Monday, May 28, 2012


An amusing article "Candy Cabinet" in the latest issue of my parish's magazine, telling readers about the place where Holden Clifford (201months old) stored the candy he gleaned over Eastertide, brought back memories of "tuck". That's another English word with multiple meanings. "Tuck in" is a variant of "Eat up". Perhaps it is developed from the act of tucking in a bib before eating. The idiom "best bib and tucker" now just means "best clothes", but in the 18th Century they were actually items of women's clothing, not then just used to prevent spilling food on clothing. The British people are very fond of candy, both chocolate and "sweets". These items were still rationed for some years after the end of WWII, and I remember the tremendous buying binge that took place when rationing finally ended. The term "tuck shop", for a store which sold these items, has largely fallen out of use. But "tuck" was still a word widely used when I was a schoolboy. I remember with pride the time when I convinced the headmaster of my prep school (boys aged 8 to 13 ) that we should discontinue the practice of giving each boy a paper bag of sweets.just before the weekly movie show. I suggested that it would be more civilized to place containers of candy on the lunch tables, so that we might eat one or two pieces of candy every day, instead of gorging ourselves on the entire packet of sweets once a week. Each boy at that school had his own "tuck-box", a large wooden container, but these were no longer used to store candy. We were allowed to keep our personal toys, books, and games there, but it was strictly forbidden to retain supplies of candy in those boxes. Nevertheless, the name "tuck-box" survived.

Monday, May 21, 2012


On one of my two visits to Cuba, I drove past the fenced-in exterior of the base at Guantanamo Bay, abbreviated by generations of U.S service personnel to "Gitmo". It is in the news again, because after two previous changes of mind, several of those accused of complicity in the attacks on the USS Cole and the "9/11" attacks are now being tried at the base we maintain in Cuba. Recently, Ozzie Guillen of the Florida Marlins was suspended for five games because he had the gall to say that he admired Fidel Castro, not a wise admission in Miami! There is much about Fidel that I deplore, but I must agree: there is much in his life to respect. My own feelings about Cuba and its people are complex and mixed, from feeling that the Cuban brand of Socialism is right for most of that nation's present inhabitants, to dismay at the imprisonment of dissidents. I can understand why we originally wanted a naval base in Cuba, but those days have long passed. There is no need at present for us to occupy this piece of foreign soil. To use it as an offshore prison is an abuse of the original purpose. I believe that we should long ago have withdrawn from Guantanamo Bay. I believe that we retain it more out of spite and dislike of the Castro regime than because of any good reason.

Monday, May 14, 2012

An evolving attitude

I grew up in a culture which was hostile to homosexuality. We would pass along anecdotes which belittled homosexuals in many ways. As time passed, I realized that it was "unchristian" to sneer at or put down persons born with a sexual orientation which differed than that of the majority. Although I had become more tolerant of those who were "different", I was still uncomfortable with them. About half a lifetime ago, I began hearing the requests for equal treatment. I accepted the concept of civil unions, but I firmly believed that "marriage" was (by definition) a union of one person of each sex. As the years passed, I began hearing the reasoning behind the calls of gay and lesbian people to be permitted to marry. For some years now, I have been in favor of same-sex marriage. However, I never expected to hear a national political figure speak out in favor of such unions. When I heard reports of the Vice President's approval of "gay marriage", my first reaction was that Joe Biden's big mouth had done it again, creating a problem for our President's re-election hopes. I suppose that the pollsters will soon be telling us whether the president's endorsement on this issue will make a difference to the electorate. It seems likely that Obama's comments will affect some voters negatively, and maybe bring some hesitant supporters back into the fold. Meantime, I am proud of Obama and Biden, for their integrity and willingness to speak out openly and clearly on this issue. After all, the evolution of the President's position at least partially mirrors my own.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Merry Month of May

May is my favorite month. In Paris, April may be the ideal month, but in Northern California, as well as in my native south of England, it is May that normally marks the end of cold weather and heavy rain. (April showers bring May flowers.) It is the month for green shoots to appear, and for Vidalia onions and locally-grown asparagus to come on sale. Barbara & I celebrate our 1970 wedding each May 2. Golf, tennis, baseball, horse-racing are in full swing, and (in England) County cricket season opens. May Day itself is International Workers' Day, and there's a tradition at Oxford of taking out a punt to witness singing at Magdalen Bridge. Sixty years ago, I learned a little ditty. I'll clean it up a bit, but here goes: Hooray! Hooray! The First of May! Outdoor bonking begins today!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Manifest Destiny

I always used to liked this phrase, as it seemed to celebrate the pioneering spirit which built this country. Apparently, it was originally used in support of westward expansion in the 19th century. Having lived through the Depression years and WWll, and seen the USSR disintegrate, leaving the USA as the only "superpower", I later felt that this was the country's "manifest destiny". Lately, however, I have become more conscious of those who see the USA in less favorable terms. To me, it is still the best country in the world, all things considered--and that's not meant as a put-down of Norway, Switzerland, the U.K, Canada, New Zealand, and other wonderful countries. After all, I made a decision to move here, become a citizen, and have been able to thrive. But I no longer think of it being the USA's manifest destiny to lead the world, when it is seen as a bully in many parts of the globe. The U.N. has been an imperfect instrument to achieve the World Peace we so ardently desire, but I have hopes that its day will come. I am also convinced that it is not our country's manifest destiny to be the world's policeman.