Monday, June 29, 2015


At a rough guess, using the word "organic" on a product allows the seller to raise the price by 15% I have just opened a carton of milk with brand name "Organic Valley", whatever that means. If the FDA has any rules about the usage of the word, I'm not aware of it. It sounds sexier than the phrase "No artificial ingredients." I am so turned off by what seems to be a fad that when I'm in a store, and there's an option, I tend to choose the product that is not carrying the "organic" label. I empathize with those who suffer from food allergies, but I am omnivorous, content to trust that the FDA will ban any unsafe edible item.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Encounter: More about the Norwegian Royal Family

I met Princess Astrid again when we were both students at Oxford, and I reminded her of our previous meeting on the HMS Norfolk on her return to Olso. The next occasion was when Barbara and I were in Washington DC for the opening of the national gallery. Crown Princess Sonja arrived without any hoopla, while I waited, expecting a formal announcement of her arrival. Barbara noticed that everyone else was going into the exhibit, and I eventually followed to find Barbara engaged in conversation with the Princess. The lesson for me was that Norwegian Royalty are not like the British, for whom protocol is so important. The most recent occasion was in Colorado, at a gathering which featured the present King's niece, a published author. I remember she was quite charming and informal: this time I recognized the Norwegian simplicity.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


We are, it has been said, two nations divided by a common language. Here are three examples of different meanings in the UK and the US: Notorious: In England this is always pejorative but in the US it it sometimes used for a famous person without any negative implication. Scheme: This word is almost always pejorative in the US, indicating some activity which, although not necessarily criminal, is considered "sneaky" or even sly. In a recent episode of the very successful series Downtown Abbey, Carson, the butler, is surprised that Mrs. Hughes in not invested in some "scheme." He means some formal arrangement for putting savings aside for a future pension. Beaten: In the UK, this referrers to caning or similar forms of corporal punishment. In the US, it covers a wide variety of bodily harm not usually involving blows on the buttocks. In the UK, this wider sense is conveyed by the term "beaten up".

Monday, June 8, 2015

High Tea

This continues to confuse Americans. I have recently seen it once more used to denote an elaborate afternoon tea. For such an occasion, the food provided usually includes cake and other items, in addition to bread and jam. High Tea in the UK is an evening meal for children, usually served at about 5 or 5:30. This includes a simple main course, such as sardines on toast, and is usually anything but fancy. The idea is to feed the young children and then send them to bed, so that the grown-ups can enjoy a leisurely dinner at (say) 7:30 or 8 pm.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Encounter: Tony Richardson (1929-1991)

I knew Tony Richardson when we were both up at Oxford. Even in those days, Tony's life was dedicated to the plays he was directing: How he managed to satisfy his tutor for his academic work, I can hardly imagine. I was doing quite a lot of acting, both for the Oxford University Dramatic Society and the Experimental Theater company. For me it was sidelines, however for Tony it was the start of a distinguished career. My acting roles were typically small, often featuring old men. I enjoyed acting for Tony, whose genius was already apparent.