Summer in the States

summer ice cream

When I shared our big news last week, I mentioned that we’re trying to spend as much time as possible visiting family and friends this summer. We started with our wonderful trip to Harris at the end of June, and I said at the time it was one of the best weeks DorkySon had ever had. That remains true, but after the fortnight that we’ve just spent in the States I think we’ve got another holiday to add to the list of favourites. Continue reading

Much to be thankful for

Fripp Island beach

We always say that DorkySon seems to grow up more in the space of a week-long holiday than he does in the other 51 weeks of the year, and our recent break turned out to be no exception.

It was truly one adventure after another, with something new and exciting for him to enjoy every day. We don’t own a car, so even a short taxi ride is something of a novelty – when our holiday began with an hour-long car journey down the motorway, he thought that was the best possible start. We were headed into London for a night in a hotel there. DorkySon had sausage and mash, and then jelly and ice cream for dinner, while looking wide-eyed out the window at the buses and taxis rushing by. The next day we had a long train journey to Edinburgh, then two nights in a hotel and a full day with DorkyGranny.

All that before our holiday had even started for real! Continue reading

US Elections: Why they matter to me

US Presidential Ballot

Twelve years ago my political sap had just started rising. I was still at school, and I wasn’t old enough to vote, but Scotland had just established its own Parliament and I was starting to pay attention to what was going on in the world, and starting to have opinions on that. I no longer referred to the debates as ‘boring talking programmes’. I had watched Bill Clinton lie through his teeth about Monica Lewinsky, but I still believed that he was one of the good guys. I didn’t stay up to watch the election results, but over the coming weeks my vocabulary expanded to include terms like hanging chads, Electoral College and Supreme Court.

Eight years ago I was still at university. I had marched against the Iraq War; carried a placard and sat down in the street to sing angry songs about Bush and Cheney. On November 2nd, the student union secured a late license, and I stayed up all night with my friends, watching the results come in. At some point, someone mistakenly announced that Kerry had won Ohio, and we all cheered and jumped up, spilling our pints on each other. When it became clear that Bush was going to be elected again, we all cried, and slunk off home to sleep.

Four years ago, I was pregnant with DorkySon. During the primaries, my computer screen at work had been plastered with post it notes, keeping tallies of super delegates and highlighting key dates. I bought a Scotland for Obama t-shirt, large enough to cover my bump, and sat up all night, snuggled under blankets on the sofa. When Obama won I didn’t stop smiling for days.

This year – tonight – I will go to bed before the polls have even closed. But I care more about the result than I ever have before. Continue reading

Painting the Town

I’d only been to Portsmouth, NH, once before this holiday. So I wasn’t sure if the amazing artwork painted on building around the town was a permanent feature or a special exhibition. A quick Google search on my return revealed that they were part of the Street a.k.a. Museum exhibit, curated by the Portsmouth Museum of Art.

I’ve had a wee look at this map which gives the locations of all the artworks, and although I didn’t manage to spot them all in the couple of days we were there, here are the ones I did find:

fly

caravan

Portsmouth

conversation

black cat

chomp

And my favourite…

boom

The featured artists are bumblebee, herakut, Shark Toof, Alexandros Vasmoulakis, and Andreas von Chrzanowski.

A Portsmouth local has blogged here, posing the question of whether this kind of painting is art or crime. Thankfully they came firmly down on the side that says ‘art’. But as the sole comment on this Seacoast Online article shows, not everyone thinks that outdoor art is such a good thing. There is a great review of the exhibition here, and on the Museum’s own blog is a post detailing how one of the exhibits has already ‘evolved’ during its time in Portsmouth.

As a visitor to the town, I thought the exhibition was fantastic. It made a lovely, lively wee place even more interesting than it already was, and demonstrated in a very public way that Portsmouth is a town with a thriving art scene. The exhibition runs until the end of September, and unfortunately I won’t make it back to track down the paintings that I missed… but I hope it’s a format that the Museum of Art feels able to repeat again in future.

You say tomato, I say… how do we define home?

I saw today that Taransay – the former home of the Castaways – is up for sale. Unfortunately I don’t have a spare £2million to spend on it, but seeing the news has left me thinking all day about my own childhood, which I spent in the Western Isles.

Although I haven’t lived there for nearly twenty years, the countless days I spent playing on the beaches and walking in the hills were happy ones, and I will always feel a deep connection to the place. I am convinced that growing up somewhere so isolated – where the relationship between the people, the land and the sea is still a strong one, and where there is still a real awareness of the rhythms of nature – has shaped my character in fairly fundamental ways. It also says something about the sense of community on the islands that even having been away for so long, when I go back and visit now I still have people asking when I got ‘home’.

We took DorkySon to Harris for the first time a few months ago and he had a great time roaming around in the fresh air. His highlight was probably sitting watching the cars come off the ferry every day…  although he also had a blast throwing sticks in the river and stones in the loch. (It’s always the small pleasures…) We will try and visit that part of the world as often as possible, but I am already realising that DorkySon’s sense of ‘home’ is going to be far more he complicated than my own.

Edinburgh is a great place to start life, and I hope that when he’s older he will have fond memories of toddling around the Meadows, checking out the trains and cars at the National Museum, and running along Portobello beach with his Granny. But I’m not convinced that living in a city will have as much influence on him as living on as island did on me. If we moved away from here in five or six years, would it still feel like ‘home’ to him when he came back to visit in twenty years?

I also wonder what we can do to ensure that, in the future, DorkySon feels as much ‘at home’ in the States as he does in Scotland. Half of his family lives on the other side of the Atlantic. He has a blue passport as well as a red one. And yet when DorkyDad asks if he wants a ‘Tom-AY-to’ in his salad, he doesn’t realise that it’s the same thing as when I offer him a ‘Tom-AH-to’.

We are doing our best. There are Reese’s Pieces in the chocolate drawer, Gullah paintings on the walls of the living room, and a Phillies game on the television. After DorkyDad read my comment on this old post, he taught DorkySon to say ‘Have a nice day!’ And we are making our third family trip to the States next month. But none of that is a substitute for full submersion in the culture of a place.

For now, I very much hope that home is wherever DorkyDad and me are, but it’s going to be interesting as DorkySon grows up, to see where he is drawn to. I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be Taransay, but if he ends up feeling equally at home in Scotland and the States, he’ll be a very lucky boy.