Welcome to my blog, “Back in Boston,” in which I try to explain Boston, Massachusetts, which is steeped in history and liberalism, where people say “wicked pissah” when they mean they really like something and drive like absolute maniacs, where John F. Kennedy got his start, and Elizabeth Warren is our Senator. I also write some stuff about my three kids, which you can skip unless you’re also a parent, in which case you might want to read it for a laugh.

Hello, Readers, I started a blog in 2010 when I and my two daughters moved from Boston, Massachusetts, to Cambridge, England.  For me it was a homecoming, since I am originally English, despite many years in the US.

We had a wonderful year, with my girls in Cambridge schools, which I documented in The Year of Living Englishly.  We returned to Boston because my older daughter wanted to attend a US college, but every summer since then we have returned to Cambridge and my parents’ village in the Peak District of Derbyshire.

This second blog is about what it’s like to live in Boston–and in the US–under Presidents Obama and Trump (I can’t believe that I actually wrote this last word).

To read about our time living in the UK and the many differences between the US and the UK, famously described by George Bernard Shaw as “two countries separated by the same language,” please go to The Year of Living Englishly.  See you there, and thanks for reading Back in Boston.

“This is what Democracy looks like!”

IMG_8814 (1).jpg

Friday, the day of the U.S. Presidential Inauguration, belonged to Donald Trump, but Saturday was for the 65,844,954 Americans who voted for Hillary Clinton–and the millions of people around the world who fear the upcoming reign of Donald Trump as the most powerful person in the world.

Women and their supporters marched in Washington, Congo, Berlin, New York, Peru, Mexico City, London, Chicago, Belarus, Sydney, Boston–a total of 673 cities and towns around the world. I haven’t marched in a major protest for years, but when I heard about the Boston Women’s March, I knew I would be part of it.

Throughout Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Quincy, Arlington, wherever there was a train station, people flooded onto the “T,” heading for Boston Common.  Dating from 1634, this is the oldest city park in the United States.  It was  used for public hangings until 1817, and is where the British camped in 1775 before leaving to battle the colonials in  Lexington and Concord, which signaled the start of the American Revolution.

The trains were absolutely packed, with everyone clutching onto whatever they could to stay upright.  img_8803

As we reached Boston Common, a sea of pink Pussy Hats brightened a leaden sky:img_8811

And then we started to peruse the signs.  img_8834




And my favorite:  img_8838

We listened to speeches from Massachusetts notables, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, Attorney General, Maura Healey, and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.  When the march began, we stood in place for another hour as we waited for the bottleneck of people to clear.  The organizers apologized:  they were expecting 25,000 people, but at that point it was clear there were many more, with the final tally at 175,000.

After the march, many of us sojourned to the Public Garden,  one of the most beautiful city parks in America:


At the “Make Way for Ducklings” statues, Mother Duck and her ducklings were adorned with Pussy Hats:img_8868

There were children of all ages, from babies to teeenagers:img_8884

At Arlington Street, bubbles cascaded from the Arlington Church, protesters called out, “This is what Democracy looks like,” and bells rang out “We Shall Overcome” and “God Bless America.”IMG_8892.jpgIt is estimated that over 5,000,000 people around the world marched, providing a powerful message about how they want Democracy to prevail in the most powerful nation on earth.

This beautiful song was sung at the Women’s March in Washington.  I haven’t heard anything this gorgeously rendered in a long, long time.  Have a listen:

Women’s March song, “I Can’t Keep Quiet.”

Disaster in the United States

Screen Shot 2017-01-20 at 3.55.19 PM.jpg

Half of the US is in mourning, grief-stricken, and in complete shock.  This country’s leadership is changing, and not in a “great” way.  We’re replacing the kind, decent, intelligent, thoughtful President Obama with a thin-skinned, bellicose, combustible, narcissistic, scandal-ridden, failed businessman and abuser of women and minorities.

I hadn’t planned to watch the Inauguration.  Why rub my nose in it?  Why make this national nightmare even more real?  But my college-age older daughter who worked for Elizabeth Warren this summer turned on the TV, and it’s like a bad traffic accident:  impossible to turn away from.

The cameras are scanning the crowds, and I say, “Let’s see how long it takes to see a black or brown face in the crowd.”  Time passes;  we’re still looking.

This is an election that Hillary Clinton should have won.  And indeed, she did win the popular vote, with almost 3,000,000 more votes than Trump.  But thanks to the Electoral College, where the vote of a person in Nebraska has three times the value as a vote of a New Englander or Californian, the Democrats have lost this election, as they lost the election when Democrat Al Gore ran against Republican George Bush in 2000.  That election was decided by one Supreme Court Justice.  Just think how far ahead we would be now in combating climate change if Gore had won.

Screen Shot 2017-01-20 at 3.49.50 PM.jpg

There are many theories about why Hillary didn’t win.

Putin and his Russian hackers are certainly the most culpable.  They hacked the emails of the Democratic National Committee and of John Podesta, the Chairman of Hillary Clinton’s election campaign, and provided them to Wikileaks, which did as it name suggested:  leaked them.

If the Russians, and Julian Assange of Wikileaks, had done this also to the Republicans, then all would be fair in war and politics.  But they didn’t:  they targeted only Hillary.

But then Trump had never pissed off Putin, as Hillary had done when she was Secretary of State and warned us never to trust this former KGB agent.  Trump, on the other hand, said on July 31, 2015, “I think I’d get along very well with Vladimir Putin. I just think so.”

The Director of the FBI, James Comey, is also culpable.  He not only opened an investigation into Hillary’s emails, which he closed down with a determination of no criminality, and then, in a completely incomprehensible and unprecedented action eleven days before the Election, opened it up again.  Although he closed down  this second investigation before the Election, the harm had been done.

Lies spewed by Trump, his organization, and the Alt-Right, which includes members of the American Nazi Party and the Ku Klux Klan, harmed Hillary Clinton.  Even the totally demented rumor that Hillary ran a child sex abuse ring out of the basement of a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor was believed–as seen when a man, a father and former firefighter, drove from North Carolina to show up at the restaurant, fully armed, to free the (nonexistent) abused children.

There was also the anger of some white working class males that has been bubbling under the surface, and which exploded in a torrent of votes for Trump.  They didn’t seem to realize that the shutting down of coal mines wasn’t primarily due to the Democrats, but rather to better alternative technologies and a massive drop in gas and oil prices.  Nor did they understand that the closing of factories throughout America was not solely because of free trade agreements done by the Democrats, but rather due to the actions of Trump and his wealthy corporate cohorts who moved jobs overseas, throwing American factory workers out of work.

I believe that Hillary Clinton would have been an extraordinary president, in many ways as excellent as Obama, but with a greater ability to achieve bipartisan compromise and move us forward in this most perilous time in human history.

It began to rain as soon as Trump started speaking.  My mother walked out of the room, my daughter and I stayed to the end.  I haven’t sworn this much since the Election results came through on the evening of November 8th.

The only cheering thing is this comparison photo from by Vox, showing  that the crowds at the Trump Inaugural were nothing like those at Obama’s:

Screen Shot 2017-01-20 at 3.46.33 PM.jpg

Farewell, Barack and Michelle Obama!  You have done America proud.

Screen Shot 2017-01-20 at 1.05.09 PM (1).jpg

Just wait until tomorrow’s marches in Washington, New York, Chicago, LA, San Francisco, Boston, and cities and towns across America.  The other side of America will be heard.

The Cape Cod seaside


, , ,

New England has gorgeous beaches, with long stretches of white sand, as here on Cape Cod and elsewhere, and also intricate, rocky coastlines, which are found mostly in Maine, whose 3,478 miles of coastline is longer than California’s.

New England beaches aren’t known for their gorgeously varied, multi-colored shells in the way the Florida and Gulf Coast beaches are, but if you look closely, you can come to appreciate the mussel, clam, oyster, whelk, scallop, slipper, quahog, and jingle shells that predominate here on the upper East Coast of the U.S.

Yesterday, on a beach at the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, I noticed how subtly beautiful the shells, rocks, and seaweed were as they rode together on the waves of high tide.


Almost reminiscent of a Tree of Life.


Seaweed at sunset.


Slipper shells piled on top of other slipper shells in a Yertle-the-Turtle pile.

A shell serving as an incubator for tiny shells.

A shell serving as an incubator for tiny shells.




The rocks can also be gorgeous, especially if contrasting seaweed is attached!

IMG_6162 (1)

A riot of colors.

Night comes to the beaches of Cape Cod.

Night comes to the beaches of Cape Cod.

The beautiful city of Cambridge, England

Cambridge is one of the most historic and beautiful cities in the world.  Here’s what I’ve seen in the past two days:

King's Parade, with the facade of King's College

King’s Parade, with the facade of King’s College

Clare College on the left, King's College Cathedral on the right.

Clare College on the left, King’s College Chapel on the right.

Flowers in the Clare gardens

Flowers in the Clare gardens

Clare College

Clare College

Gargoyle over a College gate.

Gargoyle over a College gate.

Cambridge humo(u)r.

Cambridge humo(u)r, literally, at Indigo Cafe.

A gate at Clare.

A gate beside the River Cam.

Brilliant scientists and mathematicians.

Brilliant scientists and mathematicians.

And of course, punts!

And of course, punts!

How to feed an orphan kitten by hand



We found the kitten in wet grass late Friday afternoon, with its umbilical cord attached and its eyes still shut.

We named her Shadow, in honor of our black cat who died several months ago, and have been feeding her by hand since then, every three hours, through day and night.

It’s not an easy process, because a big, hairless person wielding a plastic nipple filled with a mix of water and a white powder almost certainly feels nothing like her furry mother providing her own nice warm milk.

Why are you shoving this horrible thing into my mouth?

Why are you shoving this horrible thing into my mouth?

Shadow often turns her head away from the nipple, so some cunning is required.

I squeeze a little drop of milk out of the nipple somewhere in the direction of her always-turning, often shut, mouth, and hope she is inspired to try for more.  If she opens her mouth to mew, I gently put the nipple into her mouth.  Sometimes she sucks, mostly she doesn’t, so I do this thing where I try to squirt small amounts of milk into her mouth which she might or might not swallow.  She always ends up with a lot of milk around her mouth.eyes open

But by keeping at it, we’re getting about 5 mils of milk down her every three hours, and she seems to be doing okay.

My 13yo has perfected the technique.  Click on this link to see her feeding little Shadow:

Feeding our young kitten by hand


Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 12.20.09 PM


An orphaned kitten comes into our lives

IMG_4248At 4:40 p.m. on Friday, my 13-year-old bellows for me.  She and her younger cousin have found a kitten lying in the wet grass; can I help?

There is no mother cat around, and it looks abandoned.  Its eyes aren’t yet open, and it still has its umbilical cord.  It’s extremely young, born perhaps just a day or a couple of days ago.

There’s a clear rule on farms around here:  kittens, if found with their eyes not yet opened, can be put in a sack and drowned.  Once the eyes are open, they are safe.  When I was a child on my grandparents’ farm, I helped save quite a few kittens and puppies by keeping my mouth shut as to their location.

The kitten is sodden, and cold.  I get a cardboard box out of the back of the car, my 13 yo gets a flannel shirt for the bottom of the box, and we turn on an electric heater that we’ve been using because it’s been in the 50s and 60s here.  As of now, summer hasn’t yet come to England.  We station the box next to the heater.

Version 2

In the past seventeen years, my family has had three cats, Lucy, Tess, and Shadow.  We found Shadow during an Easter weekend in Indiana on our front steps;  we believe that someone, seeing my young children and her three cousins, thought our house would be a good place to leave a six-month-old kitten.  We flew her home with us to Boston, where she had seventeen very happy and active years of life.

Our two youngest cats, Lucy and Tess, were orphaned, feral sisters, who were found by Suzanne, an acquaintance of mine.  Lucy was on a sidewalk, and Tess nearby under a porch.  Suzanne took them home and fed them milk with a dropper for two weeks, every three hours, and then advertised them.  We responded immediately, and they came into our lives.

To our great sadness, Lucy dashed out of our house during a thunderstorm  in 2012.  Six weeks later she appeared at a vets, brought in by a strange woman.  The vet informed the woman that Lucy had a microchip and told her to leave her so they could return Lucy to us.  Instead, the woman left with Lucy, and stated in an affidavit, after a private investigator we hired finally found her, that she dumped Lucy out on the street outside her house when she returned home.  Lucy has never been seen since, and Shadow died two months ago.

There’s no way we’re not going to look after this kitten.

I dashed off to a pharmacy in a nearby village, and the women in the shop kindly looked out a dropper for me.  She gave me an extra one free, and asked me to tell her “how you get on with the kitten.”   For the first night, we fed the kitten with the dropper, using a mixture of half milk, half water.

The next morning, I went to a vets’ office.  The woman at the desk said that if this kitten hadn’t already received several feedings of colostrum from her mother, almost certainly she will die.  If she had, the chances were 50/50.  The big danger is infection, so everything must be kept sterile.  I bought powdered milk, a vial for feeding her, and three kitten-sized nipples, and began boiling and sterilizing.

And so my daughter and I have been feeding her every three hours, with my daughter taking the night shift, thank God.  I’m too old for this waking up every three hours, it reminds me of the 5 1/2 months I spent looking after my first-born child who had colic, when I averaged two hours of sleep a day. I have no wish to repeat that experience in any way, shape, or form.

But I have to say that my maternal instincts are kicking in big-time, and I want to give this little kitten the best shot possible at life.

That evening, after a rainstorm, there was the best double rainbow I’ve ever seen.


This is apropos of nothing, but it was absolutely breathtaking.