Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Recommended Viewing

I’ve written a lot about England and the rest of GB, but have failed to give you some further resources in case the topic interests you as much as it does me!  Now, a list of resources could go on forever, so this is a list of what I continually go back to view (or what I actually own DVDs of).

Places and Touring

Escape to the Country

This is an HGTV series that has hundreds of episodes (and is still filming today!).  The gist of it is to help city dwellers find homes in the country and, by the way, educating the viewer about what rural life has to offer in so many corners of the country!
Hidden Villages

This series is hosted by Penelope Keith (of To the Manor Born) who takes you far and wide to places you’ve most likely never heard of.  She gives airing to a way of life that is, perhaps, dwindling faster than we care to think.
A Picture of Britain

This documentary by David Dimbleby takes a look at Britain through the eyes of artists, painters, poets, and writers.  What he does very well is to also show you the landscape, its people, and what makes it special to the rest of us.  This documentary is only in region 2 format, but will play on your computer if you can grab a copy.


Battlefield Britain

This series is hosted by Peter and Dan Snow and is probably the #1 series that got me buying into researching military history.  Amazingly well done!
Britain’s Bloody Crown

Dan Jones, well-known author of The Plantagenets, historian, journalist, and presenter hosts this series which takes an in-depth view of just what it took to hold the English crown.  
The Story of English

This series takes a look at how English dialects and language, in general, have changed over the centuries.  Hosted by Robert MacNeil, it’s a very interesting look at where we’ve come from and where we’re heading!
Monarchy with David Starkey

I’m actually not a fan of Starkey.  His version of Richard III was more Shakespearian than fact.  However, he does give a complete look at the British monarchy from start to finish.
Elizabeth R

Wow, the best factually-based history of Elizabeth 1 (brilliantly played by Glenda Jackson).


Last Tango in Halifax

This series is a fun romp based on two elderly people meeting online and falling in love.  Based in Yorkshire (which is close to my heart), the series is short-lived but very interesting! Plus you’ll get to experience a little of the Yorkshire dialect.
All Creatures Great and Small

Based on the wildly successful books by James Heriott (aka Alfred Wight), this series takes a look at how it was to live in rural Yorkshire in the 30s-40s.  This series was actually being filmed when I lived in Yorkshire.  Everything looks so old now!
Mary, Queen of Scots

Less factual, but still very engaging story of Mary and QE1.  Starring Glenda Jackson and Vanessa Redgrave.
The Crown

This series just came out last year on NetFlix.  It’s a drama about the life of QE 1, and while the casting doesn’t really seem quite right for QE1 (facial features are just not the same), the acting is decent.  Princess Margaret is well-cast, I thought. 
I’m sure more will come to me as I think of them, but these shows should give you food for thought and should fill your mind of an England that is not only beautiful but also has a colorful history and vast wealth of culture and tradition.  Feel free to recommend your own!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Travel Regrets?

I’ve been seeing articles posted on Facebook about what people regret most as they get older, and usually one of the top regrets is that they didn’t get to travel more.  I am doing my utmost to make sure that if I get to that ripe old age where I just can’t do it any longer, I’ve got no regrets.  I’ve put myself on that plane, plopped my butt in the seat, and bye bye amigos!!!

But even so, I know I will still have left tidbits on my plate of regret.  There’s so much world and so little time/money to take advantage of.  Do you have any travel regrets? 
Here are some things to think about.
1)      You are working your tail off for two or three weeks of vacation a year.  Consider taking off a longer period of time to see more of the places you travel to.  Ask your boss if you can make up time or take off a few days no pay. 

2)      If you are just signing on for a job, make *sure* you tell them you have an “x” week vacation already planned.  They typically work with you on that.  Even if you don’t have a trip planned… you’ll have the time set aside.

3)      Have a travel savings plan.  Whether it’s a jar on your table, an account at your bank, or some other method, calculate what you need and put in the account what you need from every paycheck.

4)      Visit friends.  This can help save you money plus allow you more time with people you love… as well as people who are local and can give you tips on touring in their area!  It’s fascinating to see other countries through the eyes of people who live there. 

5)      Share where you live with others by offering your home to out of town/country friends or by taking some tidbits they couldn’t get in their country with you as gifts if you are going to visit them.  Be a travel ambassador! One year, some British friends came into town and we had a blast!  I took them to Galveston, New Braunfels, Greune, Bandera, San Antonio, Austin, and Houston.  They didn’t have to pay for lodging at my house or at my sister’s when we stayed there, so some of their lodging and much of their transportation/food costs while here was covered.  Another year, I drove some friends to see Disney World… what a mad trip that was! 

6)      Ask if any of your friends might be willing to drive you part or all of the way to your next destination.  In my trip this year, one friend is heading from London to Manchester, and is kind enough to take me to a train station that puts me into Wales much more quickly than picking up the train from London.  Another is taking me from Leicester to Norwich.  Not only are you getting more time with your favorite chums, you are saving transportation dollars, getting to see the countryside, and maybe finding unusual places or things along the way.

7)      Study the language/dialect and customs of your destination so that you will feel more comfortable about tipping, asking directions, or finding the local pub!  This is especially helpful if you’re going to Paris where the Parisians can be a little testy if you don’t know French.  I was in Scotland once, and a travel companion rushed up to an unsuspecting couple walking their dog and loudly proclaimed her love of their country, their dog, their home… they seemed overwhelmed by her enthusiasm and vocal range!  I remember being with a friend in an antique shop many years ago (in England, the antiques can be several hundred years old).  She was picking things up off the shelf to look at them under the scowling eye of the proprietor.  Knowing when to look but don’t touch would be good to know about. 

8)      Knowing the history of a place might narrow down the places you want to visit on your trip… or add to them!  Study the great battles that took place, the kings (or queens) who ruled, and the sites erected to their memory.  Of course, this could backfire and give you WAY more places to visit than you could ever dream.  If this happens, see #1 above and ask for more time.

9)      Talk with people.  You will never truly learn about a country if you stick to yourself.  I love hearing people’s stories and telling them mine.  It’s like sharing a world you’ve never seen before.  I was in a pub once (feeling sorry for myself because of a rental car snafu), and ended the day having met four locals who made me laugh til my face hurt!  Or the world famous artist staying at our B&B who told me of a secret place to visit near Tintagel that turned out to be the best part of my trip one year.

10)   Set aside the part of your brain that says everything must happen “just so”.  I have found that no trip happens as you’ve planned it.  Delays at the airport?  Missed the train? Lost your rental car keys?  Having had all that happen to me (and much more), I can say with honesty… it will pass and all your fretting over things will not make it pass any more quickly.  Set your mind in vacation mode and let time fly by and through you… things will settle and you will live to travel to some of the most fantastic destinations!
In summary, I’d just like to say that there is truly no time like the present.  There is no need to regret not having traveled.  Anyone can do it!  Whether you travel a few miles or a few thousand miles… make your life an adventure with arms and heart wide open. 
Until next time… bye bye amigos!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Travel and The Levels of Aging

I teach a class on travel for the savvy senior.  Many folks are surprised that there’s enough about senior travel that needs discussing!  After all, travel is travel, right?

I used to be a massage therapist, and I specialized in geriatric massage.  What they taught us is that there are varying levels of senior health.  Some seniors are very frail and not very athletic.  Others (like some ladies I saw on America’s Got Talent one year) are tap dancing through their 80s.  More and more, we’re seeing people into their 100s.  It’s an achievement, to be sure, but not unusual.  So, considering the levels of aging, what should your priorities be if you want to travel?

If you are an athletic senior and are sound in body and mind taking little to no medications, then kudos! You are in the top bracket of our senior traveler.  You can travel like the average traveler.

This is also true of our slightly affected senior.  Your sight may be decreasing a bit and you may notice a slower pace, but for the most part, you are as mobile as your completely athletic counterpart, the athletic senior.  You may need a pair of non-prescription reading glasses or a brace of some sort, but in general, you are pretty much good to go.

If you have issues that are easily managed by insulin, anti-depressants, or over-the-counter medications then you are someone who might need to consider a few things before traveling long distances.  You’ll want to bring your medications with you and perhaps a spare pair of prescription glasses.  You don’t require any assistance getting through TSA lines and walking doesn’t bother you. 

Those with persistent health issues such Osteoporosis, obesity, shingles, or more severe forms of arthritis may want to think twice about traveling.  There are more comfortable methods of traveling (mostly through group travel that caters to seniors).  These groups will handle your luggage and hopefully keep the physical exertion to a minimum so that you can enjoy your cruise or tour.

Finally, there is a category of senior that I’m not sure should be traveling at all.  Granted, if the cancer is in the beginning stages and chemo is not an issue then perhaps you could consider a gentle form of travel.  But, with full blown Alzheimers, heart disease, or respiratory disease you could not only be putting yourself at risk but affecting others around you.  One friend told me of a trip she took where the couple kept wandering off as they both had Alzheimers.  After several incidents, they were put on a plane for home, but not before interrupting the group tour on numerous occasions.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from traveling, but I do want to encourage you to see yourself honestly in the context of long distance travel.  I recommend you get a full physical prior to travel to ensure you are in the best shape possible for the trip, and to choose a form of travel that best suits your level of health.  I, too, am looking down that narrow path and have to keep my head about me as to what I truthfully can and can’t do. 

I’d like to also encourage you to do as much as you can while you can do it.  There are no do-overs in this life.  Make yours an adventure!

Disclaimer: Iam not a medical professional. Please see your doctor for advice on traveling and health risks.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Battlefield Britain in a Nutshell

It was somewhere in the middle of my love of England and my amazement at some of the things that has made it great that I realized how important military history is to a culture.  You might think that as a female never having been in the military, this seems a bit incongruous, but I assure you it isn’t.

One of the first battles that caught my attention was actually led by a woman.  In 60 AD, Boudicca brought indigenous tribes together in revolt against a roman dictatorship.  Ultimately defeated, Boudicca’s presence in British history is nevertheless a turning point.  Why?  It showed that the Romans weren’t completely invincible (having won several battles against them).  It also set British history on a Roman path for the next 400 years.

There were so many of these battles that it’s hard to keep up with them all!  The Battle of Hastings in 1066 which, of course, set England’s destiny until 1154 when power was given over to the Angevins (the first Plantagenets).  The most famous of the Plantagenet kings was arguably Richard III or his cousin, Henry VII.  Or perhaps even Henry V who took France at the Battle of Agincourt in October of 1415. His sudden death prevented a complete victory and his heir apparent never really ruled France.  Subsequent infighting meant many bloody years of struggle for the throne of England.

You can’t talk about British history without discussing the Wars of the Roses.  These were a series of battles fought over the throne of England between 1455 and 1487.  The decisive battle was the Battle of Bosworth where Richard III was killed leaving Henry VII to found the Tudor dynasty.

In 1588, Queen Elizabeth faced the mightiest navy the world has ever seen, the Spanish Armada, and defeated it.  Who knows what fate would have befallen England had she failed!

In 1642, yet another struggle began between Royalist forces loyal to Charles I and Parliamentary forces.  These battles were led by a Puritan gentleman named Thomas Cromwell who eventually defeated the Royalists in 1645.  In fact, Charles I was beheaded and Cromwell named Lord Protector of England!  This experiment didn’t last long, however, and ultimately the son of Charles I was crowned (with very limited power).

The pesky Scots decided to rise up against the English and nearly made it to London in the mid 1700s.  The Jacobites were supporters of King James II of Scotland as heir to the British throne, and his son (Bonnie Prince Charlie) claimed his right to it through a series of battles known as the Jacobite Rebellion.  The Jacobites were very successful and headed south to take London getting as far as Derby before a deception turned them back.  They were told a large army awaited them at the gates of London – one they couldn’t possibly defeat.  Against the Prince’s will, the army turned back to Scotland where they were chased down and slaughtered at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

The British were a bloodthirsty lot.  These horrible battles ensued from century to century and generation to generation.  I would mention the American Revolution, but that’s common knowledge to my American readers.  The last of those battles was fought at Yorktown in 1781.

Troops were again on the march when Napoleon rose up in France creating the proving ground for two of that century’s greatest warriors:  Horatio Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington.

Nelson is most famous for fighting the Battle of Trafalgar where he defeated the French and Spanish fleets in 1805.  He defeated his enemy, but it cost him his life.  As for Wellington?  He fought one of the most hotly contested battles in history at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.  In one charge alone, 50,000 men lay slain on the battlefield.  The cost was high, but so were the stakes.  In the end, Wellington was triumphant and Napoleon banished to the Island of Elba where he died six years later.

There were so many battles fought for South Africa and India.  In Egypt and the Sudan. Then World War I brought its tragedies and triumphs… including the loss of a generation of British soldiers at the Battle of the Somme.

But it’s not until WWII that the British faced their most terrifying enemy since Napoleon: Adolph Hitler. 

At the worst of those years of terror, Europe lay devastated by the attacks and ensuing conflagration inspired by a megalomaniac.  A whole generation of Jews was nearly wiped out.  France, Belgium, the Netherlands… all fell.  And Hitler’s greedy eye now turned to Britain.

The pride of Hitler’s forces was the imposing Luftwaffe or air force.  Its planes were far superior to the English Spitfires and there were more of them.  In addition, Hitler’s military had developed missiles that could be launched from mainland Europe to the British Isles.  The Blitz, or bombing of London, devastated the city and killed thousands.  It was then the Luftwaffe was turned against the smoldering wreckage of Britain.  But, it was also here that, as Churchill so aptly put it, Britain faced its finest hour.  The small Spitfires had one thing going for them: agility.  They could turn more quickly and react more quickly than the German Messerchmitts. 

Many other things led to the end of the second world war, but the Battle of Britain was made memorial by the undying courage of the Royal Air Force against a much more powerful German enemy.

Britain lost some of its luster in the ensuing years.  Peace didn’t necessarily bring happiness or a sense of national pride to the British.  In the post war years, Churchill often fell prey to depression and lost himself in his painting and cigars. 

The next Battle for Britain was such a small thing in comparison to those wars that had gone on before.  In 1982, Argentina took over the British island of the Falklands and Prime Minister Thatcher was having none of it!  Every floating vessel (including the Queen Mary!) was put to sail and sent to Argentina.  It lasted only ten weeks, but took a toll of 907 young men. The Argentinians were kicked back to Buenos Aires with their tales between their legs!

Today, British military forces are stationed throughout the world to include Afghanistan, Iraq, Bahrain, Cypress, and even the Falklands.  The major battle it faces today comes from within its own borders as the issue of Brexit is still cause for major division of the populace.  My personal opinion is that when Britain voted for Brexit, it voted to believe in itself as a nation again.  Many of the young cried out that the older generation had voted for Brexit and were at the root of the problem.  To them, I would say: perhaps those older remember a time that you don't. A time when Britain was strong. They believe it can be again, and without being dictated to by a foreign country.

Britain's grip as a world power has slipped significantly, but if history is any judge, I wouldn’t ever count the British out completely.  As the country who once ruled a quarter of the world, they still have the attention of recognized leaders around the planet and the respect of at least one blogging American. 

Oorah, Blighty.  Oorah.