ChatterLog Holiday 2010

Travel

Northern Lights in Kiruna, Lapland

Welcome to our “Holiday Chatterbulletin” – Season’s Greetings everyone, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanza, Celebrate Ye Olde Winter Solstice and a Happy New Year and all that – except that December 31st is not really “New Year” – it is simply the end of the “Calendar Year” … what can I say? Think about it, there’s not exactly a lot of “new life” or change that goes on during the Winter months, instead it is the time when nature “shuts down” and everything is resting, sleeping, or hibernating in preparation for the “real” New Year, which is when we reach the Vernal or Spring Equinox. But back to right now, and since our last bulletin, we have moved from the legally oriented sign of Libra into the medically driven sign of Scorpio, and we find ourselves in the “philosophical” sign of Sagittarius. And to illustrate our Holiday-themed bulletin, we figured, who needs a Christmas tree, or a Menorah (Hanukkah is also known as The Festival of Lights, by the way!) when we have the Northern Lights? The Northern Lights or “Aurora Borealis,” are best viewed closer to the arctic territories, due to the longer periods of darkness and the magnetic field. And, the “Polar” opposite and Southern counterpart is known as the “Aurora Australis,” or the Southern Lights, (gee, I wonder what well-known continent is nearby? hint, hint…) God Almighty and the Higher Powers provide us with a Technicolor myriad of mysterious and magical illuminations, far better than any man-made lightshow could ever deliver.

There are a few themes that I could have chosen for this month, and as with all signs of the zodiac there is both a good and a not-so-good side to Sagittarius. I could have talked about the higher realms and their connection to religion and philosophical thinking, or I could have talked about the lower end, and the potential for excess, hypocrisy, or a tendency to indulge in the “do as I say, not as I do” syndrome. But in the end, I decided to go with a trait that all Sagittarians share, and that is their love of Travel. And while a Gemini may prefer shorter trips, the Sagittarius loves to engage in longer-term travel. One of my neighbors is a Sagittarius, and she is always talking about her travel calendar and when and where she’ll be heading to next. Traveling is a constant thread that is woven into her life and work! And of course, with two of the biggest holidays of the year – Thanksgiving followed by Christmas – there are many people traveling all over to visit family and friends for the holidays.

Traveling nowadays is very different compared to when I was growing up. It all seemed a lot easier back then… you could walk through security with most of your clothing and accessories still on, you could take your own sandwiches and water onto the plane, and you didn’t have to put all your toiletries into a Ziploc plastic bag. And even though we were used to the frequent bomb-threats in London and the constant stirrings between England and Northern Ireland since the early seventies, there was not the same talk of Al Qaeda and suicide bombers flying planes into the World Trade Center. Until 9/11 America had no real clue what it was like to have ongoing bomb threats and explosions on your own home turf. I will always remember a cartoon from years ago in an English daily newspaper following a bomb explosion in one of the larger London railway stations (Waterloo, I think it was?) and it was a “Sandwich Board” of a drawing of a couple of survivors who had luckily hidden behind some of those “British Rail sandwiches” – stiff and sturdy enough to shield anyone from anything, apparently!

When we were younger, we did not necessarily travel that much, instead we stayed home and enjoyed our large garden and the surrounding English countryside, but when our parents’ close friends, John & Elizabeth Greenwood, went to live in the South of Spain for a few years, we were lucky enough to go out there and spend a few holidays with them. In fact, my sister just recently had lunch with Elizabeth and they spoke fondly of those years and of the local characters such as the charming Christobal, who would entertain us kids by riding up and down the mountain with all four of us on his scooter – Simon & Joanna (John & Elizabeth’s two children) plus my sister Charlotte & myself – all four of us, hanging on for dear life! On another occasion, he took us to the local marble quarry and we rode in his big old truck that transported the large blocks of stone up and down the mountain. Years after her husband had died, Elizabeth returned to visit where they had once lived but alas, like so many beautiful spots, the tourists had moved in and ruined it all. Now a grey-haired man, Christobal however, had gone on to become a veritable “pillar of the community” and was married with several children and grandchildren. I also went back to the same area when I was 18 and saw similar changes. What had once been a dirt mountain road up to the quaint village of Mijas was now a dual carriageway, and where once the beautiful Mediterranean coast had been full of local markets and restaurants, was now a never-ending row of towering beachfront skyscraper hotels. Now, here’s an interesting little tidbit for you – the small mountain village of Mijas also boasts the only non-circular Bullring in Spain! It is oval, almost rectangular in fact, and, I also just happened to see it on the TV recently being used as a location in an old episode of the British mystery duo “Rosemary & Thyme”!

Here is an old photo of me outside our little holiday villa in Spain with our temporarily “adopted” dog “Cheeka” taken in 1964!

Click here to read the rest of the ChatterLog!

ChatterQuote Holiday 2010

ChatterQuote is a new section inspired by my mother. Every night before going to bed, we would take the big Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, open it to a random page and blindly place our finger on whatever spot felt right – and then we read our “quote of the day” – no matter where our finger had landed. And interestingly, the quotation always seemed pertinent to what was going on at that time. We got a lot of enjoyment out of this little bedtime ritual, so I thought it would be fun to have a quote every month. This month’s quote is also inspired by my father, and ties in nicely to this month’s Travel theme.

As a Chartered Surveyor, our late father was a great lover of maps and in Bill Bryson’s book, “Notes From a Small Island” while walking the Purbeck Hills in Dorset, the author writes, “As a rule, I am not terribly comfortable with any map that doesn’t have a You-Are-Here arrow on it somewhere, but the Ordnance Survey maps are in a league of their own… I am constantly impressed by the richness of detail on the OS 1:25,000 series. They include every wrinkle and divot on the landscape, every barn, milestone, wind pump and tumulus. They distinguish between sand pits and gravel pits, and between power lines strung from pylons and power lines strung from poles. This one even included the stone seat on which I sat now. It astounds me to be able to look at a map and know the square meter where my buttocks are deployed!”

ChatterArtists Holiday 2010

Continuing on with our theme of Sagittarius who loves traveling to far-off places – this month and for the first time, we are featuring travel photographers! Off course, most photographers want to be a travel photographer – who wouldn’t want someone to pay them to travel the world and take pictures?

Jimmy Williams

Starting us off on our travels we have Jimmy Williams, a photographer who has been around for a few years and was an advertising client of mine when I was at the Black Book. Some photographers like Jimmy, may not be known exclusively for their travel work, but often their travel and location imagery has been used for advertising as well as editorial and stock. Jimmy is also a living testament to the fact that you do not have to live in New York or Los Angeles to be successful. Jimmy Williams Productions is a high-class operation based in Raleigh, North Carolina, okay? Not only does Jimmy have standout work, and is clearly a superstar in my mind, he also knows that there’s no “I’ in team. He always has great people around him including Natalie Ogura, his long-time producer!

Tuscany, Italy

© Jimmy Williams

http://www.jwproductions.com/

http://www.jimmywilliamsphotography.com/

Ashok Sinha

From a photographer with many years under his belt, we have a relative “newbie” by comparison, Ashok Sinha, who came to me a couple of years ago for some consulting help when he was just starting out. Back then Ashok was extracting himself from a corporate career, but had smartly put some money aside, and was chomping at the bit to move forwards and make photography his full-time focus! Since then he has been working hard and I have watched his progress – he seems to be one of those guys I see everywhere – except when he is traveling, of course!

Dakar, Senegal

© Ashok Sinha

http://www.ashoksinha.com/

Andrew Holbrooke

Next up we have Andrew Holbrooke, a photographer who has spent a large portion of his career traveling the globe, shooting stock and corporate photography. Andy and I worked together earlier this year on editing down his website in order to create a more commercial presentation that would appeal to multiple markets.

Turkana tribesman herding his camels, Somalia

© Andrew Holbrooke

http://www.andrewholbrooke.com/

North Sullivan

We move now to North Sullivan, a photographer who is based in Australia and represented here in the US by my old friends Watson & Spierman. And with a name like North Sullivan, what else could he do but travel the world and take big, bold, beautiful photographs? The image we selected was one of a series shot for a Quantas Airlines Global advertising campaign.

The Great Wall, China

© North Sullivan

http://www.northpix.com/

Represented by Watson + Spierman Productions, Inc.

http://wswcreative.com/#/North%20Sullivan/Main%20Sullivan/1

Chris Clor

While I was requesting images from Watson & Spierman for North Sullivan, they suggested we might also like to show the work of a more recent addition to their roster, photographer Chris Clor, who splits his time between Detroit and London. Although they may be showing more of his commercial work, he has a beautiful library of environments and breath-taking landscapes. I was very torn between his beautiful images of Scottish castles and the one we did end up choosing of the Pyramid outside the Louvre in Paris, which almost looks appropriately enough like an oil painting!

Louvre Museum, Paris

© Chris Clor

http://www.clorimages.com/

Represented by Watson + Spierman Productions, Inc.

http://wswcreative.com/#/Chris%20Clor/Main%20Clor/1

Erik Almas

And bringing us towards the end of our journey is San Francisco-based Norwegian photographer Erik Almas, who some of you may remember was the subject of one of my ChatterCorner articles for PhotoServe. Back then we talked about his advertising shoot with a live lion for the Ritz-Carlton luxury brand, but Erik, like Jimmy Williams, also has some beautiful landscapes on his website and his “locations” are frequently and prominently featured in his advertising work.

Mendocino, CA

© Erik Almas

http://www.erikalmas.com/

http://www.tidepoolreps.com/

Alamy

And now for something a little different – whether we like it or not clients and ad agencies are still purchasing stock as well as assignment photography. Many Art Buyers have told me that at least 50% of the photography they license is stock, and although it obviously doesn’t pay nearly as well it used to, it’s not going away any time soon. So this month I decided to ask a friend of mine, Alexandra Bortkiewicz, Director of Photography @ Alamy Ltd. http://www.alamy.com/ (Stock Photography Agency) in the UK to pick a few of her favorite travel photographers from their extensive library for us, and this is what she gave us:

Paul Lieberhardthttp://tinyurl.com/2e4fpup

Alex says, “It is sort of more documentary travel but I love the moodiness of the work.”

David Notonhttp://tinyurl.com/32kd5jl or http://www.davidnoton.com/

I read David’s bio on his website and discovered that he was born in the UK, and moved to the US while his father worked on the American space program. He then spent some years in Canada before returning to England where he was a keen member of the Combined Cadet Force, after which he went on to join the Merchant Navy and sail the world. His love of photography, knowledge of navigation, and a keen survival instinct has subsequently produced some wonderful imagery.

Jim Zuckermanhttp://tinyurl.com/3xkuojj or http://www.jimzuckerman.com/

Beautiful, bold & bright!

Matthew Somorjayhttp://tinyurl.com/35ons7p

Alex says, “I love the fine art feel and minimalism to the work – big contrast to say David Noton or Jim Zuckerman.”

ChatterCorner Holiday 2010

David Bergman

© David Bergman

http://www.davidbergman.net/

Check out my latest article for PhotoServe’s Features section on NY-based “action” photographer and video producer David Bergman. And as someone who is constantly traveling, whether he is covering the World Series or shooting backstage with Bon Jovi, he certainly fits this month’s theme perfectly!  Click here to read the full article!

ChatterNews Holiday 2010

Louisa Curtis: How’d They Do That? Adorama TV Interview

Mark Wallace from Adorama TV recently interviewed me for his popular series, “How’d They Do That?” Check out the interview which is now live on their website, along with the rest of the video archive here: http://www.adorama.com/alc/category/AdoramaTV.

Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures in Sicily

I recently received an email from my good friend Margo Pinkerton of Zann Pinkerton Photography with a link to a YouTube Video narrated by Margo entitled, “Tutti Turi Tour” about the self-taught master chef and wine connoisseur Turi Siligato who shares his island of Sicily with us. Check out the beautiful scenery and fun narrative as well as the Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures website and Blog for more information on their wonderful photography travel workshops:  http://www.BCphotoadventures.com/ & http://BCphotoadventures.wordpress.com/. View the YouTube video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gD2XXwWxK3Q !

© 2010 Goodloe Suttler. All Rights Reserved.

Chelsea Brewer – 52 Editions

Every week, 52 Editions presents a new original photograph to be sold, and this coming week the image below, taken by my assistant Chelsea Brewer, will be featured! The limited edition will be on sale at http://www.52editions.com/ for a discounted price and after a week will also be included and available for purchase – full price – in the 52 Editions photography catalog. Way to go, Chels!

“Color Fields” Ventura County, CA

© Chelsea Brewer

http://www.chelseabrewer.com/

Marco Castro – Blogging in Kenya, Africa

Marco Castro is New York City-based photographer who was born and raised in Mexico City. I know Marco through the New York photography community and see him at many ASMP events, in particular. This year he went on a “trip of a lifetime” and spent some time in Africa, in particular, Kenya. He writes extensively on his Blog in both English and Spanish (love that!) and shows us many wonderful photographs of his journey, so it was very hard for us to pick just one, but the image we selected is of the Samburu Tribe as described by Marco on the Blog: “On my birthday night October 15 they performed a dance around the fire pit, also at the center of the village, the dark night embraced all of the participants, making it a very difficult task to get some photographs, they repeated the same ceremony the day after around sunset, to get better shots.”

Samburu Tribe, Kenya

© Marco Castro

http://www.marcocastro.com/

http://www.marcocastrophotography.wordpress.com/

David Larsen – Photography Workshops in Mozambique, Africa

Ironically, while I was preparing this bulletin, I received an email from David Larsen, Managing Director: Africa Media Online – Africans Telling Africa’s Story, and I had no idea how I knew him or how he had my email address, but when I read the email it said, “I was at the launch of the 2010 World Press Photo exhibition at Fortalezza, the old Portuguese fort in Maputo, Mozambique, last night and was involved in a workshop with Mozambiquan photographers from the Associação Moçambicana de Fotografia. Here is a quick post on the trip including a link to my presentation about understanding photographic markets.” And I thought this was so cool and perfectly fitting for us to mention in this particular bulletin so click on the link to check out the Blog post. The image we selected from the Blog is of a group of participants at the workshop in Mozambique.  http://media.blogs.africamediaonline.com/ & http://www.africamediaonline.com/

Participants at a workshop for the 2010 World Press Photo Exhibition

Michael Grecco – Photography Congress in Sao Paulo, Brazil

I receive Los Angeles-based photographer Michael Grecco’s email updates, and last time I ran into him, he had just read a wonderful tribute and remembrance to the late great rock photographer, Jim Marshall at the Lucie Awards. Anyway, in his latest email he mentions a recent trip to South America, “I’ve also just returned from speaking in Sao Paulo at the Brazilian National Photography Congress. There I recorded my impressions of the city and it’s graphic imagery. The images will be featured in Photo Magazine, http://www.photomagazine.com.br/ and are also featured on my blog.”

Sao Paulo, Brazil

© Michael Grecco

http://michaelgrecco.com/michael-grecco-blog/personal/photo-travelogue-brazil/

ASMP – Sharing Success Stories

ASMP is seeking information from members who have successfully leveraged social media to increase their visibility and/or positively impact their photography business.

If you have a success story to share, please respond to Bulletin editor Jill Waterman atwaterman@asmp.org with the following details by Wednesday, December 15. Please include:

– Your name, e-mail address and Web site

– A short summary of your experiences with social media and the resulting impact this has had on your work and/or business

– A link to any related online content, if possible

Esperanza Spalding – Neighbor Nominated for a Grammy!

And here’s an interesting tidbit I received this week from one of my neighbors! Esperanza Spalding is a young talented jazz bassist and singer, born in Portland, Oregon, but when she’s not touring, she now lives here in New York in the very same building as us and, she has just been nominated for a Grammy in the category of “Best New Artist!” Not sure what her chances are as she is up against Canadian sensation Justin Bieber (!) but we feel very “proud” and excited for her and wish her the very best of luck!

http://www.esperanzaspalding.com/cms/

ChatterTip of the Month Holiday 2010

Miscellaneous Travel Tips

© Howard Chaloner

With this month’s theme being Travel, it is probably pretty obvious that our ‘tips’ are going to be associated with the same topic! Even though traveling has indeed changed and security measures may be tighter, there are certain tips that remain timeless, mostly because they simply make sense. Many photographers travel, of course, and over the years, they too become “seasoned” and know exactly what to take, and what to leave out. For them, the worry used to be about whether the x-ray machines would ruin their film or not, but now we are predominantly in a digital world, and instead they just dismantle all of your cameras and lens instead. So here are a few of my own travel tips:

Packing

♦    Take less than you think you need – especially now they charge for your bags!

♦    Consider lightweight fabrics, such as silk, great in both hot & cold climates

♦    Roll your clothes rather than attempting to keep everything folded and flat

♦    Put the heavier items at the bottom of your bag, such as shoes & toiletries

♦    Place small items inside your shoes, and put shoes in a plastic bag

♦    Pack an extra duffel bag in your luggage, and use it as a 2nd bag on your return

♦    Use luggage with wheels, seeing as they make you walk miles to the departure gates!

♦    For ladies, carry a large scarf/shawl/sarong/blanket – no matter the climate

♦    Make sure your luggage is labeled, put a business card on the inside as well

♦    Save time by checking yourself in ahead of time on the airline’s website

Jetlag

♦    Drink plenty of water – at least one glass for every hour of flying time

♦    Check out the Homeopathic remedy “No Jetlag” available at health food stores

♦    When crossing the Atlantic (especially Eastbound) try day flights instead of night

♦    Avoid drinking alcohol and caffeine to lessen the dehydration and eat lightly

♦    Get up, walk about and stretch your legs during the flight

General

♦    Did you know that when using your NYC Metro card you actually have 2 rides for each fare? So take advantage of those free transfers – you can go from bus to subway, subway to bus, or bus to bus, (but not subway to subway, unless it’s a free underground transfer at that station) – and providing it is within a 2-hour time limit. I often use this little trick when I’m running an errand by taking a bus uptown and the subway back downtown, thus only using one fare instead of two!

♦    Check out http://www.hopstop.com/ for cool travel directions in multiple cities

♦    Monitor the ever-changing exchange rates at http://www.xe.com/ucc/

♦    Keep an eye on the weather forecast at http://www.weather.com/

♦    Guide Books such as Lonely Planet, Frommer’s & Fodor’s to help plan your trip

♦    Read traveler reviews for hotels & vacations on http://www.tripadvisor.com/

♦    Bizarre website dedicated to Airline food! http://www.airlinemeals.net/index.php


ChatterRecipe of the Month Holiday 2010

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes are often thought to be the same as yams, but this is not the case. They are two different vegetables from two different families. What we mostly eat in this country (especially in the South!) are “sweet potatoes” – while “yams” are more commonly found in Latin America and the Caribbean. Now interestingly the word “yam” comes from the African words “njam”, “nyami” or “djambi” meaning “to eat!” And ironically, “wild yams” are also used as a natural treatment for menstrual problems, PMS and menopause, either as a supplement or topical creams. Women go through a lot, let’s be honest, I mean it’s not exactly our dream to be rubbing “wild yam cream” all over our breasts, but if it helps reduce the mood swings and monthly emotional roller coasters, then so be it, we’ll do it!

Sweet Potatoes are one of the very best vegetables you can eat – seriously full of fiber and rich in Vitamins A and C. It is beneficial for all sorts of ailments including low blood pressure, stomach ulcers and stabilizing diabetics’ blood sugar levels. They make wonderful “fries” as well as “pies!” Growing up in England we didn’t really eat “sweet” potatoes, so it wasn’t until I came to America that I discovered this marvelous and versatile vegetable. Some years ago I remember my ob/gyn suggested that I should eat baked sweet potatoes when pre-menstrual as an alternative “sweet” snack to cookies & ice cream! So for our holiday bulletin, I found this old Creole recipe in a favorite Reader’s Digest cookery book of mine from the UK, and I thought the ingredients are not only very seasonal and an unexpected combination, but also potentially a lot less disgusting than say sweet potatoes covered with marshmallows!

Sweet Potatoes with Apples

1 lb Sweet Potatoes

1¼ lbs Cooking Apples

3 oz Butter

1 level teaspoon Salt

6 oz Soft Brown Sugar

1 level teaspoon Ground Nutmeg

1 tablespoon Lemon Juice

1/2 cup chopped Pecans (optional)

Peel and thinly slice the Sweet Potatoes, peel, core and thinly slice the Apples. Butter a casserole (or baking dish) and arrange alternate layers of the Sweet Potato and Apple slices, starting and finishing the top layer with Sweet Potatoes. Sprinkle each layer with Salt, Soft Brown Sugar, Ground Nutmeg and Lemon Juice, and dot with the remaining Butter. You can also add in some chopped Pecans right on top! Place the casserole on the lowest shelf of the oven, pre-heated to 400 degrees (mark 6) and bake for 40 minutes or until the Sweet Potatoes are tender. Serve straight from the casserole.

ChatterEvents Holiday 2010

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010 – 10am-7pm

PDN | PhotoPlus Virtual Event

Cost: Free

From the evite:

“Introducing the biggest virtual photo event of the year! This cutting-edge online event will be jam-packed with educational Webinars. Attendees will have opportunities to chat with the industry’s hottest imaging professionals and manufacturers through this unique platform. This is a great forum to learn about new products / services in multimedia and photography, and to gain the marketing tools needed to succeed in today’s environment. Just like a live trade show, during this virtual event you’ll be able to visit exhibitor’s booths and network with other photographers. And best of all, it’s FREE and you don’t have to leave the comfort of your studio.”

For more information and to register, please visit: http://pdnphotography.6connex.com/portal/pdn/login?mcc=WPPI_blog

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010 – 7:30pm

Patrick McMullen & DJ Spooky Present: Slideluck Launch Party, Auction & Fundraiser

@ Sandbox Studio

250 Hudson Street, 11th Floor

New York, NY

Cost: $125 per ticket

For more information and to purchase your ticket please visit: http://network.slideluckpotshow.com/forum/topics/nyc-fundraiser

Friday, December 10th, 2010 – 7-10pm

ASMP New York Holiday Party and New York Cares Coat Drive

@ Westbeth Community Center

57 Bethune Street

New York, NY

Cost: Free for ASMP members only (members are encouraged to bring a coat); $20 for non-members (or bring a coat to donate!)

For more information please visit: http://www.asmpny.org/#hol2010 andhttp://www.newyorkcares.org/volunteer/holiday_volunteering/coat_drive/

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010 – 10am-12:30pm

Seminar: Allegra Wilde + Stella Kramer

@ Calumet

22 West 22nd Street, 2nd Floor

New York, NY

Cost: $175 (payable through Paypal using either email address below); limited to 20 participants

From the evite:

“Join us for a session of hands-on editing of your portfolio, recent project, print-on-demand book, or website gallery. You will get the tools necessary to gain an objective distance from your work, and receive a thoughtful critique from two top photography strategists. Attendees will also participate in collaborative peer reviews and will receive in-session editing guidance from Stella and Allegra on the body of work that you bring with you to the event.”

For more information and to RSVP please email: aw@allegrawilde.com or info@stellakramer.com

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010 – 6:30-9:30pm

ASPP New York Chapter Holiday Party

@ 420 East 85th Street, #1

New York, NY

Cost: Free to ASPP Members; $30 Non-Members in advance, $60 at the door

Please RSVP by Monday, December 13th!

For more information please visit: http://asppny121410.eventbrite.com/?ref=eivte&invite=NTg0MjcxL2NoYXR0ZXJib3hAbnljLnJyLmNvbS8x%0A&utm_source=eb_email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=invite

Travel

Northern Lights in Kiruna, Lapland

Welcome to our “Holiday Chatterbulletin” – Season’s Greetings everyone, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanza, Celebrate Ye Olde Winter Solstice and a Happy New Year and all that – except that December 31st is not really “New Year” – it is simply the end of the “Calendar Year” … what can I say? Think about it, there’s not exactly a lot of “new life” or change that goes on during the Winter months, instead it is the time when nature “shuts down” and everything is resting, sleeping, or hibernating in preparation for the “real” New Year, which is when we reach the Vernal or Spring Equinox. But back to right now, and since our last bulletin, we have moved from the legally oriented sign of Libra into the medically driven sign of Scorpio, and we find ourselves in the “philosophical” sign of Sagittarius. And to illustrate our Holiday-themed bulletin, we figured, who needs a Christmas tree, or a Menorah (Hanukkah is also known as The Festival of Lights, by the way!) when we have the Northern Lights? The Northern Lights or “Aurora Borealis,” are best viewed closer to the arctic territories, due to the longer periods of darkness and the magnetic field. And, the “Polar” opposite and Southern counterpart is known as the “Aurora Australis,” or the Southern Lights, (gee, I wonder what well-known continent is nearby? hint, hint…) God Almighty and the Higher Powers provide us with a Technicolor myriad of mysterious and magical illuminations, far better than any man-made lightshow could ever deliver.

There are a few themes that I could have chosen for this month, and as with all signs of the zodiac there is both a good and a not-so-good side to Sagittarius. I could have talked about the higher realms and their connection to religion and philosophical thinking, or I could have talked about the lower end, and the potential for excess, hypocrisy, or a tendency to indulge in the “do as I say, not as I do” syndrome. But in the end, I decided to go with a trait that all Sagittarians share, and that is their love of Travel. And while a Gemini may prefer shorter trips, the Sagittarius loves to engage in longer-term travel. One of my neighbors is a Sagittarius, and she is always talking about her travel calendar and when and where she’ll be heading to next. Traveling is a constant thread that is woven into her life and work! And of course, with two of the biggest holidays of the year – Thanksgiving followed by Christmas – there are many people traveling all over to visit family and friends for the holidays.

Traveling nowadays is very different compared to when I was growing up. It all seemed a lot easier back then… you could walk through security with most of your clothing and accessories still on, you could take your own sandwiches and water onto the plane, and you didn’t have to put all your toiletries into a Ziploc plastic bag. And even though we were used to the frequent bomb-threats in London and the constant stirrings between England and Northern Ireland since the early seventies, there was not the same talk of Al Qaeda and suicide bombers flying planes into the World Trade Center. Until 9/11 America had no real clue what it was like to have ongoing bomb threats and explosions on your own home turf. I will always remember a cartoon from years ago in an English daily newspaper following a bomb explosion in one of the larger London railway stations (Waterloo, I think it was?) and it was a “Sandwich Board” of a drawing of a couple of survivors who had luckily hidden behind some of those “British Rail sandwiches” – stiff and sturdy enough to shield anyone from anything, apparently!

When we were younger, we did not necessarily travel that much, instead we stayed home and enjoyed our large garden and the surrounding English countryside, but when our parents’ close friends, John & Elizabeth Greenwood, went to live in the South of Spain for a few years, we were lucky enough to go out there and spend a few holidays with them. In fact, my sister just recently had lunch with Elizabeth and they spoke fondly of those years and of the local characters such as the charming Christobal, who would entertain us kids by riding up and down the mountain with all four of us on his scooter – Simon & Joanna (John & Elizabeth’s two children) plus my sister Charlotte & myself – all four of us, hanging on for dear life! On another occasion, he took us to the local marble quarry and we rode in his big old truck that transported the large blocks of stone up and down the mountain. Years after her husband had died, Elizabeth returned to visit where they had once lived but alas, like so many beautiful spots, the tourists had moved in and ruined it all. Now a grey-haired man, Christobal however, had gone on to become a veritable “pillar of the community” and was married with several children and grandchildren. I also went back to the same area when I was 18 and saw similar changes. What had once been a dirt mountain road up to the quaint village of Mijas was now a dual carriageway, and where once the beautiful Mediterranean coast had been full of local markets and restaurants, was now a never-ending row of towering beachfront skyscraper hotels. Now, here’s an interesting little tidbit for you – the small mountain village of Mijas also boasts the only non-circular Bullring in Spain! It is oval, almost rectangular in fact, and, I also just happened to see it on the TV recently being used as a location in an old episode of the British mystery duo “Rosemary & Thyme”!

Here is an old photo of me outside our little holiday villa in Spain with our temporarily “adopted” dog “Chica” taken in 1964!

Those holidays in Spain were great adventures for us because back then, unlike today, you didn’t necessarily go abroad every single summer. Two out of the three times that we did go to the South of Spain, our father decided it would be better to drive all the way there and back, instead of flying and then renting a hire car, which must have been pretty expensive back then! So we drove twice, and the third time, we flew. Driving all the way through France and then down to the south of Spain in 2, maybe 3 days was quite something. First of all we were in an English car, driving on European roads where they drive on the other side of the road. So my father was essentially driving “blind” a lot of the time and relying on whoever was in the front passenger seat to be his eyes for him, in particular when he wanted to overtake some slow-traveling vehicle – which was quite often. He wanted to get us there as quickly as possible so we would have more time on the beach and less on the road. So the person in the front passenger seat definitely had the pressure. It was crazy! If I was in the front seat and said it wasn’t clear for him to overtake, he wouldn’t believe me and still pulled out to overtake anyway – it’s a wonder we didn’t all get killed really. And I also recall my father driving so fast up and down and over those wretched Pyranees mountains that my sister and I both became carsick and kept asking him to stop the car so we could throw up, which must have been infuriating for someone who was in such a hurry to get to his destination!

Another classic family joke from back then was my sister’s inability to understand why hairpin bends are called hairpin bends. Everyone has one of those things that they just cannot grasp – for me it was why the numbers on a camera got bigger when the Aperture size got smaller – made no sense to me. And so it was with my sister and the hairpin bends. And God knows, we drove around and up and down enough of them, and still she didn’t get it. I’m not sure if she gets it to this day, to be honest? (Just kidding!) Ah the joys of those family vacations, eh? I was a little goody two-shoes while my sister was being defiantly adolescent, refusing to wear a hat, and inevitably ending up with sunstroke, at which point she became even more bad-tempered than she already was! I remember after one long day’s drive, we were looking for a hotel for the night, and everywhere was completely full, and we had to take one room for all four of us. So now you have my tired and cranky parents, my sun-stroked sister who was busy throwing a teenage strop and refusing to sleep in the same room as us, (mind you, she had a point) and little old me. In the end the hotel manager found my sister a tiny cupboard-sized room next to the hot water boiler so she baked all night, but at least she got to be on her own!

On another occasion, we were staying in San Sebastian, a lovely old town on the Northwest coast of Spain just across the border from France. It was a beautiful old hotel and as luck would have it, there was an incredible firework display over the water the night we were staying there and we had watched it from our window and tiny balcony. The next morning, our mother decided to proudly practice her Spanish and ordered breakfast for us all in the room. Shortly thereafter, breakfast arrived on a fancy tray covered in crisp white linens, and consisting of fragrant fresh coffee, huge buttery croissants and 4 very large glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice – which in Spain, land of oranges, was always quite naturally delicious (I can taste the tang and the fruitiness in my mouth, even now) – and, as usual, these particular orange juices lived up to their reputation – they were so yummy that I believe my mother even ordered 4 more! Well, they were yummy until my father saw the bill and completely hit the roof! I think they were about $10 each, or certainly something totally outrageous and way beyond our normal breakfast budget! Another hilarious memory from that same hotel occurred shortly after we had arrived while my sister and I were examining the room and all of its fancy décor. We discovered a miscellaneous button on the wall, and being the curious young girls that we were, went ahead and pushed it, but nothing happened. Some minutes later, there was an unexpected knock on the door. Our father, who had just emerged from the bathroom, was so surprised that without stopping to think, rushed and opened up the door only to find a rather alarmed and flustered housemaid staring right at his completely naked body! Ooops!

And here is another photo I found of my sister and I (unfortunately almost all of our older family photos are still packed away in England) but it has to be in Spain, judging by the name of the Hotel, and was perhaps taken in or near Madrid after our father’s car had died on the way back home one year (another reason not to drive all the way through France & Spain and back again!) Anyway, we had broken down in the middle of nowhere and had to be towed for some distance across endless dusty plains to the bustling Capital city of Madrid, which also happened to be in the middle of a heat wave that Summer (even the Spaniards were feeling it!) My sister and I had to ride in the tow truck with the driver, while our parents sat perched at a strange angle in the front seats of the car being towed behind us. Being a couple of “scaredy cats” my sister naturally pulled her “I’m the eldest” card, so I was forced to sit in the middle of the tow truck’s cab, squeezed between my sister and a strange Spaniard who smelled of rusty old metal and motor oil. After the long ride, our adventures in Madrid continued for a few more days before we then flew home. Our father’s car was eventually shipped back and arrived minus all 4 tires and the battery! Maybe that’s why we flew to Spain the next time?

In closing, I wanted to give a mention to Bill Bryson, one of my favorite writers, and who also happens to be a “travel” writer, so it was hardly a surprise when I found out that he is a Sagittarius himself, born on December 8th! If you have never read a Bill Bryson book, then I encourage you to put one on your list to Santa this year. He is brilliantly funny and clever with words, and although many of his books are about his travels, he has also written numerous other titles such as, “A Short History of Nearly Everything” and “The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got That Way” that deal with the topics of science and language respectively. Personally, I still prefer some of his earlier books, including naturally, “Notes From a Small Island” where he, as an outside observer, manages to describe the English people and their peculiarities so perfectly, it has you weeping with laughter. He is one of those laugh-out-loud authors, where all of a sudden, without realizing it, and before you know what you’re doing, you simply explode into a loud burst of laughter… which can be quite embarrassing really, especially if you are in a public place, such as an airport or on a train. His books are ideal to take with you when you are traveling though, because they are so funny and entertaining.  http://www.booksattransworld.co.uk/billbryson/ & http://www.amazon.com/Bill-Bryson/e/B000APXTVM. So whether you are traveling this holiday season or not, stay warm and safe, read a good book and we’ll see you all in 2011!