19 July 2018

Yet Another Innocent Abroad

by Eve Fisher

I got back from vacation June 28th and walked straight into the arms of grocery shopping, laundry, mail, e-mail, and jet lag.  It took me a good week to climb out and start getting on top of things again.  We've all read that Americans take less vacation time than anyone else in the industrialized Western world.  Well, I think it's because we all know we're going to have to work twice as hard when we get back to catch up.

We went on a European cruise, and it was great.  I'm not going to give you all a travelogue, other than the fact that I won
"Stump the Tour Guide!!!" 
in Ghent, when I asked where John of Gaunt (medieval pronunciation of "Ghent") was born.  The son of Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault (medieval Belgium/ Netherlands), John of Gaunt fathered eight children by 2 wives and 1 mistress (Chaucer's sister-in-law, you might remember) who became his wife in old age.  Anyway, the guide had no idea where he was born, but the answer is in the abbey that used to be behind the St. Bavo Cathedral church on the right in the photo.

Actually, it was a John of Gaunt kind of trip:  I also saw the tomb of one of his sons, Cardinal Beaufort, in Winchester Cathedral in England (see photo at right).

Just as exciting, Winchester is where Jane Austen is buried, and I paid my very deep respects to her.  Let us never forget that, at heart, "Emma" is a mystery story, and "Northanger Abbey" is a satire of a Gothic thriller.  Add in the fact that Miss Austen practically invented the romantic comedy, and you have an incredibly versatile author who is still a delight to read.

And read I did:  "Emma" was my traveling companion this vacation, mainly because of something someone, somewhere wrote (and I cannot remember where), that if you really want to know what's going on in this novel, you need to listen to Miss Bates.  I thought I'd double-check.  And they were right.  Tucked into all those garrulous monologues is the absolute truth, rarely found anywhere else.  Everyone else is an unreliable narrator.  Witty, but unreliable.  After a hard day's sightseeing, it was the perfect vacation novel.

All in all, it was a great trip, and my only real moments of horror involved people with smart phones.  At least in the old days, when cameras required expensive film, there were fewer photographers, less photos were taken, and most people bought postcards instead.  (Believe it or not, the postcard and calendar manufacturers can still produce better photographs than the average person with a smart phone.)  Now, everyone has a smart phone, and they cannot put it away for one second, but have to snap 100 shots per minute of anything and everything that is directly in front of them, and don't even think of trying to see around them or asking them to move.

And the selfies!  I now truly realize that, to many people, if they don't have a selfie of it, they weren't there.  Now I know that egomania has never known any bounds, but I still think that selfie sticks should be declared hazardous to everyone's health. For one thing, sooner or later I'm going to wrest one out of someone's hands and start beating them with it.

And, finally, the video games.  We were on a nine-hour bus tour of the Scottish Highlands:

Ben Nevis (Wikipedia)

Fabulous.  Beautiful.  I saw deer.  We saw Loch Ness.  We saw Ben Nevis and other "Munro" mountains.  And, in front of me, was a lady who spent the entire 9 hours on her cell phone, playing Tetris.  At one point she wanted to close the bus curtain, so she could see the game better.  Her husband (thank God!) objected, so I didn't have to, and she moved across the aisle, where she continued doggedly with her game.  Whenever we stopped, for photo ops, a little walk, comfort, lunch, etc., she got up and went outside and posed as if she were thrilled to be there - including taking endless selfies! - and then went back to her seat, and back to Tetris.

Image result for head pounding meme

Meanwhile, in keeping with Miss Austen's wit, a few common phrases heard on cruises:
"The food was better last year."
"I've never told anyone this before."
"It looks smaller in real life."
"I think they're cheaper in ___"
"When's happy hour?"

BTW - Breaking news tells me that Mariia Butina has been indicted and arrested for being an unregistered Russian agent, i.e., a spy.  For those of you who have followed my blogs on South Dakota politics, you may remember that I talked about her in Just Another January in South Dakota.  I'll be talking about her South Dakota speaking tour, and her arrest, and who knows what else in my next blog post on August 2nd!


  1. And they're still looking, I believe, for Paul Erickson, Mariia Butina's U.S. Person #1... This is going to require a gallon tub of popcorn. Every day.

  2. Ah, Scotland. I miss it all the time.

    As for Tetris lady, have you seen the photo of half a dozen young people in a gondola in Venice, all staring at their phones? Sigh.

  3. Want to learn what tour you took! Can you email me? mcampbell50@cogeco.ca. Enjoyed this very much.

  4. Now that was interesting. Tetris lady sounds like a victim in a Agatha Christie novel.

  5. I've seen the gondola picture, Rob, and all I could say was "They don't deserve Venice."
    And as for Tetris lady - I have plans for her... In writing, of course...

  6. When I began hearing about Maria the red-head this week, kept thinking her name sounded familiar then I realized it was from your SD blog post back in January. WOW--looking forward to your August update.

  7. Eve, last year I finally read P&P and S&S. It sounds like I should have started with Emma! I've read Austen was 'invited' to dedicate a novel to His Royal Highness, the Prince Regent whom she detested. Her letters on the topic of George and Charlotte lend a different light upon the morality of her novels.

    Personally, I think cell phone photography should be limited to shooting crimes-in-progress… like cell phone photography.

  8. Anonymous, more is coming!
    Leigh - your comment on cell phone photography made me choke on my tea! Yes! And yeah, I'd start with Emma. And Austen was no "gentle Jane" - she was fierce!

  9. Eve, I went back and read your February 2018 post. For being such a small population state, who'd a thought South Dakota would end up being part of the Kremlin Connection? Erickson and the recently arrested Russian woman had a limited liability company together? Where better to do it than off center stage where no one is looking.

  10. There are a number of things here in South Dakota that are "off center stage." We're one of the usury capitals of the US, thanks to no limits on interest rates. We're also one of the most popular places for corporate formation: cheap, fast, and very, very, very private. That's part of the reason why Erickson & Butina formed an LLC here and why even now, no one knows what it really did. And, just to return to the old Cold War stuff, come up here some time and have fun counting missile silos...


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