Archive of ‘Creative Non-Fiction’ category

Spike Milligan and me

As a twenty-something, I came to England from the U.S., hoping to get a job with a work permit. One night an English friend took me to see Spike’s one-man show at the Mermaid. I hadn’t a clue who he was but went along. My friend laughed uproariously during the entire show but as I was a fairly new arrival to these shores, I’m ashamed to admit that most of the jokes went over my head.

My friend then dragged me backstage so he could say hello to one of the crew. There I spotted Spike, all alone, plucking out ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ on a guitar. Naturally, I started to sing it. ‘Oh, you like jazz,’ he said, suddenly noticing me. ‘Maybe we could go out some time.’ (more…)

My Afternoon Tea with Henri Cartier-Bresson

No pantheon of the greats in the history of photography would be complete without the name of Henri Cartier-Bresson. Using his trademark Leica camera and unobtrusive 50mm lens, he produced some of the most iconic images in a career that spanned more than 60 years. Considered by some to be the father of photojournalism, Cartier-Bresson’s photographs captured ‘the decisive moment’ which he describes thus: ‘There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see the composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera….Once you miss it, it is gone forever.’ (more…)

A Train Passage in India…with apologies to EM Forster

‘You follow,’ instructs the wiry, modestly clad porter at Mysore train station. He and his ‘assistant’ lug our very heavy cases, depositing them and us in the air conditioned second class carriage that has been booked for us. Alan and I are the only non-Indian passengers.

The carriage is painted a dingy mid-green; even the window glass is painted, most likely to keep out the intense sun. Enjoying the decent leg room, we settle down comfortably for this non-stop four-hour trip to Bangalore.

After about an hour, a young Indian comes through, cheerfully handing out refreshments – bottled water, biscuits and juice – all included in our ticket price. South West Trains – are you reading this? (more…)

American Rant – Expatriate’s Blues

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love this country. I’m here by choice. What’s more, I’m one of you: a citizen. But over the years some Brits have said some very annoying things to me. I’ve decided it was time to stop ‘keeping a stiff upper lip’ and instead tell all.

Did you know, for instance, that there are about 250,000 Americans living here in the UK? I imagine many of them have had similar experiences to mine. I’ve decided to appoint myself their unofficial spokesperson and the following ‘rant’ is in order to perpetuate our ‘special relationship’. (more…)

Lost – and found – in Brussels

We were literally going around in circles on the Brussels ring road, failing abysmally in our attempt to find the correct exit towards Luxembourg. In frustration, we left the ring road hoping to find a ‘local’ and ask directions.

We pulled into a petrol station and asked the attendant, ‘Pour aller au Luxembourg?’ Despite a working knowledge of French, we could not understand anything he said. And so, with increasing desperation, we drove on. (more…)

My Journey of a Lifetime: Cape Horn

‘I, the albatross that waits for you at the end of the world…’

Thus begins the poem which is etched into the memorial plaque at Cape Horn. It continues, ‘I, the forgotten soul of the sailors lost that crossed Cape Horn from all the seas of the world’.

Poet Sara Vial’s words resonate in this hugely emotive place, Cape Horn, the ‘end of the world’, where over the centuries countless sailors lost their lives in the hazardous waters. For many of them, their ‘journey of a lifetime’ resulted in death. It is not surprising — the strong winds, large waves, strong currents — not to mention icebergs– have made Cape Horn notorious for being a sailors’ graveyard. It is a place that I have yearned to visit all my life… the irresistible Sirens’ Song calling me to ‘the end of the world’. After months of planning, I am on my way at last, having joined a cruise ship at the port of Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, at the tip of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, to follow in the wake of Charles Darwin and sail through the Beagle Channel towards Cape Horn. (more…)

I Once Met…Margot Fonteyn

I walked to the gate for my flight from Miami to London, holding the hand of my two-and-a-half year old daughter. It was late winter of 1984 and I’d been visiting my parents who’d retired and moved from New York to Miami Beach. My three-week-long welcome escape from the English chill and damp was over and it was time to fly back to my husband and home in West Sussex. (more…)

The Assassination of John F. Kennedy

50 years ago – 22nd November 1963 to be exact – the 35th president of the United States was assassinated as he rode with his wife in an open-topped car in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. That date is indelible to every American of my vintage. We all know where we were, what we were doing and how we heard this terrible news. I was in senior year of high school in Pleasantville, New York. We were having a history lesson when students from the physics lab across the hall came charging out, screaming that President Kennedy had been shot. They’d just successfully completed their project which was to construct a radio – and as soon as they tuned it in, that was the first thing they heard. The news spread round the school like wildfire. (more…)

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