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EXPAT MOMENTS: The Doll Collection

As Halloween is nearly upon us time to return to Expat Moments for something a little more unnerving.

“You must have been very proud of her,” said the hotel owner.

I never knew her.

“We’re all proud of her,” she continued. “This is just my little tribute.”

“That’s nice,” I said. I didn’t mean it, obviously.

There mounted on the wall of the sitting room was the subject of our awkward conversation – a shelf on which the hotel owner kept her prized collection of “individually authenticated” Princess Diana dolls.

“She would have been so excited about Will and Kate’s wedding, don’t you think?”

“I guess.”

The hotel owner certainly kept them all in good condition, there was no disputing that. I pictured her on a step ladder on her tip-toes, reaching out unsteadily as she tries to grab a doll to bring down for its once a week dusting. I couldn’t take my eyes off the collection. I had noticed them as I left the hotel bar for my room and I found myself stopping and staring intently at what I thought a strange collection. It seemed to me so odd to find in a New England hotel, until the elderly owner of the collection appeared by my shoulder.

“They get lots of admirers,” she said.

“Yes, I’m sure.” On hearing my accent, the hotel owner was doubly keen to talk to me about the “People’s Princess” and politeness forced me to stand there listening as she told me about the many, many Princess Diana books she owned, and how upset she had been when she died, but I found it hard to concentrate on what she was saying as ten doll’s eyes stared blankly back at me.

“Has anyone ever said that they find them…” I was unsure how wise I was in broaching this, “…just a little unnerving?”

“Are you one of those,” she said, her tone frostier. “Did you not like her? Well, I like you,” she said, addressing the dolls.

I didn’t sleep well that night. The whisky I had drank in the bar to warm me from the New England winter disagreed with me and I lay miserable in bed listening to the creaking of the old hotel.

Outside my door, I could swear I could hear the scratching of something trying to get in. The hotel owner must have a cat, I reasoned, I actually concluded that she probably owned half-a-dozen felines – and no doubt all named after British royalty.

When I did sleep, in my dreams I saw those ten doll’s eyes staring impassively at me. I dreamt of the dolls. Of one of them entering into my room, a knife in its hand, a reimagining of Chucky for genteel PBS watching old women. The doll stood on my chest and plunged its knife down. The princess of our hearts had come to claim mine…

The next morning groggy from the previous night’s drinking and poor sleeping, I went to check-out from the hotel. As I closed the door to my room I noticed a number of scratch marks towards the bottom of the door. Strange, I thought, I didn’t notice them before.  I hoped that I wouldn’t see the owner as I had no desire to listen to another inane conversation about Royalty or even worse have her claim that I was the one responsible for scratching the door.

I was relieved to see not the owner but a young girl on reception.

“How was your stay?” she said.

“Fine,” I said.

Carrying my bag out to my car I passed the sitting room and I couldn’t help but look to the mounted shelf on which the collection of Diana dolls was housed, and there where they had been five dolls were now just four.

STAY TUNED for next tomorrow’s Halloween post – we’re sure you’ll go batty for it.

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Img: by awindram.

Best of 2011: Books for, by and about expats

One of our Random Nomads in November, Aaron Ausland, had this to say about those of us who venture across borders:

Travel to a new place for three weeks and you can write a book, travel for three months and you can write an article, travel for three years and you’ll likely have nothing to say.

While that may be true, I’m afraid it hasn’t stopped many of us who’ve spent large chunks of our lives gallivanting around the globe trying out life in different countries, from taking up the pen.

As with any other group, some are born writers (and thrive on new surroundings), while others have become writers (attempting to make sense of their adventures), while still others have had writing thrust upon them (responding to invitations to share their experiences).

At the Displaced Nation, we revere people who publish books, fiction or non, that in some way assist those of us who are (or have been) engaged in overseas travel and residency. We feature — and do giveaways of — their works. And, for established writers with a global following, we’ve created a unique “category” called the Displaced Hall of Fame.

In this spirit — and in the December tradition of looking back at the past year’s highlights — I present the following (admittedly incomplete) list of books for, by, and about expats that were published in 2011, in these five sections (click on the title to go to each section):


A few more points to note:

  • Books in each category are arranged from most to least recent.
  • I’ve mixed indie books with those by conventional publishers (it suits our site’s somewhat irreverent tone).
  • To qualify for the list, authors must have been expats for at least six months at some point.

* * *


Three Questions: Because a quarter-life crisis needs answers (CreateSpace, October 2011)
Author: Meagan Adele Lopez
Genre: Women’s fiction
Synposis: A love story based loosely on the author’s own romance with a lad from Bristol, the action traverses continents through letters and features a quarter-life crisis, a road trip to Vegas, and two crazy BFFs.
Expat credentials: An American, Lopez lived as an expat in the UK for a while (she is now back in Chicago).
How we heard about it: Melissa of Smitten by Britain was a fan of Lopez’s blog (originally titled The Lady Who Lunches). The pair met her London in the summer of 2010, when Lopez was still living in England. Recently, Melissa has been supporting Lopez’s attempt to gain sponsorship for turning the novel into a screenplay.

Sunshine Soup: Nourishing the Global Soul (Summertime, October 2011)
Author: Jo Parfitt
Genre: Women’s fiction
Synopsis: Six expat women from the UK, US, Thailand, Ireland, Norway and Holland converge in Dubai in 2008. The action centers on a Brit, who is on her first posting, and an American, who is on her 25th. The Brit learns the ropes and settles in, while the American woman’s world begins to crumble.
Expat credentials: A prolific author, publisher and pioneer in addressing the issues of accompanying spouses and aspiring expat writers worldwide, Parfitt has been an expat for nearly a quarter of a century. Born British, she now lives in the Hague.
How we heard about it: We noticed a couple of interviews with Parfitt — one by expat coach Meg Fitzgerald and another by Expat Women.

The Beautiful One Has Come: Stories (Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing, July 2011)
Author: Suzanne Kamata
Genre: Cross-cultural romance
Synopsis: Twelve short stories reveal the pains and the pleasures experienced by expat women, most of whom live in Japan.
Expat credentials: Kamata is an American who has lived in Japan for 20 years.
How we heard about it: Kamata and her book were featured on Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s Writerhead Wednesday in July of this year.

Hidden in Paris (Carpenter Hill Publishing, April 2011)
Author: Corine Gantz
Genre: Women’s fiction
Synopsis: Three strangers — all American women — have reached the point of terminal discomfort with their lives so run away to Paris to begin anew.
Expat credentials: Gantz is a French expat living near Los Angeles. She is getting her own back by writing about American expats in Paris.
How we heard about it: We are long-time fans of Gantz’s blog, Hidden in France — in fact, we promoted one of her posts (about falling into her swimming pool) with the launch of TDN in April. We also interviewed her about her first novel as part of our “gothic tales” theme this past May.

Exiled (Quartet Books, April 2011)
Author: Shireen Jilla
Genre: Psychological thriller
Synopsis: The wife of an ambitious British diplomat, whose first posting brings them to New York, looks forward to escaping from Kent and leading the high-profile life of a successful expat — only to find her world being threatened by dark psychological forces on a par with those depicted in Rosemary’s Baby.
Expat credentials: A Third Culture Kid (she is half English, half Persian, and grew up in Germany, Holland and England), Jilla has also been an expat in Paris, Rome, and New York.
How we heard about it: TDN writer ML Awanohara read a review of Jilla’s novel by Kate Saunders in the Sunday Times. She approached Jilla in May about having an exchange with our readers about the gothic themes in her novel, in line with our site’s own delvings into the gothic aspects of expat life. Our readers loved her!


Lady Luck (Colorado Mountain Series)
Author: Kristen Ashley
Genre: Romance
Synopsis: Ex-con hero, wrongly imprisoned, gets mixed up with unlucky heroine, who will stop at nothing to help him get revenge.
Expat credentials: Born in Gary, Indiana, Ashley grew up in Brownburg and then moved to Denver, where she lived for 12 years. She now lives with her husband in a small seaside town in Britain’s West Country, where she has produced more than twenty books featuring rock-chick, Rocky Mountain, and other all-American heroines.
How we heard about it: Ashley is the friend of an old schoolfriend of TDN writer Kate Allison, who invited her to do a guest post for us on Britain’s (lack of) Royal Wedding preparations  for our Royal Wedding coverage.

Queen by Right: A Novel (Touchstone, May 2011)
Author: Anne Easter Smith
Genre: Historical romance
Synopsis: This is the fictional story of Cecily of York, mother of two kings and said to be one of the most intelligent and courageous women in English history.
Expat credentials: The daughter of an English army colonel, Easter Smith spent her childhood in England, Germany and Egypt. She came to New York City at age 24, and as she puts it:

Many years, two marriages, two children and five cross-country moves later I’m very definitely a permanent resident of the U.S. — but my love for English history remains.

(She now lives in Plattsburgh, New York.)
How we heard about it: Easter Smith and her book were featured on Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s Writerhead Wednesday in October.

Dance Lessons (Syracuse University Press, March 2011)
Author: Áine Greaney
Genre: Irish Studies, Women’s Fiction
Synopsis: The action centers on a woman of French-Canadian background who marries an Irish emigrant who is working illegally in a bar in Boston. After his death by drowning, she visits Ireland for the first time and finds out what a shattered man he actually was.
Expat credentials: She may be a resident of Boston’s North Shore, but Greaney continues to identify herself as an Irish writer (County Mayo).
How we heard about it: Greaney and her book were featured on Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s Writerhead Wednesday in October.

Pentecost: A Thriller (The Creative Penn, January 2011)
Author: Joanna Penn
Genre: Thriller
Synopsis: The Keepers of the stones from Jesus’s tomb — which enabled the Apostles to perform miracles — are being murdered. The stones have been stolen by those who would use them for evil in a world. An Oxford University psychologist spearheads a search for them in a race against time…
Expat credentials: English by birth, Penn grew up as a third-culture-kid and at the time of producing her first novel, was living in Australia.
How we heard about it: We are avid followers of Penn’s blog, The Creative Penn. Several months ago, TDN writer ML Awanohara deconstructed Penn’s post about what “home” means for writers for what it might teach expats and others who struggle with this issue as well. For Penn, home means some sort of spiritual kinship, which she has with two places: Oxford, where she went to university and near where her father now lives, and Jerusalem, which she’s visited at least ten times because she loves it there so much. Not surprisingly, she chose to set much of the action for her debut novel in these two cities.


Perking the Pansies: Jack and Liam move to Turkey (Summertime Publishing, December 2011)
Author: Jack Scott
Synopsis: Dissatisfied with suburban life and middle management, Scott and his civil partner, Liam, abandon the sanctuary of liberal London for an uncertain future in Bodrum, Turkey. The book is based on Scott’s irreverent blog of the same name, which after its launch in 2010, quickly became one of the most popular English language blogs in Turkey.
How it came to our attention: Scott was featured as one of our Random Nomads in May of this year and since then, has done us the favor of commenting on and liking several of our posts. **Kate Allison will be reviewing his book for our site on Wednesday.**

Ramblings of a Deluded Soul (CreateSpace, September 2011)
Author: Jake Barton
Synopsis: In his inimitable style, the British-born Barton strings together snippets from new novels and try-outs with reminiscences and, for the first time, insight into his own remarkable experiences as a traveler and expat in Europe (he once owned a small French vineyard and had another job he’s not supposed to talk about). NOTE: Barton’s first novel, Burn, Baby, Burn, burned its way into the Top Ten of the Amazon All Books list.
How it came to our attention: Barton is an online acquaintance of TDN writer Kate Allison. We celebrated him in the early days of our blog for his insights on foreign-language learning in Spain.

A Tight Wide-open Space: Finding Love in a Muslim Land (Delridge Press, August 2011)
Author: Matt Krause
Synopsis: A Californian who is now a Seattle-ite recounts how he became an Istanbullu, all for the love of a beautiful Turkish woman he met on a airplane. The year is 2003, and he can still hear the echoes of 9/11 as well as being acutely conscious of America’s engagement in two wars in Muslim countries. Eventually, he comes to love his new home more deeply than he might have expected.
How we heard about it: Linda Janssen, who writes the blog Adventures in Expatland, interviewed Krause about his book in October.

Planting Dandelions: Field Notes from a Semi-Domesticated Life (Penguin, April 2011)
Author: Kyran Pittman
Synopsis: A native of Newfoundland (her father was a well-known Newfoundler poet), Pittman writes about co-parenting with her charming Southern U.S. hubbie (they have three rambunctious boys); keeping the fiscal wolf from the door of their home in Little Rock, Arkansas; and honoring her marriage vows despite her refusal to give up her party-girl persona.
How we heard about it: Pittman came to our notice when she was a guest on Kelly Ryan Keegan‘s Bibliochat in late September.

Big in China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising a Family, Playing the Blues, and Becoming a Star in Beijing (Harper, March 2011)
Author: Alan Paul
Synopsis: Paul tells the story of trailing his journalist-wife to China and unwittingly becoming a rock star. His Chinese American blues rock band, called Woodie Alan, even earned the title of Beijing’s best band.
How we heard about it: We were early fans of Alan Paul’s back in the days of his Wall Street Journal online column, “The Expat Life.” Also, Paul and his book were featured on Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s Writerhead Wednesday this past April.

The Foremost Good Fortune (Knopf, February 2011)
Author: Susan Conley
Synopsis: Conley, her husband, and their two young sons say good-bye to their friends, family, and house in Maine for a two-year stint in a high-rise apartment in Beijing. All goes well until Conley learns she has cancer. She goes home to Boston for treatment and then returns to Beijing, again as a foreigner — to her own body as well.
How we heard about it: Conley and her book were featured on Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s Writerhead Wednesday in early October.


The Globalisation of Love (Summertime, November 2011)
Author: Wendy Williams
Genre: Relationships, self-help, humor
Synopsis: Williams interviews multicultural, interfaith and biracial partners from all over the world on what it feels like to “marry out” of one’s culture, religion and/or race. She also talks to experts on the topic and coins a term for it: “GloLo.”
Expat credentials: From a British-Ukrainian-Canadian family, Williams has been married to an Austrian for 13 years and lives in Vienna.
How we heard about it: TDN writer ML Awanohara listened to Jo Parfitt’s interview with Williams on her Writers Abroad show (Women’s International Network) and was attracted to the ideas of a book that treats this topic with humor. **TDN writer Anthony Windram will review the book for our site tomorrow (Tuesday).**

Modern Arab Women — The New Generation of the United Arab Emirates (Molden Verlag, November 2011)
Author: Judith Hornok
Genre: Women’s studies
Synopsis: The book consists of 20 chapters, each a stand-alone interview with an Emirati woman from disciplines as varied as business, film, medicine and politics. The women talk to Hornok about their careers, philosophies of life and plans for the future. The book, which is published in German and English, aims to dispel some of the Western myths surrounding Arab women.
Expat credentials: While not quite an expat, Hornok has been moving between the UAE and her home in Vienna, Austria, for eight years.
How we heard about it: TDN writer ML Awanohara read an article on the book in The National (UAE English-language publication) and became intrigued.

Expat Women: Confessions — 50 Answers to Your Real-life Questions about Living Abroad (Expat Women Enterprises Pty Ltd ATF Expat Women Trust, May 2011)
Authors: Andrea Martins and Victoria Hepworth (foreword by Robin Pascoe)
Genre: Women’s self-help, family, relationships
Synopsis: Experienced expats share wisdom and tips on topics that most expat women face, such as the trauma of leaving family back home, the challenges of transitioning quickly, intercultural relationships, parenting bilingual children and work-life balance. They also tackle more difficult issues such as expat infidelity, divorce, alcoholism and reverse culture shock. The book is based on the “confessions” page of Expat Women, the largest global Web site helping women living overseas.
Expat credentials: Andrea Martins is the director and co-founder of Expat Women. An Australian who has spent many years abroad, she began dreaming of connecting expat women worldwide when an expat in Mexico City. Victoria Hepworth is a New Zealander who has lived in Japan, China, Russia, Sweden, India and is currently living in Dubai, UAE. She is a trained psychologist who specializes in expat issues.
How we heard about it: Andrea Martins announced the publication of the book to much fanfare on Twitter and in other social media venues. It has been widely reviewed on expat blogs.

Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Japanese Husband (CultureWave Press, April 2011)
Author: Wendy Nelson Tokunaga
Genre: Relationships, self-help
Synopsis: Tokunaga conducts a series of candid conversations with 14 Western women about the challenges in making cross-cultural marriages work both inside and outside Japan. She quizzes them about the frustrations, as well as the joys, of adapting to a different culture within married life.
Expat credentials: Born in San Francisco, Tokunaga has spent numerous years studying, living, working and playing in Japan. She is the author of two Japan-related novels, published by St. Martins Griffin. Oh, and did we mention her Japanese “surfer-dude” husband?
How we heard about it: Sometimes one tweet is all it takes! (We follow Wendy Tokunaga on Twitter.)

A Modern Fairytale: William, Kate and Three Generations of Royal Love (Hyperion/ABC Video Book, April 2011)
Author: Jane Green
Genre: Romance, royalty
Synopsis: In this video book for ABC News, produced just in time for the Royal Wedding in March, best-selling chick-lit novelist Jane Green follows the stories of three generations of royal love from their meeting up to and after their respective wedding days. She concludes that Kate and William have a much better chance than William’s parents of enjoying a relationship on their own terms.
Expat credentials: Born in London, Green worked as a feature writer for The Daily Express before trying her hand at writing novels. She now lives in Westport, Connecticut, with her second husband and their blended family.
How we heard about it: One of us noticed that Jane Green had been tapped to provide coverage of the Royal Wedding for ABC News. We then invited her to talk about her e-book and engage with our readers in a debate on whether women should still aspire to be “princesses” in the 21st century — a post that received a record number of comments.


Turning Points: 25 inspiring stories from women entrepreneurs who have turned their careers and their lives around (Summertime Publishing, November 2011)
Editor: Kate Cobb
Synopsis: In this collection of stories from women all over the world, the focus is on the moments, or short passages of time, when a woman was facing something challenging and came out the other side smiling.
Expat credentials: Cobb is a British woman living in France, and about a third of the contributors — including Jo Parfitt and Linda Janssen — are expats who now run their own businesses.
How we heard about it: Linda Janssen promoted the book on her blog, Adventures in Expatland.

Indie Chicks: 25 Women 25 Personal Stories (Still Waters Publishing, October 2011)
Compiler: Cheryl Shireman
Synopsis: 25 indie novelists share personal stories in hopes of inspiring other women to live the life they were meant to live. (All proceeds go to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer research.)
Expat credentials: Close to half of these indie authors are expats or have done significant overseas travel. To take a few examples: After living in Portland, Oregon, for most of her life, Shéa MacLeod now makes her home in an Edwardian town house in London just a stone’s throw from the local cemetery. Linda Welch was born in a country cottage in England, but then married a dashing young American airman, left her homeland, raised a family, and now lives in the mountains of Utah. Julia Crane is from the United States but recently moved to Dubai with her huband and family (her personal story concerns the adjustment process).
How we heard about it: Again, sometimes all it takes it a tweet (we picked up one of Linda Welch’s).

* * *

Questions: Have you read any of the above works and if so, what did you think of them? And can you suggest other works to add to the list? My colleagues and I look forward to reading your comments below!

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, a review of The Globalisation of Love, by Wendy Williams, and for Wednesday’s post, a review of Perking the Pansies, by Jack Scott.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to subscribe to The Displaced Dispatch, a weekly round up of posts from The Displaced Nation, plus some extras such as seasonal recipes and occasional book giveaways. Sign up for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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The Displaced Nation’s monthly themes — witty, wacky, wise, all or none of the above?

Before drawing up the charter, as it were, for The Displaced Nation in April, the site’s two Founding Mothers — Kate Allison and myself — and its one Founding Father, Anthony Windram, engaged in some vigorous debate over what the site’s “categories” should be.

We had met through our blogs. What topics did we all have in common?

One of them was easy: cultural discombobulation, to borrow a phrase from Anthony Windram’s blog title. Except we had now come up with a new term: displacement.

Now what do we mean by “displacement” in the context of global travel and residency? My favorite analogy is to an old-fashioned fruit slot machine — but where each fruit is assigned a national identity. I suspect, for instance, that my two colleagues, both of whom are Brits who are living in the U.S., sometimes have days when they spin the reels and get two gooseberries (British fruit) and one cranberry (American fruit) — meaning they’re feeling a lot more British than American. Whereas for me — an American who has lived in both the UK and Japan — I’ll often get one cranberry, one gooseberry and one mikan (Japanese fruit), an outcome that makes my head spin, as I simply don’t know where or who I am. That, btw, is what’s known as hitting the jackpot in our displaced world!

Thus the category What a Displaced World was born, the default category for most of our articles.

Speaking of fruits, food was another obvious category. It was something that had drawn the three of us together in the first place. Indeed, Kate Allison’s blog — Marmite & Fluff — even has food (two of her favorites) in its title.

For this category, we came up with It’s Food! — which, if less than original, we hope does the job thanks to the exclamation mark.

Around the time we spoke about starting this blog, Kate was beginning to serialize a fictional account of a trailing spouse, Libby, on her blog. She proposed moving Libby’s Life to the new site, and we came up with the category It’s Fiction! Libby now shares that real estate with our posts consisting of interviews with novelists who’ve written about the expat life or travel.

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and the category Random Nomads sprung out of our decision to have me continue the interviews with expats and repats I’d started on my blog, Seen the Elephant. If “nomad” was obvious, the three of us felt that “random” worked well with it, since we’re constantly bumping into — actually as well as virtually — the kind of people who strike us as being interesting because of their displacement.

As for the Displaced Hall of Fame, this came about because of Anthony Windram’s desire to explore the writings of famous people who’ve been displaced both in centuries past and our own time. While he has a bent for the classics — and has chosen to feature literary giants such as Vladimir Nabokov and James Joyce in his posts — Kate and I have occasionally expanded the category to include celebrity types, ranging from the actress Mia Wasikowska (a Third Culture Kid) to the model India Hicks to the chef Jamie Oliver.

The “monthly theme” idea

But then once the blog got underway, we decided that in addition to these categories, we enjoyed organizing our posts around monthly themes, rather like a magazine (the fashion issue, the cheap eats issue, the summer issue, etc.).

This came about rather by accident as Kate Middleton and Prince William’s nuptials took place around the time we launched, prompting us to do a series of Royal Wedding posts focusing on what a global event this quintessentially British occasion had become.

Other initial themes were:

  • Domestic expats — the idea that you didn’t have to go abroad to feel displaced (apt in these economically troubled times), anchored by Kate Allison’s The domestic expat.

But then something (we’re not quite clear what) happened, and our thinking morphed again. We started exploring themes based on particular characters, historical and literary, that have inspired us, as well as books:

And September will be — wait for it! — Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance month, a series of posts inspired by Robert M. Pirsig’s 1974 philosophical novel.

Some say they like the way we cover themes, while we suspect others find it rather zany.

How about you, what do you think? And if you’re pro-theme, can you suggest any you might like us to cover?

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post on films and TV series that take vacations to other lands.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to subscribe to The Displaced Dispatch, a weekly round up of posts from The Displaced Nation, plus some extras such as seasonal recipes and occasional book giveaways. Sign up for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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Two displaced royals, William & Kate, in la-la land

We welcome Emily Henry to The Displaced Nation as a guest blogger. In this post on the royal visit to California that just took place, Emily neatly combines two of our blog’s favorite topics: what Alice in Wonderland can teach us about the displaced life, and how to assess royalty from within a global framework. A US citizen with an English mother, Emily grew up in the UK. She has been living in California, first in LA and now Oakland, for about 5 years.

In Chapter 3 of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice experiences a “Caucus Race,” as the Dodo calls it. This race — run with the intention of getting all of the sopping wet animals dry — goes nowhere but round and round in a circle.

Despite making a ridiculous scene for themselves, the animals treat the affair with as much pomp and circumstance as they can muster. Although there is no clear winner,

“Everyone has won,” declares the Dodo, and “must be given prizes.”

A race with no rules and no winner, but drowned in ceremony and self-congratulation, might be somewhat similar to a royal tour. Watching the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge land in Los Angeles Friday afternoon made me wonder just how tiring it must be to run around in circles in another world — this time, California rather than Wonderland.

When I first heard that William and Kate would be visiting California, I imagined a sunny adventure for the new faces of the Royal Family. After all, I thought we had all agreed that these newlyweds were to be the modern, affectionate royal couple, not a re-enactment of the traditional frigid romance of yore.

They had proved themselves to be sufficiently “unstuffy” in Canada, so in California I imagined them sipping cocktails on the rooftop of the Standard Hotel, running hand-in-hand along the beach, or munching popcorn during a movie premier at the Chinese Theatre.

But then their schedule was released, and it turned out to be a Caucus Race. William and Kate must spend their few days in California running around in circles for the high and mighty: California Governor Jerry Brown was there to greet them from the plane, along with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. A bunch of flowers were presented. No doubt the weather was mentioned, as it would be — no doubt — in almost every instance of small talk throughout the rest of the trip.

Instead of cocktails and a rooftop bar, Friday night meant discussions of “innovation,” “communication” and “technology” at Variety’s Venture Capital and New Media Summit.

If these conceptual, “big picture” lectures weren’t enough to “dry” the couple out, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had an evening with businessmen and politicians to look forward to at the British Consular General’s house.

William, of course, is used to this sort of thing.

But much like Alice, who had arrived in Wonderland only to be forced to listen to a boring lecture on William the Conqueror given by a mouse, Kate must be stifling her yawns in disappointment.

However, she is doing an excellent job.

Perhaps what is most endearing about Kate Middleton is her ability to appease the pomp-loving self-congratulators while at the same time revealing the sense of humor and personality bubbling beneath her regal smile.

I knew I liked her from the moment she flashed a secret smile at William during their wedding as the couple shared a private joke. Amid the ridiculousness of her enormous wedding, the long-winded prayers, songs and sermons followed by more prayers, songs and sermons, Kate seemed to appreciate the funny side. She played her part beautifully, maintaining the airs of the occasion but accepting her wedding ring with an inward giggle.

Alice, too, accepts her self-given “prize” after the Caucus Race with the same sense of irony:

Alice thought the whole thing very absurd, but they all looked so grave that she did not dare to laugh; and, as she could not think of anything to say, she simply bowed, and took the thimble, looking as solemn as she could.

QUESTION: How did Kate and William’s first royal tour look from your displaced perspective — and do you agree with Emily that they, particularly Kate, managed it wonderfully?

Emily Henry is an associate local editor for, reporting and editing for 11 hyper-local news Web sites in the East Bay area of California. She is currently running the Berkeley Patch site.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, when we return to our Pocahontas theme and consider some of the perils of cross-cultural marriage.

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Another Friday, another royal wedding of international fame

Who’s the happy Royal couple today?

Ah yes. Kate Moss and Jamie Hince, in a three-day bling-fest entailing two top chefs, six marquees, and performances by Snoop Dogg and Kanye West. I bet the residents of  Little Faringdon are loving that one. There probably haven’t been as many twitching net curtains since Kate entertained a pipedream of opening a London pub in the middle of the peaceful English Cotswolds.

But I’m joking, of course. While Kate Moss’s wedding is taking place today, the real Royal wedding is that of Prince Albert of Monaco and his 20-years-junior, South African fiancée Charlene Wittstock, in a two-day bling-fest entailing super-chef Alain Ducasse, a Royal courtyard, and performances by Jean-Michel Jarre and The Eagles.

Money no object – money the object

With an estimated price tag of $65 million, Prince Albert’s wedding makes William and Catherine’s April nuptials look like five minutes in a Las Vegas chapel. Sadly, this extravagance seems to be the main point of the exercise: an attempt to revive both Monaco’s struggling economy and its reputation of classy glamour, the latter which, to a large extent, died with Princess Grace in 1982.

With Monaco awash in heads of state, fashion designers, and A-list celebrities, who could fail to notice the wealth and pizzazz of this little principality?

Prince Albert himself said:

“Even if it’s not the main purpose [of the wedding], it will be a chance to shine a light on the principality and to contribute to ending stubborn clichés [about Monaco].”

A runaway bride?

Recent rumors, however, seem to be shining lights in other, unwanted directions.

Already the father of two illegitimate children, the Prince must have been perturbed when a new whisper surfaced that a third offspring was toddling out of the woodwork.

Further rumors that, in response to this revelation, Ms. Wittstock tried to back out of the wedding and fly back to South Africa, and claims by Monaco police that her passport was confiscated to stop her doing so, have surely cast a shadow on the proceedings.

Prince Albert (and his lawyers) have vigorously denied the claims – but then, as Mandy Rice-Davies once said, “Well, he would, wouldn’t he?”

You can’t have a Royal wedding where the bride is perceived as being frog-marched down the aisle.

Lambs to the altar

Actually, you can. It used to happen all the time, and not too long ago either, but we like to think we’ve moved on.

We haven’t. Not really. Royal dynasties need heirs. Prince Rainier needed heirs because if there were none, Monaco would revert to France under a 1918 treaty. Grace Kelly duly produced heirs.

Not surprisingly, parallels have been drawn between Grace Kelly and Charlene Wittstock: both tall and blonde, both ‘commoners’, one an American film star, the other a South African Olympic swimmer who bears more than a passing resemblance to Grace Kelly.

Thirty years ago, similar parallels were drawn between Princess Grace and Lady Diana Spencer, before she became Diana, Princess of Wales. Another tall blonde, capable of producing heirs for a royal family; another dazzling wedding to shine a light upon a country in recession.

One can only hope that, despite this week’s rumors, Her Serene Highness, Princess Charlene of Monaco will have a better fate than the other two. If the marriage is less than perfect, let’s hope it hasn’t all been in vain and that the flagging economy in Monaco recovers as a result.

Plan B

If not, perhaps they could approach Kate Moss and offer her a venue in Monte Carlo to open the London pub she was thinking about. That would soon revive the economy.

Whether it would do the same for Monaco’s classy glamour, however, would remain to be seen.

Related posts:

Jerry Seinfeld – the Royal Wedding’s answer to Ricky Gervais

A displaced American writer, awash in a sea of Royal Wedding apathy

A toast to two displaced writers with passionate views of royal passion

Mia Wasikowska — a Third Culture Kid who is no Cinderella

Neatly coinciding with The Displaced Nation’s recent themes of the Royal Wedding and Gothic Tales, Maureen Dowd in her New York Times article “Who Married Up: The Women or the Men?” compares Cinderella with Kate Middleton and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

While the comparison with Kate Middleton is oft-cited, Bronte’s tale is less obvious: the story of a society misfit Plain Jane who suffers a series of gothic melodramas before finally claiming her maimed prince – but on her own terms. It’s possible that at some point during her ten-year waiting game in which Prince William apparently called all the shots, Kate Middleton may have sympathized with Jane Eyre’s wistful statement in the latest adaptation of Bronte’s novel:

“I wish a woman could have action in her life, like a man.”

A shooting star who needs no wishes

Mia Wasikowska, who stars in the title role of Cary Fukunaga’s “Jane Eyre,” needs no such wishful thinking. The 21-year-old Australian had her first US TV role at 17, was named the following year as one of  Variety magazine’s Top Ten Actors To Watch, and won the 2010 Hollywood Film Festival Award for Best Breakthrough Actress. Until “Jane Eyre” came along, she was best known for her portrayal of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

While it is hard to imagine two female characters more different than Jane Eyre and Alice,  they do share some similarities:  Jane’s feeling of exile, of being shunned by society, is echoed in Burton’s Alice. In an interview with Australian Harper’s Bazaar, Wasikowska spoke of her interpretation of the role:

“Alice has a certain discomfort within herself, within society and among her peers. I feel similarly, or have definitely felt similarly, about all of those things, so I could really understand her not quite fitting in.”

Although Ms. Wasikowska  does not elaborate about her own feelings of displacement — and certainly most young women feel insecure at some time or other —  one can’t help wondering if she is referring to travel experiences in her childhood and teens.

A TCK in Tinseltown

The daughter of an Australian father and Polish-born mother, Wasikowska is a TCK (Third Culture Kid.) She was born and raised in Canberra, Australia, and when she was eight years old the family moved to Szczecin, Poland, for a year, during which time they also traveled in France, Germany and  Russia.  At 17, she was cast in the role of Sophie in HBO’s “In Treatment,” which necessitated a move to Los Angeles.

One could argue that anyone, of any nationality, who is flung into the Hollywood carnival at such a tender age could qualify for the label of TCK.

Ignore the naysayers

The US Department of State defines Third Culture Kids as:

“those who have spent some of their growing up years in a foreign country and experience a sense of not belonging to their passport country when they return to it…they are often considered an oddity [and] what third culture kids want most is to be accepted as the individuals they are.”

A most depressing definition, highlighting the bad and ignoring all the good. It says nothing of the inevitable expansion of horizons that enable a TCK to empathize with other ways of life, to walk in another’s shoes – and if you’re an actor, the ability to walk in another’s shoes is crucial.

It would be nice to think that, despite governmental gloom, TCK experiences played a part in Wasikowska’s professional development and rocketing career.

Home is where reality is

Canberra is still Wasikowska’s home, however, and she lives there with her family between film projects. When asked by PopEater if she was treated like a celebrity at home, she answered:

“I still take the rubbish out and empty the dishwasher. It’s good going back for that reason.”

Well, that’s OK. After all, Kate Middleton said she intended to cook dinner for Prince William when they married.

And I expect even Cinderella swept a few floors in her new castle.

Img: Tomdog/Wikimedia Commons

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In sum, here’s how three displaced people “saw” Britain’s pomp

Once upon a time there lived Three Stooges in a kingdom ruled by a queen, otherwise known as a queendom. But eventually, each of them moved away to a republic that had renounced that very same monarchy hundreds of years ago (but which still retained a certain fascination for their descendents).

Now these Three Stooges just so happen to be the authors of this blog — ML Awanohara, Kate Allison, and Anthony Windram. When news of an impending Royal Wedding reached them at The Displaced Nation, one of them, ML, hatched a rather zany scheme of covering the event from their displaced perspectives. Thanks to the new technology, they could do this by tweeting like birds, she said.

So the three of them rose at ungodly hours on April 29, 2011, and recorded their impressions: Kate and Anthony from the point of view as displaced citizens of said queendom, ML as a displaced resident (born in the republic, she had lived in the queendom as a student and retains an inordinate nostalgia for those days).

What follows are some edited highlights from their Dawn Chorus. NOTE: All three would like to offer special thanks to Princess Bea for attempting a Cthulhu imitation. The possibility of perching on her antlers helped to sustain them during the lengthy bits, of which there were several.


ML Awanohara: I can hear many excited voices outside my window here in the East Village. It’s a global event! Kate Allison, what are you wearing?

Kate Allison: What I slept in. Duh. But have contacts in. The contacts not needed to see the size of some of these hats. Sheesh.

ML: You aren’t wearing a hat? I have on my Chinese PJs and a cute little fascinator…

KA: Probably got a NY Yankees hat somewhere. Would that be ok?

ML: So we both watched Charles & Diana 30 years ago, in UK. And now we’re both “displaced,” on US East Coast, watching on TV. Strange!

Anthony Windram: Why on earth am I up at this time? No semblance of sense.

ML: Isn’t it cool that we are all connected like this, watching a quintessential British event?

AW: On CBS, Beth from New York and Jody from Philly came over especially for this. That’s just silly.

KA: Eugenie, or is it Beatrice, is wearing antlers! You cannot look cute in antlers unless you have a glowing nose as well.

ML: Camilla is being criticized for wearing white. I actually think she looks stunning.

KA: Camilla would be criticized whatever she wore. Take no notice, Camilla. Lovely outfit.

AW: Credit where it’s due, this is one of the few events where children cheer an 85-year-old woman.

ML: I have to say, primrose doesn’t suit the Queen. Though I suppose she does match the clergy in that color.

KA: Some bishop’s done a Scarlett O’Hara and nicked the curtains for his dress.

ML: Shut the front door! Kate is on her way!

KA: Little bridesmaids. Utterly cute.

ML: Fashionistas are calling the dress very Gracy Kellyish.

KA: ….ooohhhhh. Gorgeous.

AW: Will Rowan Williams also be wearing Alexander McQueen?


ML: I do like the aerial view. Train looks just the right length for the Abbey.

AW: At what point in the proceedings do they replace Kate Middleton with a shape-shifting lizard?

KA: Not a meringue in sight, to quote Hugh Grant.

AW: Sod the wedding dress, that’s the most beautiful sight: Westminster Abbey.

KA: Poor girl looks terrified!

AW: Why no Rowan Williams? Boo. Oh, wait, here he is. Love a bit of Rowan.

ML: Catty alert, but Kate looks older than Wills, which she is. Too much makeup?

AW: Rowan Williams should narrate audio books. Think he’d be a good fit with some Trollope.

ML: Oh, no! Wills could barely get ring over Kate’s knuckle! Not a good omen…

AW: I always think the Royal Family jumped the shark with the Glorious Revolution.

ML: Must be the aging process, but I don’t find this nearly as moving as 1981.

KA: I think I’m a lapsed royalist coming back to the fold!

ML: Kate, are you serious? We seem to be switching places. I knew that was going to happen.

KA: I am totally serious and today totally British.

ML: Who is representing us Americans btw? Obamas weren’t invited…

KA: Posh and Becks are representing the Americans, obviously.

AW: James Middleton has the eyes of a killer.

ML: The Londonist is keeping a “not the royal wedding” blog: everything happening in the world except for the royal wedding. For instance, there are these dangerous headache-inducing caterpillars in Bournemouth, and the horror flick Insidious opens today.

AW: Those two nuns got great seats — all thanks to

ML: Fun fact: Today is the “feast” day of St. Catherine of Siena, a famous 14th-century bulimic.

AW: I got up at 2:30 a.m. to listen to a religious service, a Protestant religious service no less. I may crawl back to bed.

ML: No, don’t leave us! Your jokes are keeping me awake!

AW: Oh annoying CBS, don’t start talking as soon as “Jerusalem” starts.

KA: Ah, “Jerusalem.” But of course: can’t beat it if you’re English. Guaranteed to bring anyone back to the fold. … And now the national anthem. ML, this is the original version of that song you guys sing in grade school.

ML: “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty…”

KA: What, Queen not singing her own tune?

ML: Someone at the New Yorker just tweeted that Westminster is full of bodies (bones?) of kings. Rather macabre.

KA: ML, at the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London, they found about 1,800 skeletons underneath. Now that’s macabre.

AW: Nothing more British than the bureaucracy of everyone going to sign the wedding register in the middle of the ceremony.

ML: Just saw the antler hat. Truly bizarre. … Is Princess Anne wearing purple?


AW: So many Union flags. It’s like Rangers at a Scottish Cup final. …

ML: Okay, someone please tell me: it is distance or aging, but I feel like it’s a little flat this time around.

AW: On the basis of that crowd, the world must think the British are a collection of plastic hat wearing morons. In fairness, most of the crowd are Americans. Anglophiles, I’ll never understand you. Give me five minutes with an Anglophile — I’ll soon dampen their enthusiasm for all things English.

ML: They’re showing a pair of older Brits singing “God save the Queen” off key.

AW: Am I meant to feel national pride because a slightly dim, over-privileged couple got hitched? Really? Some mediocre St Andrews grads get to be Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Hurry up and kiss and then I can get back to bed.

ML: What’s going on behind the net curtains on the windows facing out on the famous balcony?

AW: The balcony scenes are always disappointing. They never fall off.

ML: Was that it?!?!?!?!?

AW: No tongue. Duke of Edinburgh seems to making the moves on Pippa. He’s muscling out Harry there.

KA: Someone’s going to drop a small child off that balcony if they’re not careful.

AW: Balcony would be enlivened with some Michael Jackson-style children dangling. I’m thinking the annoying little blonde page.

ML: Well, this has certainly been a stimulating three hours. Time to say cheerio for now? That kiss was such an anticlimax.

KA: Anticlimax? What did you have in mind for them? Royal weddings are G rated.

AW: BBC really are insisting on talking to every nutter they meet.

ML: So, my dears, any parting impressions? Was it worth losing sleep over?

AW: So we’ve learned (or relearned) nobody does annoying and wacky quite like the British. We’ve learned that the Duke of Edinburgh still has it. Pippa needs to watch out at the disco.That CBS felt the need to make half a dozen references to Meet the Fockers. And we learned you can be born into a dim family that lacks intellectual curiosity, be unremarkable, and one day you’ll be king. But the biggest takeaway was the baby Cthulhu that has hatched itself to Princess Beatrice’s forehead.

ML: Beatrice and Eugenie look like how I always imagined Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters.


ML: On TLC just now, American commentators are saying they were disappointed by the kiss. But the crowds in Times Square cheered anyway.

KA: Disappointed by the kiss? What do they want? Video on YouTube a la Pamela Anderson? Puh-leese.

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Related posts:

A toast to two displaced writers with passionate views of royal passion

Special notice: The writers we are celebrating in today’s post — best-selling novelist Jane Green and expat blogger Karen Van Drie — have kindly agreed to “come in” and respond to your comments and questions on the topic of the hour: yesterday’s royal wedding. Don’t be shy!

A cheery hello to you all. We have a special treat in store for Displaced Nation readers: a royal wedding-themed party in honor of two expat writers — one an acclaimed author, the other an acclaimed blogger — who take very different views of yesterday’s “wedding of the century.”

Jane Green is the author of a dozen novels dealing with real women, real life, and all the things life throws at them. She is also an expat. Born in London — she spent her early career as a writer of women’s features for the Daily Express — she now lives in Connecticut with her husband, six children, and assorted pets.

Karen Van Drie is an American who decided to travel the world after her youngest daughter left for college. Based in Istanbul and Prague, she travels extensively and records her observations in her award-winning blog, Empty Nest Expat. The blog was called out last year in the Wall Street Journal as a “fun read for anyone looking for reassurance that change can be a wonderful thing.”

No in-betweens, even (especially?) among expats

Vogue magazine editor Alexandra Shulman observed that Britain’s “wedding of the century” divided the British nation into lovers and loathers — so was a “perfect Marmite moment.”

Well, she could have been talking about the Displaced Nation just as well as the British nation. Over the past few weeks, we English-speaking expats and repats have divided into two opposing camps.

If anything, we tend to be even more passionate about our views because of the distance factor.

GREEN: “A modern fairytale”

As explained in an April 13 blog post on her newly released e-book for ABC News* on three generations of royal love stories, Jane Green knew little about Kate and William before starting her research but came away impressed:

I loved discovering just how unusual William and Kate are: grounded, humble, and thoroughly modern, eschewing much of the pomp and circumstance that surrounded the wedding of Charles and Diana.

Her book, which blends text, video, still images and interactive features, celebrates Kate for achieving the seemingly impossible feat of bringing an age-old fairytale up to date.

VAN DRIE: “If princesses didn’t exist…”

In the overheated countdown to the Big Day, Karen Van Drie resurrected a post she had written in February about the evolution of her personal views on royals, especially princesses.

Van Drie was prompted to write on this topic during a week-long visit to Sweden, where she noticed that the Swedish Royal Palace gift shop was packed out with tourists snapping up merchandise related to last year’s wedding between Princess Victoria and her personal trainer, Daniel Westling.

Somewhat to her surprise, Van Drie could not get into the spirit. This apathy marked a change from her twenties when she’d fallen head over heels for the fairy tale of Prince Charles and Lady Diana and studied every detail of their royal wedding. When she got married herself, she asked the florist to reproduce Diana’s bouquet exactly.

What’s more, after reading an article about the Swedish Republican Association, Van Drie decided they were thought leaders on the subject of monarchy elimination. She wondered aloud on her blog:

If princesses didn’t exist, what would young women dream of being? Could it likely be a healthier idea for humanity and relationships? A more realistic idea? Can you imagine people of the future laughing at us for even allowing the idea of undemocratic monarchies to exist? For needing the “idea” of princesses?

Where do you stand?

Dear readers, it’s your turn now. While we put out the bunting, pour glasses of Pimms, make pots of tea, and prepare plates of crustless cucumber sandwiches, scones, and Tiffin, for our feast in honor of Green and Van Drie, we’re hoping you will tell us: what do you see when you look at the relationship between William and Kate close up? Do you share Green’s picture of a modern fairytale, or are you more inclined to Van Drie’s notion of a gothic horror story?

* A Modern Fairytale is ABC’s first e-book and Green’s first-ever work of nonfiction. It is available through top etailers — Apple’s iBookstore, Kindle, Nook, etc. — and through the new ABC Video Bookstore app.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to subscribe for email delivery of The Displaced Nation. That way, you won’t miss a single issue.

Related posts:

Tiffin: A displaced word of many meanings, but this one is sweetest

Special announcement from TDN: ML Awanohara and Kate Allison will be live-tweeting the Royal Wedding from a displaced perspective. Join us from 5:00 a.m. EST, using the hash tag: #DNRW Read more.

“Taj Mahal” by Arvind Balaraman /

Tiffin – a word imported to England in the times of colonial British India, when, as well as being Queen of England, Victoria held the title of Empress of India.

Unlike other Anglo-Indian imports, such as gin and tonic or kedgeree, tiffin has shades of definitions – lunch, afternoon snack, or any light meal. My favorite definition, however, is the one given to me by my cookery teacher when I was twelve, which I’m sharing with you in honor of the wedding tomorrow.

It requires very little cooking, and if you start now, you will have enough time to make another batch to replace the one you intended to take to the street party but absent-mindedly ate instead.

One batch is never enough.



You will need:

100g / 4oz / 1/2 cup butter

50g / 2oz / 8 tablespoons desiccated (shredded) coconut – optional

50g / 2oz /1/3 cup seedless raisins

2 tablespoons golden syrup (see below if you’re unfamiliar with or can’t obtain this ingredient)

2 tablespoons powdered drinking chocolate (sweetened cocoa)

200g / 8oz / 2 cups broken digestive biscuits. If you can’t get digestive biscuits, graham crackers or crunchy oatmeal cookies would work.

100g / 4oz /2/3 cup plain (semi-sweet) or milk chocolate, as you prefer.

A 9″ x 9” cake tin, greased with butter. (Exact dimensions aren’t critical for the success of this recipe.)


1. In a small pan, melt the butter and golden syrup over low heat, then remove from heat.

2. Add coconut, raisins, drinking chocolate, and broken biscuits.

3. Mix well, then transfer to the greased tin. Pack down firmly with the back of a large spoon.

4. Put about an inch of water in a saucepan and bring the water to simmering point.

5. Break the chocolate into pieces and put in a heat-proof bowl (e.g., Pyrex). Fit the bowl over the pan of water, keeping the water simmering gently. Stir until the chocolate is melted.

6. Pour melted chocolate over the biscuit mixture in tin, and spread evenly.

7. Refrigerate for a few hours until chocolate is hard, then cut into small squares.

8. Serve with hot tea — of course.


Golden syrup

Golden syrup is a favorite in Britain and Australia. It’s thicker and sweeter than corn syrup, lighter in color than treacle (molasses), and  I knew it best for drizzling on my morning porridge before going to school.

In America it’s either unobtainable or very expensive, but according to an article on eHow, you can make your own.

You will need:

Heavy saucepan

1/2 cup white sugar

2 tsp. water

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

2/3 cup light corn syrup

Wooden spoon

Glass or plastic container


1. Pour the sugar in the saucepan, spread evenly over the bottom of the pan.

2. Mix water and vinegar, and sprinkle over the sugar.

3. Cook the mixture over low heat for five minutes. DO NOT STIR!

4. Turn the heat up to medium, and cook for a further five minutes, without stirring. Remove pan when mixture is a golden color.

5. Add light corn syrup and let mixture sit for 3 minutes. When the bubbling has stopped, stir well with wooden spoon.

6. Allow syrup to cool, then pour into a heatproof glass or plastic container, such as a mason jar. Seal, and store at room temperature. It will keep for two or three months.

(Thanks to my good friend and regular commenter on Displaced Nation, Joanna M-M, for sending me the link to this.)



Img “Taj Mahal” by Image: Arvind Balaraman /

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Displaced India Hicks throws in beach hat for Royal Wedding hat

Special announcement from TDN: ML Awanohara and Kate Allison will be live-tweeting the Royal Wedding from a displaced perspective. Join us from 5:00 a.m. EST, using the hash tag: #DNRW

On Sunday night I decided to indulge in nostalgia for my misspent youth in England. I watched a couple of TLC programs showing footage from the wedding of Charles and Diana on July 29, 1981.

I was there as a displaced American. Well, I wasn’t in London but at a street party in an East Anglian town.

To be honest, I have only the haziest recollection of how I spent the day: who attended the fete, what we talked about, what we ate. Part of the reason is my exceedingly poor memory.

But I think the lapse is also due to having been displaced so many times since then — to Japan, back to England, and now back to my native United States. England’s royal wedding no longer stands out in my memory compared to other landmark events I’ve observed, such as the marriage of Masako Iwada to Japan’s Crown Prince.

Always a bridesmaid, never a bride

I was therefore particularly taken with the TLC special Untold Stories of a Royal Bridesmaid, featuring model, interior design entrepreneur — and expat — India Hicks.

I kept wondering: does Hicks actually remember that hot day at the end of July 30 years ago? True, she was a bridesmaid for Princess Diana — but she was also only 13 at the time.

And, unlike many of the participants in that Royal Wedding, Hicks has moved on since, quite literally: she has put down roots on a three-mile-long fishing island in the Bahamas, where she lives with her family in a plantation-style oceanfront house.

Indeed, at 43, Hicks is living life on her own terms, a novel concept for a female who was born in the Royal Family orbit (Prince Charles is her second cousin and godfather, and she is 512th in line for the throne). As the New York Times pointed out in its profile of Hicks last month:

For many years, Ms. Hicks distanced herself from the royal circles that surrounded her childhood, focusing on developing her profession.

What’s more — and the Times didn’t point this out — she and her lifelong partner, David Flint Wood, have never bothered to marry, despite having had four children together.

Hicks may have been one of the two bridesmaids assigned to keep track of Diana’s 25-foot-long train, but she doesn’t appear to like weddings much, or else I assume she would have designed one for herself …

A most unroyal royal

I ask you, does this sound like something an heir to the British throne, however remote, would say:

I’d liked to have lived as Cleopatra. She didn’t take any crap from anyone, had lots of children out of wedlock, was intelligent and witty, known for her abilities and was a good stateswoman. I like most that she didn’t take any crap.

It’s what Hicks told the Wall Street Journal in an interview just a few days ago. You go, girl, as we say in the States…

So what’s in it for her besides money — and a higher profile for her brand, which is branching out next month to include jewelry? Not to mention her sense of duty (these are her people, after all).

British people are wont to say that the Royal Wedding provides a good excuse for a day off and a party. But for us displaced people, these affairs are a little different.

For Hicks as for many of the rest of us under equivalent circumstances, I suspect the wedding of Wills and Kate provides a good excuse to:

1) Indulge in a spot of nostalgia.

As Hicks remarks on her TLC special: “I think it will bring back memories that perhaps I’ve forgotten.”

As already mentioned, we displaced types can relate. The desire to recapture your youth intensifies if you are no longer living in your home (or adopted home) country.

2) Spend time in the home country.

As mentioned, Hicks has opted for the life of an expat, far from the madding crowds.

But, while retreating to a Caribbean island may sound like a dream come true, I imagine it has its dull moments, when one longs for a tad more intellectual and social stimulation.

Covering the Royal Wedding provides Hicks with the pretext for hanging out in her native land a little more and for introducing herself to such people as Diana’s wedding dress designer, David Emanuel. (The two haven’t met since 1981.)

3) Reconnect with family.

Living far away from one’s family is another penalty of the expat life, which tends to get steeper with time — especially for women who are close to their mothers.

By becoming a Royal Wedding pundit, Hicks has had the opportunity to reminisce about the good old days with her mother, Lady Pamela Hicks, for several of her TV specials.

A daughter of Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India (hence her daughter’s first name), Lady Hicks was herself a bridesmaid to Queen Elizabeth.

I particularly enjoyed the moment on the TLC special when mere and fille pull their respective bridesmaids’ dresses out of the boxes and compare them. Hicks thinks her mother’s looks more classical, while hers is dated — a product of the frilly 1980s.

* * *

On the “bridesmaid” special, the time that Hicks seems most enthused about revealing her stories is when she picks up the Halcyon Days china pot that Diana gave to all her bridesmaids, containing a silk worm that helped to produce The Dress. Hicks holds up the little white cocoon and gives it a rattle.

For that single instant, she looks as though she’s been transported back in her island home, having taken the road less (or more?) traveled by…and to which she will be jolly glad to return on April 30.

Question: In your experience as a displaced person, do events in one’s home (or adopted home) country — whether private or public — induce an overblown sense of nostalgia? I’d love to hear your stories.

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