On the Road — Again

Back in May 2015 I set out for a short business trip. And limped home – finally – at the end of October. Almost 6 months on the road, 6 whole months – half a year. Granted there were extenuating circumstances, family health being one of them, but it was almost as if once on the road I was on a relentless treadmill that just couldn’t or wouldn’t release me.

Tomorrow I get to go home. And I’m not sure what to expect. A week or so in my own home, with my own thoughts and my own challenges.

Today though I’m at BlogHer Food in Chicago and have just enjoyed two exceptional days of content, interspersed with those magic moments when women who never met before find themselves sharing painfully poignant memories of death and hope, laughing and crying in the corridor.

There’s a sisterhood at a BlogHer event that’s unlike any other blogging conference I’ve attended – in a few short hours you make friends that you take away with you for years to come. It’s amazing and inevitable. Longing for next year.

Craven, heinous the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Craven Heinous

Craven Heinous

I was finishing a post on bad habits – like smoking – when the news broke of the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris. Twelve dead – mainly journalists and cartoonists, the editor, and two policemen.

France – never a placid, non-violent nation, is poised on a precipice – and one that we in the US need to watch closely. Its large Islamic population has become increasingly militant, so much so that there are areas of Paris in which police only venture fully armed with automatic rifles and full protective gear. It’s not unusual in Paris to see a police van screaming round a corner packed with fully armed men, rifles at the ready. The hatred for the Moslem immigrants, mainly from Algeria which France ruled for over 130 years, has grown. And while France is forbidden from collecting official numbers and statistics about the religion or ethnicity of its citizens, it’s estimated that of the 66 million people who live in France over 10% are Moslem. In the port city of Marseilles – ranked by some as the most dangerous city in Europe – 40% of the immigrants are Moslem.

So what does this mean in the wake of the worst terror attack in France in 50 years? Forget “A Year in Provence”, wine, The Louvre and the Riviera – France is all that to most Americans and more. But it is a troubled, politically stressed country with myriad problems, the highest taxes in Europe, some of the most extreme right wing politicians who are fairly close to attaining a greater role in leadership, a very expensive country where people live on credit. All this and more fuels a smoldering fire which, when inflamed, could prove devastating not only for France, but for the rest of Europe,

Today I’m troubled. Deeply troubled. A bad habit of mine – introspection. Maybe I should try harder not to care — but I can’t. I do.

Bad Habits New Resolutions

New Year Resolutions that have been broken and abandoned litter my memories of New Year’s past. Like the rest of the flotsam and jetsam of my life, they’re locked in stinky dark, little corners with flags like “Diet” and “Eat Healthy” and “Call Home More Often,” drooping and listless. I used to make resolutions – as many as nine or ten when I was younger – but by the end of the first week of January it was abundantly clear that they were all forgotten and ignored.

So then I came up with a bright idea. I wouldn’t call them New Year’s Resolutions at all. Instead I called them “Bad Habits” that had to be broken. Habits like wearing a bathrobe round the house over my sleep T-shirt so that the neighbors or golfers couldn’t see me through the hedge and from the path at the end of the yard. Why they would want to was always a mystery to me but I was told year in year out by my husband that it’s much easier to see into a house than I would think. Especially at dusk or in the evening when the windows made my performance better lit than the last Broadway show we’d seen.

I still maintain that people have to want to stare in. And what possible jollies could they get from watching an over-middle-aged, over-weight, grey-haired woman sitting at a table with a laptop open in front of her, in a T-shirt that says I/O in big letters across the sadly sagging boobs. None of them could see through the screen of the laptop, nor would they know that I/O was a highly prized T-shirt from the last Google Developers Conference in 2014. 

But today as I sit tapping this into some new software I’m testing for my radio show, the curtain to the window is partially drawn to shield me from prying eyes even though I/O is accompanied by jeans and flip-flops. 

The bathrobe habit went the way of all New Year’s Resolutions. In two ways. One I didn’t wear it again after about 2 days and Two, I remembered to hang it up and not leave it gracefully adorning my bed/bookcase/sofa/ delete as applicable. So maybe the other Bad Habit – “Dealing with my Clutter” – was broken?


That “Clutter” habit – that’s the Smaug of all my good intentions and bad habits. I personally believe that everything I own has secret velcro attached to it, so that as soon as it comes into contact with anything else I own, it sticks to it, expanding the surface area it covers by a factor of 3. Within hours I’m buried under clutter – and so this year – 2015 – is the year that Bad Habit – will be tamed. 

At least that’s this year’s resolution.

Which will no doubt go the way of all the others.

Rinse and repeat.

FaceBook’s Uneasy Dead

There’s something very unsettling about FaceBook, and it’s not the usual “meddling in my life,” “watching my every post,”coupled with hundreds of requests from friends to give them lives on one of the King.com addictive timewasters.

No, it’s more unsettling than those. It’s the fact that long after people die in the real world, their Facebook pages go on. You get notifications about their birthdays – even though they’ve been gone several years – it’s as though they are “undead,” living a zombie-like existence is the land of Facebook Evermore. Maybe they died at 82, but on Facebook they’ll be 87 next week.

There has to be a way to quietly let the dead go. To allow family or friends access to their silent pages, to post one last note – and then archive them in a special area of Facebook, the Père Lachaise of writers, racers, dads, moms, kids – all of whom left some page in the ever-ever land that’s Facebook.

While we Americans don’t do death well, we don’t talk about it, we don’t give people enough time off work to grieve and handle arrangements, and we have a huge industry of funeral directors and undertakers – many of whom have the unctuous, oiliness of Uriah Heep – we don’t allow our loved ones, or even our acquaintances, a dignified death on Facebook.

I think we should.

Then again, remembering the late, great, hysterical Spike Milligan, hero of The Goon Show in the 1950’s, is best done standing in front of his grave in the churchyard in Winchelsea. With his incomparable wit and understatement – Spike’s Celtic Cross memorial is inscribed in Gaelic with the immortal words “I told you I was ill.”

Had it been Facebook the unsuspecting would still be sending him get well cards.

Dumbwomanslane? What kind of name is that?

On the way into the picturesque towns of Rye and Winchelsea on England’s south coast, there’s a twisting, turning, hair-pin-bend ridden, narrow country road called Dumb Woman’s Lane. It’s a favorite site for tourists and travellers in the area who enjoy taking pictures of themselves with the sign! .imgres-1images-4

It’s also curious.

Why, in an area known for some of England’s most fabulous women – writers such as Virginia Woolf, Catherine Cookson, Angela Carter even Beatrix Potter spent time here, artists and actors – Dame Ellen Terry, Dame Anna Massey – the list is extraordinary – is there a road with such a demeaning, insulting name?

Or is it?

It’s part of our knee-jerk culture to immediately suppose that the Dumb Woman of the eponymous lane was stupid, ignorant or a fool.

But there are at least two different versions of how the street got its name: one that it used to be a main thoroughfare for smugglers bringing lace, brandy and tobacco from France into England in the 14th through 19th centuries and that one poor, hapless soul saw contraband being hauled up the lane, and her tongue was cut out so she couldn’t tell anyone, or that a woman who was mute used to dispense herbal remedies in the area, and the street became known as “Dumb Woman’s Lane.”

So why choose Dumb Womans Lane as the name for my blog? I am surely a woman, and I am not, nor have I ever been, dumb – in any sense of the word. Yet sadly in many countries women are still considered “dumb” or “chattels” or even worse, domestic slaves, and so for them – and for all women who have no voice – here’s a place where I can spout. I can say the unsayable, write the unrepeatable and generally ROAR as I said in my opening post.

Like Peter Finch said in the movie “Network” so many years back – “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!” So watch out politicians, injustices, anyone whom I think deserves calling out for any reason – dumbwomanslane will not go quietly into this good night. This woman is not dumb. No way!

A New Voice for a New Year

There comes a time in every woman’s life when the pressure to stand up and speak her mind appears, first like a wraith swirling in from the mists, and then like Stonehenge – strong, indubitable, eternal. Setting up the platform, finding the location, and then screwing up the courage to say – Hey World this is ME! I have something to say. And I’d appreciate a few moments of your time to hear me out.

That’s my challenge – and it’s one I accept, as of now.

So bear with me as the pages are made up and the ploughshares and pruning hooks all get beaten into shape.

The pressure grows. And as the saying goes, “I am woman! Hear Me ROAR!”