According to Garrison Keillor “a postcard takes about fifty words gracefully, which is how to write one… fifty words is a strict form but if you write tiny and sneak over into the address side to squeeze in a hundred, the grace is gone and the result is not a poem but notes for a letter you don’t have time to write…”  These are my Postcards from France:

2014

The goal of a PhD is to produce original knowledge.  My PhD is certainly something no one has done before.  Speak to people in a spirit of creative collaboration and perhaps only the naive should be surprised to find ideas have been appropriated.  Steal like an artist.  It’s what art has always done.  

2013

The day she moves in to 10 Downing Street, elected Prime Minister only by members of her own party, Liz Truss tells world leaders they should follow her economic lead. Shortly afterwards, a budget and Britain’s economy is in absolute chaos.  She’s a total disaster. No surprise, given her campaign.

2012

We rushed to get the last bus and then a tram.  A man approaches, asking if we can speak English. He’s from Oman, has come to run a 65km marathon up a mountain in the Alpes-Maritime, and has been robbed – passport, visa, cards, cash…  The next hour and a half, at night, near Nice airport, were slightly bizarre, very filmic.   

2011

On the balcony of a medieval fort, way high up in the hills, looking down over the Mediterranean, the wedding itself was gorgeous.  Carrying the harpist’s 70kg harp and our luggage looking and walking backwards down the long, steep cobbled street after the ceremony was infinitely less fun.

2010

At 15, a third generation New Yorker could still barely speak or read English.  99% of tens of thousands of boys attending Hasidic schools in NYC receive, according to a recent report, hardly any instruction in English and maths, even less in science and civics. They fail state standardised tests.  One man said he hadn’t learned enough history to know who Martin Luther King was.    Politicians, governors and mayors are loathe to intervene for fearing of upsetting Hasidic communities – ie voters.

2009

Though three of Britain’s longest ruling monarchs were women, the institution is a shockingly male domain.  The only women to have made it to view in this interminable drama of succession clearly watch their weight and feel the need to turn out, made up, in frocks and heels. Monarchies, like religions, not the champions of women’s rights.

2008

A recent article equated climate reform to being doomed to lives of misery.  It’s not naively optimistic to believe we can make a differenceRadically reducing emissions could generate wealth in multiple ways – but would take imagination, courage, co-operation, effective communication and action.    Complacency, tragically, the easier option.

2007

Here’s to Eric Cantona for speaking out about corruption in football and saying he’ll boycott the world cup, which should never have been held in Qatar, not least because of the mistreatment and cruel deaths of thousands of migrant workers toiling in soaring desert temperatures to build a new airport, metro, roads and stadiums.

2006

I volunteer for an organisation that has reached out to offer support for those affected by news of the Queen’s death.  TV and radio programmes often have links to helplines for those upset by content.  Where though is the support for people affected by climate change, rampant capitalism, the goings on of corrupt governments??

2005

I had a meeting with a local councillor to propose solutions to tackle climate change. Simple, cost-effective ideas that would help build communities too.  Things began well. We seemed to be on the same page. But when it came to actually taking action, there were only excuses. And an invitation to join a litter pick for World Clean Up Day.

2004

The sycophantic, sentimental circus goes on an on.  How long before the pageanting trumpeters, pikemen, heralds and privy counsellors put away the mad gold brocade costumes and fanciful hats, and thousands lining the streets return home?  Clearly the British love history done up as a costume drama about forelock tuggers and toffs. 

2003

Pavements seas of flowers. The first king for seven decades passes crowds of “commoners” who reach out a hand, hoping to touch royalty, the other hand clutching the camera that captures the moment. A manic voice shouts “All hail the king!”  Said king gracelessly thrusts proffered bouquets at flunkies’ chests with neither word nor backward glance.  Younger royals at least feign interest. 

2002

12-hour journey listening to a French radio fascinated by the death of Elizabeth: an enigma and the quintessential incarnation of the word “British.”  They’re intrigued by the pomp and ceremony – what they call all the “tra-la-la” happening across the channel.  There was great revelling too in the social and economic disasters plaguing the British post-Brexit.

2001

Wales isn’t represented on the Queen’s royal coat of arms: it’s Scotland 1, Ireland 1, England 2, Wales O.  Why the Scottish would want to hold on to the monarchy post independence eludes me.  You could ditch the people whose carbon footprints must be humungous, keep the castles as tourist attractions, turn the grounds into working organic farms.

2000

Changing every piece of money,  all the stamps, flags and post boxes (etc) to replace the late Queen Elizabeth will cost a fortune.  Isn’t the whole concept outdated?  Charles, who owns 8 rather large houses in England, Scotland, Wales and Transylvania has just inherited 18 more castles and palaces together with massive estates and a hefty financial portfolio. What do his “subjects” get in return?    

1999

The first King Charles had his head chopped off. The second was famous for mistresses and had a breed of dog named after him.  What will Charles III do?  The best case scenario is that he will bring significant environmental pressure to bear on government.  And slim down the monarchy?

1998

Out of season, wilder beeches are peppered every day of the week with men of all ages and their boards, surfing, windsurfing, kite surfing, happy Peter Pans living the dream.  Car parks are full of the vans needed to carry their equipment. It’s a really community, happy, bonded.  I stand in high winds watching boards zip past.  

1997

Every morning on beaches in France, people with buckets and spades dig the sand, looking for sea food.  The French are passionate about fruits de mer – sea fruits! – mussels, oysters and I’m not sure what else, being both highly allergic and vegetarianly indifferent.

1996

A port on the Gulf of Morbihan, Vannes is a medieval fortified town full of colombages (timber frame) houses and tourists.  September is the month French couples aged 60+ head to the seaside in their droves, all dressed in a kind of tourist seaside uniform, easy to spot.