The Displaced Nation

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Tag Archives: Royalty

Happy Halloween! A cauldron of 6 cautionary tales for the intrepid traveler

Image: Lake View Cemetery / MorgueFile.com

Yesterday’s Halloween post by Anthony Windram, about the top 5 ghostly settings from literature and film, got us thinking again about the ghostly and ghoulish, the mystical and macabre, the dark and demonic.

Our thoughts, however, did not turn towards the new and original, but to the jaw-clanging skeletons in the Displaced Nation’s very own Crypt.

At which point…someone (Kate Allison?) suggested that we pile all of our Gothic Tales of Old into a cauldron and chant “Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble.” All was going well until one of us—must have been the American—broke in with:

Stirring and stirring and stirring my brew…

Just as she screeched “O-o-o-o-o, o-o-o-o-o”, 6 apparitions arose from the pot: 6 terrifying tales from the Displaced Nation’s deep dark past. Each said they were there to teach travelers a lesson.

And here is what they told us:

1) The Ghost of the Mysteriously Misplaced Post

I am the ghost the represents the post titled The Displaced Nation’s Halloween post is…mysteriously displaced!, composed on Halloween night two years ago by ML Awanohara, whose blood was curdling because:

Kate Allison was supposed to post today, for Halloween…but then, pouf, she vanished without a trace!

As readers who are paying attention know, Kate has now posted 80+ episodes in the life of a fictional British expat family living in New England, called Libby’s Life. Two years ago she vanished before uploading the latest episode because of a freak snowstorm in Connecticut, her adopted home.

She finally resurfaced on On All Saint’s Day—in a MacDonald’s! (Has she gone native, or what?)

Travelers, here is the lesson I’m here to impart for your sake: Truth is stranger than fiction, where so’er you roam.

2) The Ghost of Quizzing Others on Their Supernatural Sightings

Hello there, I am the ghost that arises from THE DISPLACED Q: On your travels … have you ever seen a ghost?, which was composed by Tony James Slater just over a year ago. He impressed with his self-knowledge when he said: “I’m about as psychic as a cheese.” But then he went on to say:

And then, just occasionally, I have dreams when I’m visited by the spirits of people I’ve lost….

Is there any wonder there were no comments and no likes on his post? He scared the bejeezus out of most of his readers.

Still, point taken, and I’m here to impart an important lesson that you international travelers may not have fully considered: As you traverse the world, bear in mind that any ghosts you meet will be people you know (and left behind), not strangers.

3) The Ghost of Compiling a Master List of Grim Reapers

Greetings, I have emanated from the post called Grim Reapers around the globe: 7 creatures that say “Time’s up!”, composed by Kate Allison just over a year ago. Kate reported on the surprising number of cultures that maintain some version of the mythological conniving female who lures men to their deaths.

As frequent visitors to this site will know, Kate has a way with words. For instance, she described
Sihuanaba of Central America as follows:

Seen from the back, she’s an attractive woman with long hair; from the front, it’s a horse. (No jokes about Sex and the City, please.)

But even Kate’s rather offbeat humor could not dissuade from the freakishness of some of these figures.

As far as lasting lessons, this will have to suffice: Next time you get lost in a canyon, try blaming an ancient ghoul. Depending on where you’ve landed, as well as gender, you may just about pull it off.

4) The Ghost of Delivering a Screed against Princess Diana Dolls

A cheery hello to one and all, I am the ghost of Anthony Windram’s EXPAT MOMENTS: The Doll Collection, which he wrote almost exactly a year ago.

As anyone who came across it may recall, Mr. Windram was most distressed to find himself at a bed-and-breakfast in NEW England (he is from Jolly Olde) where the innkeeper has put her prized collection of “individually authenticated” Princess Diana dolls on display in the sitting room. He tossed and turned all night, even heard scratchings at his door.

Now, as regular visitors to this esteemed site know, Mr. Windram is no fool. On the contrary, he has has a mighty brainbox. Which is why I’m so stunned that he allowed himself to be frightened by a set of Lady Di figurines. I’m sure they were only there to cover up the fact that the house is haunted—by a young and rather vigorous ghost, which is how ghosts tend to come in America (just ask Libby). The real take-away, then, particularly for those who venture into the New World: Avoid American B&Bs like the plague if you want a decent night’s sleep.

5) The Ghost of the Expat Criminals Exposé

ML Awanohara showed some temerity in writing a post entitled What did Agatha Christie know? Expats make great criminals back when this blog first started.

As the ghost that arose from this post, I’m here to say she hit the proverbial coffin nail soundly on the head with this assertion:

Just as we don’t like to think of rats being part of the animal kingdom, we don’t like to think of conmen, pirates, gangsters, and terrorists being part of the group we have loosely defined as “global voyagers” … But trust me, they are a part of it — as are murderers.

Which leads us to the lesson I’ll impart today: Just because you’re in a part of the world where marrows tend to thrive, don’t assume the likes of Hercule Poirot will turn up and save you.

6) The Ghost of Finding Travel Inspiration in Margaret Drabble’s “Red Queen”

Not long ago compared to other posts in this collection, ML Awanohara wrote FOOTLOOSE & FANCIFUL: Margaret Drabble’s “The Red Queen”, explaining how her views of Korea had shifted after reading a book by Dame Drabble depicting a period of bloodshed and horror in the 18th-century Korean court. A real-life tale made more vivid by Drabble’s considerable fictional powers, in which the Prince is a homicidal maniac, and his father, the King, a stern Confucian. The King ultimately decides to murder his son in a style so dramatic that ML couldn’t get it out of her head next time she went to Korea. She remains haunted to this day.

As the ghost of this post about a ghost, I find myself torn. On the one hand, what kind of person would read Drabble—that serious, hip, intellectual British novelist, who likes to come across as one’s brainy, Cambridge-educated best friend—to get a handle on what the Koreans are really like? Apples and oranges—or marmite and kimchi, I should say.

On the other—and this is the lesson I’ve come to deliver: Never hesitate to use a Cambridge-educated Brit as a resource for novel sightseeing ideas.

* * *

Readers, have we got you thinking twice about those travel plans? Do let us know in the ca-ca-comments. Hey, at least we spared you the horrors of Sezin Koehler’s 15 films that depict the horrors of being abroad, or otherwise displaced; Tony James Slater’s 5 travel situations that spell H-O-R-R-O-R!; or Kate Allison’s Global grub to die for, including a rather scrumptious recipe for fried tarantula, which goes down a treat in Cambodia.

STAY TUNED for next week’s fab posts!

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of the week’s posts from The Displaced Nation, with our weekly Alice Award, book giveaways, and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

 

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On a Royal Future and the Royal Spawn

photo(1)From a Brit-in-America perspective

Good writing returns to you; it can illuminate moments or thoughts that you have an imprecise grasp on.

Over the last week, as an Englishman in America, I’ve had to avoid discussion about that news, that little baby. Though I wish him personally the best of health, my issue is more about his future, that it has been mapped out from the moment of conception as the head of state, my head of state on account of his lineage.

I’ll admit that outing myself as a small “r” republican (though I’m in two minds as to whether that is the right description for me as I don’t confess myself as being overly thrilled that any of the current crop of British politicos being invested with the title of “President”—even if that office is largely ceremonial) seems churlish when I’m dealing with the natives here in America who keep bringing that news up to me.

Anyway, the piece of writing that I’ve been returning to over the last week, a piece that acts as a counterpoint to some of the more banal Royal Baby conversations that I’ve have to endure in the United States, is Hilary Mantel’s essay for the London Review of Books: “Royal Bodies”. Surprisingly, it managed to achieve something very rare indeed—it’s a piece of literature that has also been written about in the British tabloid press.

Of course, the British tabloids don’t turn their attention to literary matters because they admire the style, but because they have the opportunity to manufacture a controversy. This case was no different. Mantel’s humanizing essay (initially delivered as a lecture and is mostly concerned with Anne Boleyn) about the mundane demands that we place on royalty was spun as FRUMPY WRITER DISSES OUR KATE. Politicians are always eager to jump on a popular bandwagon and provide an empty soundbite, so it was of little surprise when Cameron and Miliband joined in the critique.

If, however, any of those outraged had bothered to read the essay they would have found that this double Booker-prize winning author has taken an even-handed and nuanced view on royalty.

There is one insight of Mantel’s in particular that I’ve been returning to over the last week. I must admit that as a very recent father myself, I am a little resentful of the coverage—a little resentful that one baby has a future mapped out for it based not on any meritocratic qualities he might have. Mantel gets to the root of the issue when she says that we entrap our royalty, condemning them to live as exotic creatures within the shabby, carpet-fraying world of British institutions.

Poor George, one week old and his life will be measured out in an endless procession of hospital openings, civic events, and all those bloody awful Royal Variety Performances. The French, by comparison, were merciful to their royalty: they just guillotined them. We make ours watch Joe Pasquale.

If you haven’t read Mantel’s essay, at least read this passage, where she compares royal persons to pandas:

I used to think that the interesting issue was whether we should have a monarchy or not. But now I think that question is rather like, should we have pandas or not? Our current royal family doesn’t have the difficulties in breeding that pandas do, but pandas and royal persons alike are expensive to conserve and ill-adapted to any modern environment. But aren’t they interesting? Aren’t they nice to look at? Some people find them endearing; some pity them for their precarious situation; everybody stares at them, and however airy the enclosure they inhabit, it’s still a cage.

A few years ago I saw the Prince of Wales at a public award ceremony. I had never seen him before, and at once I thought: what a beautiful suit! What sublime tailoring! It’s for Shakespeare to penetrate the heart of a prince, and for me to study his cuff buttons. I found it hard to see the man inside the clothes; and like Thomas Cromwell in my novels, I couldn’t help winding the fabric back onto the bolt and pricing him by the yard. At this ceremony, which was formal and carefully orchestrated, the prince gave an award to a young author who came up on stage in shirtsleeves to receive his cheque. He no doubt wished to show that he was a free spirit, despite taking money from the establishment. For a moment I was ashamed of my trade. I thought, this is what the royals have to contend with today: not real, principled opposition, but self-congratulatory chippiness.

And then as we drifted away from the stage I saw something else. I glanced sideways into a room off the main hall, and saw that it was full of stacking chairs. It was a depressing, institutional, impersonal sight. I thought, Charles must see this all the time. Glance sideways, into the wings, and you see the tacky preparations for the triumphant public event. You see your beautiful suit deconstructed, the tailor’s chalk lines, the unsecured seams. You see that your life is a charade, that the scenery is cardboard, that the paint is peeling, the red carpet fraying, and if you linger you will notice the oily devotion fade from the faces of your subjects, and you will see their retreating backs as they turn up their collars and button their coats and walk away into real life.

Of course, all of the above is written with the benefit of thinking about these issues for a full week. My initial thoughts as featured on my personal blog were a little harsher. For completeness, I include them below.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Thoughts on the Royal Spawn or why I hate it when Americans attempt to engage me on the Royal Family

When I was 14 my Dad died, something that nobody—outside of immediate family and friends—gives two shits about. A few years later, a guy who I’ve never met loses his mother. All very sad, but acquaintances and strangers here like to bring up this death in conversation and tell me about how sorry they are for his loss.*

In my late-20s I got married. All very nice, but again, nobody—outside of immediate family and friends—really gives a flying monkey toss about it. Why should they? A little bit after me that guy I’ve never met and who’d lost his mother got married himself. Great for him, I wouldn’t begrudge him his happiness, but yet these same curiously odd people who corner me at parties and insist in trying to engage in small talk when silence really would be preferred tell me about lovely his wedding.**

A few months back, I became a father. It has been earth-shattering to me, but beyond immediate family and friends, nobody really gives a fuck. Now that guy I don’t know, who lost his mother and had a wedding, has also become a father. I’m not surprised by the news as over the last few months overly familiar troglodytic morons when they hear my voice have been asking me how his wife is doing with the pregnancy.***

I’ll be clear, only if they name him Eadwig, Harthacnut or Rylan will I be interested in the royal sprog—though fair play to the fetus for landing himself such a cushy gig.

Commiserations to Carol Ann Duffy , who is now going to have write an excruciating poem.

For the next month I will be trying to live clandestine in the US in order to avoid having excruciating conversations with people who get really excited about nonsense like this. I think I’ll put on a French accent.

*In fairness, strangers might be stopping him to tell him how sorry they are about my loss.

** Again, in fairness, he is probably cheesed off with the number of people droning on about my wedding to him.

*** If we ever meet, we’re going to laugh about this. Complete strangers were constantly asking him about how my wife’s pregnancy was going. Must be some crossed wires, we’ll say.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, the first in our TCK TALENT series.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

Image: MorgueFile

Expats, here’s how to enrich your lives in 2013: Choose a mentor or a muse!

Expats and other world adventurers, let me guess. You have you spent the past week making resolutions about

  • staying positive about your new life in Country X;
  • indulging in less of the local stodge;
  • giving up the smoking habit that no one is nagging you about now that you’re so far away from home;
  • and/or taking advantage of travel opportunities within the region that may never come your way again

— while also knowing full well that at some point in the not-distant future, you’ll end up stuffing your face with marshmallows (metaphorically speaking).

Never mind, it happens to the best of us, as psychologist Walter Mischel — he of the marshmallow experimentrecently told Abby Hunstman of the Huffington Post. Apparently, it has something to do with the way impulses work in the brain. The key is to trick the brain by coming up with strategies to avoid the marshmallow or treat it as something else.

Today I’d like to propose something I found to be one of the most effective strategies for turning away from the marshmallows you’ve discovered in your new home abroad or, for more veteran expats, turning these marshmallows into something new and exotic. My advice is to find a mentor or a muse in your adopted land — someone who can teach you something new, or who inspires you by their example to try new things…

Trust me, if you choose the right mentor +/or muse, benefits like the following will soon accrue:

1) More exotic looks — and a book deal.

Back when I lived abroad, first in England and then in Japan, I was always studying other women for style and beauty tips. I made a muse of everyone from Princess Diana (I could hardly help it as her image was being constantly thrust in front of me) to the stewardesses I encountered on All Nippon Airways. Have you ever seen the film Fear and Trembling, based on the autobiographical novel of that name, by the oft-displaced Amélie Nothomb? On ANA flights, I behaved a little like the film’s young Belgian protagonist, Amélie, who secretly adulates her supervisor Miss Fubuki. I simply couldn’t believe the world contained such attractive women…

The pay-off came upon my repatriation to the US. With such a wide array of fashion and beauty influences, I’d begun to resemble Countess Olenska in The Age of Innocence — with my Laura Ashley dresses, hair ornaments, strings of (real) pearls, and habit of bowing to everyone.

Is it any wonder my (Japanese) husband-to-be nicknamed me the Duchess? (Better than being the sheltered May Welland, surely?)

My one regret is that I didn’t parlay these style tips into a best-seller — unlike Jennifer Scott, one of the authors who was featured on TDN this past year. While studying in Paris, Scott was in a mentoring relationship with Madame Chic and Madame Bohemienne. (The former was the matriarch in her host family; the latter, in her boyfriend’s host family.) Mme C & Mme B took her under their wing and taught her everything she knows about personal style, preparation of food, home decor, entertaining, make-up, you name it…and is now imparting to others in her Simon & Schuster-published book.

2) More memorable dinner parties.

As mentioned in a previous post, I adopted actress and Indian cookbook writer Madhur Jaffrey as my muse shortly after settling down in the UK. I was (still am) madly in love with her, her cookbooks, even her writing style.

And her recipes do me proud to this day.

Right before Christmas I threw a dinner party for 10 featuring beef cooked in yogurt and black pepper, black cod in a coriander marinade, and several of her vegetable dishes.

It was divine — if I say so myself! To be fair, the guests liked it, too…

3) Improved language skills.

Now the ideal mentor for an adult seeking to pick up a new foreign language is a boyfriend or girlfriend in the local culture — preferably one with gobs of patience. The Japanese have the perfect expression for it: iki jibiki, or walking dictionary.

Just one caveat: If you’re as language challenged as Tony James Slater, it could prove a headache and, ultimately, a heartache.

Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained…

(Married people, you might want to give up on this goal. I’m serious…)

4) A fondness for angels who dance on pinheads.

After seeing the film Lost in Translation, I became an advocate for expats giving themselves intellectual challenges. Really, there’s no excuse for ennui of the sort displayed by Scarlett Johansson character, in a well-traveled life.

It was while living in the UK as a grad student that I discovered the extraordinary scholar-writer Marina Warner, who remains an inspiration to this day. Warner, who grew up in Brussels and Cambridge and was educated at convent school and Oxford University, is best known for her books on feminism and myth.

After reading her book Monuments and Maidens, I could never look at a statue in the same way again!

In her person, too, she is something of a goddess. Though I’d encountered women of formidable intellect before, I found her more appealing than most, I think because she wears her learning lightly and has an ethereal presence, like one of the original Muses.

Booker prizewinner Julian Barnes has written of her “incandescent intelligence and Apulian beauty” (she is half Italian, half English). The one time I met her — I asked her to sign my copy of her Booker Prize-shortlisted novel, The Lost Father — I could see what he meant.

I was gobsmacked.

Major girl crush!

(Don’t have a girl crush? Get one! It will enrich your life immeasurably.)

5) Greater powers of mindfulness — and a book deal.

Third Culture Kid Maria Konnikova was born in Moscow but grew up and was educated in the US. She has started the new year by putting out a book with Viking entitled Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes. Who would guess that a young Russian-born woman would use Conan Doyle’s fictional creations, Holmes and Watson, as her muses? But, as she explains in a recent article in Slate, she has learned everything she knows about the art of mindfulness from that master British sleuth:

Mindfulness allows Holmes to observe those details that most of us don’t even realize we don’t see.

So moved is she by Holmes’s example — and so frustrated by her own, much more limited observational powers — Konnikova does the boldest of all thought experiments: she gives up the Internet…

So does her physiological and emotional well-being improve as a result? Does her mind stop wandering away from the present? Does she become happier? I won’t give it away lest you would like to make Konnikova this year’s muse and invest in her book. Hint: If you do, we may not see you here for a while. 😦

6) The confidence to travel on your own.

We expats tend to be a little less intrepid than the average global wanderer: we’re a little too attached to our creature comforts and may need a kick to become more adventuresome. But even avid travelers sometimes lose their courage, as Amy Baker recently reported in a post for Vagabondish. She recounts the first time she met a Swedish solo traveler in Morocco, who had lived on her own in Zimbabwe for 10 years. This Swede is now her friend — and muse:

She was level-headed, organized and fiercely independent — all characteristics that I aim to embody as a female traveler.

With this “fearless Swedish warrior woman” in mind, Amy started venturing out on her lonesome — and hasn’t looked back.

* * *

Readers, the above is not intended as an exhaustive list as I’m hoping you can contribute your own experiences with mentors and muses abroad: What do you do to avoid the “marshmallows” of the (too?) well-traveled life? Who have you met that has inspired you to new creative, intellectual, or travel heights? Please let us know in the comments. In the meantime, I wish you a happy, healthy — and most of all, intellectually stimulating — new year!

STAY TUNED for next week’s posts.

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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.

RANDOM NOMAD: Melissa Stoey, Former Expat in UK and Incurable Britophile

Place of birth: Northern Virginia, USA
Passports: USA
Overseas history: England (Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire + Shefford, Bedfordshire): 1988-91.
Occupation: Research technician (basically I do data analysis) and part-time professional blogger.
Cyberspace coordinates: Smitten by Britain: Home of the Britophile (blog); @SmittnbyBritain (Twitter handle); Facebook page; and Pinterest.

What made you leave your homeland in the first place?
I’m intrigued by other cultures and more specifically by the British culture. I have been fascinated by Britain since I was a young teen. I have always had the itch for travel and I knew I definitely wanted to visit the UK, if not live there. My love for travel one of the reasons I joined the military. I put England down as my first choice for duty station and I got it!

Where were you stationed?
At Chicksands air base (Chicks for shorts). It’s now Royal Air Force (RAF) Chicksands. Britain’s Ministry of Defense has since taken it over.

You ended up marrying a Brit, right?
Yes. My first husband, and the father of my son, was stationed at what was then RAF Brampton, which is in Cambridgeshire. At first we lived in Huntingdon, but then he got transferred to a base in Hitchin, which is closer to Chicks, so we moved to Shefford.

Is anyone else in your immediate family “displaced”?
Ironically, my brother was stationed at Chicks three years before, so it sort of felt like I was meant to go there. Right now, I don’t have any displaced relatives, but my son is a dual national between the U.S. and U.K. I suspect at some point he may move to the U.K. after he fulfills his dream of living and teaching in Japan for a year. We’ll see! It may be a case of like mother, like son.

So you and your son now live in the United States?
Yes. His father and I are divorced. We came back and lived in Texas for a year, then West Virginia. We now live in Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, his father has gone back to Scotland, where he is from.

How often do you return to the U.K.?
My son and I, and my second husband — I am now married to an American! — try to go every year or at least once very two years, depending on funds and time off.

Can you describe the moment in your association with Britain when you felt the most displaced?
The first night I was in England the culture shock was horrible. I lived around sixty miles north of London in a small village where there were no street lights, and when I looked out the window there was complete and utter darkness. It felt as if I’d landed on a different planet with no signs of life. This was 1988 when almost everything closed much earlier than it does now and wasn’t open on Sundays. If you switched on the radio you might pick up two or three stations, the television had only four channels and of course there was no Internet. It felt much more isolating than if you moved to England today; it has changed by leaps and bounds in the last 25 years as far as conveniences go. I envy current expats who have so many wonderful resources available to help limit the culture shock and make the transition easier.

Is there any particular moment that stands out as your “least displaced”?
We had a great night back in July of 2010 when we met a Glaswegian couple at a curry house in the west end of Glasgow. They invited us to the pub for drinks where we spent the night taste testing different whiskies. I felt totally at home, like I had known this couple my whole life. The Scots have a way — similar to Americans — of making one feel welcomed and accepted. I can say this because of having once been married to a Scot and having spent a lot of time there. My ex-husband was, and still is, one of the friendliest people I know.

You may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from your adopted country into The Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
My bag is always full of tea and sweets from England. I never return without them. I always pack a few British newspapers as well because my parents are Anglophiles, have been to England many times and enjoy reading them. Rumor has it that some of you Displaced Nation citizens are avid tea drinkers and readers, and that you rarely turn down sweets.

You are invited to prepare one meal based on your travels for other members of The Displaced Nation. What’s on your menu?

I will fix my favorite meal which is a nice Sunday roast that includes roast beef, roasted potatoes, carrots, peas, and Yorkshire pudding (I don’t do sprouts, thank you.) We’ll finish it off with a nice pot of tea and a slice of Victoria sponge, with jam and whipped cream.

And now you may add a word or expression from each of the countries where you’ve lived to The Displaced Nation argot. What will you loan us?
I’m feeling peckish. I say that quite often and it always results in the odd look or two. It’s just not used here, at least where I live. To feel “peckish” means to feel slightly hungry.

Earlier this month, we did a series of posts on Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee. Incurable Britophile that you are, I presume you celebrated from a distance?
I watched the River Pageant, which was on early in the morning East Coast time, and then hosted my own Diamond Jubilee lunch (see photos on my blog). The food was great — we nibbled on leftovers for days! Even though I didn’t have a big party (it was just for my family), I was glad to do it to show my blog readers that you don’t have to be in Britain to celebrate properly. You can still enjoy yourself and take part in your own little way.

A couple of us on The Displaced Nation team thinks that the Queen deserves an Olympic medal for having survived almost being displaced by Princess Diana. Do you agree?
I don’t agree that the Queen was almost displaced by Diana; if she was going to be displaced it would have been due to her actions (or lack of) that left the British public feeling as if she was heartless and out of touch. However, I still don’t think she would have been displaced. Time heals and I think many of us now understand the dilemma she faced as a grandmother trying to protect her grandchildren who just lost their mother. However, as Head of State I do wish she had at least made a televised message to the public within the first 24 hours. Waiting five days was a bit much.

Americans seem to love the Royal Family. Do you think the United States might benefit from having one?
The idea of the United States having a royal family at this point is a silly one. It doesn’t fit our history or where we are headed as a country. Let’s leave that to the nation that does Monarchy the best.

Readers — yay or nay for letting Melissa Stoey into The Displaced Nation? Tell us your reasons. (Note: It’s fine to vote “nay” as long as you couch your reasoning in terms we all — including Melissa — find amusing!)

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s episode in Libby’s Life, our fictional expat series set in small town New England. (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures and/or check out “Who’s Who in Libby’s Life.”)

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img: Melissa Stoey at Stirling Castle, Scotland, then and now — in 1989, when she was displaced (and cold!), and in 2010, when she was visiting (and warmer!).

THE DISPLACED Q: Does living abroad make you more or less patriotic?

Now then, this IS an interesting question. Very topical, especially for me, as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is still being televised ad infinitum here in Australia. It’s almost like the networks can’t get enough of it. At one point this week it was on three channels simultaneously!

I’m not normally very patriotic — my opinions on the state of England and the UK are…well, let’s just say, that’s why I moved to Australia!

And yet — as I watch the parades, listen to the crowds shrieking, and imagine the atmosphere outside Buckingham Palace, part of me thinks: maybe I should be there? It is my home after all…and whatever else I end up being, I will always be British as well. I can’t imagine giving it up completely — it’s my history, man! And there are still things I do love about the old country. It’s an awfully pretty place, for one thing! It’s not England’s fault it’s being run into the ground by a bunch of idiots.

Mark Twain said:

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.

Transferred loyalties

Oddly enough, I sometimes transfer my loyalties to wherever I call home, at least temporarily. It helps me to feel more involved with the local culture when I’m in a place, and I’m the kind of guy who’s more than happy celebrate whatever makes their country great as well.

In Thailand, for the King’s birthday, I kidnapped a gigantic yellow flag and fastened it to the back of my scooter. I saw nothing wrong with committing a minor offense to display my support for their monarch. And neither did the local police — they stopped me to applaud my efforts!

In Australia it goes without saying that I celebrate their national holiday, Australia Day. I do it for two reasons: first, I genuinely love Australia and all it stands for — it’s why I moved here as soon as I could! I really believe in their attitude to government, their national traits and their value system. Australia IS great, and it works. I think that’s quite rare in the world, and deserves recognition.

Oh and the second reason? Well, you celebrate Australia Day by going out in the sunshine, down to the river, and getting drunk. It’s not like it’s much of a hardship to get involved. 😉

But Britain is “great” — isn’t it?

Back to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. I hear stirring speeches from celebrities and Royal Family members, and feel…I dunno. Uplifted? Triumphant? It’s hard not to feel a tickle of pride when the eyes of the whole world are on the monarch of my tiny island.

But is it rose-tinted glasses that make me tear just a little, as the cameras zoom in on the Queen smiling at a joke from the commentator? Am I just caught up in the fever of the moment? The rest of England is going crazy for this. It’s hard not to feel just a little infected by it. But what exactly is it that I’m feeling? Mere nostalgia? Fond memories and a touch of homesickness?

As already mentioned, there’s plenty of reason not to feel pride in the country of my birth. There’s also plenty going wrong in England at the moment. The wages are terrible, unemployment is rampant, the economy is in the dumps. In my humble opinion, the UK is falling apart.

But the Jubilee itself was quite stirring, inspiring even, a reminder of all that was Great about Britain, and perhaps could be again.

Then again, I can’t help but remember that the Ancient Romans had the same idea: when the masses are starving in the streets, give them GAMES! A spectacle to take their mind off the hunger, to remind them of what a glorious empire they belong to — give them a taste of grandeur whilst they’re dying in the gutters.

Okay, so that’s a pretty cynical view to take. Hey, I’m here to play the Devil’s Advocate too, right?

So here’s my question to you kind folks: does being displaced — or out of your “home” country for any reason — make you feel MORE or LESS patriotic? And why is that?

Tell me what you think in the comments, or feel free to hit me up on Twitter at @TonyJamesSlater.

STAY TUNED for our next post, which will be on Monday.

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Image: MorgueFile

A marathon reign of Olympic proportions: Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee

Regardless of where you were in the world at the weekend, you were most likely aware of a little party going on in Britain, to celebrate one woman’s six decades as Queen.

Queen Elizabeth II is only the second monarch of Great Britain to have reigned sixty years, the first being Queen Victoria, who was on the throne for 63 years and 7 months. Given the Royal Family’s record of longevity — the Queen Mother was 101 when she died in 2002 —  Victoria’s record could well be beaten in 2016, and Brits shouldn’t rush to chuck away the flags and bunting. They’ll probably need them in another ten years’ time for Britain’s first Platinum Jubilee.

Sixty years is a long time for anyone to be in one job, particularly when you didn’t get much say in your nomination for it. And, OK, while republican sympathizers might think a carriage clock for the mantlepiece at Buckingham Palace would be adequate recognition, millions of Brits this weekend seemed very happy to foot their share of the bill for the extravagant national celebrations.

A job for life

Most people would have quit that job long ago. The Queen, however, is made of sterner stuff, and her determination to see the job through to the end — quite literally — means, inevitably, she has seen huge changes during her reign.

Not least of these is the issue of how she came to be Queen in the first place. Forced to choose between being King and marrying divorcee Wallis Simpson, Edward VIII abdicated the crown to be with the love of his life, and in doing so made his younger brother King, and his niece Elizabeth first in line to the throne. To have a monarch married to a divorcee went against the teachings of the Church of England, of which the British monarch is Supreme Governor.

Ironic, then, that three of Queen Elizabeth’s four children have divorced, including, of course, the Prince of Wales, Britain’s next King. They all divorced or separated in 1992, the year referred to by the Queen as her “annus horribilis”.

The monarchy survived this crisis with its usual show of stalwartness and stiff upper lip, only to be hit, five years later, by a much bigger crisis — the greatest since the abdication of the Queen’s uncle in 1936.

Making a rod for one’s own back

After the sudden death of Diana, Princess of Wales, the Queen again employed a stiff upper lip in her “business as usual” approach to the tragedy, but drastically underestimated the intensity of the public’s grief at the death of her ex-daughter-in-law. The public perceived the Queen as cold and uncaring when she stayed in Scotland in Balmoral Castle while insisting on adhering to Royal  protocol by not having the flag at Buckingham Palace flying at half mast.

In an article in The Telegraph, Mary Francis, a former advisor of the Queen,  said that at the time she “feared that republican MPs would call for a end to the monarchy because of public anger at the Royal Family’s initial reaction to the death of Diana.”

In the Radio 4 documentary, “A Royal Recovery”, Mrs. Francis said:

I do remember walking into Buckingham Palace the first morning I was back. Although there were so many people around, it was very quiet. It was a threatening and rather unpleasant atmosphere.

Rising from the ashes

Incredible, then, fifteen years later, to watch the enthusiastic crowds in London at the weekend as 1,000 boats sailed up the River Thames in the largest pageant on the Thames since the reign of Charles II, 350 years ago. It was as if the Diana crisis had never happened. Or maybe it was something more – an acknowledgement, admiration, of this woman’s unswerving devotion to duty.

As my Australian friend, Kym, said to me yesterday:

“Regardless of what you think of the monarchy, it’s an amazing testament to a woman who has been in ‘the job’ for 60 years.”

Indeed. Sixty years is, in terms of Olympian feats, a marathon; one which deserves a crowd to cheer on the runner.

Our theme for summer: Olympian Feats

It’s fitting, therefore, that the Jubilee’s acknowledgement of stamina and determination should come at the time of another event when these qualities are essential:  the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

Because of this, we have decided to revolve our summer posts around an Olympic theme — not necessarily the sports themselves, but more about the qualities required of an Olympic athlete, or a long-reigning monarch.

As we are more armchair sportsmen, however — and it is Wimbledon very soon, of course, which takes up an awful lot of armchair time —  we will be taking a break ourselves, by cutting our posts down to four per week rather than the usual five. Nevertheless, you can look forward to two new series starting this month — “Chance Encounters” and “You CAN Go Home Again” as well as the familiar Random Nomads, Displaced Qs, questions for Mary-Sue, book reviews, and bulletins from Libby in Woodhaven.

 

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