travels

I am not a seasoned international traveller.

My first two visits to Europe were tours with the Smith College Alumnae Chorus, one to Sicily and one to Slovenia. Everything was organized and arranged in advance, so I didn’t need to think about much of anything, other than a few meals here and there. We had our own charter buses, so we didn’t even need to navigate in the places we visited.

At the moment, I am in London, visiting daughter E, granddaughter ABC, and E’s spouse L and L’s parents, with whom they are living. My spouse B and other daughter T are here, too.

Given that this is my first trip abroad that was not an organized tour, I am finding the nuts and bolts of travel a bit daunting. We flew from Newark to Heathrow, two large and totally unfamiliar airports. We took a train to Paddington Station, where E met us to shepherd us to another train and then a walk to their home. Later in the day, when our hotel check-in time arrived, it took both of L’s family’s cars to get us and the luggage the two-ish miles (3km) to our hotel.

Most of our to-ing and fro-ing has been by bus or train. London has a very comprehensive system of public transit, which is great because it is such a huge city.  Unfortunately, I am a) not used to having public transit available and B) intimidated by large cities, so I am grateful to have family with me to keep me on the right track, at least most of the time.

As in our trip to Slovenia, B is acting as the photographer, so I hope to share some posts with photos in the coming days.

Stay tuned!

(I promise not to be in central London near Parliament on election day, December 12. That could become entirely too exciting for someone like me who isn’t used to raucous crowds.)

on both sides of the pond

This is a politically eventful week for both the US and the UK.

I just finished reading the articles of impeachment against Donald Trump. I was a bit surprised that there are only two, given that there is also a body of evidence to support obstruction of justice regarding the 2016 election interference investigation and an emoluments case. The emoluments case is wending its way through the judicial system. The obstruction of justice cases could be brought under a different attorney general at any point within the five year statute of limitations. The thinking of the House Judiciary Committee majority seems to be to keep the articles narrowly focused to be able to present a more concentrated set of facts for the impeachment vote in the House, which is like an indictment, and for the trial in the Senate. The second article of impeachment is obstruction of Congress. Given that this is ongoing. blatant, and unprecedented in scope – and clearly a breach of Constitutional separation of powers – it is going to look as though senators who vote against that article are not taking their own Constitutional role as jurors seriously.

Meanwhile, in the UK, where I happen to be at the moment visiting family, the airwaves are filled with news of the UK Parliamentary election, which could well determine if and how the exit of the UK from the European Union happens. It is a mess, given that Russia also interfered in the Brexit vote, so it is not necessarily reflective of the will of the people. It is even more complicated in that the United Kingdom might itself break apart in the aftermath of leaving the EU. Scotland and Northern Ireland, and even Wales, could well vote to succeed, leaving England on its own and no United Kingdom at all.

I know I keep saying “Yikes!” in my posts, but it bears repeating.

Yikes!

mostly fossil-free home!

A project that B and I have been working on for years is finally complete. With the installation of a geothermal heating/cooling system, we are able to disconnect our home from the methane infrastructure, which in our area means that we are no longer burning fracked gas from neighboring Pennsylvania in our home. Because we had previously installed a hybrid electric/heat pump hot water heater, our furnace had been the only thing still attached to the gas lines. Now that it is gone, we won’t have to pay for methane, which is relatively low-priced at the moment, or the delivery charges, which are relatively expensive in New York. Those savings will help with our electric bill, which will go up, although our panels in a community solar array generate a good chunk of our electricity. In our region of New York, changing from methane to geothermal for heating is considered a wash in terms of cost, but our air conditioning costs will be much lower with the heat pump than with our outdoor compressor unit.

We have done other projects to make our home more efficient, such as changing to LED lighting and adding more insulation. We use a rechargeable battery-operated lawn mower and electric leaf blower. The only two household things that will still use fossil fuels are our propane grill and our gasoline-powered snowblower, which is only needed a handful of times a year, if that.

We have also cut way back on our use of gasoline for transportation, driving an all-electric Chevy Bolt and a plug-in hybrid electric Chrysler Pacifica. We only use gasoline when we take the Pacifica on longer trips. It gets 30ish miles on battery. When it is running on gas, some of the engine power re-charges the battery, so even when we have no plug-in charge remaining, a quarter to a third of our miles will still be battery powered. It could be even more than that if we are driving on roads with terrain or lots of stop signs/lights because the braking is regenerative, meaning the energy from slowing the car goes toward charging the battery. It’s possible that, as rapid charging stations become more available, we may be able to take longer trips in our Bolt, which would cut our gasoline usage even further. (I know some of you urbanites are wondering why we don’t use mass transit. Unfortunately, our area has almost no mass transit available.)

We have tried to cut down our fossil fuel usage and control our total energy usage as much as is practicable, but I know there is one sector where our carbon footprint will become heavier rather than lighter. I have not been a frequent flyer in my first almost-six decades, but I am likely to be flying several times a year for the foreseeable future. With daughter E and granddaughter ABC’s recent move to London, I see a fair number of airplane flights coming.

The first one will be next month.

silver linings

There are some silver linings of not having a 2-year-old in the house.

  • Not crashing into the gate at the bottom of the stairs while trying to navigate at night
  • Being able to open cabinets without fiddling with a latch
  • Fewer smudges on the windows
  • Not having to juggle vehicles to make sure one with a car seat was available at home for outings
  • Cutting back on energy usage with fewer laundry loads, lights, electronics, etc.
  • Not having to wrestle with doorknob guards on the basement and linen closet doors – they were hard for little hands to open but also for my petite grown-up hands
  • The opportunity to sleep more, although this is only theoretical
  • More flexibility to travel, write, exercise, etc., although this, too, is theoretical
  • A break from watching some part of Moana, which ABC called “Ocean”, and/or Frozen, which ABC called “Snowman”, every day, although I might sneak a peek at them now and then because I appreciate the theme of love of family, especially grandmother/granddaughter and sisters

Of course, I would trade it all in a moment, if I could, although I know ABC is where she needs to be, settling in with her mom and dad and London grandparents and enjoying the amenities that only a big, historic city can provide. We had a chance to videochat with E and ABC over the weekend and to make arrangements to visit in December. It will be exciting to see everyone and all the places they go! It might be a bit too exciting, though, as we will be there for the election on the 12th…

 

SoCS: when words fail

Today, daughter E and granddaughter ABC arrived in London. E’s spousal visa finally came through, so this was a one-way trip. We are happy that E, L, and ABC will finally be able to live together as a family full-time, but, oh, words can’t adequately express how much we are going to miss having them here with us!
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “oh.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/10/18/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-oct-19-19/

SoCS badge by Pamela, at https://achronicalofhope.com/

Paco on the move!

October is a heavy-duty travel month for my family. It began with my trip to North Adams for the Boiler House Poets Collective’s fifth fall residency at MASS MoCA. (There are several posts about it earlier this month.)

On Sunday, my father, known here as Paco, and my two sisters flew to Ireland! Apparently, on Grandparents’ Day in September, Paco had been talking by phone with his grandson L and they talked a lot about Ireland, which is where Paco’s grandparents were from. L then called his mom (my younger sister) and said, “You need to take Paco to Ireland – now.”

In short order, she arranged for an expedited passport for Paco, made reservations for flights, accomodations, and a driver, and made lots of lists so everything would go smoothly. My older sister joined in to help and they jetted from JFK Airport to Shannon. It was the first time Paco had flown on a jet. His last plane flight had been coming home from the Korean Conflict! (He had also served in World War II.)

The three of them are now in the middle of a week in Killarney. They have a driver to take them out to see the sights. They have been sending us some photos and updates. Here is my favorite one of Paco so far:
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This evening, they were at a pub with a singer/guitarist performing. My sister requested “Danny Boy” for my father and it seems that everyone in the pub fell in love with Paco. One woman even came over and danced with him for a bit! Of course, what’s not to love about a 94-year-old man in a US Navy SeaBee cap, who is visiting Ireland for the first time?

MASS MoCA poets’ tour

As promised, the first video from the Boiler House Poets Collective for 2019. We each read a short passage from one of our poems with the artwork. Unfortunately, one of our poets had to leave a bit early, so there are only seven poets represented here. Enjoy!

Tour 2019 from Mar McCabe on Vimeo.