Saturday 30 April 2011

Day 27: The Quest for the SS United States

The SS United States is a ship that Mike took between Britain and the US when he was four years old.  Its empty hulk is waiting to the south of us in Pier 82 for somebody to decide they can afford to do something with it.  Even from here, we can see its monumental smoke stacks and our goal today is to go and have a look at it.

The Philadelphia Belle being steered off for a cruise

1. The first part of the route takes us through Penn's Landing full of beautiful old ships: the tug boat, Jupiter, the cod fisher, Gazela, the SS Olympia, the restaurant,  and one submarine, Becuna.  The seaport museum is also here: we will visit that when we have a full day.  Jupiter and Gazela are being restored by volunteers, Jupiter is moored alongside a floating workshop and Gazela is always full of people who will get the chance to sail her eventually.  There is also the Philadelphia Belle, which is pretending to be a paddle steamer and taking people on mealtime cruises.  It's vestigial paddles don't even touch the water, but we can all tell just by looking that they would be no use if they did.

The Olympia (right) is a museum boat, the Moshulu (left) is now a restaurant
2. The bike trail along South Columbus Boulevard hugs the water, taking us past a new apartment block built in imitation of a cruise liner, a heliport (that explains all those helicopters) and the beautiful piers 39 and 40.  They must be contemporary with ours, but they are even prettier to look at.  They are used for storage and warehousing of various kinds.

3. After the coastguard's office, the bike trail splits away from the road and dives off into a kind of wilderness along the water edge.  A brand new section passes through a new but barren garden that is supposed to filter runoff from rain.  It comes to an abrupt halt at what looks like a property boundary, but we pick it up again on the other side of an abandoned car park. Mike told me that when he lived in DC, he was part of a committee for creating bike trails and it was a nightmare negotiating his way through all the bits of private land.  It looks like something similar happened here.

Abandoned car on overgrown pier

Nature is reclaiming territory here.  Antonia and I saw our first American robins, and there are many other birds I don't recognise.  In the thin woods, two Asian ladies were collecting a plant that looks like our silver weed.  They said it was used in Chinese medicine.  The piers are abandoned, either just posts sticking up out of the water, or overgrown rectangles of woodland.  We followed a path onto one of them, letting Mike go first as he is the only one who can recognise poison ivy and poison oak, the Super Nettles of America.  The pier was not exactly uninhabited.  In its center was a very orderly campsite belonging to a heavily bearded man who was just leaving on a bicycle.  Around the edges, nesting Canada geese didn't appreciate our arrival.  Right at the very end was the ancient wreck of a pick-up truck with a swastika on the side.

4. We followed the bike trail until it deposited us in the mall where our sister-in-law took us shopping last night.  We discovered we could get no further along the water, and we were hungry, so we bought sandwiches from the supermarket's tiny coffee shop and ate them there.  I bet not many tourists have eaten here, in fact it seems to be used at least partly by supermarket staff on their breaks.  The supermarket is strangely quiet for a Saturday lunchtime, and the car park is half empty.  How different from home.

5. Back on South Columbus Boulevard we discover that Pier 74 is gleaming and modern. We can see the Walt Whitman bridge quite close and we realize that we are near our destination.  We still weren't prepared for how suddenly the SS United States appeared as we passed the buildings.  She looms impressively over the dockyard, rusty and peeling with green patches all over her sides.  It was quite a sad sight.  Mike gave us the guided tour from behind the railings.  That is as close as we can get.

The SS United States, imprisoned in Pier 82
6. We just missed the number 25 bus and received estimates of the next one's arrival at between one hour and 40 minutes, so we flagged a cab back to Pier 5.

Friday 29 April 2011

Day 26: A walk through Philadelphia

1.  To reach town from the marina, we have to get through an enormous highway.  The easiest way is to turn left and take the overpass that leads into Market Street or Chestnut Street.  Today we turned right, threaded our way through some kind of building work, then followed the monumental Benjamin Franklin Bridge as it slowly lowers itself to ground level.  Here, the highway has an underpass.  In the middle was a type of cardboard tent, which might or might not have contained somebody.  In front of the tent, perched on a crate, were a pristine leather bound black Bible and a stuffed animal that had seen better days.

2.  We found ourselves entering the old part of the city along Race Street.  There is only one problem: it doesn't look particularly old to us, notwithstanding the horse-drawn carriage that was calming the traffic and a single cobbled street.  We slipped into the Synderman Works art gallery on Cherry Street, because we liked the look of it and saw very beautiful things:
Ron Isaacs
Lindsay Feuer and Bonnie Seeman

I still think I'd rather travel than collect art, but I can very much see the appeal of the technique and beauty of these pieces.

3.  We were heading for the Independence National Park area of Philadelphia and started to encounter tourist groups, including a whole party on Segways which amused us both.  We went to the Independence Visitor Center in the hope of starting to get a grip on Philly's rather overwhelming historical sites.  We collected information and ended up learning the meaning of all the symbols on the US seal and some stuff about the Underground Railroad.  After that, Antonia wanted a snack, so we sat around while she wrote a postcard to her old school and I listened to the people at the next table discuss the intellectual merits of the Oprah Winfrey show.

4. We went home on the overpass, past a monument to the Irish immigrants to the US.  On one side of a huge bronze hill, the starving sit raggedly amongst graves and barren land.  As they reach the peak of the hill it transforms into the deck of the ship.  Wide-eyed with joy and suddenly well-dressed, they walk down the gangplank into the land of freedom and opportunity...  We took the opportunity to peek in at our neighbor's living arrangements on our way home.  The Pier 3 marina is less full than ours, but has one very pretty houseboat with a sloping roof.  The apartments behind the slightly weather-worn corrugated metal that faces onto the marina have inner covered courtyards filled with tulips.  And, like many US apartments, they have a lobby with a concierge who gave us a suspicious look through her glass window.

Thursday 28 April 2011

Day 25: The Houseboat Pegasus

Our houseboat is the kind that's like an ordinary but tiny house built on a raft.  It is possible to move it around in the water, but it isn't really for going anywhere. 

This advantage of this type of houseboat as living accommodation is that you get a lot more width.  Inside it's much more like an ordinary house than a barge.  You know you're on a boat because it rocks up and down, more or less noticeably, depending on the weather and on what is going on outside.  The disadvantage with this king of houseboat is that not as much attention has been paid to designing the space. Although it must be more than twice the size of our Queen Mary cabin, there is less room for our stuff!  Anyway, we have a fairly large sitting room / kitchen then a few steps to a lower level where there is a bedroom, a tiny shower room and a couple of closets. The great thing is that we have a lot of outdoor space: two deckchairs on the roof where I'm typing this, and a big covered deck with table, chairs and grill at the front.  We are much better off in this respect than we would be almost anywhere else in Philly, and I really need to be able to be outside.

If they have energy efficiency ratings in the US, the houseboat would surely score a G.  Even when you're inside, you're as good as outside, except for wind and rain protection. When we arrived, it was unusually hot and muggy for the season and we had several storms. Since the AC hadn't been installed for the summer, it was equally hot and humid inside. The lower levels of the boat seem to be at or below water level, which is perhaps a bad design move.  At any rate they are quite a bit damper in feel than the upper level.

I hate AC and welcomed the immersion in the local climate.  This is not something I've had the chance to do in the US before, and it's one of the things that has always stopped me feeling 'in touch' with the place.  Mike was looking forward to the AC.  Anyway, it's now cool and dry and we had to turn on the heating last night!

How the utilities work:

Along the docks floating boardwalks are stands shared between two moorings, supplying electricity and water.  The cooker and grill use gas bottles, there are gas and electric heaters.  The bathroom facilities are interesting.  Flushing the marine toilet is a two step process.  Turn the handle one way and you pump water from the marina into the bowl.  If the tide is very low, and the boat is sitting in sludge, you can either wait, fill the toilet from the shower, or go use the toilets in the marina building.  Turn the handle the other way and the toilet flushes into some kind of waste grinder.  Legally, it then has to go to a storage tank (to be emptied regularly?), or it might just get away with some kind of onboard treatment plant, which our boat doesn't have.

It seems we have a small onboard hot water tank, heated electrically, though I have not found it.  It has the capacity for a couple of small shower though it hasn't run out on us yet.  The shower needs a pump, though this seems to be mostly for getting water out of the drain rather than into the shower head.  At any rate, if it is not on, the water collects in the bottom of the shower.

The marina building has laundry facilities, a shower and two toilets.  Not everybody has bathroom facilities on their boats.  I wonder if using these facilities isn't in any case the most ecologically friendly choice.

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Day 24: Our new address: Pier 5 marina at Penn's Landing, Philadelphia

The marina is enclosed by buildings faced with blue corrugated metal on three sides, and wooden piers protect the exit on to the Delaware River.  On one side there are apartments overlooking the marina, in what must be a converted warehouse, between us and the street is an office building, and on the other side we have what look like warehouses, right up against the enormous Benjamin Franklin bridge, which stretches away across the river.  There are maybe a couple of dozen boats of various kinds moored here, some of them are very beautiful, others a little run down.  There seem to be a handful of permanent residents, and I've met one of our neighbors from Pier 3 who sails around for part of the year and moors here for the rest of the time.

Voici notre nouvelle adresse, sur la rivière Delaware, à coté du centre de Philadelphie, entourée de batiments, protegée des foules, mais pas du bruit urbain.  A notre gauche, le pont Benjamin Franklin transporte voitures, camions, trains et vélos.  Des hélicopteres passent régulierement, sans compter les bateaux sur la rivière.  Nous montons et descendons au fil des marées et la rivière nous apporte végétation et malheureusement, un peu de déchets.  Nous partageons la marine avec deux douzaines de bateaux en tout genre, et quelques voisins.  En somme, on y est plutot bien.

You do not forget that you are in a large city here, as you can in some parts of London's waterways.  There are a few ducks and geese, but not much nature.  We can walk to every part of the city centre, or the public transport pretty easily.  The marina holds the urban roar at a bit of a distance, but we are dominated by the bridge, with its cars and trains, and regular helicopter flights.  The river outside is busy, but we barely notice it.  There is a definite 'urban grunge' feel to the place, which is what I have always liked best about Philadelphia, so I am happy.

The river is tidal, so we and the wooden walkways to which we are moored keep going up and down, but we barely notice, except at very low tides when we can be sitting in watery sludge.  The river brings a lot of driftwood into the marina, and unfortunately some pollution.  Yesterday evening, our neighbor tried to flush some out by pouring water into the marina, and amazingly it seems to have worked a bit.

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Day 23: Arrival in New York

Brooklyn terminal, there are some skyscrapers back there somewhere!

The 'Arrival in New York by Ship' is iconic: the statue of liberty, the Manhattan skyline...  so I love the fact that the specific instance of an arrival in New York can be so completely different.  At about 5:30 am we passed under the Verazzano Narrows bridge, in the dark, but at least we could see its lights.  After that we entered a thick fog, through which the sun eventually rose over a few hulking shapes.  We didn't see much else until it finished burning the fog off, as we had breakfast.

L'image de l'arriveé à New York par voie maritime est très connue, avec la statue de la liberté, les gratte-ciels de Manhattan...  le fait que la realité d'un cas particulier peut être dramatiquement différent me plait.  A 5:30 du petit matin nous passâmes sous le pont de Verazzano Narrows.  Lui, au moins restait visible dans l'obscurité grace à son éclairage.  Dans la photo le soleil se hisse au dessus du brouillard qui est descendu tout de suite après.  Nous n'avons rien vu que ces grues étranges, qui serviront bientôt à nous désembarquer.  New York a fait son apparition au moment du petit déjeuner, alors que le brouillard s'était évanoui.

Arriving in the USA

The borders of the USA are relatively tense places these days.  It's heart-warming how much the New Yorkers love their city.  At 5.00am, they were on deck looking starry-eyed, and pointing out landmarks that were completely invisible through the fog.  That's how well they know their skyline!  It's a bit disconcerting though, when they tell you that the two pilot boats shepherding the Queen Mary are there to protect us from Al Qaida.  I swear, we had two very similar boats at Southampton and they were there to protect us from other boats whose navigators were too distracted or incompetent to get out of our way. Or maybe, given the Queen Mary's size, it's the other boats they're protecting.

Disembarkation should be a big moment for us.  We're following in the footsteps of Mike's great-grandparents, the first Americans in his family.  We're also reliving his own return to the US by ship at the age of 4, after his father had worked in the UK.  In reality, we're feeling calm and collected, though a bit sad at leaving cabin 8057 which had felt like home.  In the ship's theater, which doubles as a disembarkation lounge, Mike got chatting to a guy I had seen wandering the ship in a tracksuit marked SEALS (the American Navy).  This two-star general, as he turned out to be, told Mike that his job involved keeping the US on top in the European 'theater', where they sometimes just do what they have to do..., that Mike shouldn't believe anything he sees in the media (I presume none of us do anyway), and that there's a whole lot more going on than he could possibly know about.  There are many interpretations to this.  The kindest is that a little harmless bragging at the end of a holiday is good for the ego - but did you know, Mr 2-star general, that you were addressing a dual citizen of the 'European theater' as well as the US?

I had feared that immigration might be an obstacle for us, as we tried to convince them that I should be granted entry for 6 months and 4 days, rather than the standard 6 months.  I needed the extra days to be able to meet our transpacific ship in San Diego.  They turned out to be pretty nice about it, but they couldn't deal with it in the ordinary queue, and we were sent to the office for troublesome cases. 

We waited next to some French contractors who were supposed to spend a month on the Queen Mary.  They weren't quite sure why they had just disembarked or why immigration were concerned about letting them re-embark!  Their English was OK but not quite up to the task and the immigration officials' French was non-existent, so I interpreted for them a little bit.  That got the attention of the immigration officials, and they decided to fast-track me out of their system.  They gave me seven months in the US, just in case the transpacific ship doesn't leave on time! I tend to feel that I get some preferential treatment from being married to a US citizen.  While it's nice for me, the only excuse is that my marriage really does give me the right to live in the US if I want to.  And I helped them out a bit.  But I couldn't quite avoid the impression that they don't want too much fraternization between the troublesome cases, or too many US citizens hanging around taking note of what goes on in there.  The staff in the center are rather brusque, though helpful to me, but right there in the corridor between the front desk and the waiting room is a big world map showing 'Zones of Terrorist Activity', and most of it is red!

Monday 25 April 2011

Day 16 to Day 22: Transatlantic on the Queen Mary 2

Antonia plotted our course on the souvenir transatlantic chart, using figures issued at the end of the voyage.  That's not the end of the use of the chart for our roadschooling though.

Passenger's Log:

Tuesday 19 April, 2011
We’re pleased and surprised that all our stuff fits so neatly into our stateroom.  We like our huge window and balcony and the way the sofa bed for Antonia folds up so nicely and easily during the day.  We got upgraded to this lovely room from what I like to think of as ‘the broom cupboard’, mostly by booking early.

Wednesday 20 April, 2011
What's fabulous about being on this ship is that the telephone doesn't ring.  And they offer activities for children for 10 hours out of every day.  Antonia chooses what she wants to do to from her own program sheet.  There are too many choices.  Today we saw a couple of other ships out at sea, and a lonely seagull flying in our wake.

Thursday 21 April, 2011
Everything is in motion at sea, there are no fixed and stable points.  Early in the morning, when we were moving a lot, I decided to take the background hum in our room as a fixed point.  Just then, the hum began to change pitch and volume.  It was nice, it made me feel very centered, though in reality, even my stomach is moving up and down.  No seasickness yet, though I started to wonder a bit during the roughest part of the morning.  We learned that we are perhaps fortunate in being midway along the ship where the motion is least.  The gym is in the bow, and the pitching adds to the challenge of balancing on the cardio machines or choosing weights.

There is something bland about life on the ship, without ever being boring.  The ocean is odorless, and without a living thing to be seen.  The food is excellent, but in a bland kind of way, and the design of the spaces is stunning but has no natural materials.  I’m not saying all this as a bad thing, really.  It makes space for inspiration and energy for work, helped of course, by the fact that we have literally nothing to do in the way of preparing food or cleaning, and precious little laundry and tidying .  I think the blandness also makes us more focused on the people around us, certainly it would on a longer voyage, where we had more time to get to know them.

Friday 22 April, 2011
We have developed a bit of a routine.  After a buffet breakfast, we go to lectures or activities or I do a few lessons with Antonia.  We prefer the restaurant lunch to the cafeteria, and we usually get a nice window seat.  In the afternoon, Antonia goes to the children’s area for three hours of play and activities and Mike and I work in our stateroom.  When Antonia comes back, I go to the gym and Mike takes her to the pool.  Sometimes I join them in the hot tub.  We have the late dinner at 8.30 pm so there is plenty of time for all this and dressing up, which we do nearly every night.  After dinner, we go to shows or the cinema sometimes, but mostly just to bed.

Sunday 24 April, 2011
Today, the wind is really whistling outside our stateroom and it’s raining, but the sea is astonishingly calm.  Earlier in the voyage, the motion was quite noticeable, but the weather seemed fine and not particularly windy.  Obviously the link between wind, weather and waves is not a totally direct one.  This ship is mostly full of people who have cruised a lot more than us - this is our 'maiden voyage'.  Many of them have remarked on the earlier motion, which after all, we found quite moderate.  None of us apparently get seasick on a big ocean liner with stabilizers in calm to moderate seas, but Mike looks at the Atlantic outside and speculates about what it must be like in a small ship.  It certainly is a featureless desert and I’m vaguely aware that the weather has left few possibilities for traditional navigation.  Without a gps, I’m not sure what the navigator would do.

We liked cruising a lot, we may do it a lot more, and I’m really looking forward to our Pacific crossing, but now the novelty has worn off we are thinking about issues and responsibilities.  We have encountered and overcome the temptation to waste food or not clean up messes just because the food is free and there are lots of staff.  So far, so good.  We‘ve asked ourselves about the ecological viability of this way of life and travel, compared with others.  We don’t have enough information to answer those questions. 

In other news, Antonia has far more racial awareness than I ever had at her age, which is presumably related to the fact that she's been in many and diverse multi-racial environments in her short life.  She has noticed that 'all' the passengers are white and 'all' the staff are not.  She said it made her feel ‘a bit strange’.  To a first approximation, her observation is true.  It perhaps isn’t surprising that the majority of passengers on a liner between the UK and the US are white, but still...  In fact, a great many of the staff are Filipino, and I wonder why.  Of course, there are other differences.  Unsurprisingly, the passengers are predominantly past retirement age, the staff predominantly young.  But still...

I have been asking myself, what needs to be the case so that this situation, however ‘strange’ is nevertheless acceptable.  Mike was obviously trying to answer the same question: he began asking the staff who work with us about their job satisfaction!  I’m not sure if I feel certain of an honest answer from that source.  We really know no more about their pay and conditions than we do about the ecological viability of the ship - though we can see that they work long hours, indeed, long weeks.  It’s clear that our fellow passengers are equally uncertain about their situation, from those who tend to assume the service staff are basically reliant on tips for their income (as in their home country), to those who assume that tips are a mere extra (as in their home country).  None, as far as I know, spoke from specific knowledge.

For myself, I feel the situation is only really acceptable if our roles are interchangeable, at least in principle.  It would have to be possible to imagine our daughter waiting on our retired head waiter as he takes a nostalgic cruise around the South China Seas.  And it would have to seem like just as good a job to her as it is for him.  Whether that’s the case, I don’t know...  I also feel that Carnaval, the company that owns Cunard, is of course answerable for matters of environmental protection and employment, and that information, if requested, should be forthcoming.

Monday 25 April, 2011
We woke up to the intermittent sound of our ship’s foghorn, bellowing into total whiteout like a whale.  It’s our last day today.  We did an unusual number of activities, out of the feeling that it was our last chance, and packed.  It’s amazing how quickly you can get used to a place.  I am glad we’re going to a houseboat because otherwise, I don’t think I would be ready to welcome the return to dry land.

Day 15: The Eden Project

From here it looks like bubble wrap, but the domes of the Eden Project are architecturally impressive.  They're so well nestled in their clay quarry that you can't see them until you're descending the zigzag path into the quarry from the opposite side.  We went to the larger rainforest domes first.  The first thing that happened when we stepped inside is that my parents glasses fogged up.  The next is that we all began taking our clothes off.  It is very, very hot and humid in here.  They even have a special cool room for people who might not be able to take it, and while we were there, they had a stretcher case!

One of the coolest things to do is to climb to the viewing platform and look down over this jungle in a bubble.  The white balloon is the helium balloon the gardeners use to prune the tallest trees.  

We've all spent so much time in Mediterranean areas that the smaller dome was less impressive to us - but a whole lot more comfortable.  I could have had a nap.  These tulips were part of a temporary exhibition that also takes place in the Mediterranean zone.

Sunday 17 April 2011

Day 14: Mevagissey and Lost Gardens of Heligan

Tomorrow, we are carrying out our long term goal of visiting the Eden Project.  For today, we found that there are other nice things to do in the area, especially on a beautiful day.  The seaside town of Mevagissey, the coastal path leading to beaches and rock pools, the hikes and the Lost Gardens of Heligan which we should really have got to earlier.

Ca fait longtemps que nous avons envie de visiter le fameux Eden Project, mais c'est hors de nos circuits habituels.  Nous profitons de notre depart de Southampton pour y aller, et en attendant, nous découvrons plein de choses dans la région: Mevagissey, la cote tout autour, et les jardins 'perdus' de Heligan.

Lost Gardens of Heligan

Antonia's Fish

Le poisson d'Antonia qui lui a mordu le doigt !

I was looking in the rock pools with Mummy.  We first started looking in rock pools because I wanted to show Mummy a gigantic-mega-sea-anemone. Afterwards, we went into more rock pools and I was looking to see if I could find a crab or maybe even a starfish, but instead, something bit my thumb. I parted the seaweed to see what it was and it was a fish!  It was a beautiful red and white fish and I showed it to my grandparents who were there, and I was very happy.  A bit later, we found some people who asked us if we found anything and we said yes, and they showed us their starfish and we tried to show them our fish, but we couldn't find it.

Preview of America
As we were climbing up towards the Lost Gardens of Heligan we met an American lady who was trying to cycle to St Austell.  She lived in Philadelphia, and had a job as a stewardess on a private jet plane, belonging to somebody who she told us was very well known - but she made a point of not telling us whom.  A few days later another American did something very similar to us.  I have come to the conclusion that Americans have decided that name-dropping is a little bit gauche, but they still can't resist letting you know that there are names to be dropped!

The cycling lady also asked us if it was safe for her to cycle alone along English country lanes in the middle of the day.  It's hard not to fit that in to a pattern of Culture of Fear - or genuine widespread insecurity in the US?

Day 13: Drive to Cornwall

It's a six hour drive to Cornwall.  We stopped in Weston Super Mare. It's OK, but nothing special.

Saturday 16 April 2011

Day 12: Mike's last day in London

Went to dinner with Liz and Simon and Simon's sister's family tonight.  After Liz and I walked around Camden. We watched this guy maneuver his boat into a lock quite bruskly, I was impressed.  We watched him move a couple of locks, then Liz and I decided to walk along the canal.  We found ourselves chatting with the owner and then he invited us to hang out with him and his friends for several hours!  So nice people!  He just lives on his boat, moors it wherever he wants and heads into work (he works in london).  Anyway, had a pretty good time, it was interesting to see his boat.  It was really quite small inside, about twice as long as my office and he had his entire house in it, bed, kitchen, livingroom, and bathroom.  The kitchen and livingroom were of course one.  The bedroom was at the rear of the boat.

Day 11: Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Aujourd'hui je suis allée à un parc. Il y avait plein de sculptures étranges.  Il y avait aussi des vrais lapins noirs et marrons.  Il y avait aussi des faux en fer. Il y avait un dome.  En sautant sur un banc ça faisait de la musique.  Il y avait des hommes en métal qui faisaient des calins aux arbres.  Je les ai surtout bien aimé.


Today, I went to a park with strange sculptures.  There were also black and brown rabbits and some fake ones made of iron.  There was a dome.  When you jumped on a bench it made music.  There were men made of metal who were hugging trees.  I liked them especially.

Thursday 14 April 2011

Day 10: British citizenship

The UK is one of those countries that's introduced a test for people who want to become citizens.  My sister in law can ace this test.  I get between 84% and 34% on practice tests depending on how many numerical questions they ask me.  Yes - you need to know the population of Scotland and the exact number of hours a teenager can work!!  When I was a Girl Guide, knowing which way up to fly the Union Jack was enough to prove your Britishness.  Some of me thinks learning about how the UK works is an interesting idea, the rest of me recognizes this as a scam to extract money from immigrants.  We didn't have to do a test to become French citizens, I'm not sure if the French would like to think that new arrivals knew more about the country than they did.
Like this?

Or like this?

Le Royaume-Uni a un test pour les immigrants qui voudrait devenir citoyens.  Ma belle soeur peut réussir ce test presque sans faute.  Elle a acheté tous les livres que le gouvernment a publié exprès.  Je pense que c'est un peu une arnaque, et un peu intéressant.  J'aimerais bien lui emprunter son livre. Quand j'etais jeune, le seul test était de savoir dans quel sens il faut mettre le drapeau.  Pour l'instant, mes résultats sur ces tests sont entre 84% et 34%.  C'est pas génial, mais c'est qu'il faut connaitre la population de l'Ecosse, et autres détails numériques de ce genre.  En France on n'a pas eu ce genre de test.  Peut-etre que les Francais n'aimeraient pas croire que les nouveaux citoyens en savent plus qu'eux sur le pays? 

Voting / Le Vote

The British are having a referendum on whether they should change their voting system.  I wondered if I should register to vote, so I can take part in it.  But do I have time to meddle in the affairs of more than one country?  Do I have time to meddle in the affairs of any country?  In a way I feel too internationalized to be committed to the politics of any one country, but democracy only exists at a local level. 

In the end it turns out I can't register, because I've been out of the country and unregistered for more than 15 years.  I suppose I have to live in Britain before I can start voting again.

Les Britanniques vont peut-etre changer leur système de vote.  Peut-etre que je devrais faire l'effort de m'inscrire pour voter?  Est-ce que j'aurais le temps de m'occuper des affaires de plusieurs pays?  Ou même un seul?  Quelque part, je me sens trop internationalisée pour m'impliquer vraiment dans la politique d'un pays en particulier, mais puisque la démocratie n'existe qu'au niveau local....

En fin de compte, j'ai appris que je ne peux pas voter au Royaume Uni parce que j'ai passé plus de 15 ans ailleurs.  Il faudra que j'habite en Angleterre avant de pouvoir m'inscrire.

Wednesday 13 April 2011

Day 9: sea voyages and spring flowers

Antonia is in one of those terrible states where she has got herself overtired, is taking days to recover, and is struggling to remember basic addition.  I didn't think we could do anything interesting today, but fortunately, she woke up after lunch.  We are preparing to go to sea, by learning ship vocabulary in two languages.  We designed this as a game, more than a labeled diagram, so that we can go back and revise which words go with which bits of drawing.
 Antonia est dans un état ou elle n'arrive meme plus a faire des additions.  Ca lui arrive (trop souvent) quand sa vie n'est pas assez reposante.  J''ai cru qu'on ne ferait rien aujourd'hui, mais finalement on a preparé notre voyage en mer en apprenant un vocabulaire nautique en deux langues.  Le dessin d'Antonia est conçu comme un jeu qu'on peu reprendre autant qu'on veut, au lieu d'un dessin etiqueté une fois pour toutes.

Hier soir on discutait des mérites littéraires et culturels de quelques textes religieux.  La Bible de King James, le journal de l'église du village, et un petit livre datant de 1953.  Il contient toutes les prières et cérémonies en usage au sein de l'église Anglicane à cette date, et il fut presenté à ma mère quand elle avait dix ou onze ans, pour fêter la coronation d'Elizabeth II.  J'en ai retiré quelques extraits - une prière à utiliser pendant les tempêtes; une autre pour remercier Dieu d'avoir echappé à ladite tempête, le cas échéant; une autre à utiliser si on a le bonheur d'échapper à des pirates ou autres ennemis. En fait, c'est le langage poétique et archaique qui m'amuse, autant que la situation d'utilisation preconisée de ces prières.  Mais je n'ai pas eu le courage de les traduire.

And for some extra preparation, there is a book my Mum dragged out last night, while we were discussing the respective merits of the King James Bible and the Church News page of the Village Gazette.  It is called Common Prayer and is dated 1953. It was the official list of prayers and ceremonies used in the Church of England at that date and was given to my Mum when she was about 10 or 11 to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.  From the section called Forms of Prayer to be used at Sea, I've picked out a few extracts that could come in handy.  It's always good to know what to say on each occasion.

A prayer to be used in storms at sea:
O most powerful and glorious Lord God, at whose command the winds blow, and lift up the waves of the sea, and who stillest the rage thereof; We thy creatures, but miserable sinners, do in this our great distress cry unto thee for help: Save Lord, or else we perish...

Thanksgiving after the aforementioned storm:

... we found trouble and heaviness : we were even at death's door.
The waters of the sea had well-nigh covered us : the proud waters had well-nigh gone over our soul.
The sea roared : and the stormy wind lifted up the waves thereof.
We were carried up as it were to heaven, and then down again into the deep : our soul melted within us because of trouble;
Then cried we unto thee O Lord : and thou didst deliver us out of our distress,
Blessed be thy name ...

Thanksgiving on being delivered from enemies (such as pirates):

If the Lord had not been on our side, now may we say : if the Lord himself had not been on our side, when men rose up against us;
They had swallowed us up quick : when they were so wrathfully displeased at us.
Yea, the waters had drowned us, and the stream had gone over our soul : the deep waters of the proud had gone over our soul.
But praised be the Lord : who hath not given us over as a prey unto them.
The Lord hath wrought : a mighty salvation for us.
We got not this by our own sword, neither was it our own arm that saved us : but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of they countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto us.
The Lord hath appeared for us : the Lord hath covered our heads, and made us to stand in the day of battle.
The Lord hath appeared for us : the Lord hath overthrown our enemies, and dashed in pieces those that rose up against us.
Therefore not unto us, O Lord, not unto us : but unto thy Name be given the glory....

Spring Flower Show - Foire des Fleurs

At the village's Spring Flower Show, only the people with the coldest gardens actually have any spring flowers left.  Nothing to do with global warming, no, not at all!! 

Comme les Anglais aiment bien jardiner, les foires et concours de fleurs sont une institution.  Pour la foire des fleurs printanières, seuls ceux qui ont des jardins à tendance froide ont encore des fleurs du printemps.  Peut-être à cause du changement climatique, qui sait?

At least I have the Tasmania trip sorted out, I think.  It's taken me some 8 hours to do the planning and I still have to make the reservations, preferably asap.

J'ai fini de préparer la partie de notre voyage qui se déroule en Tasmanie, du moins, j'espère.  Ca m'a pris 8 heures de recherches et il me reste les réservations à faire.  J'espère que je pourrais les faire tout de suite, pour éviter d'avoir à reprendre le travail.

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Day 8: planning Tasmania

Mike has gone back to London to work, Antonia and I are worn out and walking around like zombies.  I spent the whole afternoon trying to work out the Tasmania section of our trip.

Mike est retourné à Londres pour travailler.  Antonia et moi sont très fatiguées d'avoir fait la fête pendant trop longtemps.  J'ai passé l'après-midi à essayer de mettre en place la partie de notre voyage qui sera en Tasmanie.

Sunday 10 April 2011

Day 7: Mothering Easter

English Mothering Sunday was last week, when I was still in France.  Easter Sunday is in two weeks when we're on a boat.  Today we're pretending that it's both of those with the family all together for the last time in a while.

Dimanche dernier, c'était la fête des mères en Angleterre. Dans deux semaines ce sera Paques, mais on sera sur un bateau.  Aujourd'hui on fait semblant que c'est les deux, avec la famille ensemble pour la dernière fois pour quelque temps.

The rest of my family like to do those ghastly cryptic crosswords, but I decided to translate Robert Browning's poem instead.  It's very appropriate for the weather we've been having.

Un peu plus bas, ma traduction de ce poème très connu de Robert Browning.  Je crois qu'il était dans le sud de l'Europe au printemps et qu'il pensait à son pays natal.  D'habitude, je suis loin de partager ses sentiments, mais c'est vrai que c'est beau ici, quand il fait beau !


Oh to be in England,
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England - now!

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows -
Hark! where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops - at the bent sprays edge -
That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children's dower,
- Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!


Je rêve d'Angleterre, 
Quand l'avril revient
Qui ouvre l'oeil en Angleterre
Voit, sans voire, un matin,
Que les basses branches et les brousailles forment
Des débuts de feuilles autour de l'Orme,
Et le pinson chante dans le pommier vert
En Angleterre !

Après avril, quand mai s'y mèle,
La fauvette batit, et les hirondelles -
Tiens! voila mon poirier penchant sous un fardeau
De fleurs; il éparpille parmi les trèfles du pré
Pétales et gouttes d'eau - au bord d'un rameau -
Voici la grive savante; ses chants par deux fois répétés
De peur qu'un passant ne l'estime trop envoutée
Pour reprendre l'air premier !
Et à l'aube la rosée ébouriffe les champs,
Mais tout sera beau, le midi reveillant
Les boutons d'or, trésor des petits enfants,
- Plus riches de loin que ces bouquets voyants !

Saturday 9 April 2011

Day 6: Degree ceremony

I got closure on my 9 year Open University degree adventure before leaving.  This is me admitting to my name to the master of ceremonies.

Je suis licenciée !  Enfin, diplomée...  en histoire de l'art.  Eh oui, tout en habitant la France, je suivais les cours à distance de l'Open University en Anglais.  On a passé la journée à Harrogate pour les cérémonies.

The highlights of my day were the delicious lunch my parents bought us at Van Zeller's and this amazing drawing Antonia did of the OU shield.  She even has the motto 'Learn and Live', or as my brother would have it 'Earn and Live'.  We went to the ceremony in Harrogate, a town I haven't been in since I was 19.  Before that we lived there for nearly 10 years.  Yorkshire and Yorkshire people have a recognizable style of their own which we was something I never realized when I lived here.

The OU was a great experience with very good quality, challenging courses.  I would definitely recommend it.

Friday 8 April 2011

Day 5: Problem No 1


 Bon, et bien, c’est pas tout, ça ne serait pas un vrai voyage sans mésaventures.  Pour comprendre ce qui m’est arrivé il faut savoir que, en bonne famille internationale, nous avons des comptes, et donc des cartes bancaires dans nos trois pays principaux.  Pas facile, alors, de retenir le code de la carte bancaire qu’on a utilisé pour la dernière fois il y à six mois.  Je me suis trompée dans mon code trois fois avant de m’en souvenir, ma carte était donc bloquée.  C’est grave parce que pour retirer les billets du train que j’ai acheté je dois presenter cette meme carte à un automate.

J’apelle donc le service de la banque depuis le téléphone de mon amie, je leur explique ma situation.  Eux, ce qui les intéresse, c’est que je réussisse leur examen de sécurité, syle “la enième lettre de votre mot de passe, madame?”; “votre ville mémorable, madame”.  Bien entendu, je n’en sais strictement rien.  Il ne peuvent non plus me rappeler chez moi, c’est à dire en France.  Conclusion, ils ne veulent même pas me parler.  Une heure plus tard, finalement convaincus que Mike est Mike et que je suis sa femme, ils acceptant de me dire que, puisque je me suis souvenu de mon code, il me suffit de me rendre à l’automate d’une branche de la banque pour le re-autoriser !  C’est ainsi que je me retrouve ce matin à prendre un petit déjeuner romantique de myrtilles et scones sur un banc ensoleillé de Wanstead High Street avec Mike.


It wouldn’t be real travel if things didn’t go wrong.  My problem came about because, being quite international, we have accounts, and therefore bank cards in each of our three main countries.  I have a hard time remembering the PIN code of cards I haven’t used for months.  Since I got it wrong three times before remembering it, my card got blocked.  I had to get it sorted out urgently since I had prepaid train tickets that I needed to pick up from a machine in Kings Cross, using this same card.

So, I called the bank’s customer ‘service’ from my friend’s house and explained my problem.  They, it seemed, were mostly interested in whether I could pass their security test, including questions such as the nth letter of my password or my memorable city, etc.  Needless to say, I had forgotten those too.  Conclusion: they did not want to talk to me.  An hour later, we managed to persuade them that Mike is Mike and I am his wife.  They then agreed to tell me that since I know my PIN code now, all I need to do is go to a machine at one of the bank’s branches and re-authorize it!  That’s how Mike and I found ourselves eating a romantic breakfast of blueberries and scones on a sunny bench in Wanstead High Street this morning.

Day 4: Greenwich

The search for meaning:

One of the frustrations I have with museums as a learning environment is that there's a lot to look at, it's inspiring stuff, and a great sensory experience, but I often go away feeling as if it's poorly designed for the transfer of meaning.  Just like with this sculpture in Devonport House gardens.

Je suis parfois frustreé par les museés en tant qu'environnement pédagogique.  Il nous en mettent plein les yeux mais ça me semble parfois mal conçu pour le transfert de quoi que ce soit qui ai un sens.  Un peu comme cette sculpture des jardins de Devonport House.

We tried out the hands-on section of the National Maritime Museum, and it was a bit disappointing.  There was not much there that wouldn't be better covered by a picture book or a Flash application on the internet.  In many ways, those are better tools for distributing information to huge quantities of people.  Museums win out on scale, though.  We eventually spent over an hour deciphering a chart of the channel between Dover and Calais, with the help of paper boats.

Nous avons testé la partie interactive du National Maritime Museum, mais c'était un peu décevant.  Pas grand chose qui ne serait pas aussi bien en documentaire ou encore mieux avec Flash sur Internet.  Les livres et l'Internet sont peut-être les meilleurs outils que nous possédons pour transferer des informations à une population entière.  Mais les musées offrent une échelle de grandeur differénte.  Finalement, nous avons passé plus d'une heure à interpreter la carte maritime de la Manche, entre Douvres et Calais, à l'aide de petits bateaux en papier.

Homeschooling experience: we got thrown out when a 'real' school party came along for their booked session!

Experience IEF : on s'est fait jetées quand une 'vrai' école est arrivée.

Lunch break/Pause midi

Today we had an impromptu dance show.
Spectacle de danse inattendu.

It was positively hot today.  The British started taking all their clothes off!  We extended our lunch break into drawing the panorama of London.  No need to look for meaning here.  Now we recognize some of the less obvious buildings when we pass them in Canary Wharf.

Il a fait carrément chaud aujourd'hui.  Les Anglais ont meme commence à se déshabiller !  On a passé l'après-midi à dessiner le panorama de Londres.  Maintenant on reconnait les gratte-ciels quand on passe devant à Canary Wharf.

Story from the pub

Proving that I take my daughter to very suitable spots, Antonia wrote this story inspired by a very huge champagne bottle on a pedestal in a pub (where we drank milk and coffee).  I also got some work done!

Fable dans un pub

Antonia a écrit une fable inspirée par une énorme bouteille du pub ou on se trouvait.  Mais je n'ai pas eu le courage de traduire  ) :


There was once a big vain wine bottle, bigger than any other wine bottle in the world.  He was as vain and as stupid as his feet although he thought he was brilliant, super, beautiful and erudite and if you ask me he is the exact opposite...  Everybody hated him because he was mean to everyone.  One day the man who owned the wine shop put the vain wine bottle on the window display.  People came every day to take photos of his fat tummy and his smooth olive skin.  One day a person took the vain wine bottle away to his house.  The man tried taking the top off the bottle but the stubborn bottle got in a rage and when the man finally took his top off, most of the bottle's contents spat all over the room!  The rest was drunk for dinner.

The moral of this story is don't think too much of yourself like thinking that you're beautiful because you're not.


Wednesday 6 April 2011

Day 3: Greenwich

The Queen's House in Greenwich

Our first day or roadschooling!  I decided we would concentrate on the Palladian architecture - the house from the outside, the Great Hall, the Tulip Stairs and the portrait of the architect, Inigo Jones.  We had quite a restful day!

Premier jour d'IEV (Instruction en Voyage !).  Nous nous sommes concentrées sur l'architecture Palladienne de la maison de la reine et sur le portrait de son architecte, Inigo Jones.  C'était reposant!

 The complicated floor pattern of the Great Hall makes an optical effect from above, like a Bridget Riley painting.

Le dessin elaboré des carreaux de la grande salle produit un effet optique vu du haut, comme un tableau de Bridget Riley.
Je suis dans la maison de la reine à Greenwich.  Le plafond de la salle de réception avait de très belles peintures (par Gentileschi), mais elles sont parties.

A tulip from the Tulip Stairs.  The Tulip Stairs is one of the first (spiral) stairs to not have a central column. 

Une tulipe de l'escalier Tulipe.  L'escalier Tulipe est l'un des premiers escaliers (en colimaçon) à ne pas avoir de colonne centrale.

Homeschooling tip: what's nice about using drawing books a lot is that people come up and chat to you very easily. The museum lady told us all about the art she likes to make and explained to Antonia that I am Supermum!  I can handle that!!

Conseil IEF: quand on passe beaucoup de temps à dessiner, les gens viennent à notre rencontre.  La dame du musée nous a parlé des sculptures qu'elle fait elle-même et a expliqué à Antonia que je suis Supermaman.  Ca ne m'a fait aucun mal!!


I wanted to imagine making a box that was plain on the outside and had the Great Hall on the inside. What I liked was the balance between rectangular and arched elements,pairs and triplets, doors and windows, and the repeated pattern between floor and ceiling.

J'ai voulu imaginé faire un cube blanc sur l'extérieur avec la salle de reception à l'intérieur. J'ai aimé l'équilibre entre éléments rectanguliers et en arche, groupés en deux ou en trois, alternance portes et fenêtres et la répétition entre sol et plafond.

From the bottom, the Tulip Stair looks like a single blue eye.
Jeu de mots anglais : STAIR (escalier) / STARE (regard fixe).  Vu du bas, l'escalier ressemble à un oeil bleu.

Pause de midi
C'est vrai qu'on est trop bien à admirer le panorama de Londres de l'Est et les bourgeons du parc de Greenwich.  On retrouve tout le monde à Londres.  Antonia est fascinée par les uniformes des écoliers, et les indicateurs vestimentaires des différentes religions: sikhs, musulmans, juifs ou tenues diverses: salwaar, sari, burkha et de temps en temps les chaines et mohican bleu d'un punk!

Lunch break
We are enjoying a great view of London in the spring.  Antonia is getting used to the diversity of London and a bit of British culture.  The schoolkids are in uniform, people of various religions and national origins have their own dress and there is even the odd punk with a blue mohican.


Le Planétarium par Antonia

Aujourd'hui je suis allée au planétarium avec maman.  Ca parlait d'astronomes.  Les astronomes sont des personnes qui regardent les étoiles et les planetes.  Ils découvrent plein de choses chaque jour.  Par exemple, ils ont trouvé les trous noirs par leur rayons x.  Ils ont aussi utilisé les rayons ultra violet et infra rouge.  Les astronomes ne peuvent pas regarder les étoiles à coté d'une ville parce que les lumières de la ville font trop de lumière.  Il y a aussi un problème si il y a des nuages.

The Planetarium by Antonia

Today I went to the planetarium with Mummy.  It talked about astronomers. Astronomers are people who look at the stars and planets.  They discover lots of new things each day.  For example, they found black holes from the x rays.  They also use ultra violet and infra red rays.  Astronomers can't look at the stars next to a city because the lights from the city make too much light.  It's also a problem if there are clouds.

Leytonstone to Greenwich

It’s been a strange second day.  I woke up shortly after midnight and read the whole of the first book of The Hunger Games on Kindle.  I helped our friend Liz move stuff around her house just as I have been doing at home for the last month.  Liz is having her kitchen redone.  I careened down the DLR to Greenwich with Antonia pretending she was on a roller coaster half the way.  I visited the National Maritime Museum, saw my history course on empires come to life, and was both awestruck and rather horrified by the power of knowledge and the frailty of human beings.  A French school kid snapped our official meridian photo under drizzle but not quite on the meridian line itself. 

Bizarre deuxième jour.  Je me suis reveillée après minuit et j'ai lu l'entiereté de The Hunger Games sur mon Kindle.  J'ai aidé notre amie Liz a deplacer ses affaires autour de sa maison, tout comme j'ai passé le dernier mois a faire chez nous.  Liz est en train de refaire sa cuisine.  Nous sommes allés a Greenwich en DLR qu'Antonia a transformé en montagnes russes dans son imaginaire.  Nous avons visité le National Maritime Museum, ou mon dernier cours d'histoire a pris vie dans un grand étalage de connaissances puissantes et assez inquiétantes, vu leur portée sur l'histoire.  Un collégien français a pris notre photo de départ officiel du méridien sous une pluie fine très anglaise, mais pas tout à fait sur la ligne du méridien.

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Antonia's departure

Today I woke up at eight o’clock in the morning to go on Mummy’s trip around the world.  She seemed pretty happy because she had been planning the trip for over two years, and today was the day that the trip started.  For the trip, I took a bag with stuff to take to grandma’s and grandad’s house and a suitcase full of my stuff.

After getting mine and Mummy’s luggage into the car, we went down to Mario’s to meet our friends Antonio and Susan.  When Daddy arrived we loaded our suitcases and bags in Antonio’s car (and ourselves) and Susan took our car we had off.  Antonio helped us get suff on our train which would take us to Paris.


Aujourd’hui, je me suis levée a 8 heures pour le début du voyage autour du monde de maman.  Elle semblait assez contente parce qu’elle a mis deux ans à planifier ce voyage, et aujourd’hui, c’etait le jour du départ.  Pour le voyage j’ai pris un sac plein d’affaires pour mamie et papie et une valise avec mes affaires à moi.

Maman et moi, on a mis nos valises dans la voiture et on est allées chez Mario rencontrer nos amis Antonio et Susan.  Quand papa est arrivé, on a mis tous nos baggages dans la voiture d’Antonio (et nous aussi) et Susan a pris notre voiture.  Antonio nous a aidé a mettre toutes nos affaires sur le train qui doit nous amener à Paris.

Mike's departure

Spent the morning doing last minute  cleaning.  I turned out the power, locked up the house and thought I’d better do one last walkthrough.  I found my coat with my cell phone, and 4 tires which should have been in Penny’s car, so they got loaded into the front seat of the rav.  Last night, forgot to bring a load of food to our friends, so it sat in the car all night, and the car stank of fish!  Fortuantly, our friend Antonio had some car deoderant with him!  I dropped the keys off at the agent, met up with Penny and Antonia at Guzzo’s and we set off for the train after leaving our rav4 with Guzzo for me to try and sell on the internet.  The train to Paris was uneventful.  Changing in Paris involved quite a lot of walking, especially at Gare du Nord.  I was a little worried about my Swiss knife but no problem in the end.  Eurostar was smooth, fast, and uneventful.  It was fun watching our progress on my gps on my phone.