PanPan.  The green shoots on the trees, the clouds of frosty breath enveloping the other cyclists, the women’s silk scarves billowing in the spring wind, everything merged with thoughts of my son.  I was bringing him up on my own, without the help of a man, and it was not easy caring for him as a working mother.  Whatever journey I went on, though, long or short, even the quick ride to work, he accompanied me in spirit and gave me courage.”  (What the Chinese Don’t Eat)

In 2007, Xinran’s first novel, Miss Chopsticks, was published.  It explores the relationship between Chinese “migrant workers” and the cities they flock to.  Due to China’s economic reform, rural Chinese girls (“chopstick girls”) now take city jobs as waitresses, masseuses, factory line workers and cleaners.  They bring lots of cash home, earning respect in their male-dominated villages.

Xinran’s fifth book, China Witness: Voices from a Silent Generation was published in 2008. It is based on twenty years of interviews conducted by Xinran with the last two generations in China.  She followed this in 2010 with the publication of Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother, a collection of heartbreaking stories from Chinese mothers who have lost or had to abandon children.

 

U is for Susan Utting


 

Photo Credit: http://www.poetrypf.co.uk

I knew the poem before I learned about the poet.    British poet Susan Utting’s work has won many awards, including a Poetry Business Prize for the collection Something Small is Missing. She has won the Berkshire Poetry Prize, was a winner in the Academi Cardiff International and has twice been short listed for the Arvon Poetry Prize. Her second collection, Striptease, was published in 2001 by Smith/Doorstop Books.  Her latest collection, Fair’s Fair, was just released last month.Utting runs poetry workshops throughout Britain and has taught poetry and creative writing at Reading University.  She is the founder of Reading’s acclaimed Poets’ Café, and is a member of Thin Raft Poets and Late Shift Poetry Ensemble. She has read and performed her poetry at arts venues and festivals including Edinburgh, Stanza at St Andrew’s, Ledbury, and for the Poetry Trust at Aldeburgh 2007.

She is my choice for today, and I’m adding one of her poems below.

 

 

Today’s Blue

Today’s blue’s nothing turquoise, it does not

shift in the light from duck-egg bright to aqua,

it is not a patch of sky to mend a sailor’s trousers

or the uniform of girls let out in crocodiles, on pre-set

routes through Mellor’s Park on Wednesday afternoons.

It’s not indelible on children’s tongues, or carbon

smudged on sweaty palms and touch-type fingertips,

nor is it jazzy/sad mood indigo for something small

you’ll always miss but never really had; today’s blue

is a memory of worsted cloth, tacked long and loose,

worn inside out, marked white with broken lines

of tailor’s chalk. It is a man cross-legged on a table

in a backroom; it is not my father, though he’s there

and with me and would understand the weft and warp,

the mesh of yarn, tight-woven to a blue so dark

you’d call it black; that he’d call midnight.