Showing posts with label UK. Show all posts
Showing posts with label UK. Show all posts

Friday, January 6, 2017

Does the British PM know the way out ?

Theresa May is like a lady in a dark cinema who’s looking for the toilets. She knows they’re there, somewhere or other, and she needs to reach them as soon as possible, but there’s not enough light for her to find the way.

Born in Bournemouth in Dorset, the lady is accustomed to foggy conditions. The Brexit, however, is foggier by far than anything she’d ever encountered. Sir Ivan Rogers, Britain's ambassador to Brussels, even chose the lady’s birthplace to announce his resignation… which wasn’t a particularly British act. Before taking French leave, the not-very-diplomatic diplomat had been ungracious enough to inform 10 Downing Street that finding the way out of Europe in the dark might even take ten years. Goodness Gracious, that’s a long wait in the pea soup for a pee!

Friday, February 19, 2016

All's well that ends well

David Cameron's marathon in Brussels seems to have culminated in a happy ending, enabling him to return to London with sufficient benefits to convince his fellow citizens that the United Kingdom should remain a member of Europe.

But I hope that this is not merely another Antarctic penguins story...

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Cameron and his team are as wet and warm as a cup of tea

David Cameron has just told his ministers that they're all free, individually, to adopt whatever attitude they like to the forthcoming referendum about whether Britain should or should not remain in Europe. In other words, with respect to this all-important question, Cameron and his team have no common policy. As on a sinking ship, it's every man for himself. What weird behavior for an alleged government! To my mind, with this lukewarm approach to decision-making, the UK is moving closer and closer to Brexit.

Click here for a BBC video : "UK and the EU — How to make a Brexit" which mentions the exit of Greenland after a referendum in 1982. Here is their conclusion : "Divorce can sometimes be painful [...] but it did not have to be messy. The secret to breaking up is the same for states as for people — good planning, good sense and an ability to learn how to live and trade together in a shrinking world."

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The day that England thrashed France

In France, it's a fact, rightly or wrongly, that few folk celebrate the Battle of Waterloo, which took place exactly two centuries ago, on 18 June 1815.

My wife and I used to drive to Waterloo often when we were living in Brussels, but it’s an uninteresting place. Funnily enough, I’ve always been intrigued by the fact that the illustrious Napoléon Bonaparte was defeated by a dull Englishman, Wellington, neither in France nor in England… but on the outskirts of the Belgian capital. That has always appeared to me as what the French call une histoire belge (a Belgian tale, which might be translated as a shaggy dog story).

Maybe we should have made an effort for the second centenary of this terrible defeat… but it’s not easy to rouse enthusiasm for this affair. Besides, France has always had an excellent reason for celebrating a quite different event: the BBC radio speech of Charles de Gaulle on June 18, 1940.

Be that as it may, the French newspaper Le Monde has just reacted to this anniversary by the publication of a moving English-language editorial addressed to our British neighbors:

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Registration of a birth in England

Having examined countless BMD records [births, marriages and deaths] in the context of my personal genealogical research, I was delighted to come upon this copy of a quite ordinary birth record, bearing today’s date.

Click to enlarge

The informant was the child’s father, who signed the registration simply by means of his given name: William. He and the baby’s mother, Catherine Middleton, have unusual occupations. The father apparently earns his living as a prince of the United Kingdom. And the mother works in the same kind of job, as a princess of the United Kingdom. As the saying goes, it takes all sorts to make a world. As for the offspring, a girl, she was born 3 days ago in a Westminster hospital. I always feel a little sorry for babies born in the middle of big cities. But I realize they're capable of growing up just as happily as us country kids.

They sound like a nice little family. The only thing that upsets me a little is the terribly complicated name they’ve given to the baby, composed of no less than 9 terms: Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge. What I mean to say is that I know a couple who simply named their little female baby Zoé. I reckon they would have been happy with the single letter Z... except that the registry office wouldn't have agreed. But everybody, of course, has different attitudes towards inventing names for babies.

There’s another minor detail, of a puzzling nature. I’m incapable of fathoming out the family’s simple surname. Concerning the mother, there’s no problem: she was a Middleton. On the other hand, the father’s surname is hard to define. But that’s neither here nor there. I may have already said that it takes all kinds to make a world.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Britain being Islamized outrageously?

Poor Stacey Dooley! Poor Luton! I feel sorry for the people and the nation I once knew.

If Brits were to think of themselves as tolerant promoters of liberty, equality and fraternity (which they may or may not, I don't know), then I would say that they're getting screwed. Maybe it's too late to do anything about it. It would appear at times that they're already well and truly screwed. Meanwhile, praise the Royals, and celebrate the birth of George...

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Remember the 10

Thinking of Bobby Sands. And of his comrades Francis Hughes, Ray McCreesh, Patsy O'Hara, Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Thomas McElwee and Mickey Devine. All invited to die, in 1981, by a woman with iron in her soul: Margaret Thatcher.

Thinking of the former Yorkshire miners, too. And of the sacrificed British working class of the 1970s in general.

The Wizard of Oz was probably the first movie I ever saw, and it impressed me immensely.

These days, we've been seeing a lot of the late prime minister on French TV, and I'm somewhat surprised to realize that her bizarre vocal accent and robotic personality nauseate me.

Saturday, March 30, 2013


Over time, I've got around to considering that a passionate birdwatcher cannot possibly be an entirely bad person. So, the appointment of Andrew Parker as the new head of M15 (the United Kingdom's domestic security service) is no doubt good news for law-abiding Brits.

                                          — photo AFP/Getty Images

Am I alone in finding that Parker's facial features remind me of Dilbert? I know it's a mistake to judge a spook by his external appearance (which might have been manipulated deliberately, to mislead evil observers), but I can't help wondering whether his thick glasses, no doubt indicating a case of myopia, are an ideal device for spotting sleazy individuals and other varieties of exotic birds. In any case, if only I knew his personal address, I would happily share with the birdwatcher-in-chief my recent experience involving an encounter with a splendid big-beaked Hawfinch specimen [display]. But I hasten to add, to remove all possible insinuations, that I have no reasons to suspect that the bird in question, during its brief stay at Gamone, was entailed in anti-British activities of any kind whatsoever. One never knows, however. And I prefer to leave this question up to a specialist such as Parker.

PS Apparently the name of the fellow in question is indeed Andrew Parker, even though a certain British newspaper pointed out that it had been asked not to supply readers with the name of the new head of M15.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

British trick

There are rumors that Her Majesty's Guards are recruiting certain exceptional sportsmen with the aim of putting together a top-level basketball team, in the hope of challenging the USA.

Meanwhile, the Coldstream Guards hit upon the diabolical scheme of using one of their top basketball-players (whose identity cannot be determined, since his eyes are hidden behind the rim of his busby) in order to humiliate an unpopular foreign visitor—the perfectly normal president François Hollande—by making him look like a dwarf.

Back in the good old days when Nicolas Sarkozy was president, his buddy David Cameron didn't need to use this kind of nasty trick.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Princely potion

Here in rural France, I buy groceries in plebeian places such as Leclerc and Intermarché supermarkets. On the other hand, if I were to settle down in England (which is not one of my current projects), I would make a point of residing in the vicinity of a Waitrose shop, because they have a reputation for offering top-quality foodstuffs. Besides, they have royal warrants to supply groceries and alcoholic beverages to both Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles. And, as I've always said, what's good enough for the Royals is bloody good enough for me.

The Scottish economist Adam Smith [1723-1790] once claimed—long before Napoleon appeared on the world scene—that Britain was "a nation that is governed by shopkeepers". Well, even Kate Middleton's father-in-law seems to have got himself involved in retail business activities, under a most regal name and logo, which look as if they've come straight out of Burke's Peerage.

The branch of Duchy that markets herbal products proposes a nice little black bottle containing a mysterious potion named Detox Tincture, made from thistles and dandelions. For the moment, I haven't got around to trying it out, and discovering its health-inducing benefits. On the web page concerning this product [access], there's an inspiring description of Prince Charles, who "has always been an advocate of a requirement for fundamental reappraisal of the way we view health. He believes poor health does not exist in isolation, but is in fact a direct consequence of our lifestyles, cultures, communities and how we interact with our environments. He is passionate about adopting an integrated approach to health, as well as exploring how safe, proven complementary therapies can work in conjunction with mainstream medicine."

Not everybody in the kingdom is convinced that Charles is acting correctly from a medical and ethical viewpoint. An article in the Guardian in March used the ugly term "quackery" [display]. A more recent article in the same newspaper introduces an even more down-to-earth expression: "snake oil salesman" [display]. All I can say is that, if Charles or members of his family happened to read my blog, I would be most grateful if they were to ask the Duchy company to send me a few samples of their health-inducing products, and I promise to try them out rapidly, both on me and my dogs, and to describe the outcome for my readers.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

French presidents are funny fellows

Instead of "funny", I was about to write "horny". Thinking of male political candidates eager to win (girl)friends and influence people, Confucious might have said: Every election is an erection. But it would be a mistake to highlight the purely sexual aspects of what I have to say. In French presidential funniness, horniness is no doubt a significant element, but it's not the sole driving force.

You can never predict what a French president (or ex-president) might do next. Look at Nicholas Sarkozy, for example. Who would have imagined that, shortly after his election, when his legally-wedded first lady walked out on him, he would promptly get himself linked, for the better or for the worse, with a young Italian pop singer? Today, he's involved in a different kettle of fish: the Clearstream affair.

Using all his presidential might, the French president is currently pursuing, in the law courts, a former prime minister, Dominique de Villepin. In a nutshell, Sarkozy claims that somebody tried to frame him, with electoral ambitions in mind, in the context of a Swiss-based banking scandal. So, there'll be lots of legal fun and games in France (for TV audiences) over the next month.

Concerning Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, I can't figure out yet whether the funniness is basically primitive horniness, or whether there might have been (past tense) something far worse at stake, such as a fuzzy desire to be accepted as a vigorous potential pretender to the British throne. For me personally, if were called upon to choose between Prince Charles (accompanied by Camilla) and Giscard (accompanied by Anne-Aymone), I would hesitate for a long moment. All these people have the stuff of monarchy... but there's an obvious passport obstacle in the case of Giscard. Maybe he was trying to solve this problem by means of a union with Lady Diana. I haven't had time to examine all the details of the situation, but I would imagine that the following scenario could have been enacted at that epoch:

Phase 1: Giscard, having seduced Diana, obtains a divorce from Anne-Aymone. The president can therefore marry his English princess, and they have a splendid son, say Nicholas Dominique d'Estaing. Automatically, at the desire of Diana, Giscard and their baby are naturalized as British citizens.

Phase 2: The English-speaking people of the planet (even in faraway outposts of the ancient empire such as my native land) are so overcome by the sheer beauty of this new entente cordiale between England and France that they launch a plebiscite aimed at replacing Charles by this glorious dauphin named Nicholas Dominique d'Estaing.

Phase 3: In fuzzy circumstances coordinated by the efforts of the European community in Brussels, with a little help from George Bush (who never really understood the possible consequences of what he was doing), Elizabeth accepts the idea that the next king of England should be Nicholas I.

Ah, if only events had happened like that! The world at large would have had fabulous reality resources for TV, and idiots like me would have been able to talk at length about these celebrities on the Internet.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Speaker to stop speaking

I don't know whether the Poms actually invented perks for politicians, but they seem to have brought it to a fine art. For example: thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money claimed for the cleaning of one's moat!

As they say in the classics, it's a bloody crying pity that, were it not for a chance investigation, this droopy old Glaswegian named Michael Martin could have carried on eternally walking ceremoniously into the House of Commons behind the woman carrying a mace. He must have gone on a gigantic ego trip every time he waddled in this way into the chamber. Silly old bugger! He should have kept a check on expenses. It's all very well to waddle, but somebody has to weigh the wealth of all those honorable gentlemen sitting in the Commons, and often claiming uncommon personal benefits. And this was Michael Martin's job. As things stand, he's obliged to resign.

The web reveals outrageous financial benefits accorded to British members of parliament. Michael Martin grew up in harsh conditions. Why didn't he remain close to his origins, instead of strutting around in London in golden robes? I have neither pity nor nostalgia for archaic Poms who see themselves as historical fat cats. I'm tremendously proud to be a citizen of the French République!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tinny manners, old chap

In the UK, a disgruntled ex-member of the extreme right-wing BNP [British National Party] decided to publish the total list of members on the Internet. Very tinny manners, indeed.

The list of latter-day Fascist Poms contains names and postcodes. A bright web programmer succeeded in linking up the codes to a Google map, and then displaying the density of BNP members in every corner of Britain by misty red clouds. The outcome looks like a wet windshield splattered with the blood of dead insects, or maybe the face of a child with chicken pox.

[Click the image to visit the "BNP near me" website.]

Funnily enough, this way of directly stigmatizing one's neighbors, and sending them to Coventry, could be considered as a typically Fascist action. Not at all woody in a true British sense.

Now, if you're wondering where I dug up the weird adjectives "woody" and "tinny", here's the answer:

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Accident or assassination?

A Martian, seeing the following banner displayed on the Internet, might imagine that this affair is about to be examined for the first time:

[Click here to visit the website. It is not yet—and might never be—very interesting.]

Mohamed al-Fayed would like to see Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh participating in the inquests as witnesses. In bookmaking terms, I would say that the odds of seeing members of the royal family in this role would be about the same as the chances of England winning the World Rugby Cup.

It's a pity that the Poms, at the start of this tragedy, never had enough imagination and psychological perspicacity to think of awarding the late Dodi's father with a strong symbolic token of his integration into British society in general, and the outskirts of royalty in particular. It would have been so simple to grant him a so-called life peerage in recognition of his services to the UK. He might have become, for example, Lord Fayed of Harrod's. This would have surely appeased him sufficiently to avoid all the excessive conspiracy stink that has been smoldering in the wings now for a decade.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

End of English excursion

In my article entitled Dorset ancestral anecdotes [display], I described my delightful Friday, 3 August 2007, in the sunny village of Blandford. There, while downing a pint of Guinness in a local pub, and feeling far away from France, I picked up a newspaper with an amusing story on the relationship of the English with France, or rather, with the French language:

According to a recent BBC survey, it was found that French remains the most frequently studied foreign language in British schools [taken by 85 per cent of students]. But it would appear that most adults, following five years of foreign language classes, remember an average of no more than seven words from a language studied at school. In the case of French, this means that an average Brit remembers how to say bonjour, au revoir, s'il vous plaît and merci. They can count, but only up to three: un, deux, trois. And they can ask French people: Parlez-vous anglais? Funnily enough, the average Brit knows the French word for beer (bière), but not wine (vin).

Within the relatively narrow confines of my genealogical research, I've developed the habit of referring to the Dorset region to the south of Shaftesbury as "Skivington country". For all lovers of the work of Thomas Hardy [1840-1928], author of Tess of the d'Urbervilles, this region is better known, of course, as "Hardy country". These rolling pastures of rural Dorset are designated geographically as the Blackmore Vale. Well, as the author of a former tourist guide book on Great Britain, I was disappointed to discover a surprising news item on the front page of the local Blackmore Vale Magazine, hot off the Blanford press that very morning (3 August 2007):

The acronym TIC stands for Tourist Information Centre. In other words, on that very morning when I encountered for the first time my ancestral village of Blandford, the local press was announcing that their tourist infrastructure would soon be closing down, apparently because there wasn't sufficient local funding to keep it in business.

While regretting that I was unable to visit the surrounding villages of my "Skivington country" (which would have necessitated an automobile and more time), I took the bus back to Poole. The weather was exceptionally warm, and my feet were sore from walking all around Blandford. Since the shops were still open in Poole, I decided to purchase a pair of sandals with cushion soles and a pair of shorts. Changing from my walking boots to the lightweight sandals was a pleasure, which encouraged me to spend the warm evening on the Poole waterfront. Meanwhile, I was amused to think that an Australian residing in the south of France would find himself tempted to purchase sandals and shorts in England.

For the second evening in a row, I was tempted (nostalgia of childhood gastronomy) to eat fish and chips, seated on the wharf. Finishing my meal with beer outside a waterfront pub, I said to myself that it wouldn't take me long, in Britain, to increase both my weight and my cholesterol level. In fact, during the four days since my arrival in the UK, I had often imagined that a big proportion of Brits, including young girls, seemed to be overweight. Back in London, a prominent newspaper had in fact confirmed, with the following stark headlines, that this impression wasn't apparently a mere figment of my imagination:

According to the WHO [World Health Organization], one in four Brits is obese. In the newspaper article, the head of the BMA [British Medical Association], a certain Dr Hamish Meldrum, is quoted as making the following claims, concerning the way we talk of fat folk: "We are saying 'This patient has a hyper-appetite problem', rather than 'They are just greedy'. People like to put fancy labels that suggest things are a medical problem." I wouldn't be surprised if a few offended fat guys, reading those comments, were to decide to roll on Hamish Meldrum.

On the roadway in front of the pubs at Poole, the municipality had organized a display of elegant old sports cars, parked in a long line alongside the wharf. Personally, I was less intrigued by these automobiles than by the stunts performed by a few youths on curious circus bikes, with no saddles, who spent their time hopping between the stone walls and concrete pillars.

Don't forget that, stuck away in my Gamone wilderness, I haven't had many opportunities, over the last decade or so, of seeing how urban kids amuse themselves. Who knows? Maybe I'll end up buying myself such a bike, one of these sunny days, and introducing such stunts to Pont-en-Royans, on the parapet above the River Bourne, opposite the hanging houses [preferably after I'm naturalized, so that the authorities won't be tempted to expel me as a crazy old alien].

On the walk back home, as the sun was going down, I strolled alongside graceful birds on the lake in Poole Park, in a beautifully calm and typically English environment.

The next morning, I attempted to use my portable computer to book a hotel room in London, but I stupidly forgot to note down the name and address of the hotel. Consequently, when I finally arrived back in the vicinity of Russell Square in London, a kind Underground employee used his computer and phone to find me an excellent cheap hotel within a few minutes. There's no doubt about it that English people are basically kind, helpful and apparently altruistic, even in the noisy swarming ambience of London on a Saturday afternoon. Once settled in at the hotel [where the lady at the desk went out of her way to make sure that I knew which buses to take], I transformed myself, for the rest of the day, into a typical tourist. For example, I took a photo of the big ferris wheel on the other side of the Thames:

Then I joined a crowd of hundreds of other tourists to take a photo of Big Ben striking six:

Deciding to stop acting like the herd, I took the Underground across to the South Kensington neighborhood where I used to live for a few months [my only lengthy stay in England] during the 1964-65 winter, in a flat in Onslow Gardens.

Suddenly, a vague memory appeared in my mind. I decided to try to locate the local pub where I used to drink in 1964-65, called the Anglesea Arms. I was overjoyed to find that it's look and atmosphere had not changed one iota over the last forty or so years.

The next morning, I strolled through Hyde Park, where I was intrigued by the following recently-constructed monument:

At first site, I had the impression that the curious white crosses glistening in the sunlight at the top of the black pillars suggested that it was some kind of Christian thing, maybe memorials of British churches destroyed during the Blitz.

Well, it turned out, when I got up closer, that I was completely off the mark. This is a spectacular New Zealand memorial, evoking early conflicts between colonists and Maoris, and I would imagine that the white crosses are meant to reproduce the pattern of four stars found on their flag.

Finally, I was impressed by a dramatic monument dedicated to animals who have given up their lives in warfare.

I started to think of my donkey Moshé, back at Gamone [who, I hope, is rather unlikely to lose his life in a war]. One thing led to another, and I became frankly homesick when I imagined my dog Sophia waiting for me back in France, in the company of my daughter Emmanuelle. After four or five days on the far side of the stretch of sea that the British call the English Channel, it was time for me to return home.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Midland ancestors

My Norman ancestors, arriving in England in 1066 with William the Conqueror, settled at the Saxon site of Sceaftinga tûn, the place of Sceaft's people, which became the village of Skeffington in Leicestershire. A few centuries later, a branch of their descendants became celebrated as Tudor lords, one of whom was in charge of Ireland. And that main branch of the family, after settling in Northern Ireland, has been headed by Viscount Massereene.

I now believe that my Skyvington/Skivington branch of the family was formed shortly before the epoch of the Tudor Skeffington lords. My ancestors were probably farmers, in Bedfordshire, where they spelt their family name with a "v" instead of "ff": Skevington. Consequently, during my recent rapid excursion to England, I decided at the last minute to visit Bedfordshire rather than the Leicestershire village of Skeffington. The departure station was St Pancras, which is being vastly modernized so that Eurostar trains will terminate here, in the heart of London, from next November.

I arrived in the charming city of Bedford on Wednesday afternoon, 1 August 2007, and booked into a modern hotel in a tall building on the far side of the bridge over the River Great Ouse.

In the center of the city, I came upon a statue with a familiar name.

The busy town markets were closing, so it wouldn't have been possible for me to buy a bouquet of flowers to place at the foot of the pedestal.

Early the next morning, I took a bus to the village of Turvey, about a dozen kilometers to the west of Bedford, which is one of a cluster of half-a-dozen villages, near the border between Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, where there was a presence of Skevington people, recorded in the archives, from as far back as the early 16th century.

The splendid old parish church is located in the center of the village.

In the genealogical domain, I'm particularly interested in a Turvey man described in the Mormon archives as George husbandman Skevington [1562-1608], younger brother of Thomas yeoman Skevington [1560-1615]. At that epoch, well before the appearance of the Hanoverian monarchs named George, this was a relatively uncommon firstname, inspired no doubt by the legendary saint of that name. Well, my earliest Dorset ancestor was a George Skivington [1670-1711], and I've often imagined that these two Georges might be linked. There are tombstones all around the church, but time and the elements have rendered them faceless.

On a wall inside the church, there's a map of around 1785 which indicates the property of a William Skevington.

This William Skevington [1734-1784] is indeed mentioned in the Mormon archives, along with his wife Elizabeth Skevington [1736-1770]. At that same epoch, just a few kilometers away from Turvey, in the Buckinghamshire villages of Lavendon and Cold Brayfield, the Mormon archives reveal the presence of individuals who actually spelt their name as Skyvington, like me, whereas in Bedford itself, others had got around to using the Skivington spelling. Consequently, there are strong reasons to believe that this corner of the Midlands—often designated by a nice expression: the Home Counties—might have been our ancestral home place prior to the Dorset phase.

Inside the church, there are several tombs of members of the 15th-century noble family named Mordaunt.

It is sobering to compare these magnificent alabaster effigies of these local lords and ladies, in a perfect state of conservation, with the faceless tombstones outside. But neither alabaster nor stone are as permanent for posterity, of course, as data of the kind stored in the computerized Mormon archives... or ordinary words of the kind I am writing now.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Dorset ancestral anecdotes

On Thursday afternoon, 2 August 2007, I took the train from London Waterloo to Poole [Dorset]. I'm surely not the first traveler to point out that British trains are old-fashioned and uncomfortable, but the emotional thrill of moving towards my ancestral Dorset negated both the physical discomfort and the constantly-repeated idiotic train messages: "Passengers are informed that, to travel on this train, they must have a ticket. If not, they may be penalized by our inspectors."

To be truthful, I spent a good part of the journey admiring the intense beauty of a veiled Moslem girl on the other side of the aisle, who was constantly consulting a portable computer, taking phone calls and listening to an Apple iPod. I was intrigued by the way she would brush aside delicately her Moslem veil in order to insert or remove an earplug. Indeed, her whole vestimentary interdiction, in counterpoint with her exquisite physical features and modernity, made this girl terribly beautiful and desirable. [Those spontaneous sentiments should be enough to earn me a fatwah from the Finsbury Park fools in London.]

After a night in a charming bed-and-breakfast on the remote north-eastern side of Poole Park Lake, far from the city [an error due to my haste in Internet booking, without the necessary examination of maps], I took a bus to the northern Dorset village of Blandford.

In a British double-decker bus on such a country road, you are hurtled through a sort of rectangular tunnel cut through the trees. You have an ideal chance of realizing that today's roads are simply an extension of yesterday's tracks. There's no such thing as a municipal no-man's-land between the road and the adjoining properties. Here in France, a motorist on a country road can usually pull over for a piss, or any reason whatsoever. This would be unthinkable in the English environment I'm describing. Sometimes I conclude that this is why many English drivers have superb new vehicles [not necessarily made in the UK]. It would be suicidal to set forth on an English road with an old vehicle that might have hiccups along the way. In certain places, it would take a helicopter to drag a stalled automobile out of the way. To put it bluntly, southern England is a travelers' nightmare. I knew that already, a quarter of a century ago, when I wrote my guidebook on Great Britain. If you're thinking of visiting this part of England, the only common-sense way of doing things consists of renting a small automobile and establishing a tightly-planned hotel schedule.

In Blandford, I stumbled upon a museum:

Inside, an old pump-organ caught my attention:

Its label had a familiar name, of the Blandford music store that sold this instrument:

The museum curator showed me publicity concerning the Skivington music shop in Blandford:

Then he invited me to play the old organ. This demanded a lot of effort, because the "lungs" of the antiquated organ were no doubt leaking, and I had to pedal like hell to produce the least sound. Still, it was an emotional performance, which seemed to move the Blandford curator, who immediately started to inundate me with copies of old documents about local Skivingtons. If I can say so, without appearing to be pretentious, I already knew more about this subject than the curator did, and he was thrilled to receive my gift of the pile of printed pages on Dorset Skivingtons that I had brought with me.

Finally, I hardly surprised the Blandford curator by pointing out to him that we Dorset Skyvingtons were issued from ancestors named Rose:

Thereupon, it was the curator who surprised me by indicating an amazing fact. He informed me that my ancestral Blandford relatives Thomas Rose [1749-1833] and his wife Jane Topp [1757-1827] were in fact the first free settlers to arrive in Port Jackson, New South Wales, aboard the Bellona, on 15 January 1793. In the heart of Dorset, on a warm day of August 2007, that fragment of information made me feel rightly more Aussie than ever.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Back home (for a day) after England

Upon returning to Gamone after a five-day excursion to England, I was thrilled to discover that Manya had installed elegant new curtains in the living room.

My dog Sophia was excited to see me once again. In fact, she and Manya apparently got on fine together.

Tomorrow morning, I'll be setting off with Sophia in the train to Marseille for a three-day excursion in Provence with Natacha and Alain. Later on, when I'm back at Gamone, I'll describe my interesting trip to the UK, which was highly worthwhile from a family-history viewpoint.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Short trip to the UK

My three destinations in the UK are purely genealogical, connected to my paternal ancestors:

London [two days], to take photos of my grandfather's childhood neighborhood in Finsbury Park.

Dorset [two days], to visit [for the first time] the villages around Blandford Forum, near Poole.

Skeffington village [one day] in Leicestershire [also for the first time].

I'm amazed at the extent to which I can use the Internet to organize all the transport and accommodation details of a short trip such as this.