I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!

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Monday
Feb132017

Approval

 

We each had an appointment at the Embassy today.

 

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It’s been a long time coming and there were times when we didn’t think we’d make it at all.

We completed all the forms months ago, submitting them first to the UK authorities and having received their approval, applied to the US Customs and Border Protection agency for “trusted traveler status”.  Having passed that round of checks, we each had to book an interview.

Except there were no available appointments in London before Christmas.  Oh, and the booking had to be made within a very tight timescale. 

How about Los Angeles in January?  No appointments available.

Miami in February?  No appointments available.

We randomly selected two adjacent slots in Boston in June knowing full well we wouldn’t be there then, but at least we’d hold our application open.  Then, in late December, we each had an email with a list of dates in February for London interviews.  Phew.  We snagged two as quickly as we could, before they were all booked up too.

 

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So this morning, we made our way to Grosvenor Square where we presented ourselves and all the necessary papers to a couple of immigration officers in adjacent cubicles.  Though we were asked broadly the same questions, my officer showed a little more interest in one particular page of my passport.

“What’s this?”

It was the arabic translation of my passport details we needed for Edward’s birthday jolly to Libya a few years ago.

“Why did you go there?”   

I answered that our son was an historian with a love of Roman history and we went to see Leptis Magna.

“Have you seen since then?”

No.

“Will you be going again?”

No.

“I’ve approved your application.” 

Phew.

Having had our fingerprints and mugshot recorded on their system, we each have a Global Entry membership number which will not only allow us to skip the lengthy immigration and customs queues when we next visit the USA, but also pass swiftly through the pre boarding security process without taking off our shoes, belts and so on.

I am a trusted traveler!    (Well, I prefer to think of myself as a traveller of course Winking smile )

 

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Mind you, on the way there we’d passed some pretty clever window displays on Piccadilly, in Waterstone’s bookshop.

 

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They are actually promoting a book written in the 1930s, though anyone passing by could be forgiven for mistakenly taking this as a marketing campaign for a new publication.  For sure, it caught our attention and will surely have the same effect on others passing by.

Of course, bearing in mind our destination, we were on our best behaviour and were passing no comment!

 

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A day in London is always a great opportunity to spot small curiosities, though.  Like this sign.  I wonder how long it has been there and if it is still in use?  If it rings, do you think someone will call the police?  I hope so!

 

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I liked this surprisingly wordy sign in a window nearby.

 

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Whilst in Selfridges, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that my eye was caught by the title of this magazine.  At £10 a copy, I felt it was rather more than “lagom” so left it there, with those incredibly ugly coffee cups.  Ugh.  Who on earth would want to drink from those?

 

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Best of all was the sight of this gentleman stepping out on what was a very chilly morning indeed, dressed in this gloriously coloured coat.  My photograph doesn’t do him – or his coat – justice because by the time I got my camera out of my pocket, he was almost gone.  But on a Winter morning, who could not be cheered by wearing such a colour?

Brave man though!

Saturday
Feb112017

We need a bigger basket

 

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By the computer in our music room, there’s a basket of stuff.  Not just any old stuff, you understand, but treasured stuff. 

Memories.

You know how much I treasure those.

 

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This morning, I finished transferring all the photographs from our most recent adventure to a USB stick, tied it to a few bits and pieces (our suite card from the cruise, an hotel key card, the top from a bottle of Nicaraguan beer and a bag of Guatemalan worry dolls) and took it upstairs to the basket, where I balanced it carefully on the top.

 

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As I did, I thought of the cartoon I shared in the previous blog post, of the last hippo joining a small and already overcrowded boat, because as I picked the basket up, a couple of things fell off the carefully balanced arrangement.

 

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So I tipped out the whole basketful and as I replaced it all, I took another look though.  There are little rings and bundles of all kinds of stuff.  Some, like this one, are crammed full of tickets and cards, happy memories of lovely days in Ireland in this case. 

 

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Some simply have a label and a few ribbons.

 

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This one doesn’t even have a label, but I know immediately where it came from.  The tell tale signs of a Japanese trip are there on the single common feature of every one of those bundles.  A USB stick of photos.  A little stick that fits neatly into the PC right beside it to provide a couple of hours entertainment in the form of a slide show.  If I’m home alone, or at a loose end, it’s fun to pull a random ribbon from the basket, plug it in and to be transported to some fun times again.  It’s a rather more passive way of enjoying the stories than looking through journals and it’s a much more efficient way of storing all those photographs than the boxes (and boxes) of prints we keep meaning to go through and sort out.

 

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It used to be that a 2mB stick would suffice.  Then, I began to find that I needed a bit more capacity and began to buy 8mB sticks for the purpose.  This time, I could only squeeze everything onto a 16mB stick by omitting a few things here and there.  I think I’d better buy 32mB sticks next time.

And a bigger basket.

Wednesday
Feb082017

Enough

 

When I began my blog and was looking for a name, I hit upon the phrase frequently used by my Hero’s Grandpy.  After a meal, he’d sit back in his chair, release some imaginary air from each cuff (not well explained but no matter) and declare that he had enjoyed “an elegant sufficiency”.  A few years previously we had been through a life-changing experience which caused us to reflect on our priorities and one word seemed to crop up frequently.

Enough.

 

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Whenever I thought of the word, I remembered a poster which hung on the wall at a school where I taught and thanks to the wonders of Google, I did a quick search and bingo!  there it was here!  More is most certainly not always better and then, as now, enough sums it up nicely.

 

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Can I ever have enough ice cream though?  Winking smile  (photo taken in Azugar last week)

This morning, I came across the word Lagom.

I appreciate, I’m behind a bit here.  I wasn’t reading the papers last month when lagom was declared as the Scandi trend taking over from but not as much fun as hygge.  So forgive me when I explain that I just came across this blog post here this morning

Yes!  An Elegant Sufficiency! 

Is it time to embrace the newest, latest trend then and rename my blog Lagom?

I don’t think so.  I’ll just continue to live my life in the same elegantly sufficient style as I always have done.  It’s good to think that the rest of the world is catching on, though Winking smile

Saturday
Feb042017

It was 2321 photographs great

 

We are home.  We have both unpacked and if it wasn’t for the fact that the washing machine is (still) needing attention, we’d have been getting on with that.

 

At 5.30pm last evening, the First Officer announced that he’d be flying us out of Miami on more or less a straight line to London, anticipating a shorter than usual flight time of 7 hours 30 minutes.  Most importantly, he added that it was generally calm en route and he anticipated no turbulence.  It was about 10pm then (I altered my watch immediately) when I put my head on my pillow and went to sleep for more or less six hours, only waking when someone offered me a bowl of fruit for breakfast.

 

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We’d spent a great morning at the art museum, with one hitch.  I stumbled on one of the steps and did something horrible to my right knee.  Aaagh!  Since then, I’ve been doing an impression of an old lady…

But let’s not dwell on such things.  The outstanding exhibit at the Perez Art Museum was undoubtedly the work of Julio Le Parc, of whom, till now, we knew nothing.

 

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There was a notice as we were about to enter the exhibition.  Oooo.

Would I be brave enough?  Of course!

 

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To begin with, the feel was definitely “pop art”.  Some black and white exploration of pattern and some even more interesting exploration of colour work with pages from sketchbooks, which I love.  The larger, developed pieces were stunning – rather fun, too.  After all, whose spirit can’t be lifted by a rainbow of bright, saturated colour?

 

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Even better, we had the exhibit more or less to ourselves.

 

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So, we had time to explore, to look closely and most important, to stand back and take as long as we wanted to consider and work it out.  Because some of these pieces were simple, but oh so very clever.

 

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By moving just a couple of feet, by looking up or down and shifting the air just the slightest bit, the patterns created by the focused lighting became mesmerising.

 

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This piece, hung on the ceiling, had a large, 8ft square “mattress” beneath it, so we did what we thought we were meant to do.  We lay on it and looked up, noticing the reflected frieze on the black walls surrounding it.  How could we have done that in a packed gallery?

 

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We could have spent all day in there, playing.  These panels were suspended from the ceiling and were made from pieces of organza, weighted top and bottom but hanging freely.  When we moved, the whole thing moved, shimmered and set up interference patterns.  Wow.

 

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Yes, there were other exhibits including this one by Ulla von Brandenburg.  Yes, we rather liked them too.

 

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We loved the sketchbooks revealing the experimentation which led to the creation of the finished pieces in this room.

 

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In fact, we liked the sketchbooks more than the (enormous) finished pieces.

 

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So much to think about, to consider and to reflect on.

 

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How concepts and cultures are exported, shared, transmitted and absorbed.

 

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And not restricting the art to merely visual pieces, it was interesting how the sounds of lost and endangered languages were exhibited, though by then, we were feeling hungry and a little overwhelmed.  What a pity then that we can’t return to that exhibit in a few days time, to begin afresh!

 

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So we left the galleries and retreated to the cafe for a spot of lunch in the most lovely surroundings.

 

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We enjoyed a little swing in the comfiest of seats.

 

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We looked over to the cruise ship terminal and wondered where they were all going this weekend.  We mused on what an enormous business this is and wondered where all the people come from to fill these huge ships (Later, we looked them up here and discovered that almost all were headed for the Bahamas this weekend)

 

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Our destination was more mundane but for us, more attractive.

What a great trip!  And here’s to the next one Winking smile

Friday
Feb032017

Finishing as we began

 

The best part of this adventure has been that we started it and finished it in the company of dear friends.  One of the attractions of the Explorer cruise was that it would enable us to catch up with those on both sides of this vast country; people who we don’t see so very often but where we simply take over where we left off, however long ago it was we were together.

Yesterday, we laughed, cried and talked non stop at home with Jane and Allan.  We remembered funny times which will stay with us forever.  We shared stories of more recent travels and caught up with news of family and friends.

 

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We ended the day with a wonderful dinner at Kaluz, arriving in the dark so not noticing the waterside location until a huge yacht pulled up outside.  As we have done rather frequently during the last few weeks, we said our goodbyes and promised to see one another again soon, on one side of the ocean or another.

 

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Waking up in Miami this morning, one last time, we acknowledge that now, we are ready for home.  We’ve deliberately left a great modern art museum to visit today, before we drop off our rental car at the airport and begin the return journey.

 

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Hard to imagine how eager we are to swap palm trees and sun loungers for ice, cold winds and dark February days.  Not so hard to imagine that when we factor in seeing our family, wearing different clothes, sleeping in our own bed and normal life, whatever that might be. 

Because, part of that is having a lovely family and home and friends to return to, isn’t it?