Thursday, December 28, 2017

Quelle Année - 2017

My brother, among many others of our generation, used to write an annual letter for family and friends, summarizing his year's travels and achievements. The tradition has faded in the onslaught of electronic communications, replaced for some by a photo montage compiled from Facebook posts.

As I sifted through 2017 receipts so the accountants can prepare our French, Swiss and American tax returns, I was reminded of the wonderful people and places we were fortunate to see in the past year.

There were numerous highlights, and I won't attempt to rank them, as they all represent special memories.

Certainly a once in a lifetime event, one we could not have even imagined beforehand, was Donna-Lane's testimony in April before Congress on behalf of the millions of Americans overseas who suffer because of the despicable FATCA law. Here's a link to her video testimony - and, by the way, the lawsuit in which she is a plaintiff against the US government is now going to the Supreme Court: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlASKzZVWdQ&t=56s
L to R: D-L, Doug, Honey, Alicia, Georgia
In March, we were thrilled to introduce my grandson Sawyer and granddaughter Georgia to their great-grandmother (my mother), who is still going strong at 94 years, and my brothers. My daughter Alicia brought the kiddos from Texas to New York, and afterwards we spent a couple days in the Big Apple where the very talented young thespians enjoyed a couple of Broadway shows. Later in the year, I visited Dallas, where Sawyer and Miss G were starring in a production of Elf Jr. Then to Johnson City for Thanksgiving with Honey et al.
 
For her birthday, Donna-Lane got to "meet" one of her historical heroines, Eleanor of Aquitaine, at Abbey Fontvraude. We stayed on the abbey grounds in what was once the leper's building, and went on a late night exploration of a cave with haunting blacklight sculptures.
For the third part of our ongoing honeymoon - visiting the independent principalities of Europe - we stayed at the nicest hotel in Liechtenstein ... after spending the previous night in the kitschy "Bubble" - something like a plastic igloo that provided us spectacular views of the Austrian Alps and the clouds drifting by. And when the WiFi didn't work and we were out of touch with the world for more than a day, we decided that from then on, once a week (Saturdays), we'd go "off grid" - no news, no email, no social media (telephone for emergencies only). It's been pleasantly liberating.
Our newest animal, Scowt (Scottish cow), checks out Edinburgh Castle with Shamrock and Scooby2
We spent a wonderful 30 days in Edinburgh, Scotland, on a house swap, and soaked in the history and culture. The writer's museum (from Sir Walter Scott and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Ian Rankin), a literary walking tour, Stirling Castle (where D-L kneeled on the site where Mary Queen of Scots received her crown), Holyrood where the royals hang out, the classic Dominion Theatre, museums, the botanical gardens, a couple of superb restaurants, haggis, the Oxford Bar, an unexpected dinner with a Facebook friend who we met in person for the first time, a visit from Donna-Lane's daughter, plus her friend from Sweden .... to sum up, we want to go back to see the many things we missed ... for that matter, we would be very happy to live there.
 
I fulfilled one of my lifelong dreams, playing the Old Course at Saint Andrews, the home of golf. As memorable as the round was, being first in the queue for a starting time - arriving in the cold rain at 10 minutes before Midnight to await the doors opening some seven hours later. I also played with ancient hickory-shafted clubs and a gutta percha ball at the Old Musselburgh links. Earlier in the year, I got the first hole-in-one in my 56-year golfing career - in Saint Cyprien, France.

We took in the Paris Airshow, where I was a judge for the Aerospace Media Awards. Also attended conferences in Berlin, Geneva, and Orlando. Helped a small company launch an exciting new product in a big way at the Dubai Airshow.  Marched in Montpellier for women's rights. Took an intensive three-week course in French. Hosted several friends in Argèles sur Mer. Did a pilgrimage to Rennes le Chateau, featured in D-L's Murder in Argeles novel (https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Argeles-Third-Culture-Kid-Mystery/dp/1432825518/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1514489647&sr=8-1&keywords=murder+in+argeles).
Just before Christmas, somewhat to our surprise, though we had talked about it for years now, we added a new member to our family - Sherlock. In less than three weeks, this three-kilo bundle of energy and cuddles has completely changed our lives. Yorkie mother, Griffon / Terrier and who knows what else father, he was too cute not to rescue the moment he licked D-L's face. So a future of middle of the night potty walks and less long-distance travel (though not completely curtailed, as he's small enough to carry on the train or plane).

Some of the best times of the year, of course, have been spent with friends, family, and family of choice ... just sitting at the cafe in the square behind L'Hostalet or other gathering spots, sharing personal news, debating and solving the world's problems, and just ... living.

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