It might be a little early to review the new Zia Lucia that opened last Saturday night in Brook Green. But I can’t help myself! My main takeaway? You can have absolutely delicious, mouth-wateringly good pizza without having that heavy, bloated feeling afterwards. Guilt-free and yummy. Their secret is below.HHPV9700I know what you are thinking. Yes, the pizzas are that good.

Zia Lucia is the the second hatchling from a young group of vibrant, energetic Italians hailing from Venice who have known each other for years.  Zia means “aunt” and Auntie Lucia’s love of food and community inspired Gianluca and Claudio to open the first Zia Lucia in Islington last year.  An instant success, they decided to try their hand in West London and last Saturday night opened Zia Lucia on Blythe Road in Brook Green (Hammersmith).


The queue outside the new Zia Lucia on Blythe Road in Brook Green last Saturday night. I worried that the upmarket, more residential Brook Green would be a tougher crowd to break into — and please — but based on the queue outside and the happy customers inside, there was no need.

The wood-burning ovens — respectively named Dante and Wally —  are a big hit, delivering true Italian crusts. Crispy and crunchy on the outside, doughy on the inside with melted toppings in such a wide range that it takes a while to decide what to order: artichokes, rocket, honey, figs, traditional basil and mozzarella, prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes, the list is endless. I don’t know where they source their goods, but while eating my pepperoni pizza with black olives and mozzarella, I was transported to Italy, where everything tastes better.


As someone whose palate and diet has changed over the years, I can no longer eat a lot of bread, particularly white bread. As much as I love it, my gut has become more sensitive and my daily routine means little or no starch.

What Zia Lucia does with its crust is sensational. They offer 4 to 5 different crusts to choose from: traditional, wholemeal, charcoal vegetarian, gluten-free, and on the Islington menu (and if you ask at the Brook Green restaurant), a moringa green dough.

What is moringa, you ask?  At our table of six, it seems all the under 35s knew about it. The seeds, pods and leaves come from the moringa oleifera tree, or “the drumstick tree” found in Nepal and India, that Wellness Mama explains: “is touted as a superfood since it is rich in nutrients, antioxidants and other beneficial compounds”.


This wide variety of dough is enticing to even the most allergic of eaters. At our table, we had collectively one of everything except the gluten-free. My charcoal vegetarian crust was absolutely delicious. Tasty with that charcoal edge to it, and far from bland. The tomato sauce and mozzarella were perfectly proportioned and all of our toppings were fresh and sizzling when arriving at the table.

But most important, after eating nearly all the pizza, I woke up the next morning feeling…fine! Not bloated, not heavy, not that weighed down feeling you get after eating that much dough. It was a revelation for me that I could enjoy a night out without the guilt. My husband enjoyed the wholemeal dough and our daughter had the traditional — all 2 thumbs up. Another dinner guest had the moringa dough as he’s a huge fan of the Islington branch.

The decor is light and simple, lots of exposed brick, whitewashed walls and simple wooden tables. But the ambience is warm and cozy, and they fit in quite a few covers both upstairs and down in this small townhouse space.

The antipasti starters were very good, although I’d love to see a little more variety, but again, very fresh ingredients and very healthy.  There was a good variety of beers, both local and abroad, and they offer a “spritz”, an Italian drink to start your night, of aperol and prosecco. Not my cup of tea, but they were so proud and excited to share this Italian tradition I felt bad for not trying one!


Like all places that just open, they have to iron out some of the kinks (I think they were working through the night prior to opening, making last minute adjustments), but with the very decent price tag, divine food — particularly on a cold winter’s night — and the warm, bubbly atmosphere, I’m sure this place will be a hit.  With all the various private and public schools nearby, as well as the residential homes and many businesses, this will be a regular local hangout.

Bravo to Claudio, Gianluca, Priscilla and all the team at Zia Lucia. Looking forward to going back for a second and third and fourth visit. The neighbourhood just got that much better!






Everyone who’s visited us over the past 7 years (and many who haven’t) all know my favourite restaurant in London is Nopi. Nopi is a creation of chefs Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, two creative and brilliant additions to London cuisine, combining Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods in their now famous delis and restaurants dotted across the city.

When I first arrived here in 2010, there was a buzz about Ottolenghi. Everyone told me I must get the new cookbook of the same name.  Combining roasted aubergine (eggplant) with saffron yoghurt, basil leaves and pomegranate seeds introduced a burst of flavours I would never have put together.  Or cauliflower and cumin fritters with a lime yoghurt. Manuri cheese grilled and served with courgettes (zucchini) and chargrilled asparagus.  These new taste sensations excited the palate with exotic foods and flavours.


I heard about the deli in Notting Hill/Westbourne Grove first but when someone told me about Nopi, my friend Shannon and I started meeting there at 5:30 for a pre-ballet dinner at the ROH.

It’s tucked away in Mayfair but close to Piccadilly Circus so easy to get to. For me, there’s so much to like about a restaurant but to be really good, it needs to tick all the boxes. Great atmosphere and vibe. Tick. Excellent service and professional and polite staff. Tick.   Not too far away and convenient. Tick. Doesn’t break the bank. Tick. And of course, the food. Big big tick. Added bonus: healthy. Another tick.

They do small plates or “tapas” of multiple mouth-watering creations: a variety garden vegetables and fruits, figs with cheese and honey, cheese with apricots, various meats, poultry and fish, and those delicious courgette fritters with lime yoghurt are divine.  Recently, they’ve added a starter of burnt spring onion dip with seeded dukkah and every time I’ve gone, we are practically licking the bowl. The fish like sea bass or plaice is perfectly cooked and combined with flavours of burnt butter, nori and ginger or calabrese peppers.  My dinner companion recently had smoked beef with pickled Jerusalem artichokes and it’s far more appetising than it sounds.  And an absolute must is the truffled polenta chips with parmesan and aioli — we order them every time and they melt in your mouth with a unique combination of subtle and strong flavours.

Desserts are something to look forward to, and I hate dessert. But the creativity they pour into them can’t be missed.  The coffee and pecan financiers with maple cream are sublime, as is the apple and gingerbread trifle with Calvados and celery sorbet.

Nopi - Downstairs 1

But beyond the food, the look and feel of the restaurant is cool, nice, sophisticated, fun, and cozy. Doesn’t take itself too seriously, doesn’t need to be pretentious, just relies on the good food and professional staff. The white-washed brick walls, warm lighting, blond wood, sparse decorations and clean lines combine modern with traditional in a welcoming way.

But what really sets Nopi apart is the seemingly two restaurants in one. Upstairs is booked tables of 2, 4 and 6 with a lovely bar at the back.  For Friday and Saturday nights, you often have to book several weeks — sometimes months — in advance.  A little more formal and fancy, feeling special as others line up at the bar or door waiting for a table.


However, the downstairs has a completely different feel with it’s two large communal tables, seating 14 at each table, right next to the open plan kitchen.  It’s down here that I’ve found myself – on nights fully booked upstairs – with an out of town friend, eating and drinking and catching up, while listening into or joining into conversations around the table.  Everyone has their space and respects privacy, but there’s a camaraderie amongst the diners who know they’ve dropped in on a little secret that others don’t know about.  We’ve met some businessmen from Australia at that table, a few American women for a pre-theatre meal, a young couple on a date, and more.

One time I was there with a State-side friend, staying quite a long time while she would order one or two dishes, as this was her first visit, and then order one or two more. At one point, chef Ramael Scully just started bringing over different small dishes for us to try as he could tell she was not sure how to navigate so many choices. That personal touch has made the downstairs difficult to find seats in now, and you must book in advance.


They love to put different and new wines on their list and for a long time they had a wonderful Sancerre which I’m disappointed is no longer there, but they continue to surprise with off-the-beaten path choices, and the staff are all very knowledgeable with the menu.  For a long time, the manager Fergus set the tone for his “regulars” – recently I was meeting out-of-towners there, arrived early and sat at the bar where he sent over glasses of prosecco and some nibbles.  I am sorry to find he has gone back to his beloved Ireland, and although he is irreplaceable, I hope they find someone with his same combination of friendliness, professionalism, high-standards and attention to detail.

So when in London, do yourself a favour and head over to Nopi. It will be well worth the trip. Lastly, don’t forget to check out the bathrooms. I can’t say why, but needless to say, they are very fun and somewhat trippy. On my very first time to Nopi, I had a bit too much to drink and when I got in loo, I couldn’t find my way out! But, can’t give it away, you’ll just have to go and see for yourself.



IVF & THE IRAQI AMBASSADOR: Tales of Infertility


Where do I start? For anyone who’s gone through it, you understand.  It’s tough. Insane. It’s a secret sisterhood.  The injections, the drugs, the blood tests, the weight gain, the crazy hormones.  We nod in a shared acknowledgment when we meet another who’s gone through the private, very painful, hell.  Some need sensitivity to cope, others find humour helps, and often we’ll seek out new alternative avenues (homeopathy, religion, acupuncture, yams) to help reduce the stress and find solace on the path to fertility.

For those lucky women who haven’t endured this unexpected twist of fate (I have friends who get pregnant when their husband just looks at them. Grrr.), it’s quite hard to explain just how mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting  IVF is for women (and by extension, their partners).  It can break you.  Or the marriage. And unfortunately, that sisterhood which bonds us ends up dividing us at the end of this challenge — those who successfully deliver a newborn baby, and those who don’t.

I got married “late” by society standards. I loved my job at ABCNews/Nightline and was in no hurry to do the marriage and family thing. I went off the pill just before we married at 36 years old. After 6 months and a doctor’s check up, I was told I had “hypothyroidism”- a condition which 30% of all women in their 30s have but most don’t know it.  It contributes to a higher rate of miscarriages, so I started on levothyroxin (synthroid in the US) and we kept going.

By 37, after both my husband and I had a comprehensive battery of tests,  it was determined that “on paper” I should be getting pregnant. Healthy, fit – perhaps somewhat stressed – but no alarm bells.  My FSH levels (follicle stimulating hormones) were good, as were my levels of oestrogen and progesterone.  We did IUI twice and nothing, so my doctor suggested we jump right to IVF as time was not on my side.

We went to a doctor said to be “the best” on the cover of Washingtonian magazine. A tall, handsome Chinese man with a calm and unpatronising demeanour, he explained to us the statistics that all IVF doctors look at. Charts and graphs showing your age going up and the viability of your eggs heading south — a huge drop off after 35 yrs old.


I felt a bit foolish – with all the news stories I had covered – knowing so little about something so fundamental. I didn’t know that even as a healthy 20-something, you have a one in four chance of getting pregnant at each try. So by their rule of thumb, if you do 4 rounds of IVF, you should get pregnant (25% chance each time).  I started on a round of injections, drugs and doctor’s visits for blood tests.

In my head, I was “fixing” the problem. That’s the kind of person I am. A doer. Proactive. Don’t sit around and complain or worry, just get up and do something. But psychologically I had taken a blow. I could not comprehend that, from an evolutionary perspective, the one thing women are put on this earth to do, I couldn’t do. My animal instinct kicked in massively and I was devastated that I was somehow less – female – than everyone else. The insecurity planted firmly in my gut. I doubted my femininity. I wondered whether God or someone was telling me I couldn’t be a mother.  But I pushed the doubts away. I can do this! One round and we’ll be fine, I told myself.


I learned how to fill needles from the vials they gave us, do that doctor thing you see in movies and tap them to get all the air holes out, and then stick the needle sub-cutaneously (under the skin) into my lower belly or the upper bottom, switching locations to avoid bruising.  The doctor told me the hormones I was injecting (to stimulate egg production) would make me bloated and perhaps irritable or weepy. I was determined not to let this affect my work or my routines so I would slip into the bathrooms at work to shoot myself up, so to speak.

At the appropriate time we went into the hospital for the operation (an anaesthetist puts you under for about 45 minutes), and later they told me I had produced 12 eggs.  Yay! They fertilised them and then watched them as they started to grow.  We went back a few days later to find 6-8 eggs looked very good but they decided to implant only the 2 best. Our hubris and optimism (stupidity?) was fatal in the end, as when they asked us if we wanted to freeze the other eggs we said no.

In the operating room for implantation, our lovely doctor had created a ‘safe space’ before there was such a word. Everyone, including my husband, was wearing surgical scrubs and masks to ensure we were in a germ-free environment. Surrounded by nurses soothingly holding my hand and stroking my forehead, we listened to lovely strains of Mozart piped in to overhead speakers.

At one end of the room the doctor opened a little sliding window and the embryologist handed off the two fertilised eggs that are attached to the end of a tiny catheter that is like a wet spaghetti noodle.  The doctor is then supposed to put this into the uterus and the eggs should attach to the uterus wall and start to grow.


However, somewhere along the way in this process I suddenly realised the nurses had stopped cooing, they weren’t rubbing my hand nor even making eye contact. They’d moved away and were busying themselves in a nervous way.  My husband looked lost and we could feel the tension in the room.  Our doctor stood up stiffly, declaring resolutely “We’ve got a problem. I’ve dropped the eggs.”

I seriously could not comprehend what had just happened. I got up on my elbows (I was lying on my back with legs askew), looked over the edge of the operating table and said “Well, where are they? Can’t you just pick them up?” We were dumbfounded.  The embryologist had shut the window quickly — it was like they had just exposed us to a lethal disease and wanted to get as far away as possible. They quickly wheeled me out and into the ‘recovery room’ where we waited for our doctor. He came in, visibly upset, pulled up a chair, grabbed a ballpoint pen, and without anything better to write on, he started furiously stabbing at his leg, scribbling drawings and diagrams on his scrubs, explaining that as the wet-noodle catheter went up my cervix, it got caught on a ridge in my cervix and the eggs dropped off.

I still didn’t fully understand. Won’t they just swim up the rest of the way? Can’t I do a head-stand and they will drop into my uterus? Couldn’t they just hang out and grow there? He said sperm, on their own, swim. But eggs don’t. They just drop. And they won’t grow in the cervix.  He said in the thousands of times he had done this operation, and he stressed thousands, this had never, ever happened. He was horrified. He immediately said we can put in the frozen eggs to which we had to explain we told the embryologist to dispose of the extras. D’oh! He then said he’d pay for the next round. And use a hard-noodle catheter — less comfortable, but more sturdy to get over my nuisance of a cervix-ridge. As miserable as he was, I had lots of faith in him, and truth be told, when I thought about it later, he didn’t have to tell us he had ‘dropped’ the eggs. He could have “placed” them inside, and we would have been none the wiser.

But on the way home, what should have been a celebration, was a numb, silent drive where we sat there wondering what had just happened. All the build up over the weeks, the nerves, the emotions, the energy and excitement focused on this moment, sure that all would go fine, faded away and then we left with…nothing.  It was very sobering, and the beginning of a long and crazy path.


After that first disastrous IVF, the rest of them became a blur.

For context, this was 2001-2003, right after 9/11 and we were about to go to war with Iraq. We were working long, stressful days at Nightline after that fateful September morning. Our office was assigning teams to be deployed to Kuwait and the Iraqi border in anticipation of war. We had to fill out paperwork with our blood type, just in case. My doctor said “Is there any way you could take a break from work? There is so much we scientists don’t know, but we do know that stress seems to play a big factor in getting pregnant.” I told him if he wanted to keep getting paid, I needed to keep my job. At the time, IVF was about $15,000-$20,000 a pop and the health policies/laws usually allowed for only 1 or 2 to be partially covered up to a certain age (which I believe was 40 at the time).  After that, you were on your own.

On a trip up to NYC with my boss (male) on the Delta Shuttle from Washington, I remember being horrified as I realised I had my needles and vials in my backpack.  I got to the counter early and explained to the agent that we had to go up to New York to talk with the Iraqi Ambassador at the Consulate and I’m in the middle of my cycle and I have to take my medicines, but I can’t let my Executive Producer see the needles, I’m just a Producer, it’d be so embarrassing and I can’t check my backpack, that would slow us down and I’d look like an fool.  I was lucky the agent believed me. Plus this was still fairly recent post 9/11, and the strict rules were you couldn’t undo your seatbelt until 15 minutes after take off or 15 minutes before landing, and since the DC-NYC flight was half-hour, no one was moving.

Once in New York, we met with the Iraqis as they were, literally, packing up the Consulate. The US had ordered them to leave the country in a few days, ahead of the war that was imminent. I had to remember to not shake anyone’s hands during our introductions – their protocol dictates no physical contact with strange women – and I wore appropriate clothes, covering my knees, shoulders and hair, out of respect.

Amidst cardboard boxes, packing tape, and bubble wrap we sat in a beautiful room carpeted with intricate middle eastern rugs and spoke to the Ambassador about the ties we hoped to keep once war broke out.  We stated our case for keeping our lines of communication open. His press people and our sources would be in demand.  As we drank our tea out of a beautiful silver service, I interrupted: Ah, excuse me? Mr. Ambassador? Could you show me to the ladies room please?

One thing you might have guessed with IVF cycles is you are on a strict schedule and monthly calendar, and you had to inject the drugs at certain times of day in order for them to have maximum effectiveness. So there I was in the middle of the Iraqi Ambassador’s bathroom, shooting up, security cameras on me the whole time.  I left the vials and needles in the trashcan and wondered whether they thought I was a drug addict rather than someone desperately trying to get pregnant.


As a journalist, humour gets you through the darker stories you have to cover and you compartmentalise and shelve emotions so I erred towards that as a coping mechanism. But I am not one who is good with keeping things bottled up.  I needed to talk about it — with close friends and family, some co-workers. Not an emotional cry for sympathy. No, I just needed them to know what I was going through in order to give me the wide berth I required at times, or to understand why I might not be operating at 100%. I told my anchor and my executive producer in private and they were wonderful not only in respecting what I was going through, but in being genuinely curious about it. They were also shocked to find out that, in our private conversations, three other women in the office were going through it as well.

My doctor told me it’s important to take 2 months off in between IVF cycles to allow your body to recover from a month of intense hormonal injections, an operation, and post-op. Of course, I was impatient and sure I would ‘win’ on the next round. Looking back, I think successful career women in their 30s have a particularly difficult time with this because everything that has been thrown at them until now, they’ve been able to turn into gold. They are high-achieving, tenacious, ambitious, and successful perfectionists — in every aspect of their lives but one. How can this elude them?

In the blur of the next 3 rounds, here’s what I remember:

I started sticking the needles in intramuscularly (just stabbed it straight into my thigh or leg) as my belly and upper ass were getting very bruised and sore.

I remember being at a friend’s wedding and excusing myself while i pulled out my vials and needles and shot up in the Hay-Adams Hotel rooftop bathroom.

I gave away 4 tickets to a Bruce Springsteen concert because I feared standing and jumping around for 4 hours would increase the risk of the eggs falling out. (The doctors always tell you to go home and rest, put pillows under your bum, for the next several days. Didn’t that include “No Stadium Concerts”?).

I read somewhere that eating ginger makes you miscarry. I stopped eating ginger.

I read that eating yams will make you pregnant. I started eating yams and realised why I hadn’t before. I looked up recipes for yams to make them taste good and we had yams every night for a week. I think my husband was verging throwing up every time, but he didn’t say a word.


I cried on the floor of my bedroom, completely overwhelmed with it all, bruises on my ass, needles by my side.

I went to church and prayed. Oh, Lord, did I pray. I asked for one thing, just one, and I said I would never, ever ask for anything else. Ever. I reasoned with God that when I did pray, I usually asked for help with others (the usual family and friends, pets, then I’d broaden it out to people in suffering countries, war zones, poverty, etc. Strangely, I’d always include travellers and this list would start with planes and cars and trains. But then I’d think about boats and refugees, or trains in India, or busses in South America, so my “Let all travellers get home safely today” prayer was usually very long).  But this one time, I was asking for something solely for myself. Just this once. I promised I would never do it again.

I remember with one cycle, eggs implanted and we were on the way home from the hospital, the sun was shining, my legs up on the dashboard, with the seat rolled down to almost horizontal. My husband and I are at a stop light, and he turns to me and says “Perhaps we should have a cigarette? We sorta just had sex, right?” His sense of humour kept me sane through this whole process.  There is absolutely no way I could have gotten through it without him. He was supportive, unwavering, caring, tender, and very funny. But we’ve talked since then about how medical and unromantic it was. Men tend to be fixers. This process must be extremely difficult for them too.  Anyway, he was my rock. We laughed the rest of the way home with the pillow under my bum and my feet against the windshield.


My op and post-op demeanour was something to behold, apparently.  I’d try to talk with the doctor and nurses during the operations, pretending we had just run into each other at Starbuck’s. How are you? I would slur. Busy day? What’s your middle name? Reginald is a fabulous name!

Post-op, I was loopy but convinced I was absolutely fine. One time, I remember arguing in between giggle fits with my husband in the parking lot, convinced I was fine to drive us home (I’m fine. Of course I’m fine. FINE! I’m fine.). I sooo wasn’t fine. And he drove.

Another time, we had gotten home and I went to bed but had a call from a 4-Star General talking to me about an interview.  I had been trying to get him forever and this was a coup.  I had a long, completely coherent conversation with him, hung up, and flopped back on the bed asleep. Later, i couldn’t remember anything we discussed.


At some point along the way, we had to face the reality and I needed to categorise and separate the emotions with the outcome. I had to think logically. Talking to my husband I said “What is our final goal here? At the end of this long journey, what is the brass ring?We want to be parents, right? We want to be parents of one or more children and raise them in a loving family.”  With that as our end goal, I then worked backwards as to how to get there. And looking at it that way, there were many options.

Yes, there were biological urges to be able to have a baby that genetically came from both of us, but if that avenue was exhausted there were others we could try.  There was egg donation; surrogate mothers to carry the embryos; we could pursue adoption. But initially, we absolutely wanted to try for our own child.

By the fourth attempt (5th try, after that disastrous first one which I don’t count), we’d been at it for nearly 18 months. I was reaching my breaking point.  I remember thinking, “This is it. I’m not sure I can carry on.” I felt like a bloated pin cushion and the months of trying were wearing on me. There’s only so much rejection one can take.

Whether it was the yams or the praying, or both, something worked. In the past, I’d had a few false positives only to be told the pregnancy numbers weren’t high enough and I would miscarry in the next week or so. This time my numbers were triple what they should be. I was very pregnant.

After all that effort, focus, time, energy, money, and stress, with just one short phone call from the doctor’s office, the news can be heartbreaking in sadness or heart bursting with happiness.  I will never, ever forget that day and the tears of joy that completely caught me off guard.  We went on to try another 4 times after our little girl arrived, but it wasn’t meant to be. Remember, I promised not to ask for anything else. While in South Africa, I nearly died with complications at 18 weeks pregnant.  That was long ago now, and we’ve got a typical teen – eye rolling, heavy sighs, attitude – who just this morning asked me to help quiz her on her Latin exam. She has no idea what her parents went through to bring her into the world. Kids these days, right?








In Honour of the Prescient Langston Hughes

Today is the anniversary of poet Langston Hughes birth.  I’m sure many of you know him and his works, but there are 3 poems of Mr. Hughes that I have loved for years. The first was introduced to me by my sister when we were in high school. Never a big poetry fan, this poem was short and sweet and to the point, and most important, I got it! In my very literal mind, it was profound AND easy and stuck with me ever since:


Hold fast to dreams

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird

That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams

For if dreams go

Life is a barren field

Frozen with snow.


The next two came from a small pamphlet I got in one of my careers/jobs — either while at The White House or at ABC News/Nightline.


This little book contains 9 poems that, through the years, have meant something different and revealed new truths every time I read them.

In today’s world, this one carries so much meaning:


These words stick with me: There is a dream in the land\With its back against the wall.\ By muddled names and strange\Sometimes the dream is called.\\There are those who claim\This dream for theirs alone — \A sin for which we know\They must atone.

And further down: The dream knows no frontier or tongue,\The dream no class or race.\The dream cannot be kept secure\In any one looked place.\\This dream today embattled,\With its back against the wall –\\To save the dream for one\It must be saved for ALL –\Our dream of freedom!

I think all people in the United States and the U.K. can appreciate and understand this poem — and its relevance — in today’s world.

But a longer poem he wrote is equally as profound and prescient. Titled “Let America Be America Again”, it was originally published in the July 1936 issues of Esquire magazine. In this poem, Hughes contrasts his hopes for America with the true reality of life amongst social and economic outcasts. As he saw it, there were dominant groups (racial, economic, social, religious) and the wedge between those who were “in” and those who were “out” had only grown to a breaking point. Reading it again brings to mind the civil and economic unrest I see in both the US and UK today.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A poet worth remembering, whose words seep into you and stay with you as they reach deeper and deeper levels. I leave you with one last poem, a man whose birth, and life, and death, should be honoured.



I feel like Davos has started to turn into the White House Correspondents Dinner where it becomes — for many — just a place to see and be seen (started? some say it’s been this way for a while).  An opportunity to feel self-important and rub shoulders with world leaders and celebrities alike, all touting their causes.  Don’t get me wrong — if I got an invite of course I’d go. But it is a bit of a bubble, isn’t it? Who’s been invited to whose party? Did you see Bono? What about Justin Trudeau? Is Elton John going to Tina Brown’s party? What about the Clintons or Macron?

Participants would say there is a lot of good being done for the world at the World Economic Forum’s annual meetings nestled in this alpine Swiss ski resort town. Historically, they are right. There have been memorable moments or key policy breakthroughs: in 1992 when Mandela attended with de Klerk, or in 1994 when Arafat and Peres reached an agreement on Gaza and Jericho (which I remember as I was working for Gergen in the Clinton White House at the time and this was ahead of the Peace Treaty Signing on the South Lawn).  And WEF over the decades has contributed to huge policy changes globally.  But now, I get the impression that it’s more pomp and circumstance than real commitments and change.


A private jet burns as much fuel in one hour as a car does in a year

But what really gets my goat is people not committing personally to causes they ascribe to globally.  Change starts on our own doorsteps. Stop talking about it and do it.  The climate change issue has been a big one with WEF for decades. But that doesn’t stop the 3,000 participants (plus all their entourages this bloats to around 15,000) from taking private jets, helicopters, limousines and SUV’s to get there.  The theme of the week, “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World”, sorta says it all doesn’t it? So fractured that they cannot see how they are adding to the very problems they are discussing.

Grist analysed the estimated carbon footprint of all the participants in 2013 and how much each would have produced to get to Davos.  They used a figure of .21 kilograms per passenger per kilometre for a flight, and 22 kilograms for a three-hour train trip, per person. The total CO2 emissions just for travel by the participants to get there was estimated at 2,520 metric tonnes. Not a huge amount in the scheme of things, but with a global urge to reduce fossil fuels, this doesn’t jibe. And this analysis doesn’t include anyone else (entourage, travelling staff) or anything used outside of plane and train travel.

In 2015, it was reported that there were 1700 private jets flying to/from Zurich (closest airport). To put into perspective, a private jet burns as much fuel in one hour as a car does in a year. This year reports show that number is closer to just over 1,000 which, if true, is a good reduction.  But still the number of private jets arriving at local airports has spiked from an average of 65 flights/day to 218.

I don’t necessarily blame the participants, either.  WEF is as much – if not more so – responsible for changing this irresponsible personal habit (or luxury to the rest of us). Why not move the location to somewhere more easily accessible and not so tiny? They could require participants to carpool (or jet-share, if that’s a term). Hey! Cate Blanchett! Got room in your limo for one more? Prince Turki, President Joko Widodo of Indonesia needs a ride back. Could he hitch a ride on your private plane?


They could work with Swiss authorities to charter special trains to bring the participants up the mountain en masse. They could ask participants who are renting SUV’s or limos to make sure they are FULL before heading up the mountain (full disclosure: I went to a conference once where the topic was environmental sustainability and everyone was driving their own individual SUV everywhere). They could move the whole event to an enormous field in Devon a la Glastonbury or California a la Coachella. They could do the whole event all online and tout it as the first global online videoconference and get tech geniuses from around the world to make it excellent quality.

We are all to blame for our own excesses, but we have to start somewhere if we are really going to change and save the world. My husband plunges us into darkness with his electricity saving techniques (he’s convinced the secret to financial success is going to be from the money we save as a result of low electric and heating bills).  The thermostat is a constant battle. The brain surgery precision that comes with separating (and washing) the recycling in West London will do anyone’s head in. But I can’t win with any arguments I throw at him and ultimately I’ve caved. He’s right. I’m culpable. We all have to do our little part to help. It’s likely going to inconvenience us all a bit, but these are 1st world problems, not 3rd.  If that means you drive an electric car, or take your canvas bags to the supermarket, great. Whatever it takes.

WEF leaders and participants could learn from Leo DiCaprio’s mistakes. Last July, he got called out for taking a private plane to accept an environmental award and realised the hypocrisy.  He has now ditched the private plane (I know, tragic, right?) and flies commercial. But bravo for starting somewhere. We are so used to having a choice, and these things are all luxuries, relatively speaking. Seriously. We all need to be inconvenienced a little more. Every drop in the bucket helps. And think about it, if you saw several world leaders sharing a ride in a Prius to go to one of these events, the power of the words and policies they deliver will be that much more effective.



I can’t wait to get home tonight and listen to the Eugenia Cheng on Radio 4 this morning again, but this time with my 13-yr-old daughter.  It is so refreshing to hear someone have such a passion for what he/she does. And to explain it in a way that is ACCESSIBLE to all. 

She’s very funny when talking about the misconceptions the public has of mathematicians: “I’m not one of those people who can multiply large numbers in my head,” she laughs, “No! That’s not what we do all day!”

Replace those preconceived notions with new ones1) maths is not boring  2) you can have an interesting and well-paying job in maths 3) you can travel the globe with a maths job  4) maths is not just for boys.

It’s almost a half-hour long but flies by. Here are my key takeaways:

  • Eugenia is on a mission of ridding the world of maths phobia
  • Maths & baking have lots of similarities (as well as maths & music) — in both you are putting together a lot of ingredients and seeing whether they work or not.
  • You use lots of maths in baking. A mille feuille (delicious French pastry they often attempt on GBBO) involves rolling a pastry out and then folding it into 3, and then you roll it out again and fold into 3 again. You just need to do this 6 times and you have made more than a 1000 layers (ergo the name). Unknown-4
  • Feeling confused about math along the way? This is part of the path. Your brain will stretch.  Her childhood piano teacher would give her pieces that were way to hard for her.  She practiced and practiced and once she got to a point where she was just mastering it, her teacher would give her another, even harder piece. Maths is the same. At first it’s confusing and too hard. And then it’s not. Unknown-5
  • She goes to bars to work on her maths (love that!)
  • Good maths comes out of being lazy. It’s not about getting the right answers. She explains to her students: to be more efficient is to be lazy.  You don’t want to do the same thing over and over again so then you think, why do this over again? So let’s come up with a theory so that we don’t have to do it over and over — we’ve made it easier, quicker, simpler that way. More efficient.
  • Combine your passions for something you like to do. Recognise your strengths that are unique to you. Her mother was  “searingly” logical and her Dad was intuitive, and she feels like she got both those qualities.
  • Don’t listen to stereotypes.

On these last two takeaways, her wise words are worth delving into further.


One of the things I’ve told my university students over the years is that I had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation. I was not one of those people who knew at the age of 16 what I wanted to do or be.

I’ve also told my students that you need to think about your strengths and use them. What makes you unique? I was smart enough but not very academic. And definitely not the smartest. I was told I was a “people person”, which I came to hate after a while. What the heck am I going to do with that? I thought.

But here’s where she crystallises what I came to realise after years of transitioning from one job to another. I was gravitating towards my strengths and applying them. On paper, yes, I have had an amazing career — surpassing any and all expectations — living and working in Argentina on my own; working in the White House; working at ABC News/Nightline, with 5 Emmys, a Peabody and a Thurgood Marshall Award for Justice to remind me of all the hard, but worthy, work; working at Foreign Policy magazine; and here in London with IES and Global Change Network. But in each of these positions, I combined strengths, priorities and environment to figure out the best path.

Eugenia makes her path sound so simple. She started GCSE’s doing maths and physics. But then she thought ‘what if I only did maths? Because that’s what I really like’. So she did just maths for her A-levels. At Cambridge, she thought ‘I really like pure maths, not applied maths’ What if I just focus on that? So she narrowed her courses. Before graduating, she thought it’d be really nice to do just algebra. Because that’s what she loves most. For her Master’s, it was category theory that captivated her. For her PhD she decided on higher dimension category theory. My high school’s motto was “Viam inveniam aut faciam” which is Latin for “I shall either find a way or make one”, something Eugenia clearly ascribed to.

After securing a Professorship at the University of Sheffield, she decided to leave. Kudos to interviewer Jim Al-Khalili for pushing her on this decision. Her response encapsulates what my subconscious told me all along (paraphrasing):

“How do I make my own way and have more effect? So I took the category theory approach to life. If you can’t be the biggest fish in the pond, what do you do? You can either grow or move to a smaller pond.  In category theory, you move to the smaller pond and look at more characteristics. I’m not the best mathematician in the world and I’m not the best public speaker in the world. But maybe I could be the best at both: a mathematician who is also a public speaker. The more things you pile on the more likely you are going to be the best of those unique combination of things.”  

She wanted to do maths and communications. She said “find all the things you are good at. Make a list. And figure out how to bring all those things together.” She said if she stopped teaching, someone would easily take her place.  But someone who can explain maths to non-mathematicians in an accessible way is unique.

Admittedly, when she mentioned she was of Chinese origin with a mathematician mother I immediately, and wrongly, thought Ah, well, that’s it. High-achieving parents, extremely disciplined, driven kids – no wonder. She did say she and her sister would fight over who got to practice on the piano (just the opposite of my sister & I  — my Mom would make us sit down to practice for an hour or no dinner).  But the overall context of her message is not who’s going to be hard-working or over-achieving or the best, it’s more about figuring out all the things you are good at and what makes you happy.


Like Eugenia, I had parents that always instilled in me and my sister that we could be or do anything a man could. We both had no hesitation going out into the world and seeking a career, a profession, rather than a job.

From a very young age, Eugenia watched her Mom put on a suit and go to the City with briefcase in hand. Her Dad and sister would wait at the train to pick her up – a lone female amongst all the males. And it wasn’t until much later that she realised how unusual this was.

Before going to Cambridge, she was warned by her director of studies that it would be male-dominated and full of boys who will all be better than you. They will have been pushed very hard to overachieve. She thought she’d be the worst, so she was pleasantly surprised when she wasn’t the absolute worst in the class. “I had to learn to deal with their arrogance. They had been pushed hard and when they got there they breezed through. And I was surprised when later, my perseverance was helpful. As we had to work incredibly hard for our PhD’s, they had forgotten how to work hard and they fell by the wayside and I carried on.” She knocked down those stereotypes without flinching.

Kudos to Jim Al-Khalili for bringing the best out of her — he clearly loves this issue. Eugenia says “Who is combatting stereotypes of mathematicians? People assume to be a mathematician you have to be old and weird and have no friends; they must be older white guys who can’t make eye contact or are socially inept. Who will help rid the world of maths phobia with a message for the broader audience?” That is the void she hopes to fill. With this interview, she smashed it.





BRITS VS YANKS: Government (Shutdown)

As we look across the pond at the government shut-down in the US, I suspect many here are wondering how the heck this could happen (and trust me, many back home are thinking the same thing). As similar as our democratic systems are, it points to the striking differences between how our governments operate. Whose is better?

To start with, Brits vote for a party. Americans vote for a person (be it a Senator or Congressman or President). So in the US, you can have a ballot where you vote for your local Republican congressman because you like his/her policies, but you can tick a Democratic President on the ballot for the same reason.

As you vote for a party in the UK, once the counting is down, the party with the most votes and seats comes into power and the head of the party becomes Prime Minister.  Done and dusted. That means that for the next 5 years, the party and Prime Minister that were voted into power control the government, the policies, the budget, etc. They set the agenda. That’s it, and if you don’t like it, you can vote differently in the next elections.  (We’ll save coalition governments for another day.)

In the U.S., we have this thing called “checks and balances” or as some in D.C. call it “quagmire” :-).  Because you can vote individually and NOT down party lines means you can end up in any given election year where you’ve elected a Democratic President, the House is controlled by Dems, but the Senate is controlled by Republicans or any similar confusing permutation (to recap, our lower house or Congress is similar to your MPs, and our upper house or Senate is similar to your Lords).

So as a result of this system, where no one entity has too much power (the powers of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government in the US are clearly separated and defined), our Congress and Senate and President end up bickering a lot. And since they cannot agree on many things, they end up in stalemates.

Enter Government Shutdown.  Because one party (in this case the Democrats) could not agree on the budget the President and his party (the Republicans) put forth, and since the budget needs to be approved by both the House and then the Senate, the deadline came and went without consensus.

In the U.K., this just doesn’t happen.  There is little recourse if you don’t like the budget conservatives (ruling party right now) put into place, except to protest with your local reps or vote differently in the next election.  Acceptance and move on.


However, you should see Budget Day here! It was nothing short of a royal wedding coverage. It’s absolutely fantastic (for policy wonks and geeks)! There are helicopters hovering over the black car carrying the famous “Red Box” that is attached to the UK Treasurer as he leaves 10 Downing and heads to Parliament to read out the new budget. Budget Day last fall was November 22nd and the BBC (and other networks) had a 4-hour special breaking into their regular news programming to carry the speech live and then go into extensive analysis with experts, followed by immediate feedback with citizens across the country.  Four hours! Live TV! On the national budget!!

But this doesn’t happen in the U.S.  The two sides go into their corners and negotiations are heated. The shutdown this time has become even more politicised than before. Thanks to this President, it’s vicious and nasty. The message you hear when you call the White House says calls cannot be answered because the Democrats are holding government funding “hostage”. (Listen here). And this irresponsible and erroneous ad has been approved of by the President, contrary to what the White House press secretary recently said.

Many are affected by the shutdown, but the scaremongering the President has attached to “our nation’s security” and not being able to “pay the troops” is overblown and misunderstood. This piece by Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling explains exactly what happens in a government shutdown to the military and why. As he’s been in command when this has happened before, I suspect he has a better handle on it than the President.

And the issues they are squabbling over are extensive but at this point it boils down to DACA (Dreamers, the children who came illegally to the US to stay and work or study and allowed to stay b/c of a law Obama put into place in 2012), border security, children health insurance, and spending and investment.  This has happened in the past (Monica ended up roaming the halls of a fairly empty West Wing during the Clinton White House because of a government shutdown, and we all know how that ended). But in every instance, it takes compromise on both sides of the negotiation.

This President touts himself as being a tough negotiator, a “dealmaker”.  In this case, I’m glad the Democrats are digging their heels in, but getting to this point doesn’t help anyone, and I fear the President and his pride will be determined to win this. And the American people are already turned off by Washington. 80% of Americans polled in 2017 say they disapprove of the way Congress handles their job (Gallup). No surprise there.

I’m not sure which is better. I do like being able to vote for the individual rather than the party. I do like the theory of checks and balances but it just doesn’t seem to work well in practice.

Alternatively, I’m not sure having a fait accompli is good either. However, without the option to change policies halfway through an administration, I think it becomes that much more incumbent for the sitting administration to get things right.  If they don’t, they’ll be voted out at the next chance. They have one shot and have to make it work.  Let’s hope the Dems and Reps in Washington can do the same thing.








After a long, cold, dreary week, there is nothing nicer than a warm, cozy neighbourhood place to relax in. Little Bird opened right across from the Chiswick Overground Station in July 2016 and we’d been meaning to come for a while yet life always gets in the way. But last night I walked along the river in biting cold and wind to meet my husband there for an early dinner. The thought of warmth, good food and drinks made it an easy 12 minute walk from near Kew Bridge and the fairy lights and steamy windows beckoned.

Inside, the restaurant reminded me of New Orleans for some reason. Jazzy strains of Amy Winehouse and Stevie Wonder, potted plants of all sizes and varieties (succulents, cacti, and palms) and white painted brick walls complemented with dark wood and lots of wicker and candles leant to the ‘Nawlins’ atmosphere. Lots of cushiony, deep couches in muted tones of olive and aqua were tucked away in nooks and crannies with tables and comfy chairs. It’s very small but they cram in a welcoming bar and in warmer weather, there is outdoor seating out front and a hidden garden/patio in back.  The staff were very friendly and helpful, however they reminded us a few too many times that they needed the table back in 2 hours.  We went through the small front room which was buzzing with couples and groups clearly out for a good night and down a small hallway to a back teeny room where we were seated in a luscious velvet couch that took me a while to get in and out of.


They are known for their drinks but I think as much so they are known for the Asian fusion “tapas” which were all delicious.  As its “dry January” all bars and restaurants find clever ways to keep drinks coming, and I started off with a “Mocktail” called Lavender Hill.  Described as fresh blueberries, lavender syrup, cranberry & fresh lemon in a violet sugar rimmed glass. It was delicious, but went down very quickly for a £4.95 drink with no alcohol. My husband had the Ginger Beer Mojito (or Nojito as it was non-alcoholic too) and he swears his was better, but we weren’t going to start a bicker over that!


We had 5 tapas to share plus 2 sides — way to much but delicious nonetheless. My favourite Dim Sum Pork Gyoza with black soy. They were thin, tender yet crisped on the outside and succulent pork and flavours inside. This was tied with the delicious Chicken Tikka Brochette with Coriander Mayo and Flat Bread. Charred with tikka flavours locked in, and the smooth, creamy mayo — I was in heaven! The Spiced Lamb Lentil Curry was quite a large portion but very tasty — i only wish they had brought more Sesame Naan with that. My husband loved the Courgette Frites and the Edamame was messy to eat but we licked the spicy sauce they were cooked in off the pods.

Little Bird is an invention of Lorraine Angliss who owns Annie’s on Strand-on-the-Green and Rock and Rose in Richmond. Funnily enough, when we first moved to London, we rented a house just down the street from Rock and Rose and everyone kept telling us about this cool restaurant that was owned by a friend of Madonna’s and how we HAD to go there. We were never very impressed with Rock and Rose, with its bordello-styled main room and chintzy wallpaper. But we moved to Strand-on-the-Green and discovered Annie’s and absolutely loved it. Delicious food, excellent service, professional staff, and a warm, inviting neighbourhood cafe.

At Little Bird, it has the same vibe, but perhaps a little cooler, and more fun.  The only slight disappointment was the Blackened Cod Fillet — my husband said it was a bit bland. But as the sultry lounge music played, our drinks in hand and bellies full, we wondered why we don’t do this more often. Now that Little Bird is nearby, hopefully we will!





For anyone who happens to be in the City this weekend, you cannot miss this. I am heading down on Sunday night, but a friend went last night and thought I’d share some photos:  Lumiere London


My husband and I saw some “Son et Lumieres” Shows in France on our honeymoon years ago, but still remember what a beautiful spectacle it is, especially as they light up beautiful, centuries old buildings. But London has added so many other aspects to this show, and modernised it in an interactive way. See the photos below. You can go to different parts of the city for different routes and exhibits. Download the app and it will guide you to the different exhibits. Enjoy!!















LOVING LONDON: The Ever-present & Underrated High Street

It is often said London is a series of villages that merge together to form a city. Travelling around the city for work and play, as a tourist and a local, I find each little neighbourhood has its own unique identity. But all these little enclaves are centered around a High Street (or Main Street to US readers) that is the lifeblood of that area.

Many people do not stray further afield than their own ‘hood on the weekends, even though geographically (and compared to the longer distances in the US) they are sometimes only 2 or 3 miles from the next village/town. Most people in Barnes are not going to venture to Chiswick, people in Blackheath aren’t going to go to Clapham. There’s so much to do right at your doorstep, there’s no need to.


(Chiswick High Road)

You run into people you know on the High Street, you have your local butcher or green grocer (organic foods). The fishmonger is there. And the High Street shops like Jigsaw, SweatyBetty, Monsoon all have presences around the city.  State schools are all local and therefore most of your social groups. Plus there are a lot of local, wonderful eateries and pubs as well as the bigger chains like Byron Burgers, Carluccio’s and Cote offer good options for meeting up with friends.  A friend from the States sent me an article on best London pubs in the winter, wishing she could come over, but my list would be quite different — too many to choose from just in my own area that are cozy, comfy, fun, and most important, close by (topic for a blog post!) to tuck into on a dark, winter evening.

That’s not to say that people won’t venture into other areas but it tends to be for a reason. I’ll go to Covent Garden several times a year to see the ballet at the Royal Opera House and meet up with friends for an early dinner. Or visit museums and see exhibits, catch a play, do a Fun Run, take visitors to tourist sites. Any of these things will bring us into the city. But generally speaking, it’s unlikely we’ll venture from the Chiswick, Kew, Richmond area.

I don’t know if this is similar/dissimilar to the US (?). Do people in Brooklyn go to the Upper West Side on weekends? Do people in the Village head up to the Upper East Side? If you are in Union Square, would you go to Williamsburg? I think Americans are more used to travelling further distances as is the nature of a big country. But let me know!

If you hopped in a car and headed east, it’s less than 4 miles from Chiswick High Street to Kensington High Street, but on the weekends, that could take up 45 minutes, and then you have the nightmare of looking for parking. US expansion and growth included massive parking lots to their cityscapes, but London was already formed and established and there is literally no room.  By Tube, it’s probably 1/2 hour. From Fulham to Shoreditch in East London, it’s only 8 miles, but I don’t know anyone who’d drive it.   London is just too congested to even contemplate that.


(Camden High Street)

Perhaps that’s why the public transport is so good (compared to anywhere I’ve been in the States, it’s VERY good). The bus lanes are actually that. I made the mistake of driving in one when I first got the car — twice in two days — and I got two tickets for £160 each, thanks to a CCTV camera (they’re all over London). Never again. Plus the Tube and trains run often and regularly. Even still, it takes us longer to get from West London to a concert at the 02 Arena near Greenwich than it would to go from our house to Christchurch Meadow in Oxford.

So the Hood is very appealing — especially if you’ve been running around this 10mill strong, gritty, cavernous, cold city all week.  You can see the Greens (communal village grassy squares at the centre of commerce and churches) dotted around as you fly over the city in approach of Heathrow and they fill a vital purpose to the landscape and zeitgeist of the “Big Smoke”, adding charm and reminding us of the history.


(Clapham High Street)

London is an expansion of little villages that started to run into each other as the city exploded over time.  In the 17th and 18th century, Kensington and Chelsea were rural farm areas, known for their markets and gardens. Notting Hill Barns in 1828 was 150 acres of dairy farm and and Portobello Farm was cornfields and meadows. Shepherd Market was a little village known for its 15 days of a May Fair (where the area Mayfair got its name) and farmers brought in cattle and sheep to trade from the fields out West (including Shepherd’s Bush). Spitalfields was named after the hospital and priory founded there in 1100’s called St. Mary’s Spittel. And was considered rural until the Great Fire of London in 1666. Anyone under 30 hangs out in the ultra-cool, hip Shoreditch in East London but it got its name from the watery marshland it used to be back in Ye Olden Days (soersditch meant Sewer’s Ditch).


(Notting Hill then)


(Notting Hill now)

Like New York City, all these little enclaves grew over time, but unlike New York, they were edging outwards from around 1000 AD. It’s really fascinating to go to any part of town and see old Roman Walls or great architecture and palaces from long before America was even discovered.  It’s awe-inspiring. You don’t have to walk far to run into a beautiful, well-preserved building that dates back to the 15th or 16th century.  History is palpable here.

Nowadays, each High Street defines the character and livelihood of London.  Kensington High Street is all swank and money with its glittery high-end shops, Barnes is wealth and bucolic with the lovely duck pond, Shoreditch is vibrant, cool and hip, Nottinghill is eclectic, wealthy and boho, Camden is gritty and cool and hip city, Chiswick, Clapham and Putney are wonderful combinations of city and suburb near the River, Kew is insanely cute and almost rural with Kew Gardens on the doorstep, Kentish Town, Regent’s Park, Greenwich, Bermondsey, and on and on.

Tourists don’t see enough of these areas, but spend a little time here and you discover what each neighbourhood stands for and brings to the table that is the feast of London.


(Kensington High Street then)


(Kensington High Street now)


(Bucolic Barnes)


(Colourful Notting Hill)


Does Anyone Over a Certain Age Say This Anymore?

I was speaking to my 13-yr-old recently and coordinating weekend schedules. She wanted go to the mall with her friends to “go shopping” together. That stopped me in my tracks. I didn’t understand why at the time, but a few days later it sunk in.  What is this thing they call “going shopping together”? When would anyone find the time?

Is it just me? Am I the big loser (as The Trumpster so often says)?  I’m over 50, I work and I’m raising a child, we’ve moved continents 3 times (not country, CONTINENTS) and I’m thinking maybe all these things have contributed to my predicament. I racked my brains to think of when anyone last said those 3 little words (“Let’s go shopping!”) to me.

I do remember an Australian friend coming through London on a work trip and we had an afternoon together. We met near Regent Street and she had already stated up front in texts “We have to go shopping! I need more work clothes!”  The idea put fear in me. Perhaps it’s because I’m so bad at it? Or don’t care? I’ve never really been bothered about shopping but always loved my girlfriends who did — who would drag me out and show me what I was missing. I always needed their expertise to help me understand what looked good or what was “in” at the moment. I relied on them.  I was much more comfortable buying stuff online when that became cool — even if it didn’t fit and I was supposed to send it back for a refund (I say this because I’m too lazy and rarely did).

Anyway we went to Reiss near Piccadilly and she helped me pick out a beautiful black-and-white striped jersey Bardot top that I wear constantly. That was about 6 or 7 years ago.  She’s a self-admitted clothes horse and has a room in her house dedicated to just shoes. I think she dropped £600-£800 that weekend.  I’m not making fun at all — I’m admiring. It’s clearly a deficit of mine.  Likewise another friend in L.A. took me shopping years ago in my early 30s on Melrose Avenue and I STILL have the 3 or 4 items she hand-picked for me that I would NEVER have picked for myself. They were so cool and trendy! They don’t fit, of course, but I still have them. Thinking I can recycle them for my daughter?

Anyway, I guess I’m saying I miss it. It’s not to say I haven’t been shopping with my husband or daughter, but that’s different.  It’s less about the shopping and more about the girl talk and bonding that happens whilst shopping. Women, and men, tend to get more isolated as they get older.  Those bonding moments are fewer and far between.  So, I know my friends cannot believe I’m saying this, but sometime soon, will someone ask me to go shopping with them?




A few years back, when child was in pre-school, I had to go to a conference in New York for work.  I didn’t need much convincing — the thought of 3 days and 2 nights to myself, talking to adults, no duties, worries, guilts or scares to think about beyond myself and my work was deliciously enticing.

The night before leaving, while my husband and I were reading in bed, I mentioned that I would make a ‘To Do” list of all he needs to take care of while I’m away.  “No big deal,” I said, “probably 4 or 5 items.”  Without realising it, Child and I had fallen into a routine that was a well-oiled machine, and I thought some helpful tips would make his life easier as He would be playing the role of Me.

You would have thought I’d killed the cat. He harrumphed and growled that he was perfectly capable of taking care of his child thank you very much.  “Seriously, Di, what do you take me for? Do you not remember that I used to put her to bed every night for a year while you worked when she was first born?” he snapped. “I’m fairly certain I can handle her now that she’s four and in school.”

This wasn’t the point at all — there were so many details to our routine — both in the morning before preschool and afterwards — but he kept cutting me off. I honestly did not want to offend or start an argument, but I knew the drill and he didn’t. So I came up with what I thought was a pretty good solution.

It is not about the child, but more about the recognition of what we do on a daily basis

“OK, I’m sure you’ll be fine — totally get it. But, just in case, only if you need it, I’m going to make out a list and I’ll put it right here on my bedside table.” (Made a perhaps exaggerated point that it would be way over on my side of the bed — not in his territory).  I sat there making the list and no one was more surprised than I to see it had reached 11 items before I was finished. “Wow! It’s actually rather long!” And I was leaving out the Type-A details, keeping it to the very straight-forward, need-to-know stuff.

Up at 7 AM — that much he knew. She had preschool from 9 AM to 1 PM. But I wasn’t sure if he knew what to dress her in, weather dependant, where her boots were or her raincoat, etc., that he had to clean out her lunch box, make her lunch and repack it.  Our routine meant I dropped her off at Breakfast Bunch at 8:OO AM so breakfast was covered.

Then Michelle, the nanny, picked her up from pre-school and on certain days she drove her to gymnastics out in Rockville until around 4:30 PM, then home and dinner and I would relieve Michelle some time between 5:30 PM and 6:30 PM. But on some days, Michelle had to leave early (she was putting herself through university) so I would need to be home by 4:30 PM. Other days, my septuagenarian Mom and Dad would pick her up and then I would have to either A) get her from their apartment or B) receive a slew of phone calls when they took her back to our house on everything from “Your house is too cold! How do you turn up the heat?” to “I can’t turn your stove on” or “I can’t turn your stove off” or “I burned the pasta. Do you have anything else for dinner?”, “Is she allowed on the balcony?”.

In the evenings, I made her dinner and gave her a bath. Then we read some books and she was in bed by 8 or 8:30 PM.  Not a lot to handle, but on any given day something would happen that was not routine, and worrying about the house burning down when Mom and Dad were there was a constant. No two days were ever the same and that meant readjusting schedules, coordinating with Michelle or Mom and Dad or school or the paediatrician or the vet, whomever.

Having someone appreciate you, just for a moment, is treasured

I know many of you will relate to this story. It is not about the child, but more about the recognition of what we do on a daily basis.  So off I went to New York at the crack of dawn on the Acela from D.C., leaving him to deal with the day ahead and knowing I’d done everything I could to help.  The conference was fascinating (I believe it was one of the first “Women of the World” conferences, if memory serves) and I did a lot of networking, met up with old friends, and contemplated going to Lincoln Centre in the evening to see the ballet.  But the plush bathrobes and enormous tub won out and I watched good-bad TV like Gilmore Girls and American Idol and ordered insanely expensive room service.

At about 9:30 PM, I got a call from the Husband. It was one of the best phone calls ever. He was lovely, sheepish, sounding a little exhausted but above all, completely appreciative. His surprise exploded across the telephone line. “Wow! I had no idea what you did each day!” He laughed, “You’ll be happy to know I did have a look at your list. Very helpful indeed.”  We had a good chuckle, he went through the day and all its surprises (from her 2 breakfasts in the morning to a trip to the paediatrician. Thank goodness I left the phone number on the list!), and he had a new appreciation of my world.

But he had no idea how much those words meant to me.  On a good day, parenting is a series of trade-offs, compromises, clean ups and putting out fires.  At times, my patience has been tried beyond limits I knew existed. Worst still, I’m ashamed to admit at least two times I nearly lost the plot completely. I couldn’t even have a glass of wine afterwards to calm my nerves for fear that I would never stop. Multitasking and juggling work and child are not my forte. And I would wonder why I do it…all too often.  So having someone recognise you (and the tireless work you don’t even expect a thank you for) is treasured.


We all feared there would be backlash. The pendulum swung too far too quickly.  Many women friends and I discussed the predicted confusion for men in the workplace as all these stories emerged and suspected they would throw their hands up.

I am from the older generation of women that Lucinda Franks wrote about in the New York Times.  We toughed it out to prove ourselves. We needed to be and act like men to get ahead. We were on our own. I’m so in line with what she said that my uncle emailed me saying he thought I could have written it (yes, Dear Uncle, apart from that small detail of she being a Pulitzer-prize winner). Regardless, we all imagined men fleeing to the hills saying “Who needs women in the workplace? Why bother?”

Normal, average people wouldn’t even fathom acting this way so it’s hard for us to comprehend

What we didn’t predict was where the backlash would come from.  “Bad feminists” and “Good feminists” are squabbling amongst themselves as demonstrated, surprisingly, by Margaret Atwood, who I have deep respect for. In her piece this weekend,  Am I a Bad Feminist?, she defensively uses far too much ink on one (1) wrongly accused man, rather than discuss the overwhelming evidence of police reports worldwide that show more often than not, women who come forward are not heard or listened to. Globally, justice does not prevail for women.  Sadly, this was a case of trying to do the right thing and it back-fired. A one-off.  Wish she’d spent a little more time with her power & influence to turn the conversation forward.

In other instances, we are getting bogged down by semantics. We are name-calling. We should not be lumping together any and all complaint — that will muddy the waters.  There are too many accounts that are sidetracking the true issues to name, so here are a few from just the last few days to really confound you: the ultra-feminist website Babe publishing an expose of Aziz Ansari , Liam Neeson bemoaning the “witch hunt”,  France’s pushback against #MeToo.


Let’s try to see the forest for the trees. We need clarity for this movement to work. We must divide the issues into different buckets and address each one separately. We should not confuse assault with an off-colour joke. Dating a direct line-manager gets into unchartered territory that needs defined guidelines. Equal pay and office bullying are side-issues that are absolutely worth discussing, but best to start with narrow, focused goals.

As part of a women’s group dedicated to solving these problems, we are just starting to identify them, and it will take months of study and analysis before we can unlock effective and long-lasting solutions. But let’s start with assuming that we are talking about the workplace, or work-related scenarios (and not some chance encounter of someone famous, as recounted in the NYT retelling of Aziz Ansari’s date that went badly).

Unraveling this piece by piece, we have the obvious:

SEXUAL ASSAULT & SEXUAL HARASSMENT — The jokes regarding certain alleged (and in Louis CK’s case) admitted behaviour have already started. As if it isn’t really real — just something to laugh at now because it’s so absurd.  Let’s be clear: This did happen. There is no scenario where pulling your penis out and rubbing it against a woman or masterbating in front of women or pinning a woman down on a couch while kissing and groping, or grabbing her private parts without warning without consent is acceptable.

Normal, average, everyday people – men and women – wouldn’t even fathom acting in this way so it’s hard for us to comprehend. It’s easier for us to assume the stories are exaggerated rather than realise we are part of a larger societal problem that buried our heads in the sand for years.  I have heard some of the stories and they are horrific and most important, criminal offences.  In some, the women are petite and the men are physically overpowering. In others the women are young and impressionable and the men are Gods in the office, bringing in the big bucks for the networks or film studios.

The Definition of Sexual Harassment:  Here in the UK (and probably similar in the US) sexual harassment is a form of unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act of 2010 and is defined as such:

Sexual harassment is unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature which:

  • violates your dignity
  • makes you feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated
  • creates a hostile or offensive environment

You don’t need to have previously objected to someone’s behaviour for it to be considered unwanted.

Again, pretty clear-cut. But I suspect sexual harassment videos, educational and role-playing seminars in workplaces would be helpful. In the past, at all my places of employment, we sat through various HR seminars on discrimination, drug use, and sexual harassment with a sort of giggle and swagger like we were back in 8th grade and the teacher was teaching us how to put a condom on a banana.  Now, I think (I hope) they will be taken more seriously.


The grey areas are the ones we really need to nail down. Here are some that need delving into more:

DATING A DIRECT SUPERIOR/LINE-MANAGER — Back in the 1950s, my Southern belle mother arrived in NYC at “Manny Hanny” (the investment bank Manufacturer’s Hanover) working her way up to Head Librarian in the Research Department (2018 equivalent might be Head of Research/Duodiligence) by the time she was 26. My Dad was a Cornell grad recently arrived in the bank’s training program.  He was often found in the Research Dept unnecessarily and when their dating became serious and obvious, they knew one of them would have to leave as company policy stated interoffice dating wasn’t allowed.  What they weren’t prepared for was that Manufacturer’s Hanover management asked my Dad to leave, as he was one of many Ivy league trainees, whereas my Mom’s invaluable expertise and management skills over a team of women researchers was indispensable.  Don’t take my word for it, this policy was common practice: In George Clooney’s movie, Good Night and Good Luck, they portray 2 people dating in a 1950s newsroom.

It’s easier to assume the stories are exaggerated than to realise we are part of a societal problem

Of course, we’ve come a long way since then, but interoffice dating is a very tricky, grey area (at least in my mind and various polling). This is where I think research and study will help going forward.  If there is a married older “company” man in the office who is powerful and prominent, and he pursues aggressively a relationship with a younger, impressionable employee who may or may not be directly line-driven by him, but who knows that any move she makes will have huge repercussions for the office, what are the rules or guidelines here? What is her recourse? What if the person is not married but in charge of bonuses and the underling doesn’t want to be punished financially if she doesn’t respond accordingly? What if two people date, break up, and then the underling is in line for a promotion that the superior has a say in?

There are many scenarios that need fleshing out, but clearly defined rules and guidelines are a must.

OFFICE POLITICAL MACHINE — All too often, I heard from various women that they did not know who to turn to. They did not know their rights and were afraid of ruining their careers. At other times, women DID reach out to superior men AND women in the offices and were met with resistance or, shockingly, completely ignored. The change here should be swift: Put into place a sexual harassment ombudsman (for lack of a better term) or ombudswoman. Someone whose sole purpose is to field the various victims who come forward; someone who will investigate claims, work the alleged accusation through a proper system and chain of command. No one is above or beneath the law. Power and prestige in the office is invisible. The time for Non-Disclosure Agreements and pay-offs is over.

Additionally, there should be some set of rules or guidelines in place for AFTER an inquiry — whether it comes to fruition or not. The accuser is not a pariah in the office. She/he should not be sidelined or marginalised.  This is discrimination.  Again, I think more research and outside expertise would be helpful.


IDENTIFYING SEXUAL PREDATORS — In a previous post I wrote about men as sexual predators (towards children and women and other men). This is a societal issue but as Arthur in the previous piece said “the time is right to do something now. It’s an appropriate moment in society”. He also said that the man who assaulted him as a child was “facilitated by a system that encouraged silence.” And that men like his abuser were “in a position of power and authority and gain/gratification was taking away the power of others.”  Finally, the experts on the program who study sexual predators said “underlings are powerless to do anything and predators know this.” Arthur went to police in 2003 and was ignored. He went back this past year and this time, the police listened. His abuser was sentenced to 4 years in jail last week.

Remember, we are not talking about someone who made an off-colour remark about a woman’s blouse or her lipstick (although that is something to address). We are talking about men who repeatedly, over 20 years in some cases, harassed or assaulted women (or men) in the workplace.  I cannot imagine that this kind of behaviour could have gone on without the knowledge of others around them. We need to identify men who cannot cope with power or who have serious predatory behaviour, however subtle or secretive. Identifying men like this is important to set the tone and morale of the office.  If others knew these men were doing things and getting away with it, what message does that send everyone else?

It’s the very nature of television news and Hollywood that these stories are fascinating to a larger audience and garnering attention. Do you think we’d be having this conversation if Joe Public from the accounting dept. was harassing women? Or if Jim X on the factory floor was assaulting underlings? We should not be fooled. The stories I heard relate to the headlines, but they are happening everywhere.

So, yes, if you see women in news and Hollywood picking up the flag and marching forward its because we have a unique voice and opportunity to change society globally.  We risk shooting ourselves in the foot if we lose focus, bite off more than we can chew, or in-fight. Let us not cripple the momentum.  We must prove that our earlier worries were unwarranted — that this #MeToo movement would harm us in the end.


Doesn’t Everyone Start Their Day Like This?

Driving my husband and daughter to the Tube stop and school, we were having a fun bicker about something trivial when my husband said “Hang on, hang on. Do you think we bicker more than other families, the same as other families, or less than other families?” My daughter was torn between the same and more. I said definitely more, for sure. Husband: “What?! No!! I would say definitely less! Why would you say more? That’s absurd!” And the bickering started up again. 😂


Listening to the Vanessa Feltz program this morning on BBC Radio London, I heard a very difficult interview with the most calm, decent and eloquent man named Arthur regarding terrible sexual abuse to him as a child by a teacher at Christ Hospital School in Sussex.

Arthur was riveting. Not because of the horrible details of what happened to him, but in the brave, articulate and resolved way with which he discussed it. It was a brilliant, emotional program and worth tuning into.

By talking about it, you are taking back the power the abuser stole from you.

But while I was listening, I was also thinking about the various stories of sexual harassment and abuse in the news recently by powerful and influential men in Hollywood and journalism.  I can’t think of anything more atrocious than being abused as a child – it really is undeniably the most heinous of things.  But hearing him speak about the abuse of power and society and the way he dealt with it, I couldn’t help but draw some similarities to the young women being preyed upon in offices across the globe.

He said so much worth repeating.  I was driving at the time so I might not have the details perfect, but Arthur was abused as a child between the years of 1970 and 1973 by a man named Peter Burr.  As Arthur says, he didn’t have the vocabulary or words to describe what was happening to him but he just knew it was wrong. In 2003, he gathered up his nerve and called the police and spoke to someone there.  They didn’t do anything and he wasn’t taken seriously. He doesn’t blame them.  He said “I bear no resentment.  There was no language in society, no understanding, no compartment to put that information in, and I did as much as I could.”

The abuser was facilitated by a system that encouraged silence

Fast forward to last year and he was listening to the Vanessa Feltz show about Jimmy Saville and abusers and it spurred him to get in touch with the producers.  Paraphrasing: “You store all of this up in a box. You tuck it away. After hearing the BBC London program about abuse and Jimmy Saville, I realized there were other men and girls now who were children who commonly had the same experience. I heard that program and thought more had to be done.”

So he got in touch with Gemma the producer who said perhaps we can help and asked him to go back to the police.  He went on to say “the time is right to do something now. It’s an appropriate moment in society.  For the first time in my life, I had a story to tell, a complaint to make, and the police listened and they acted and society supported that action. At last, justice is done.  I am grateful for that.”  Peter Burr pleaded guilty and last week was convicted on 9 counts and is serving 4 years in prison.

But what really got me is somewhere between 8:15 and 8:30 AM (about 1:15:00 into the program), he said a few things that rang so true to my experience and the experiences of others who were young women working in offices of powerful men.  I’ve been grappling with why I feel guilty about not coming forward earlier. I know the man who tried to attack me ended up harassing and abusing women for 20 years. I feel lucky in that I got away before any real damage was done. I was attacked, I fought him off, I got away. Others weren’t so fortunate. And that makes me cry and makes me very, very angry.

Arthur said the man who abused him and other boys was a man who was “facilitated by a system that encouraged silence”. This couldn’t be more true of the nature of newsrooms and Hollywood and frankly, everywhere else where there were predators.  He also said the man is like many predators who are “exercising their complete power of control over you for their own sexual gratification. Utter power over you.”  The conversation revealed that Peter took gratification by abusing the power of his positionHe was a man in a position of power and authority and his gain was taking away the power of others.  But it was also the culture at the time. Arthur recognizes this.  He said “attitudes of the police have changed so much. From the 1970s, 80s, even 10 years ago. The time is now.”

Later in the program they had experts on to talk about this further.  Power in relationships is the key.  Underlings are powerless to do anything and predators know this.  In this case, it could be young boys abused by teachers, or young women abused or harassed by powerful, influential, sometimes famous men whose authority and power in the office atmosphere is very apparent.  It is very hard to take BACK that power, as the panellists on Vanessa’s show said: “They are very clever and manipulative people who know they can dominate and that’s the reward for them.  The sexual predatory behaviour is the result.”

Arthur said that by talking about it, you’ve taken back that control that people had over you. Talking about it is empowering, he said.  You are not alone and you realize that when you hear other stories.  Even if you can’t go through the court process just sharing it with others brings back control.  You’ve dealt with it.

He said “I know that justice has been served.  I know I’ve done all I can do.”  I agree with him when he says that the time is right. Now, in 2018, wider society says this is wrong. Abuse of power and predatory behaviour is wrong. There is a big sea change.

I have heard from women who are raw. Who were attacked, who were abused, who were harassed, who were taken advantage of.  They were young, they didn’t know how to react, they were paralyzed with fear.  They did not know who to reach out to, how to report, what to report, what the repercussions would be.  Many feared for their jobs or the fallout from being the “problem” person in the office.  Many thought they were the only one harassed (myself included).  Others were so traumatized they left news completely.  They changed careers. How sad a state of affairs that young women journalists starting out in their careers and arriving at the bright, brilliant allure of the all-powerful television news networks ended up fleeing in fear and pain because of the men who abused their trusted power.  Worst still, others did report the problems and little was done.

I agree with Arthur: The time is now. As part of an organisation of women whose mission is to change the newsroom culture, I hope we can pave a smoother path for future generations.  Our culture, our newsrooms, our offices, our police, our superiors, our leaders all recognize that enough is enough. There is a new cultural awareness and a new intolerance.  Change is here. Finally, thankfully.



London can be a very cold, harsh, unfriendly and unforgiving city.  As much as I love it here, there are days when it really does try the toughest of spirits. But as we close out 2017, I can’t help but think of the small acts of kindness, the little gems that occur on a daily basis, the serendipitous events that unfold around this cavernous, brilliant, bustling metropolis. You just have to look.

To start with, there is the “driver’s etiquette”.  This is true country-wide but it’s really a sight to behold in the throngs of London traffic. Perhaps it’s the English tendency to queue politely for everything and anything, but even at the height of rush-hour and impatience, you will see the “zipper system” working efficiently. When two-lanes merge into one, everyone waits for each other and it’s the exception to the rule when someone jumps ahead. Likewise, at 4-way stops, it’s a polite “after you” indication that occurs (to the point that sometimes I wonder if anyone will go!).


But my favourite is “the wave” and the blinkers “thank you” afterwards. Anywhere in London (and the UK), when someone is switching lanes ahead of you or you need to let the car in, or if a vehicle is turning into your lane from a left or right intersection (junction), you slow down with hands on the wheel and give them the one-handed wave — an indication that it’s ok to go.  Once the car moves in ahead of you,  he or she then “thanks” you by putting their blinkers/hazards on briefly. If two cars are at a face-off on a narrow street where only one can pass through, one will blink the headlights which is an indication that you should go ahead. Once you pass, you give “the wave” as thanks. It’s an absolutely brilliant system that works seamlessly in most cases.  Cars, busses, trucks, lorries, everyone does it.  When I go home now to the States, I find the driving unbelievably aggressive and self-righteous. Everyone just assumes that they are King of the Road and deserves to squeeze in ahead of everyone else. Very unbecoming.

Another present delivered itself to me in a complete stranger’s act of kindness. My girlfriends and I were doing a long 12 mile walk in preparation for a charity event one summer.  We started out in Chiswick, went along the Tow Path to Putney Bridge, turned up the south side of the river past Hammersmith and Barnes and up to Kew Bridge. As we were nearing the end of the walk, I realised I had somewhere along the way dropped my iPhone (don’t ask me how – it’s a bad habit). One of my girlfriends rang it and a lovely man answered. “Oh, excellent, you called! I was hoping you would. I have it here on my desk at work. I went out for a run at lunchtime and saw it on the Tow Path near Hammersmith Bridge and thought if that was my iPhone I would want someone to pick it up for me. So I did!” I know. Very lucky. But floored that in a city 10 million strong and geographically massive, some good samaritan went through the trouble to retrieve it and take care of it until I had called.

There are many others – a plumber who came to fix a problem with the sink who wouldn’t charge me because, as he said in his very East Laahhndon accent “This was too easy to fix. Took only 10 minutes and no parts. No worries”. Or a barista at Starbucks who ran after me when I left some cash on the counter.  Or a Sainsbury employee who picked up my parking card when I dropped it. Just yesterday, I dropped my reading glasses somewhere in one of the aisles, only to find them already at the Lost and Found when I got to the till and realised I didn’t have them. (Yes, I drop things a lot!)


However, my last little miracle has a slightly different twist. When we first arrived here, we didn’t have a car and took busses everywhere. Our 6 yr old had gymnastics near Chiswick Bridge. We hopped on the 190 bus heading into London, got off at the bus stop, went into the club where she changed into her gymnastics outfit and I sat in the coffee area with the other parents.

She had an absolutely favourite grey cardigan sweater (jumper) that she adored, and given we had only been in the country for 5 weeks and we didn’t even have our furniture yet, I understood her attachment to things…as permanency was something she was unaccustomed to. She wore it everywhere.  She definitely had the sweater whilst on the bus on the way there, however, after she finished and changed again, we couldn’t find it.

I was torn — I know how topsy-turvy her life had been in the past 2 months, but I felt it was time to instill the lesson of holding onto things that are important to you. I was stern when we realised she had left it on the bus. “This is what happens when you don’t take care of things.” She was wailing. “This is an important lesson to learn, sweetheart. That sweater is gone. You will never – ever – see it again. I’m really sorry but you should have taken better care of it.” As we walked back to the bus stop the sobbing continued. “Mummy, can’t we ask the bus driver to find it? Can’t we call the bus company?” “It’s gone, sweetie. If you leave it somewhere, you will lose it. That bus has gone into the city now.” I really felt bad for her – she was only just six. But I thought to myself “she’ll never lose anything ever again.” Lesson learned. I was a bit cross and stood fast.

A 190 bus pulled up heading westbound towards home and we hopped on. I’ll be damned if that little sweater wasn’t sitting right there on the seat where she left it!!  I couldn’t believe it. The gymnastics lesson was an hour and a half. Plus changing time and the walk, we probably got off that bus about 2 hours earlier. What are the chances the exact same bus would be coming back on his route as we got on!? And even slimmer odds that the sweater would still be sitting forlornly there waiting for her. Of course, my lesson was utterly and completely lost at this point. “Look, Mommy! Here it is!! It came back to me!”

It was a long time before she realised that anything she loses doesn’t miraculously return to her. But I still laugh at this story — only in London.





Atticus Finch said in To Kill A Mockingbird “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” He is explaining to his daughter, Scout, that we mustn’t judge another person until we have experienced what they have been through.

I would like to think of myself as the magnanimous, understanding person Atticus was referencing,  but I know I fall short.

He does not mean the people you feel sorry for or empathise with. He is talking about people you — without knowing it — have judged…or misjudged.  The people you would normally find the hardest to relate to, the least likely you can understand. Not someone who is poor or disadvantaged, living in poverty or worse. Although that would be hard to fathom, that is something that most of us would want to do to understand the difficulties that person faces. That is the definition of empathy. This is not an easy path, but I think we assume this is what Atticus is talking about. Whereas the shoes of someone whose values you do not like, whose causes you don’t believe in, whose doctrines are not ones you subscribe to — those are shoes far harder to step into.

For me, it would be very hard to walk a mile in the shoes of an Islamic terrorist. I would not understand them, nor want to understand them. And that’s where I fall short. I would find it very hard to walk in the shoes of a racist. A member of the Ku Klux Clan or even some of the Afrikaners we met while living in South Africa.  I would really bristle to walk in the shoes of a serial sexual harasser. Or worse, someone who abuses and rapes women.  Politically, I do not completely understand Brexiteers. And I find it very difficult understanding Trump voters. I cannot fathom that they see Trump as someone who will save them and the country.  I struggle with all these things.

But, isn’t the point that we do attempt to understand the opposite point of view? That we do try to listen and deconstruct it? You do not – at all – have to agree with it. But I would love to sit with a Trump supporter and really have an explorative, educational exchanging of views. Bridge the gap between us.  If we could discuss where he/she is coming from, how they arrived at this place in time where they felt the only answer was voting for a former TV-celebrity billionaire with no experience in government and no record of helping others, that would be a start.

I want to understand the racists whose views were formed from a young age. How did they arrive to the bias they so clearly have? When living in South Africa, we met Afrikaners who rolled their eyes and said things like “Well, your blacks aren’t like our blacks” as if we were merely discussing the difference in primary schools or bad restaurant service when in reality we were discussing racial tensions in the US and South Africa. I was appalled. I found myself judging. “How can they be so overtly racist?”

My husband pointed out to me that the woman we were speaking to had a completely different background and upbringing to us.  Economically, we were probably similar to her, and around the same age, but that’s where the similarities stopped. We all grew up in the 70s but in South Africa there was state-run media and the government controlled all the information that was fed to the public. She did not see the international news stories about the fatal youth uprising in Soweto or they were told a very different story – one that was far from the truth.  They didn’t have televisions in most of the houses and farms until well into the 70s, Pink Floyd’s The Wall and other outside media was banned countrywide, and they heard about things blacks were doing to whites through the filter and skewed POV of a scared white minority government.  They were 12 or 14 years old at the time whose parents told them the government was right.  My husband pondered were we to be born in South Africa with parents of a certain generation and the government lying to us, with a media machine in place to counter anything we might have heard, would we have turned out any better? I don’t know.

Of course, we would all like to think we would have seen it — would have sussed out the racism and inequalities and known about the apartheid system to keep blacks uneducated and seen the injustices. But would we have? Really? I don’t know. It was then that I realised I had judged them and found them lacking. I had gone to anti-apartheid rallies in the 80s. I bought the single “Ain’t Gonna Play Sun City” by international musicians who took a stand. I followed Mandela’s release and cheered when he won. But wasn’t it me who was lacking? If I couldn’t take away all the freedoms and education and bias that I was brought up with to see what kind of person I might have been had I been born in Pretoria rather than New York, aren’t I close-minded? I am assuming I’d be the better person, but I don’t know that.

I find the art of listening is lost on this narcissistic social media world we live in. So I would love to know whose shoes are the hardest for you to walk in. Whose point of view do you really not understand? If we could all listen to each other, sit for a spell, exchange points of views, come to some sort of understanding – with respect for each other – wouldn’t we be a better world for it? My New Year’s resolution is to do just that: I will try to listen more, judge less. Join me?





Does anyone know the Big Shaq song “Man’s Not Hot”? Do you understand it at all? What is he SAYING? Never heard of it at all? I like to think of myself as a semi-cool parent, but I just don’t get it. He’s wearing a big winter coat on a beach in Miami saying he’s not warm enough to remove his lovely jacket. And then he exclaims ‘skkrrrra-pop-pop’ (roll your r’s on the skrrrr).  He’s gone from a virtual unknown to nearly 100 million views on YouTube for his video. And apparently, it’s in contention for the Christmas #1 song in the UK this year!!

So although there is much to pontificate regarding the iGeneration that is serious, I’m focusing on the more fun (and challenging) aspect of pre-teens and teens:  How do you carry on a conversation with them?

I imagine at some point this holiday season you will find yourself stuck by the tree with some eggnog and a moody, bored teenager opposite you who would rather be sticking needles in their eyes than hanging out with a bunch of old fogeys. Family gatherings at the holidays are ripe for bringing together people with little in common to talk about.  And today’s kids are foreigners with their own fads, lingo and trends that make it near impossible to find common ground. 

Although we think this digital world is isolating, it’s also connecting in a way that we never had


My daughter told me this morning on the way to school that, yesterday, YouTube just released it’s annual “YouTube Rewind List”.  Who knew?! This is a list of all that happened in their world that helped to shape the year. She tells me anyone who is anyone between the ages of 12 and 20 will know this list.  It includes rappers, DJ’s, YouTubers, popular songs, fads, challenges, trends, etc. This is an excellent starting point:

But. It is so much more interesting to watch WITH your child as they will be able to explain all the points of reference you don’t get. The video starts with a girl in an orange sweatshirt dancing. “Oh, that’s that girl — she’s famous for her dancing” exclaimed my Child. She went on from there, stopping and starting at every point I didn’t understand or get. “Wait, don’t know about ‘The Floor is Lava’?!!?” No, sweetheart…Do you know about Trump’s latest stunner in moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?

One of the things that’s so vital as a parent is open lines of communication. But if I shut out everything I see as silly in her world, I’d be clueless to her POV.  To me, YouTubers and fads and songs that I have never heard of are trivial, trite and time-wasting. They are not going to change the world. But discussing her interests and seeing things through her eyes will help me to understand how she and her friends think and respond; help me see how they relax and how they are inspired; what makes them laugh or cry.

The YouTubers and DJ’s and videos of her era are the TV-stars, rock stars and movie stars of my era

Every generation has gaps in knowledge that need to be shared both up and down the age groups. My parents would take me to Broadway musicals in New York and in return I would play my Springsteen and Grateful Dead albums to them, explaining their cosmic relevance and likability.  They were willing to listen to me and my passions as long as I gave theirs a fair shake. My Child spends about 4 hours/week on social media and Netflix and YouTube.  She also competitively swims, plays hockey, rows, sings, plays piano and is a good student. So she’s well-balanced. My point is the YouTubers and DJ’s and videos of her era are the TV-stars, rock stars and movie stars of my era. It’s just a way to relax…and be different than your parents.

I am surprised, though, at how universal these trends are to a certain age group.  On holiday last summer in Greece, we had friends from Seattle join us with kids the same age as the Child — 11, 12, and 13 years old.  Our Child: Do you know Liza Koshy?  Seattle Child: Yah, love her. More recently the Child was texting with a friend in Washington D.C. and discussing Lele Pons, another big YouTuber who is Venezuelan-American, so I’m figuring she has the Latino world as well.  And then even more recently, Seattle Child and London Child were discussing Riverdale and how they both have a crush on Jughead (seriously, Jughead?!). Another well-known global YouTuber is an English-speaking Swede, so just another reminder that the digital world has no borders.  And there are no time-lapses between country/international release dates that we had growing up. They are all watching the same thing at the same time — globally.  I would argue that although we think this digital world is isolating, it’s also connecting in a way that we never had.

And the YouTube Rewind 2017 video shows much more than just Despacito, Ed Sheeran, slime paintball parties and funny dancing. It touched on social issues that were big in 2017 to this generation: the Houston and Puerto Rico hurricanes, the Ariana Grande/Manchester bombing, the Las Vegas shooting, the Vive La France celebrations from Macon’s victory election, the solar eclipse, and more.  It’s not just frivolous and non-sensical.

But besides the YouTube Rewind 2017 video, below are a few things I’ve discovered in conversations with my daughter that I thought might be useful. An “IN” and “OUT” List to help you navigate the pre-teens and teens you run into this holiday season.  Conversation starters.  Granted, they will probably still think you are totally unhip, but at least you might get a nod of appreciation for trying to bridge the gap!

The digital world is confusing for us “first generation” parents and I have definitely made my fair share of mistakes which I will write about, as well as lessons learned. But sitting here at my desk, I turned off my Sia “Everyday Is Christmas” new album I’d been listening to on Spotify and put on Big Shaq’s “Man’s Not Hot” to try to listen to the song through my daughter’s ears.  It’s actually a pretty funny and fun song, and after watching the video a few times, I found it definitely grows on you!



Liza Koshy – YouTuber — funny, in the opening scene of YouTube Rewind 2017

LeLe Pons – YouTuber — funny, Venezuelan-American, also in the opening scene of YouTube Rewind 2017

PewDiePie – YouTuber — Swedish, funny

Fine Brothers Entertainment — YouTubers, funny, from New York

Lilly Singh — YouTuber, Canadian, also known as ||Superwoman||

Logan Paul and Jake Paul — YouTubers, comedy and vloggers, created “Zoosh”

Marshmallo — huge DJ, also seen in YouTube Rewind 2017 video, he’s the guy dressed all in white with a marshmallow head and black eyes and smile painted on.

Cole Spouse — plays Jughead on TV’s “Riverdale”, a dark version of the old Archie and Jughead, Betty and Veronica comic books.


Slime — if you don’t know what this is, you really are just coming out from under a rock

Fidget spinners — same as Slime, you really should know these


The Floor is Lava — this is a challenge when you are with friends in a store or mall or park and suddenly someone says “the floor is lava” where you have to find ways to stay off the ground. Seen in the YouTube Rewind 2017 video.

Backpack Kid — also on the YouTube Rewind 2017 video, he’s a 15 yr old YouTuber who dances with a backpack and swings his arms straight from side to side. The dance is also known as “The Floss”

Stranger Things — the whole show and cast are pretty awesome for both kids and parents


Beef — this has made a come-back from the 80s! If someone has “beef” with someone else it means they are not getting along

Squad — homies, clique, group of people who are close friends and get along

Triggered — this is when someone’s really angry, they get “triggered”

Savage — I haven’t quite figured out how to use this properly in a sentence but it’s something along the lines of pretend-dissing someone. Sorta a backhanded “ouch” moment.

Ship — to ship two people means you think they would be good together — in a fun way, not too serious. “I am shipping John and Jane. They hang out all the time and they are so cute.”


Miranda Sings — YouTuber, funny – I was just getting to know her and her work when she started a TV show a year ago October on Netflix, and then never heard about her again. My Child says they stopped watching her once she went to Netflix.

Mannequin Challenge — sooo last year. When you take a video moving through a group people staged motionless in a funny position.

Pretty Little Liars — TV show about a group of mean girls who are stalked by a creep named A. But no one cares anymore who “A” is, as the storywriters keep revealing and then switching the murderer/stalker around.

Water bottle Flip — this was a challenge last year that was very popular where you take a water bottle and flip it up in the air to land perfectly on a flat surface without falling.


The UK is not only winning this debate, but leading the US in the direction both countries are heading.

This is only the second time in 10 years that we are not going home for the holidays.  I can envision Washington and New York decked out with all the lights and window displays and wreaths. Ice skating in Central Park, the massive tree at 50 Rock, the horse carriage rides, the snow, the smell of chestnuts roasting in the street vendors trolleys.   Near the Washington Cathedral, a little round building that looks perfect for a Hobbit called The Herb Cottage, was a favourite stop for my Mom with my sister and I in tow to get ornaments and wreaths and cards. The whole cottage burst with scents of cinnamon and nutmeg spice and a cozy warmth wrapped you up like a blanket.

Very similar to Oxford Street and Regent Street here in London. It’s a festival of lights, with caroling and music and Christmas markets and an enormous “kissing” tree in Covent Garden. Kew Gardens has their Christmas lights walk, a merry-go-round and Santa’s Grotto (there are loads around the city) that transports you to his workshop at the North Pole. It’s a lovely time of year, despite the grey and dark short days.

The similarities don’t end there: although the majority of both populations is Christian (75% polled in 2015 the US, and 64% in 2010 in the UK), they base their foundations on freedom of religion.  And as we know, the US and the UK have been accepting immigrants from all over for centuries now (lest we forget the US is founded on immigrants fleeing religious persecution). Therefore it’s inevitable that we have become a more diverse society — ethnically, culturally AND religiously.

So naturally, somewhere along the way in both countries, there evolved an understanding that not everyone celebrates Christmas.  However, it’s from this starting point that we diverge dramatically.

War on Christmas

In the US for years now there have been issues with saying “Merry Christmas”. The religious right (and Bill O’Reilly and Trump) have called it a “War on Christmas”.  Which is baloney.  As far as I know, no one is trying to ban Christmas – apart from the Burger Meister Meister Burger (you have to have grown up in the US to understand that) . What did start happening is we realised that people who don’t celebrate Christmas sometimes took offence to the greeting. They would have preferred “Happy Hanukkah” or “Happy Kwanzaa”, so to make things easier, people just started saying “Happy Holidays”.

A growing share of Americans, 52%, say it does not matter to them how they are greeted during the holiday season

This is in line with the way the US culture is on many levels — to be ultra, overly PC about things. Don’t want to hurt or offend! Some people don’t believe in God? Then we should stop saying the “Pledge of Allegiance” to the flag of America in schools (something I grew up with in the 70s). Don’t celebrate Christmas? Then you cannot have a Nativity plays in schools (also something I grew up with).  The stores, ever worried about the all-American dollar, started putting up “Holiday Trees” instead of Christmas trees.  Over time, some religious folks started a rallying cry, claiming they felt they were being stripped of what they saw as foundations of US culture.  But in reality, the diverse culture with its diverse religions was just upholding and honouring the very laws the country was built on: Separation of Church and State.

Separation of Church and State vs. Christian-faith Based UK

In 1802, Thomas Jefferson addressed the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut in a letter saying “I contemplate…that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an

 Whereas the US put into place clearly defined statutes that separate church and state, the UK is based upon the Christian faith.

establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” He is referring to the First Amendment of the Constitution (and Article Six) but he was using the language of Roger Williams, the founder of the first Baptist church in America, who said in 1644 “A hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world”.

Thus, the very separate path our two countries have taken over the past 200+ years is quite basic:  whereas the US put into place clearly defined statutes that separate church and state, the UK is based upon the Christian faith. The Crown is a one-man corporation run by God, so to speak. As the brilliant CGP Grey says, “According to British tradition, all power is vested in God and the Monarch is crowned in a Christian ceremony.” The Head of State is the Queen (the Monarch) and the official religion of Great Britain is Anglicanism.

With this in mind, you would think that the UK would be more religious than the US, right? Not at all, just the opposite. The latest poll and survey in 2017 shows that more than half the UK population say they have no religion at all. And this tracks with the 2015 poll that says the UK is among the least religious countries in the world.

Understanding the Brits

In the UK, religion is just not discussed. It is a very private matter.

After seven years here, I could not tell you what the religion is of the hundreds of people I know well and have befriended. Religion is not discussed, it is not worn on your sleeve (likewise with politics too).  Back in the States, I know the religions of all of my friends — they wear it with pride.  Here, like many things, it is personal.  And often forgotten.  I wouldn’t be surprised if most of my friends don’t practice any faith or religion.  But nearly everyone I know do enjoy the Christmas traditions: the family dinner with roast turkey, the tree, Father Christmas and stockings, etc.  Very little is mentioned about the baby Jesus or the three wise men, but goodness me, try to come between a Brit and their Christmas Panto or Boxing Day! They do so love their traditions, regardless of the meaning or origin.

And that’s the key, there is little or no religious attachment to Christmas for the modern-day Brit. It’s a month of festive feeling, of office parties and heavy drinking.  Everyone here commonly says “Happy holidays” in their heads, but it just comes out as “Happy Christmas”. They are not thinking about going to church, but more likely about days off work, time with family.  You might possibly say that Christmas for the Brits is like Thanksgiving to us.  It’s really that simple.

And they’d be absolutely mortified if they thought they were offending anyone! They’re just bumbling through, wouldn’t think to ask one’s religious beliefs, so they fall back on their go-to.  I suspect the giant Menorah in Trafalgar Square (which was centre-stage in a beautiful Hanukkah celebration last night with Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan) is a reaction to someone in the US telling them they might be offending people.


I’m not trying to be flip, but this is a country with less than 10% of its population going to church. To them, it’s not about faith or religion. Offices still have “Christmas parties” and stores have “Christmas sales” — it’s just an excuse for a drink and a bargain. The underlying meaning is whatever you, personally, put on it.  I have friends who have said “Happy Hanukkah” to me and Muslim family members who put up Christmas trees.  We all can and should celebrate whatever belief we subscribe to, the more the merrier. You are pagan and celebrating the Winter Solstice? Go for it! Atheist and expecting “Happy holidays”? You got it. A Kwanzaa feast? Most excellent. Those winter naked people who jump in freezing cold water? Well, if that’s your thing…The important takeaway is to be inclusive.

When I first arrived here, after years of the Political Correctness in the US,  I was shocked with all the overt Christianity: our daughter’s primary school doing a Nativity play and an Easter bonnet parade. It made me very uncomfortable. But now that I get the lack of religious meaning attached, I find it’s quite nice to retain some fun traditions that I remember growing up. There’s an added bonus as well in today’s inclusive world: in both primary and secondary schools children here have religion classes where they learn about Hinduism and Islam and Judaism – even Zoroastrianism.

And I think the US is following suit.  A Pew study from 2017, reports:

“As the long-simmering debates continue over how American society should commemorate the Christmas holiday,..a survey finds that most U.S. adults believe the religious aspects of Christmas are emphasised less now than in the past – even as relatively few Americans are bothered by the trend. In addition, a declining majority says religious displays such as nativity scenes should be allowed on government property. And compared with five years ago, a growing share of Americans (52%) say it does not matter to them how they are greeted in stores and businesses during the holiday season – whether with “merry Christmas” or a less-religious greeting like “happy holidays”.

So let me end by saying Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa! Whatever you celebrate, may peace and joy be with you this holiday season.


I couldn’t be happier that Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2017 is The Silence Breakers :


The time is now to make change in both societal norms and corporate policies. But this is not something only women can do. Far from it, it must be fostered from men just as much — if not more. Together we can all step up to the table to discuss change in the culture and society.  Except for those very brave few, many of us – myself included – were complicit in our actions (or non-actions) regarding sexual harassment. And we are at a moment where the momentum has shifted dramatically so we must take advantage and not lose the drive and focus we rarely get.

Today, I am part of an organisation who made an announcement with the hopes to truly find a better way forward for the news industry.  Here is our website (and the goals we have laid out):


We are still in nascent stages and will continue to grow and prioritise our goals and adapt to new directions. But beyond the above, and what’s mentioned here in the AP article today, here’s what I see as important to this cause:

  1. STRENGTH IN NUMBERS: We banded together to find concrete solutions and ways to move forward with effectiveness.
  2. STUDY: We hope — through a 6-month comprehensive, transparent, wide-reaching study — to be able to provide a blueprint that will be the foundation moving forward. This study will analyse the sexual harassment policies and culture within various media organisations.
  3. INCLUSIVENESS: We sincerely expect to do this study with the support and access from various titans of the media industry — the networks themselves and the people at the helms. But it’s important that an independent organisation like ourselves, working outside the system  and hierarchy, provide solutions and building blocks.
  4. RESOURCES: We want to provide a one-stop haven for anyone working in the media to be able to come to our website and see what their legal rights are, what support networks are out there, what counselling is available, what each company’s organisational sexual harassment policies are, what each network provides through it’s internal structure and reporting systems.
  5. LEGAL RIGHTS & LAWS: Knowledge and understanding of one’s legal rights is important.  We hope to provide sources or point people in the right direction to understand state and federal laws regarding sexual harassment.
  6. TRUST: Trust has been a big issue with sexual harassment. One of two scenarios happened in the past: either men and women came forward because they TRUSTED their organisations to protect them and TRUSTED them to help seek justice, only to find that their organisations let them down in the worst way.  Not only did they not protect them, they protected the aggressor and the victims were left to defend themselves. Or the second scenario: men and women didn’t trust the system to work for them and, fearing for their careers and advancement and being ostracised, they kept quiet. For far too long. We need to rebuild trust.
  7. DESTIGMATIZE: We must work with all of society and within organisations to destigmatize the role of the victim coming forward in sexual harassment cases.  Police officers countrywide will tell you this is still a problem within the courts as well as on the streets. As we have done on our school yards, so should we do in the workplace. The moment that a child comes forward with a claim of bullying, they are to be believed until the case is investigated. More often than not, school policy is to remove the bully at once, protecting the victim and the environment around them. We must adapt this attitude and policy for our offices.
  8. NEED FOR CLARITY: A majority of men (and women) are the good guys. However, many relationships and marriages are commenced and built within the workplace. We need a better and more clear understanding of the rules and rights within the workplace for dating, for relationships, for male-female co-existence where no one party is feeling uncomfortable. This is a grey area as many in the workplace are either above or below each other within the hierarchy, so there must be some clear policies in how to handle this.
  9. MEN: We absolutely need men to help us in our endeavours and goals for Press Forward. Having their input will be crucial to getting this right!
  10. REPORTABLE/PUBLISHABLE SOLUTIONS: We hope at the end of this we will have a positive outcome to the pain this past year has caused so many.  If, at the end of the day, we can feel part of a concrete solution that will stand as the gold standard by which others can build upon, we will have served a good purpose and fulfilled a need.



Dearest Meghan,

Congratulations on your first official week here in the UK! As the soon-to-be bride of our favourite royal you’ve seamlessly settled in to your role as a champion of his charities up in Nottingham. Hopefully you will continue supporting your own charitable work, but understand first step is all about fitting in here.  And your style!! Wow! It’s already being called “The Meghan Effect”. The handbag you wore sold out in minutes (Strathberry) as did the trench coat you wore for that first outing. So, well done, you! No faux pas, fashion or otherwise!

Next up, however, is the “Life in the UK” test. I understand from the Palace that you will be taking the steps all Americans take (no special treatment for you! How egalitarian!) and that means you are now transitioning from your Visa to the wonderfully British moniker called “ILR”.  ILR means – and I kid you not – Indefinite Leave to Remain. Think about that. Cocktail party fodder: ‘Are you a British citizen yet?’ ‘No, but I do have Indefinite Leave to Remain!!’ Ahh, er, hmm. Why not just say “Stay”?

Anyway, in order to get ILR, you have to pass the Life in the UK Test. They have changed it since I took it in 2013 and you should be thankful! It used to be something like 40 or 50 questions out of a possible 1500 questions and you had to get at least 75% right.  It was insanely hard. Questions like:

TEST #1 (OLD TEST, 2013)

  1. What percentage of all ethnic minorities (living in the UK) live in the London area?
  2. What is a quango?
  3. In the UK, the number of children and young people under the age of 19 yrs old is A) 13 mill B) 15 mill C) 17 mill or D) 19 mill.
  4. Which service does income tax NOT pay for? A) roads B) rubbish collection C) Education D) Police
  5. Scotland has their own bank notes. Are they valid to be used anywhere in the UK?
  6. What percentage of the UK population lives in Wales?
  7. TRUE or FALSE: During the 1950s, the there was an immigration shortage and the UK recruited West Indies migrants to come drive buses.
  8. TRUE or FALSE: The Queen is the Head of State of the United Kingdom.
  9. How many seats does the UK hold in the European Parliament (MEP’s)?
  10. Information about training opportunities can be found at which TWO of the following? A) your local college B) LearnDirect C) The Home Office D) the post office


There was a disproportionate amount of questions (IMHO) on job centres, trade unions,  population statistics and the Welch education system, but perhaps that’s why they changed it. Now, there are online tests that include questions like (you must get 15 out of 20 right to pass):

TEST #2 (NEW TEST, 2017)

  1. When did Britain become permanently separated from the continent by the Channel? A) 50,000 yrs ago B) 10,000 yrs ago C) 15,000 yrs ago D) 18,000 yrs ago
  2. Who was reigning in Britain when Wales became formally united with England by the Act for the Government of Wales? A) Elizabeth I B) Henry VII C) Henry VIII D) James I
  3. Which flag has a diagonal red cross on a white background? A) Cross of St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland B) cross of St. David, patron saint of Wales C) cross of St. George, patron saint of England D) cross of St. Andrew, patron saint of Scotland
  4. When did the War of Roses start? A) 1462 B) 1478 C) 1455 D) 1388
  5. How many members does the Scottish Parliament have? A) 60 B) 90 C) 129 D) 120
  6. TRUE or FALSE: Pool and darts are traditional pub games
  7. Which British sportsman won 5 consecutive gold medals at the Olympic Games in the rowing category? A) Christopher Dean B) Sir Chris Hoy C) Sir Steve Redgrave D) Bradley Wiggins
  8. When did the UK join the EEC (European Economic Community)? A) 1963 B) 1957 C) 1973 D) 1977
  9. Which court deals with the most serious cases of children aged 10 to 17 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland? A) Youth Court B) High Court C) Magistrates’ Court D) Crown Court
  10. What is the name of the best preserved prehistoric village in northern Europe and which traces its origin back to the Stone Age? A) Skara Brae B) Maiden C) Bayeux D) Stonehenge
  11. When was the National Trust founded? A) 1890 B) 1895 C) 1980 D) 1910
  12. After the Black Death, new social classes appeared in England, including owners of large areas of land known as: A) Clans B) Nobility C) Gentry D) Judiciary
  13. Which of the following operas was written by Gilbert and Sullivan? A) Cats B) The Mikado C) The Mousetrap D) The Phantom of the Opera
  14. Who was the first English Prime Minister? A) Admiral Nelson B) Oliver Cromwell C) Henry Pelham D) Sir Robert Walpole
  15. How old do you need to be to apply for a free TV license? A) over 70 B) over 60 C) over 75 D) over 65
  16. Which British sportswoman won two gold medals for running in the 2004 Olympic Games? A) Dame Kelly Holmes B) Dame Ellen MacArthur C) Jessica Ennis-Hill D) Jayne Torvill
  17. What percentage of the total British population is located in England alone? A) 84% B) 79% C) 58% D) 60%
  18. Which court deals with cases involving personal injury, family matters, breaches of contract and divorce in England and Wales? A) Crown Court B) High Court C) County Courts D) Sheriff Court
  19. In which period did British film studios flourish? A) 1940s B) 1950s C) 1930s D) 1920s
  20. Where was the first tennis club founded? A) Brixton B) St Andrews C) Haywards Heath D) Leamington Spa

So much easier, right? 🙂 But you are a smart cookie.  You went to Northwestern, you’ll do fine!



My advice: Don’t do what I did. I sorta took it for granted that it would be a piece of cake. Most people going in there are refugees or immigrants who have scraped and scrabbled to get here. English isn’t even their first language! I was cocky – how hard could this be? There were about 20 of us in the waiting room and the ones who were cramming, noses in their books, until the very last minute were all the Eastern Europeans and the Asians (Chinese and Indians, mostly). The ones sitting back with arrogance and a yawn were us Americans, Canadians, Aussies, and New Zealanders.

What I did find somewhat ironic was when I went to take the exam, they give you a list of test centres closest to your address. For me, this was the Iranian Association in Hammersmith. Yes, I was taking a Life in the UK test at the Iranian Centre (?). I wasn’t entirely sure it was official — especially when i pulled up to a little run-down, nondescript store front on King’s Street in Hammersmith.

As we were about to be called, an Asian woman turned to me in broken English and asked “What day is St. David’s Day?” I replied, very self-assuredly and probably somewhat patronising, “Oh, I don’t think we need to know the exact date. We just need to know that St. Andrew is for the Scottish, St. David is for the Welch, St. George is for the English and St. Patrick is for the Irish.” “No, we need to know dates!” she said very frenetically, and started rifling through her book. I started to sweat. I hadn’t learned that! I started consulting my book too. March 1st for David, November 30th for Andrew, April 23rd for George and of course, because of my Boston roots, I already knew St. Patrick’s Day of March 17th.

The exam was quick and multiple choice or True False (and yes, there was a question about St. George’s Day). Once finished, you wait in the waiting room for them to call you into a glass-fronted office where you can all watch as they either hand you a certificate or they don’t.  I quickly called my husband “Can you use Scottish money in London?” “In Wales, do schools follow the Welch National Curriculum or do they have the same curriculum as England?” “Does the Queen appoint Life Peers or does the Prime Minister? Or does he advise her to do it and then she does it?” I was panicking. I watched as two Aussies – a boyfriend/girlfriend team who showed up with no books to hand – went in together and they both got rejected, came out looking rather sheepish.  Damnit! I should have studied more!

Needless to say, I did pass, but probably just barely. I know I got at least 4 or 5 questions wrong, so I was borderline.  So DO NOT do what I did. Study! Take it seriously! And then you’ll be on to learning how to drive on the wrong side of the road!! Another outrageously hard test here in the UK, which many people fail MANY times (there’s a story of a woman who has failed 90 times!). Perhaps, as you are going to be a Royal and all, you might not need it. But still, I shall guide you through.



OLD TEST: 1. 45% 2. non-departmental public bodies carrying out functions on behalf of the public 3. B. 4. B. 5. YES 6. 5% 7. TRUE 8. TRUE 9. 78 seats 10. A. and B.

NEW TEST: 1) B. 2) C. 3) A. 4) C. 5) C. 6) TRUE 7) C. 8) C. 9) D. 10) A. 11) B. 12) C. 13) B. 14) D. 15) C. 16) A. 17) A. 18) C. 19) C. 20) D.



Dearest Meghan, Congrats! I know you have a lot on your plate today.  You don’t want to make a dog’s breakfast of this royal photo shoot this afternoon, hence I’m sure you are quite quite busy! However, if and when you’ve got a few minutes, here are some helpful tips for adjusting to life in the UK. Transplanted from the US myself for 7 years, and being married to a Brit for nearly 17 years, I thought I could be of some help. So if you need any, just get on the dog (cockney rhyming slang that Harry may or may not use (?). Translation: dog and bone = phone) and we can talk.

  1. Learn the difference between the geopolitical terms U.K, Great Britain and England. Most Americans don’t know what separates one from the other. Do the Brits? It’s so confusing!  And where do Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland fall? Learn all these! Be very careful what you call the Scottish (they’d be offended if you said they were British, even though the Welsh and the Scots come under the “British” heading technically). There is no better video to untangle all this than this excellent explainer that I used to show my American university students studying here in the U.K.
  2. When wearing a skirt at a garden party and it’s rather chilly, do not say to The Queen “I should have worn pants today”. This will be taken to mean you have decided to forego all undergarments and are going commando. Pants = Underwear. Trousers = Pants. Likewise, if anyone asks you at the wedding “How’s yer father?”, they are NOT inquiring as to the health or status of your Dad, in any way, shape or form.  And do not ask anyone else about their father. In this strange context, it is euphemistically referring to sexual intercourse and your sex life.
  3. BARKSHIRE (or as the Brits say BAHKSHER) and BERKSHIRE are NOT two different counties outside of London. They are, in fact, the same county! Similarly, with DARBYSHIRE and DERBYSHIRE, BARCLAY Square is Berkeley Square, etc. The vowels are what really mess us up here. And the R’s or lack of them. And just when we think we’ll be the same (i.e. Pall Mall, we Americans say it with long A’s. Surely they will too?), they go and do a reverse switch on us (and use short A’s: Pal Mal)! And then there’s just the weird pronunciations like Leicester is Lester, and Cockburn is Coburn and Chiswick is Chissick.
  4. Forget the word VERY and replace it with QUITE. “Very good polo-playing, Harry!” becomes “Quite good polo-playing”. In fact, remove ALL hyperbole from your lexicon and replace it with very subdued tones. “That was a super awesome ballet we saw!” Becomes “It was really rather good.” Or “You did such a great job on that speech! You nailed it!” becomes “Not bad. Well done.” I’ve already posted, but there’s an excellent explainer of what the British mean and say here. It’s a mine-field!
  5. You can fancy a pizza or fancy going to a movie, but do NOT fancy anyone other than Harry. Fancy can be used for many things but for people, it’s your Significant Other.
  6. Rent the Railway Children. It’s actually not a very good movie, and totally dated, but these crazy Brits absolutely LOVE it. They can quote from it, remember every actor in it (Jenny Agutter gets particular mention from men), and you offend their national pride if you say you don’t like it.
  7. The Importance of Tea: I’ve written about this before, but it’s a cultural staple that runs the generations. It’s in every office, home, school and very likely, the palace. If there is EVER a break in any conversation, some Brit will likely use tea as a way of dealing with awkward silences. If you are sitting with Charles and Camilla and running out of things to say, throw in “Fancy a cuppa?” and then signal for the butler to bring you all some tea. It’s also their go-to at trying moments. There’s a wonderful comedy skit where a family is gathered round the radio listening to Neville Chamberlin make the sobering announcement that Britain has entered into war with Germany (World War II) after which there is a silence and then the Grandad says “Cuppa tea, anyone?”. It’s brill.
  8. Land of Backwards Doors: It takes some getting used to. After the Cocoanut Grove Fire in Boston in 1942, major changes were made to building codes all across the US to make sure that all doors in public spaces opened outwards. This means office buildings, coffee shops, sports centers, grocery stores, houses, gas stations, etc. Here, there are no such codes and therefore you often go SLAMMING into doors because your mind is telling you they will go one way and they go the other. Don’t know the palace set up, but just be aware!
  9. Vernacular/Lingo: So much to learn!! Brill for brilliant. Dog’s breakfast, cock up, toad in the hole, spend a penny, blimey, crikey, etc. Likewise, they have no idea what “khakis” are – never heard of the word. And Fall means when someone actually takes a tumble. It does not mean a season of the year. Autumn is what we are in right now.  And, Will and Kate might giggle when you say “Guys, up ahead past the median, near that private school and past the grocery store, can we pull over so I can hop out on the sidewalk and then you can pop the trunk please? Gotta get my umbrella.” Translation: “Mates, once past the central reservation, near that public school and past the supermarket, could we please pull up so I can step out onto the pavement and open the boot? I would like to get my brelly.” Two nations definitely separated by a common language, as George Bernard Shaw said. By the way, they say BERNerd, not Bern-ARD.
  10. Pantomime: A lot like the Railway Children. It’s a cultural thing that is sorta lost on Americans but a huge part of Christmas, so you may be seeing one soon with the family. I’ve tried to explain it to Americans for years and it never comes out right: OK, it’s this play where they take a children’s fairy tale and sorta tart it up and mix it up. The lead female characters are always played by men, and vise-versa. “So it’s for kids?” Well, yes and no. Also for adults as there is some nuanced humour that goes over the heads of the kids. “So it’s a comedy?” Yes, but not like you think. It’s usually really bad jokes and slapstick. And lots of talking back and forth to the audience in a very silly way. Actor: Oh, yes I did!! Audience: Oh, no you didn’t! and that goes on for a while. It really doesn’t translate well, and Americans go in with all the wrong expectations, but it’s actually crackin’ good fun!

So, there you have it! Just a beginning cheat sheet for you.  And yay for another royal wedding! I think we Americans love the royals way more than Brits do. So we are all rooting for you to settle in nicely. It’s a lovely lovely place, this little island, and I’m absolutely chuffed you are coming over. Gobsmacked, in fact. Fabulous news. I truly hope the Brits will welcome you as I do. And congratulations again! Many secretly say they think Harry is the best royal, so well done, you!


Do NOT have difficult conversations on Fridays!

I’ve found that Friday’s are the hardest day of the week interpersonally. We are all tired. We’ve had a long week. We are looking forward to the weekend to catch up on sleep or relax. But with work, kids, friends and my husband, I am at my lowest emotionally. I am grumpy. I am short with people. Or even on the rare occasion I’m not, then they are.

An old boss at Nightline gave me the best advice ever: he said never have tough conversations with colleagues or bosses on Thursdays or Fridays. You are less understanding, less forgiving. Most office arguments occur at the end of the week. Have a gripe? Wait until Monday. Need to tell a subordinate they are not performing well? Give it the weekend.  I looked back at all the difficult conversations I had had that DIDN’T go well, and damnit, he was right.

At home, it’s the same. All my arguments with my husband are usually Thursday or Friday when we’re both tired and don’t have anything left in the tank to deal with each other. And with kids, my fuse is short and many times I didn’t know it until I looked back later and saw that I wasn’t myself.

The Meltdown

One Friday I had to pick our daughter up from pre-school. We had just moved back from South Africa and everything was topsy-turvy. Our sea shipment hadn’t even arrived yet so we were living out of boxes. We were having a dinner party for 7 and I had to get home to cook and prepare. And yes! We got a flat tire on the way home so I pulled into Wagshall’s Deli where there is a gas station to get it fixed while I did some quick shopping for the party. Then my husband rang while I was picking up some cheeses to say the dinner had gone from 7 to 11 people, and that won’t be a problem right? At 3 PM he tells me this! Sigh. I get more cheeses and head to the cash register when it all kicked off. The 4-yr-old Child wanted a Diet Coke and I told her no (of course). She went into a full-on tantrum. It was Exorcist-child worthy. Complete raging melt-down (see? She was tired, too, at week’s end, but did i realise that? Noooo….I was just thinking about the car and my dinner party).


I gathered up the groceries,  got to the counter to pay, but while doing so, she had grabbed a bag of potato chips off the rack nearby. Not the small ones — no, she went for the American Extra Large Supersize bag of potato chips — almost as big as she. Glaring at me the whole time with an evil look of defiance, she plopped them on the floor and ever so quickly sat on them with gusto. The air-tight bag burst and potato chips went flying everywhere. I was trying to hold onto a wriggling, arms and legs flailing, strong 4-yr-old but it was impossible with my oversized purse and 3 bags of groceries. I withered, looked at the horrified clerk at the till and said “Add that on my bill please”.  By the time we got out of the shop, she’d done it again.

On the sidewalk, I let her just writhe on the ground as there wasn’t much I could do to control her. She was pinwheeling around on her side, kicking and screaming.  Looked across to the gas station to see the car up on the hydraulic getting its tire changed, and sighed again. A woman came out of the dry cleaners next door, saw the Exorcist child, stepped delicately over her, gave me a look for sympathy and camaraderie and said, “Been there, done that.” I loved her. She was my saviour.


Then as quickly as it came, it stopped. The car was fixed, I buckled her into her car seat and as we drove off she exclaimed “I’m done now, Mommy. All fine.” Of course, I was seething at this point. It had been 45 minutes of Crazy Tantrum Child. Everyone and their grandmother within 3 miles probably heard her.  My herculean embarrassment had been building up since the deli and all the “Bad Mother” stares I got, and continued as I was trying to pay for the car. I didn’t realise how angry I was. At home, I had a terrible headache and got out some frozen peas to put on my forehead.  I can’t remember what it was that triggered it, but we started up again.  She was really testing my patience and, while I was putting the groceries away, she grabbed a handful of frozen peas in her little hands and brought her arm back in the baseball throw position.  Very slowly and carefully I said, “I need to tell you that if you throw those peas, Child, there will be consequences.  I need you to understand that.” The arm came down. It was a perfect pitch. Peas flew everywhere through 3 rooms.

My rage erupted. I sent her up to her room for a “time-out” as she had melted down again.  But as I look back now, so had I.  It was 5 PM and 11 people were coming in two and a half hours. I called my husband and said get home right now. I need help. I did NOT trust myself to deal with her. As he came in the door, I was cooking and things had gone quiet upstairs. Before heading upstairs to Child, he sweetly pulled a pea from my hair and soothingly offered to pour me a glass of wine, to which I (very rare) said no. I really didn’t trust myself to start drinking because I was worried I’d never stop.  He went up to deal with her and calmed us all down. By the time guests arrived, she was fine, I was a bit fragile and shaken, but we recovered for a lovely evening.

But it wasn’t until months later that I realised how these events unfolded. The stress of a long, busy week, arriving back into the country with no furniture and new routines and environment, a dinner party exploding in size, a tired child, a tired mommy, a flat tire, frozen peas in every corner of the house, all those things contributed to the bad karma.  But I can’t shake the feeling that – would this have happened on a Monday morning, for example – I might have been a little more patient, a little less tired, had a little more energy to deal with her. Or a little more clarity to see the stress mounting at my door.

So, best advice that’s stayed with me for years: Do NOT make any harsh decisions on Fridays. Do NOT have any difficult conversations. Wait. Give yourself until Monday and if you still feel the same, then you can act — but likely you will be more clear-headed about what it is you are angry or frustrated or upset about.



It’s not just about the Pilgrims and the Native American Indians.  Not just about the turkey or the pumpkin pie or the cranberries.  Unless you grew up with the Thanksgiving ritual, or unless you lived here in the US for a while,  it’s really hard to explain the full meaning or experience of it. It’s stressful. It’s peaceful. It’s giving thanks. It’s being with loved ones. It’s full-blown family arguments. It’s high expectations. It’s low expectations. It’s no expectations.  It’s a lot of things but as a society, in the end, we share a love of the Thanksgiving holiday that is second only to Christmas consistently in polls. Here’s my take on why.

For a quick history of the origin of Thanksgiving, here’s a little video from National Geographic that lays it out in 35 seconds.

But to me, it’s the mass migration — a pilgrimage — that we take no matter how gruelling.  And it’s a holiday with no religion attached. It’s family – in whatever shape or form that comes in. It’s a time to have fun but also to reflect and appreciate your life and those around you.  It’s the simple basics: Love, family, friends, community and thankfulness. And traffic. Happy Thanksgiving, all!

THE TRAVEL: Nearly 51 million people hit the roads the day before Thanksgiving (yesterday), travelling 50 miles or more, with more than 45 million of those in their cars – making it the busiest travel day of the year in the US.  Another estimated 28.5 million people will fly between the weekend before and the Sunday after Thanksgiving.


I will try to put this into context: That’s 80 million people travelling around the country. Imagine the WHOLE of the United Kingdom getting up, walking out their doors and driving up and down the M-1, the M-2, the M-3 and the M-25 for a day. Granted the US is far bigger geographically, but most of the population lives on the two coasts. The middle of the country has enormous states that are scarcely populated. For example, Wyoming is about the same size as the U.K. geographically, but has only 585,501 people (2016). And although the population moving around is less than a third of the total population of the US, that movement is concentrated the coasts and the city hubs. Plus, public transport is nearly non-existent. Brits are always confounded by the lack of public transport, but with a country this big, it’s difficult. And then there’s the obsessive American car culture. Try to break Americans of that bad habit.

Air and road travel during Thanksgiving is a nightmare. One Thanksgiving, with the whole family (including 2 dogs, a cat and a goldfish) crammed in the wood-paneled Country Squire station wagon, we were going back home to Connecticut from Washington D.C. Normally a 6-hour drive, we were at a stand-still on the George Washington Bridge in NYC with the other millions trying to get home. The 11-year-old me told my Dad how much I loved that moment: “We’re all part of something bigger, Dad! All these people are doing the same thing as we. How cool! We are in this together! It’s so cosmic!” It was my first realisation of being part of a mass movement.  I was electrified, sitting there staring at the toll booths up ahead that never got closer.  My Dad gripped the steering wheel tighter, knuckles white, while he maintained patience and calm, but after 10 hours on the road, I’m sure he poured himself a hefty Scotch when we finally arrived home.


NO RELIGION: At ABC News/Nightline, we often bartered our holidays. While you are sitting at home, sipping your lovely cuppa tea, someone is making sure you don’t have a blank screen when you turn on the telly.  The news never stops — newsrooms are staffed day and night — so working with a diverse group helped. “I’ll take your Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur if you can take my Christmas?” or “I’ve got you covered for Ramadan and Eid if you wouldn’t mind taking Easter?”

But the one holiday no one wanted to trade was Thanksgiving. This is an all-inclusive, religion-free celebration.  Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, agnostics, you name it.  Religion being such a contentious issue today in America, this is a very welcome relief.  And ironic, too, given the roots of America’s beginnings by European settlers, eh? But by removing the religious aspect, you take away unnecessary distractions and pressure, allowing all to share in celebrating. [I am setting aside for now the issue of the rightfully bitter Native Americans, who use Thanksgiving as a day of mourning]. At ABC, I ended up taking Thanksgiving because my travel time was a breezy 20 minutes heading up a very empty Wisconsin Avenue on Thanksgiving morning.

NO COMMERCIALISM: Apart from food presented on a typical heaving Thanksgiving dinner table – the turkey, the cranberry sauce, the cornbread, and the pumpkin pie – there is very little to no commercialism attached to the DAY ITSELF.  There are some school plays and pageants, and of course, there is the spectacular Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with all the floats and balloons, but there are no presents to be expected. So there’s no pressure for buying and gifting. It’s just about being at home, hanging out with your peeps.  There are college football games on TV and the advertisements. And of course there’s Black Friday which is the day AFTER Thanksgiving and that’s the most heinous, revolting display of consumerism I’ve ever seen, but besides all that, there’s no…OK, I might have to rephrase that.


FAMILY: There are so many meanings to ‘family’ these days. This could be your work mates, your core group of friends from university, your community, or your actual family — both as a unit or extended. But Thanksgiving means sharing a meal – a day – with family, in whatever form that takes.

Most people try to go to their family homes for Thanksgiving — where they grew up.  This is what leads to the mass travel. You live in DC but your home is San Francisco.  You go to school in Texas, but home is Boston.  As you can see, the idea of getting “home” ain’t so easy for us.  Even on a really bad day of traffic, you can get from London to Leeds in about 5 hours.  To go from Atlanta to Cleveland would be a 10-hour drive on a good day.

Thanksgiving is always the 4th Thursday in November and the Wednesday before is considered a half-day in many offices and schools.  By also taking off the Friday after Thanksgiving (it’s actually not a holiday in many companies), the holiday becomes a 5-day break, leaving on Wednesday to travel and returning on Sunday.

Over time, it’s morphed.  Americans don’t get very much vacation time (the average is 10 paid vacation days for the American worker), so finding ways to stretch this holiday is key. As the Wednesday-Sunday travel got too popular, another ritual is to take off Monday and Tuesday and make a week out of it, thereby having 9 full days vacation, when only having to take 2.5 days off from work. Even as a university student in Boston, I would arrange my class schedule so that I could leave either Monday night or latest Tuesday to capitalise on as many home-cooked meals as I could.


My point in all of this is that we will do whatever it takes to be home — with family and friends — in time for Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday (today).  It’s a ritual that we’ve grown up with, embedded in our collective memories. As our families change and grow or as we move apart (or overseas), the day never loses its importance and meaning.

GIVING THANKS: It’s a time to be grateful for what you have. It’s a time to slow down long enough to appreciate the little things. To be together as a family and be able to look around the dining room table and know that yes, this is where I’m supposed to be. There might be absent places. Or there might be mental stress or financial troubles. There could be sadness and loneliness or illness. There could be loves lost, or anger simmering between couples.  There could be political differences or moral stand-offs.


But today, at this table, those are all put into perspective.  Today, we celebrate what is good. We look at the glass half full and we see what we have, not what we don’t have.  Of course, we must manage expectations and keep reality front and centre. There is no perfect family. And there is no perfect Thanksgiving. But we remind ourselves of our fortunes — whether it’s as small as being able to pay off a parking ticket or as large as paying off a student loan.  Being thankful for your pet hamster or your beloved family dog. Being grateful that you had the opportunity to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all. Remembering loved ones who are no longer with us and sharing their memories with those that never met them.  Hearing a story, telling a story, playing card games, eating too much, going for a run, participating in a touch football game, watching a movie, reading a book, playing charades, volunteering in a local shelter, helping a neighbour, inviting in a friend who has nowhere to go, walking with pride in a Thanksgiving Day parade.  At the end of all that, gathering at Thanksgiving tables all across the US today, people are doing exactly that – giving thanks for all that they have.

And then it’s back to the traffic.







The cultural chasm was pretty obvious from the very start. Towards the end of 1998, my husband and I met in DC while I was a producer at ABC News/Nightline and he was an economist at the IMF (International Monetary Fund). The accent for me – the American – was a definite turn on (since that time, my husband has admitted to ‘turning it up’ a notch as he found saying literally anything with a British accent at a party would immediately leave him surrounded by admiring and flirty women within earshot. Think scene from the movie Love Actually).

Back then, I had the best job in the world with the best team as a producer for Ted Koppel and Nightline, interviewing world leaders, celebrities and the average Joe Citizen, bringing issues that made a difference to the public eye.  We were usually on a plane to go cover a story or in the editing room cutting pieces to make air, so I had very little social life.  And given Nightline went on the air after the local news, many nights I didn’t leave the office until midnight.  When I did have the opportunity, most D.C. men I encountered were too self-involved and politically ambitious to see beyond their puffed up ego. The rest either wanted trophy wives while others had no backbone whatsoever.

Lesson: You can fancy pizza or a movie, but do not fancy anyone other than your boyfriend!

Yes, it was rare to walk into a Christmas party and find this handsome, tall, British rower & economist who was refreshingly honest when I peppered him with my standard questions that would suss out what kind of guy he is. “Most embarrassing moment?” was one, to which he proceeded to tell me a story so horrible, so embarrassing, that I had no doubt it was true. It was surprisingly transparent and genuine.

By the time we got into the cab to go to another party, I had moved on to “What is the first 45 you bought?” [Younger readers: a 45 is a small record with a main single on one side – the A side – and lesser known song on the B side]. We both discovered we had a ridiculously insane obsession with music for two somewhat nerdy people.  We definitely “clicked”. He was smart and funny, grounded and adventurous.  A quiet confidence, but sure enough in his own skin to reach into a conversation with people he didn’t know and make one small, witty comment that surpassed the mindless chatter around us. And that lovely accent.  The spark was there and so it began.


There were hiccups here and there, but the first hint that there were some deeper, more ingrained, more innate cultural differences to me (and most Americans) was after we started dating.  He was staying over at mine and knowing that tea was essential to his morning routine, I got up early and skipped out to the 7-11 at the end of my street in Adam’s Morgan where I bought some Lipton tea bags. Upon returning home, I thoughtfully poured some water in my era appropriate coffee-maker, placed the bag in a mug, and waited for hot water to come out the coffee maker.


As I handed it to him, I saw the look of what I can only described as disgust mixed with horror mixed with the look of someone who just smelled a very bad fart.  “Wha..? What is wrong? You don’t like Lipton’s?”  I couldn’t fathom what had caused this reaction. This rare show of emotion…over tea.

It wasn’t the Lipton’s – that he could have settled for – it was the fact that the water was not boiling! Not scalding, McDonald’s-lawsuit-waiting-to-happen hot! And huge, huge mistake: I poured the milk in immediately afterwards…yes, I know you Brits are cringing at what I’m going to say next…WHILE the tea bag was still in the mug! Or as y’all would say WHILST the tea bag was still in the mug!


After that initial mistake, through the dating and subsequent visits to his native land, we realized the George Bernard Shaw quote rang all too true. We really are two nations divided by a common language.

However, we couldn’t even quote that without getting into an argument regarding the pronunciation of his name!  Americans say George Ber-NARD Shaw, while (whilst) Brits say George BER-nerd Shaw. Yet being in that “honeymoon” period of dating, we found ourselves laughing smugly in that “Oh, we are so different and yet so in love and completely smitten” way that was probably extremely irritating for all around us. We marvelled at how often and unexpectedly a new confusion or question arose:

Me (to he and his friends on our first visit to the UK): C’Mon!  Let’s go out exploring and get some lunch! So much to do and see (we had rented a big group house in the country for the weekend and they had plopped their asses in front of the telly for a cricket match). How long before this match is over?

They, in unison: Tuesday. (It was Saturday)

Me: Hah-hah, very funny!

They: Silence (Continuing the concentrated stares at the TV)

Me: Hang on, seriously, when will it be finished?

I truly thought they were pulling the wool over my eyes. Apparently not.

Or another BIG misunderstanding: Once his friends were visiting us in the States and I had picked up on the fact that everyone British said things like “I’d fancy a pizza right now” or “Fancy going to a movie?” so I thought I was being so hip and with it when I said “You know your friend Peter? I really fancy him.” He was grumpy and snippy with me for an hour. I thought I was trying to let him know I approved of his friends – he’d chosen well which shows what a good judge of character he is. Lesson: you can fancy pizza or a movie, but do NOT fancy any person other than your current boyfriend!

Likewise, he and his friends would bowl over with laughter when I told them I had gone horseback riding. “So, why didn’t you go horsehead riding?” they’d giggle. “Or perhaps tomorrow you’ll go horsetail riding!” Apparently, here, they just say “horseriding” and find anything else redundant (which it is) and hilarious. The list of faux pas and misunderstandings during our first few years were endless.

AMERICAN & BRITISH UNITY (and a lot of bickering)

In the end, however, we found we had more in common than we realised; all the things that were important to us like a decent moral compass, outlook on life, sense of humour, ambitions and dreams.  Between the similarities, the differences became a fun distraction, a sidebar, to what we soon embarked on as a lifetime together: marriage, child, travel, dual careers, expats in my land, his land and both.

I discovered what “chuffed” meant. He found out what having your “druthers” means.  I learned about cricket and rugby and Fifa. He became such a fan of baseball that – after we married – he enthusiastically suggested we spend every anniversary visiting a different baseball park in the US until we had seen them all (we stopped at 1).  I bought “aubergine”, “courgette” and “rocket” in the UK, he bought eggplant, zucchini and arugula in the US.

He told me years later that first date was like the Spanish Inquisition and he just marked it up to me being a journalist, but perhaps it was the beginning of what is culturally, fundamentally different. Americans are more direct and upfront. And they tend to exude confidence in a way that is unsettling to Brits.  They say what they mean and mean what they say, generally.  On the other hand, the comedic mockumentaries W1A and Twenty-Twelve have made the British “indirectness” into a hilarious sketch theme.  Trying to read the Brits can be (should be? is?) a university level class. In my humble opinion, Passport Control should hand out this handy chart (via the website Today I learned Something New), it would have saved me about 3 years of confusion and frustration.


On the other hand, Americans complete and total overuse of and infatuation with hyperbole is irritatingly grating on literally the entire world (see what I did there?). We love hyperbole: “It was AMAZING!” “That is so TOTALLY AWESOME!” “That wine is the BEST I’VE EVER HAD!”. By doing this ALL the time, the meaning is lost and the exact opposite occurs. If everything is the best, how can something be better? Or, worse? Newsreaders in the US are frequently calling any given story or event “the WORST EVER”. Until the next one…5 minutes later. Brits are more measured, more reserved. They will save that “best I’ve ever had” comment for very rare occasions.

Americans love hyperbole. If everything is THE BEST, what happens when something better comes along?


Case in point, we had a group of friends over for a wine tasting where we each brought a bottle of cheap wine and one rather expensive. We blinded the wines and had people rate them. The Brits were so frustrating. They never gave the highest rating (5 out of 5).  We had 5 Americans and 5 Brits and at the end of the night I asked all the Brits how many 5’s they gave. Not one single Brit gave a top mark (and there were some exceptional wines!). Asking the Americans, we all had given at least one 5.  My husband and his friends explained their rational as such: if you hand out a 5 at the beginning or middle, what happens when you come across a wine that surpasses you last 5?  They showed restraint because handing out too many superlatives means they are no longer superlatives but, in fact, just like everything else. As an aside, like most wine tastings, the wines got progressively better as the night went on, and the wine that won was the cheapest – a £5 Anjou from Sainsbury’s.

Anyway, it made us realise our starting points were remarkably different.  We spent a total of 8 years in the US together and now more than 7 years here in London (with 3 years in neutral territory, as we call it, or South Africa). We’ve come to realize that both countries with their customs and stereotypes and general culture have influenced us. I am no longer completely American, he is no longer completely British. But we love both places equally.  Neither is perfect – far from it. But both are home. And because I can observe and be enchanted with English culture as a foreigner, he sees it through a new perspective.  Likewise, he points out things about America that I had forgotten were good or, more important, that I took for granted.  We embrace the cultural rivalries with a mutual understanding and growth and bickering. Lots of bickering.

So this blog, and subsequent ones, will celebrate all that is different between the US and the UK. From our observations, perspectives and constant nattering for the past 20 years!



Isn’t it about this time of year that we all start to feel the pressure? Had it up to here with everyone’s perfect lives on Facebook? The holidays are nearly upon us and you are struggling…with work, with kids, with partners, with parents, with life. You take stock in the last year – or decade – and wonder how did you fall so far behind? Why are the expectations so high?

It doesn’t help that society seems to sell us this unattainable, successful, exemplary family, or children, or friends. You know who I’m talking about. The endless posts from that certain person in your life who always has something wonderful to say about themselves, or their husbands, or their kids, or themselves, or remodelled kitchens, or themselves, or…you get the picture.

With that in mind, I thought it’s time to pull back the curtain. Take down the smokescreens! No one’s perfect. Life is hard. We all make mistakes. Oh, Lordy, do we make mistakes. Mine would fill a book larger than War and Peace.

So I’ll start with one category: Parenting. Let’s call this Bad Parenting, Chapter 1 (as I’m sure there’ll be more). Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes, or laugh at them. Either way, it might help to put things into perspective as you head into the holiday season. Main takeaway? Most parents have absolutely NO CLUE what they are doing. And yet, kids are remarkably resilient and (usually) turn out fine. If I could tell my younger self one thing I’d say don’t sweat it. All will be fine. But at the time, it’s terrifying and you question everything about your judgment, your instinct and your I.Q.


Our very first mistake! On the day we arrived home from the hospital! Mom had given us an old copy of Dr. Spock’s bible on newborns from the 1960s and my husband, trying desperately to partake in this birth process proactively, read it cover to cover. I think it was chapter two that opened with “You can never overfeed a new born”. Ahhh, well, no. Not entirely true.

Walking in the door 36 hours after she was born, we put the Child in her little car seat on the dining room table, looked at each other with genuine panic and wondered “What now?” I think every parent wishes there was a set of instructions to go home with, some manual you are given as you leave the hospital “How To Care For Your New Child!” like you’d get when you bring home an orchid from the garden centre.

I had breastfed her and she was still fussy. I breastfed some more. Still fussy. I breastfed until there was nothing left. Still fussy. We skipped anxiety and went straight to panic-mode. Made up a little bottle of formula and fed it to her. She guzzled it all and got even fussier. Then it was wailing and crying. We really panicked. Called the paediatrician who asked us how much from the bottle we fed her. Apparently we fed her the amount you’d feed a 2 month old – not a day old child – plus the breastmilk.

She calmly told us to lie her on her back, wiggle her teeny legs like she’s riding a bicycle, try to gently smooth down her stomach. After which, in about an hour, “there will literally be a river of poo coming out of your child” as she so eloquently put it. And oh, was she right! It was phenomenal how much could flow out of that little being. Like a Volkswagon Beetle full of clowns. Amazing Scientific Discoveries would have been impressed. Of course, right after, she fell soundly and snugly asleep. I never looked at that dining room table the same again.



We were returning to the States after going to the U.K. to introduce her to all her English relatives. I had just cut down and completed breast-feeding before going back to work after 11 weeks off. I didn’t feel comfortable working in a male-dominated environment, being in meetings, talking to my executive producer and news anchor with leaky breasts. Just wasn’t me. And good old “family-friendly” Disney – owner of ABC News — only gave us 6 weeks off maternity leave, so I had to make up the rest in sick leave, holiday time and a very sympathetic boss.

The day before getting on an 8-and-a-half hour flight, I ran out of the soy milk formula I brought for the transition as she was intolerant to cow’s milk (remember? Day One?). Without any breast milk or soy milk, though, my only choice in Boots chemist at the time was regular formula. We got on the plane and it all kicked off. She was sobbing and wailing in decibels I had never heard. People around us were glaring. The flight attendants came by several times politely asking if we needed help. We were patting her back, bouncing her up and down, giving her the pacifier. We were miserable failures. Soon the whole plane was throwing dagger looks. As a parent with a wailing kid, you DEFINITELY notice. They’re thinking “Why can’t they shut that kid up!?” I know because until I had the Child, I used to be that person!

Slow that we are, it finally dawned on us that it was the whole “river of poo” thing except maybe the opposite. Perhaps she was constipated? We took her to the Lilliputian airplane bathroom and both of us squeezed in with her. At least the screeching was now behind a door. After undoing her diaper, the problem was obvious. Yes, there was a rock-like poo stuck half-way trying to come out. Poor little thing! My news producer mode took over. “OK, let’s move her little legs in a bicycle”. Husband was moving them so fast she would have won the Tour De France. He was very stressed. I was rubbing her belly and trying gently to push that little poo out. Nothing was happening. We were in there for what felt like hours, but it was probably only about 20-30 minutes? We definitely heard maybe 2 knocks on the door at some point.

Anyway, I finally did what any mother would do and took my little pinkie fingernail and started scraping away at that poo to get it out. Sure enough, that little pebble shot out like a bullet, hit the door and ricocheted to the floor. “Which way did it go?” my husband yelled. “We’ll get it later!” I yelled back. A few smaller little pebbles shot out too, like one of those tennis ball machines, pop pop popping out in succession, but we actually caught those. And then, like before, the crying stopped, and she fell sound asleep. Problem solved. My husband went back to the seats with her while I cleaned up the bathroom. I was fine, but he was clearly shaken. Speaking later, we both realized how helpless you feel in a long metal tube 40,000 feet over the Atlantic with only Greenland insight. We’ve all been there, right?



I was working hard, had a full-time nanny, husband back at work and all is fine! We can DO this parenting thing! Travelling alone up to Nova Scotia to meet up with my husband and the family, I was sitting in National Airport getting work done and the Child was a crawling phenom. Fine. Let her be free! She was crawling all over the floor, the carpet, the chairs, lifting herself up to stand by the trashcan (in retrospect, should have seen the danger there), getting her little fingers on everything and then putting them in her mouth as she was teething at the time.

We got on the plane, switched in Montreal to a little 16 seater plane and as I arrived at the gate the overhead speaker announced “Can Dianna Pierce please return to the Security Area?” Apparently, as I went through security and left the sippy cup, passports and boarding passes at the magnetometer machines. That’s Mommy-brain for you. So had to double back running through the airport OJ Simpson-styel with the Child in her handy-dandy forward facing papoose. Completely breathless, went up the stairs of this really teeny plane and everyone was already seated and glaring. Standing in the middle of the aisle I had to pull her out quickly from her papoose but in doing so, lifted her up and out so fast I didn’t realize how tiny the plane was (did I say? It was VERY tiny!) and literally banged her head against the ceiling. Another trip with passengers unhappy with us.

Got to Nova Scotia, lovely holiday for about 48 hours after which she got a very high fever (103.5 degrees) and the Tylenol wasn’t helping. We rushed her to the hospital in Halifax where the doctors asked “Has she been anywhere recently where she could have picked up some germs?”. Ahhh, er, hmmm. All of National Airport’s floors? Bad mother. Bad, bad mother. She picked up a virus and the doctors tended to her. But these little babies are resilient and after 3 days of misery, along with lots of love and care, she was fine.



My last instalment for today was while we were living in South Africa. We’d gone to a bicycle shop to pick out a new bicycle for my husband’s birthday. In tow I had her…and the GINORMOUS bag of paraphernalia that comes with an 18-month old: the diapers, wet wipes, diaper disposal bags, binkies, burping cloth, an extra hat, or sweater, her blankie and her favourite stuffed animal.

In the shop was a short set of stairs (I counted later – exactly 8) leading up to a platform with more bikes and tires. I walked up the stairs with her in my arms and the bag over my shoulder. I set her down on my right as she fingered the tires. I turned to my left to put my massive diaper bag down and as I was setting it on the floor, thought “hmmm, I put her down awfully close to the stairs.”

I turned around in time to see her little feet teetering on the edge of the stairs, she facing me with a look of surprise, and waving her arms.  As she’s falling backwards, I lunge out in desperation. This was all happening in extreme slow motion. My outstretched hand reached out and snatched…air…about one inch from her little coat.

My next thought as she tumbled down was to watch carefully as she went to see where she hit what, watching for possible breaks. The good news is she was dressed to the hilt in winter clothes, covered up like a little Michelin man. And she cartwheeled down in a way that, as best as I could tell, an elbow got a whack but everything else seemed ok. She landed on her stomach, arms and legs splayed.

The whole shop was silent for about 2-3 seconds as everyone had turned because, without realizing it, I had shouted out. The delay was interminable. She had this look of shock…then wonder…her eyes blinked, then hang on! I’m in pain! And then the wailing. Most parents will tell you the longer the delay, the better, as that means they are processing the pain and hurt and it’s just dawned on them that something scary has happened to them, and THEN they start to cry. If it’s really real pain, it will come sooner.

Anyway, she had a bruised elbow, a teeny bruise on her cheek, but all was fine. I never set foot in that shop again. And my husband bought an insanely expensive bike with the guilt he felt for traumatizing everyone.


So, there you have it! Just a few examples of bad parenting mistakes. And we’re only up to 18 months old! Many many more. I should point out that said Child is now a lovely, well-adjusted, bright, intelligent, funny, athletic 13-yr-old. She remembers absolutely nothing of these moments that have scarred my husband and I for life.

I suppose perspective is everything, isn’t it? I look back at any of the more trying moments of my life and realize I just did whatever it took to get through them. In retrospect, I’m somewhat amazed at what we did. I think there were 14 cross-Atlantic flights between the US and UK and South Africa before our Child was 4. I have no idea how we did it. In the moment, it’s awful. But now we look back and laugh.

Next, I’ve got more from the toddler years (trying to catch projectile vomit with our hands (!) on another plane journey as she covers us and the South African rugby team captain with throw-up), a fabulous 4-yr-old tantrum story, and then we can move in to the horrendous first generation parenting of kids with mobile devises!! Fun stuff!

U.K. Does Remembrance Day Beautifully

Remembrance Day always gets to me here in London. Literally, the whole city (and country) comes to a standstill for 2 minutes of silence on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, and it’s a sight to behold. Today I was in Sainsbury’s doing a quick shop when literally every shopping trolley, every till, nearly every customer, all the employees came to a halt, bowed heads, and remembered. Always gives me the chills.

It’s not just Sainsbury’s. It’s the fact that the whole country, collectively, on a busy Saturday morning, stops its every day activities for 2 minutes and observes, remembers, reflects on those who died fighting for their country and our freedom during World War I. One year I came up out of the Tube at Sloane Square and the the whole square was motionless, like a mass mannekin challenge that had yet to be invented. The busses, the taxis, the people, the movement literally ceased. Engines turned off. Conversations stopped. All was still and silent. Absolutely beautiful.

I don’t think we can do this in the U.S. because of the time-zones, perhaps? Or because just too many people? My thought is that we Americans have a tendency to put weight, focus, thought, energy towards the future a little too much rather than reflecting on the past.  I think the Brits lean just the opposite (I’m sure there’s a happy middle somewhere), but in this case, they are very good at giving due reverence to history — perhaps because it was so close and so tangible and right here on Europe’s doorstep. They also have the poppy lapels out in force for about 2 weeks leading up to November 11th. They sell them for a pound outside grocery stores, at schools, in offices. You see them in all your meetings, on the telly with all the news anchors and presenters. A few years ago, there was a wonderful display of poppies at the Tower of London.  If you ever have a chance to be in England in the beginning of November, don’t miss this moving and emotional commemoration of Armistice Day.2014-11-04_poppies

We’ve Never Had It So Good

Are you sick and tired of bad news 24-7? Is the culture of fear paralysing you? Every time I turn on the news these days, my brain is about to explode. Someone turned the fear factor dial up to 11. Gets me seriously depressed. I start thinking what’s the point?

Facts and perspective. That’s what’s important, right? So, today I’ve compiled a list that will help you, well, just live and not be weighed down by all the gloom and misery. Guess what? We’re not all doomed! Repeat it over and over to yourself and you will start to feel better.

Also, what’s your favourite good news fact or statistic? Feel free to add/comment.

And yes, I have deliberately left out some numbers that are more pessimistic (homocide numbers up in the last few years in the UK and US).  The fear-mongering needs a break every once in a while, and although some things are having a downward trend, we are still living far better than any previous generation in the history of man.  My day job focuses a lot on those dire statistics and how much more we need to do to get things right, to make things better.

But, just for today, let’s set those aside. Let’s put things in perspective. Add some context. Cheer up, it could be worse, and it mostly was. Enjoy the weekend!

The Good News List*

*(List of sources below)

• We are living in what is arguably the best era in all of human history. On a global scale, in terms of economic security, poverty, life expectancy, infant mortality, health, social freedoms, incidents and exposure to war, violence or disease, we – as a planet – are living in a gilded age that is completely unprecedented.


• In 1900, average world life expectancy was 31 years old; now its 71 years old.
• In the U.K., a new public health report shows life expectancy has risen to its highest level ever in 2016.
• In 1800, 43% of the world’s newborns died before their fifth birthday. In 2015, child mortality was down to 4.3 percent globally.
• By 2030, South Korean women will be the first in the world to have an average life expectancy above 90.
• Across all of Europe, life expectancy keeps increasing for both men and women, with France, Spain, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Iceland and Austria all in the top 20 countries with the highest life expectancy (those born in 2017).
• In the last 25 years, for the first time ever, extreme poverty has dipped below 10 percent of the population, mass famine has been wiped out and mass literacy has become more common than rare.
• In 1981, nine in ten Chinese lived in extreme poverty. In 2016, it’s 1 in 10.
• In 1820, only every 10th person was literate, in 1930 it was every third, and now we are at 85% literacy rate across the globe.
• By 2100, projections show that there will be more than 7 billion people with at least a secondary education.
• For the last 25 years, 285,000 new people gained access to safe water every day.


• Numerous studies show the world is becoming a less violent place. Warfare is on the decline. Anyone alive right now is far less likely to die a violent death (from either war or homicide) than in any previous era.
• Globally, the chances of being killed in a terrorist attack are about 1 in 9.3 million. (compared to drowning in a bathtub: 1 in 685,000, or being struck by lightning: 1 in 576,000 or a car accident: 1 in 18,565).
• In the U.S., being killed by a foreign-born terrorist is about 1 in 45,808. But being killed by heart disease (1 in 7), pneumonia (1 in 70), falling (1 in 133), assault by gun (1 in 358), motor vehicle incidents (1 in 113), drowning (1 in 1,183), choking on food (1 in 3,409) are far more likely.
• In Europe, terrorist attacks are up, but we are still far below the numbers we had in the 1970s, 80s and early 90s.
• Terrorism is killing far fewer people in the UK now than in the 1980s. Between 2000 and 2017, 126 people have been killed in the UK in terrorist attacks (as of October 17, 2017). Although not on British soil, another 30 Brits were killed in Tunisia in a terror attack on a hotel. Compare that to 1,094 deaths from the previous 15 years (1985-1999) and a further 2,211 deaths between 1970 and 1984. The worst year for terrorism in the UK was 1988, due to a majority of deaths in the Lockerbie plane disaster when a bomb blew up a Pan Am flight with 270 aboard.
• In the U.S., violence against women and sexual assault is down. Also, violence against children has dropped dramatically from 1990 to 2012.
• Chances of being killed by an asteroid or meteorite globally are about 1 in 75,000. In the US, those numbers go up to 1 in 1.6 million. Compare that to 1 in 8 million death from a shark attack, or 1 in 60,000 from a tornado.


• As of March, 2017, the US economy is the largest in the world, representing 24.3% of the global economy. China is second with 14.8 % of the world economy. Japan is 3rd, Germany 4th, the UK 5th, France is 6th and India is 7th. Brazil is 9th and Canada is 10th.
• As of January 2017, UK remains the fastest growing economy in the western world (“western” being key).
• Globally, in 2017, the fastest growing economy was Ethiopia. Followed by Uzbekistan. Nepal is #3, India is fourth.
• The fastest growing large economies are India and China, one and two.
• In September of this year (2017), Australia broke the record held by the Netherlands for the title of longest economic expansion on record, with 104 quarters of economic growth without recession.
• Indonesia has the largest economy in Southeast Asia, with GDP per capita steadily rising, and they are closing in on Canada for top 10th economy globally.

From The Business Insider: 


(Courtesy of: The Business Insider. For the full article, click here)

LIST OF SOURCES—%C2%A0with_one_big_exception_partner/











Explaining the Gun Culture Overseas

There are countless times in the past 10-12 years of living overseas that I have been forced to explain my country – or the actions of my countrymen – to virtually everyone I come across in my daily life. The check-out guy at Waitrose asks me to explain Trump. The coffee person at Starbucks questions me about the racial violence. In discussing sports at dinner parties, there’s always one person who asks “Why is it called the World Series? No one else plays in it but you Americans!!”.

After living in South Africa for 3 years and now London for more than 7, nearly everyone I know has asked me about the gun culture in the U.S. and how the heck do people put up with it. “What is going on in America?” people say.  “Why do you love guns so much?” “Explain this to us.” I can’t.  [Although, similarly, when I ask anyone here in the U.K. who is my age or younger to explain the Northern Ireland issue or Brexit, I’m met with uncomfortable shifting and clearing of throats.]  The U.S. gun issue is a phenomenon, and I’m as dumbfounded as they are. But for me, it’s personal. It hurts my heart. My eyes ache, my lips tighten into a thin line and I feel my brow knit into a frown. The grimace is obvious.

America is ahead by miles in gun ownership & mass shootings. The only country even remotely close to us is…Yemen.

In countless interactions I stammer to explain this. “The Democrats…” I start.  “The Republicans have….” I try.  “The polls show…”  “International statistics point to…”  “The Second Amendment…” I’m grasping at flimsy straws. “The NRA…” “After Sandy Hook…”  But the fact is no argument can explain the reality on the ground in the U.S. The horror that has become almost daily. The numbness to which everyone somehow – staggeringly — accepts this as their new reality.

And then there’s the all too familiar arguments that fall on deaf ears. The definitive statistics we’ve seen pointing out gun control in Great Britain or Australia and making those Before and After comparisons from when the laws went into place. The thread that follows how – after one shoe-bomber – laws were put into place to take off our shoes as precautionary measures or how, when seven people were killed by poisoned Tylenol bottles, new packaging made it nearly impossible to tamper with pills (I don’t remember anyone saying “Don’t worry about making safer pill bottles, it’s just the mental health of one deranged person”).

The charts, statistics, polls and studies are endless.  This one from the BBC is a good start.  And in the New York Times earlier this week with excellent charts and statistics, Max Fisher and Josh Keller methodically put forth and debunk every argument out there on why America has so many mass shootings. Mental health issues? No. Society more violent? No. Racial divisions? No. Violent video games? No. Bottom line is we have more guns – by a lot.

I found it particularly disheartening that we are ahead by miles in gun ownership and mass shootings, and that the only country even remotely close to us is…Yemen. That’s not a country you thought the U.S. would be in the same category as. Yemen? Imagine my next encounter with chatty Waitrose guy: “Hey, America and Yemen: more guns than any other country in the world! And a higher rate of mass shootings than everyone else. What’s up with that?”.  I will try to grab my groceries quickly and leave.

My first question to every single candidate who won on Tuesday “Where do you stand on gun control legislation?”

More worryingly, however, is how do I explain this to our daughter. She is of the age where these larger, more complicated issues are being discussed. She is in what Americans would call “Middle School” at a co-ed secondary institution brimming with multinationals:  Brits, French, Aussies, Indians, Russians, Italians, Spanish, South Africans, Greeks, Americans, Canadians, Chinese, Japanese, Nigerians, Senegalese and more. They all wear their nationalities on their sleeves and are starting to challenge each other in an intellectual but healthy way.  As a half-American, she is beginning to get the typical push-back and teasing that often comes from less powerful nations (an Australian boy needling her about Trump has become a fun joke between them).

So how do I explain to her that the country I love and grew up in has had 1745 deaths from mass shootings since January of 2013 (according to The Guardian)? How do I explain that our government stands by, idly, and does nothing? And that we, the people, elect those officials who do not vote as we would.  So far, no protest loud enough has changed this. But it must stop.

Would I raise our child in a place that allows someone to walk into a store with an assault rifle thrown casually over his shoulder?


America is getting a terrible reputation abroad for many different reasons, but the gun issue is front and centre as perhaps the worst.  Asked if I would ever move back to the U.S., I definitely pause and wonder whether I would want to raise our child in a place that allows someone to walk into a store with an assault rifle thrown casually over his shoulder while he does his shopping.  Closer to home, I understand the Concealed Carry Laws means that a citizen in Virginia can stand outside a polling booth with a gun. How do I explain that to our daughter? Of course, no place is perfect and certainly every place has its difficulties, its negatives, its issues that we all must put up with and deal with. In the US, I have to explain terrorism and Brexit to everyone. And both of those are somewhat unexplainable too. So there’s no nirvana. But I cannot comprehend doing some back-to-school shopping, squabbling over the last notebook on the shelf with another customer, followed by escalated pushing and shoving, and then the customer pulls out a LOADED gun on me. What?!? Here’s the full article.  Granted, no one comes out squeaky clean, but a Mom with her 20-yr-old daughter, shopping in Walmart with a loaded gun?? Just in case?? I worked and lived overseas in some dangerous places and I know that having a gun pointed at you can leave you with PTSD.  Or I would probably be somewhat traumatized if I took my daughter to a polling booth where a man is carrying a gun outside the door as voters go in and out to vote.  As one of the voters said “I had my 9-year old son with me. I felt intimidated…had to explain why a man with a 357 magnum is standing outside the polling station”.

No, this is not the country I know. The country I grew up in. Of course I have friends with hunting rifles and/or hand-guns, but all agree on stricter controls and bans of assault weapons.  I sincerely hope the tide is turning with all the election wins by Democrats countrywide earlier this week. History was made with many “firsts” from New Hampshire to North Carolina to Montana as candidates who are women, transgender, people of colour and part of the LGBT community won their respective races. My first question to every single candidate who won on Tuesday would be “Where do you stand on gun control legislation?”.  Let’s hope momentum is shifting and we can take that forward to insist on new measures and bans that will change the future history of the US that has yet to be written.


One of the things I love most about living abroad is learning about all the steeped traditions and local customs that make up the culture, people and country.  Starting last night, we are heading into a weekend of bonfires and firework parties across the country to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night.

It always creeps up on me (after more than 7 years here, you’d think I’d remember) and I was making dinner when the booming outside thundered like tanks and rockets, and the cats came flying through the cat door in a panic with hair raised.  It lasted — i kid you not — for a good 25 minutes.  Here’s a snippet of what got them going (from the top floor of our house):

It’s crazy! This is just the average local Guy Fawkes celebration in my suburb of West London, but there are hundreds that take place all over the country.  If we had looked out the front windows we would have seen two more in Kew and Richmond.  They are everywhere. As are the bonfires. Driving through Yorkshire about 5 years ago on Bonfire Night (another term for Guy Fawkes Night), we looked out over the rolling hills and counted 6 enormous bonfires about 3 stories high all across the landscape. It really is a sight to see.

These local celebrations will go on every night through Sunday (the actual Guy Fawkes Day is November 5th) and here is a partial listing of free, excellent fireworks displays in/around London, although I’m sure there are many more.bonfire-night-beverley-westwood

And what is Bonfire Night? It is a celebration of the thwarting of Guy Fawkes treasonous plot on November 5th, 1605, to blow up the King and Parliament. That night, Guy (a member of the Gunpowder Plot), was arrested in the basement beneath the House of Lords while guarding an enormous pile of explosives the plotters were planning to set off.  In celebration of the fact that King James I actually lived (did not get blown up), people lit bonfires around London and months later introduced an Act to observe this annually in a public day of thanksgiving.  So, sorta like July 4th and Thanksgiving combined (as they don’t have either here. Although some joke that if Brexit goes through, that will be our new “Independence Day” with probably a far less celebratory mood as we break away from Europe).  Here’s an excellent explanation, should you want more. Fun tidbit: Did you know his name was also Guido? Would have had a slightly different ring to it, eh? Guido Fawkes Day? 🙂


By George Cruikshank – Ainsworth, William Harrison. Guy Fawkes, or The Gunpowder Treason. 1840., Public Domain,

Are We At A Tipping Point?

[I write this missive to my daughter with the hopes that one day she will read and perhaps learn something about me and our times, but also come to understand the conflict, the setbacks, the inspiration, the tenacity and focus that goes into pushing a society from thinking one way to ACTING another.]

I am weary. Yet another story.  Last night, U.K. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon resigned saying his standards in the past have “clearly fallen short” of those standards required of the Armed Forces, which he represents.  The story circulating publicly pertains to a 2002 incident in which he repeatedly put his hand on a journalist’s knee. This, on the heels of an allegation by a brave young woman who says she was raped by someone senior within the Labour Party and was “warned” against pursuing the claim.  And add to that Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Mark Halperin, who have been accused of sexual harassment.  The floodgates have opened.  The amount of accusers suggests this lewd and gross misconduct was happening frequently and – by the sound of it – all of LA/DC/London seemed to have some inkling that these men were particularly slimy with younger people left alone in their lecherous hands. These men used their positions of power and influence to prey on and victimize those subordinate to them.  And I am saddened, but rueful and cynical. I talk to my women friends and many of us have the same reaction.  These revelations are not new (Bill Clinton, Dominic Strauss Kahn, Roger Ailes, Clarence Thomas, Senator Packwood, the list goes on…). We all assume Fallon resigned because there is more to the story or there are other women who have yet to come forward (“It can’t be just touching a woman’s knee?! Seriously? There must be more”).  We have all worked hard for 20 + years in careers that inevitably brought us face to face with sexual innuendo and inappropriate behaviour and yes, sexual harassment by the textbook, legal definition. If you asked any one of us “was it wrong?” we would say absolutely, yes. Firmly, without a doubt. None of my female friends, family, and colleagues are shrinking violets. We are successful career women with families who do the juggle, the dance, because we can and we want to. Are we fighters? Yes. Has it been easy? Hell, no. Should any one of us in any of our #MeToo moments have reported the incident and sought recourse? Probably. But we didn’t. And the answer to “Why not?” lies also in that deafening silence that many in Hollywood and Washington and elsewhere kept (men AND women alike).

Silence about bad behaviour does not mean acceptance. We get by with the tools given to us to make us fighters. To survive, one must always pick and choose battles.

How do I explain this to you? I am complicit in this. Perhaps I am a failure to you and your generation, I think. If any of the things that happened to any of these women – to me – happened to you, I’d be outraged. On the other hand, I was brought up by a strong mother (and father) who taught us how to be feisty, independent and fight for a place in the male-dominated workplace.  Some history and context here – we just went to see the movie Battle of the Sexes together, right? And I explained to you how bad the movie was on the broader issues, remember? The meaning of that one match was enormous to a generation of women and their daughters.  There were ERA marches on Capitol Hill, women were pushing for equal pay, equal rights in the workplace, it was the “women libbers” vs “male chauvinist pigs” who thought women should stay at home in the kitchen pregnant.  There was a palpable uprising in the air and I could feel the electricity in my mother as she lectured my sister and I about how “our generation will get what her generation missed – an opportunity to be anything a man could be.”  A gathering at our house watched that match. And I remember, as an impressionable 9-year old, how ecstatic and triumphant the women were when Billy Jean King won.  What I didn’t know –  because my Dad was right there with my Mom telling us men and women are intellectually equal – was that there was an undercurrent of tension and resentment (probably rooted in fear of change, of upsetting the ‘status quo’) amongst men.  I now understand the term “feminists” rolled off these men’s tongues with a sneer.  Some of the younger men in the workplace at the time ended up being the older men I would work for once I graduated from university in 1986.  So the winds of change do not come overnight.

Back to now, or rather to 20 years ago when most of these incidents coming out now occurred. A new generation of women populated offices across the country. But the residual effects of an earlier generation still existed. As Brit Marling points out, it was only in 1974 that women could apply for credit cards in their own name. Financial independence and career women were newly on the scene in growing numbers. And they were moving up. And yet, the social and moral attitudes, culture and laws were still playing catch up.  If any one of us, at that time, had come forward, there would have been little – if any – recourse. The support systems and protection of the workplace would not have helped us. We would have been deemed annoying ‘troublemakers’ and become pariahs in our offices. We felt that our careers would stumble or fall if we spoke up, and if not immediately, then over time, we would be ousted.

We all do what we need to do, sometimes, to protect ourselves. But silence about bad behaviour does not mean acceptance. We get by with the tools given to us to make us fighters, to make us tough. To survive, one must always pick and choose battles.  I was part of this system.  My story is no different, although far less invasive than some of the horror stories I’ve heard.  In my late 20s, a powerful and well-known man in Washington circles who was far senior to me (same industry but we did not work at the same place), followed me into an empty elevator. He shoved me up against the wall and attempted to grope and kiss me. Thoroughly disgusted and nauseous, I kneed him in the groin, told him angrily and firmly to STOP, and quickly got out of the elevator.  I knew what was right and wrong. I had never liked this guy and my spider-sense always told me he was a slimy, nasty piece of work.  He was physically overpowering to my 5 ft. 6 and a half, slim frame.  But there was no way I was going to be a ‘victim’. And it’s that toughness, that fighter, that absolute belief in my convictions, that told me to fight back quickly and swiftly and extricate myself from that situation.  But did I tell anyone? Did I do anything about this? I told some male and female friends in my circle. I might have even told my boss. But I knew making any sort of waves would jeopardize my career.  And that was more important to me. I left with my dignity intact.  I was not physically harmed. I had amazing opportunities with my career ahead of me. I was just beginning to be taken seriously as an adult. I was finally coming into my own as a career woman, and this was not going to stop me. I was luckier than other women (and men) whose stories we are hearing now. But I wonder whether they were thinking something similar when faced with the dilemma: Do I tell?

Millennials are outraged at things we all used to tolerate. Does this moral intolerance present an opportunity for change that should be harnessed?


So here we are in 2017.  Are we at a tipping point? Has society caught up? Are there stronger social and support mechanisms in place to handle this swiftly, cleanly, justly?  A confession: I am not a fan of the Millennials. Yet here is a question to ponder.  Does the constant moral outrage of Millennials present an opportunity for change that should be harnessed? I have watched as this new generation, these so-called “snowflakes”, melt at the first sign of offence or insult. I hear from friends in the States that it’s a phenomenon sweeping the country – safe zones for virtually every individual on college campuses – university professors insulting kids in class without knowing what they’ve done wrong.  Here in the U.K. it’s catching on too: At Oxford, professors send out announcements and alerts about matter being discussed in class ahead of time, just in case anyone might be offended by the subject and not want to come.  To me, the pendulum has swung too far. We will all be walking on eggshells soon, but then who will defend the eggshells? Don’t they deserve a safe-zone too? I don’t know where it will stop but I find we’ve raised a generation of ‘bubble’ kids and I’m not sure what has happened to the toughness we grew up with in the 70s.

The Millennials are outraged at things we all used to tolerate.  But, perhaps we have just enough of the older generations moving out and the younger generations moving in that the scales have tipped to favour the young and all that they bring to the workplace. Perhaps this over-sensitivity will have its positives, namely 100% intolerance to sexual harassment in the workplace.  I don’t know the answer, but I am willing to be convinced.  [And if so, PLEASE could we have this same confluence of influence, generational change and intolerance for the gun control issue too?]

It could be the timing is right (as my brilliant friend Muriel Demarcus points out, timing is everything). US Labour website says nearly 47 percent of U.S. workers are women (74.6 million of us toiling away), and women own close to 10 million businesses.  70% of mothers with children participate in the work force. And very interesting: Mothers are the primary or sole earners for 40 percent of households with children under 18 today, compared with 11 percent in 1960.  Men are more enlightened now, having lived and worked side by side with a growing workforce of women for 40 years.

So I think we must strike while the iron is hot.  Some friends back home fear this new movement will cause a backlash amongst men who will be pushed to resent women working in the office and boardrooms. My husband says just the opposite. As he rightly points out, the majority of men out there are the good guys. They are the ones we have relied on, been supported by, and who live by the same moral codes. He says “if there is backlash, it’s likely to be amongst the older generation of men who are dinosaurs now. And they need to learn to moderate their language and behaviour, or retire.” That’s that. Change is good. And he feels most men aged 20-40, even up to 50, will feel the same.

I believe the confluence of our transitional generation, who grew up in the 70s and 80s along with the newer millennials is the perfect marriage for true and lasting change in our society.  Left alone, both sides would flounder.  We older folks are too cynical and jaded. I have one friend who works in finance who laughs when telling me she consistently fails her company’s “sensitivity” test because she doesn’t push “RED” (out of options Green = Acceptable, Yellow = Borderline, and Red = Unacceptable, Needs To Be Reported) when she should. She said if she pushed RED when they suggest, she would have to probably report something at least once a month, if not once a week.  On the other hand, Snowflakes cry out at the slightest, often most unintentional, slight. I know someone else who was going into a lunch meeting with Millennials and as the meeting was starting he said “I should have ordered a salad. I need to lose weight.” As the meeting closed, a young lady pulled him aside scolding him, saying she was offended by his comment. He was flabbergasted.  When explained, he was inadvertently maligning fat people. So I think we can help each other. We bring the years of experience and examples to share. Millennials bring their unswerving moral centre. This could be good.

Zara: To Make You Feel My Love