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Get Out Of Dodge


It's a bit gray here in the East End and I'm sick of it.


Did you know that Mr. Hockey, the hockey pucks, and I lived in London for six years? I can’t be bothered to read my back catalogue, but I don’t remember mentioning it. Mr. Hockey worked for a multinational corporation, and they transferred him a couple times. Prior to London, we lived in Tokyo for six years.

It sounds glamorous to say we lived overseas. It was exciting, but it was also ordinary. We were raising four school-aged pucks. They had the usual birthday parties, violin lessons, and hockey practices, of course. But overseas, these everyday activities took on the characteristics of the country we were in.

For instance, Little League baseball wasn’t a thing in London until a few expat Americans formed their own league for the American kids. The games took place in a park called Wormwood Scrubs, which was next to a prison of the same name, run by Her Majesty’s Prison Service.

One notorious former prisoner was the poet, Lord Alfred Douglas. He was imprisoned for libeling Winston Churchill. His father was the 9th Marquess of Queensbury, the namesake of boxing’s “Queensbury Rules”. And Lord Douglas was Oscar Wilde’s lover.

Have I British name-dropped enough?

Most weekends at the Scrubs were miserable and rainy, but on the only sunny Saturday we were allowed per year, we parents sipped Pimm’s with chopped cucumbers and strawberries while we watched our kids run the bases. It was all very English.

When I was parenting overseas, I always felt like Ginger Rogers. We did the same things that families did in America, except it felt like we did them backwards and in heels. Too bad I’m a klutz in heels.

I wasn’t planning to write about Oscar Wilde, Ginger Roger, or Her Majesty’s Prison Service. This column is supposed to be about dreary Januarys, and more specifically, the need to get out of the gray.

I’ve heard that the Brits book more vacations on the third Monday in January than any other day of the year. I’m not surprised. The holidays are over. The weather is gloomy. They’re back in their daily routines. By the third week of January, Londoners think they’ll never see the sun again.

They’re right – except for that one sunny Saturday permitted per year.

In a fit of cloudy-sky madness the Brits say, “I’m getting out of Dodge,” and log onto Expedia.

Wait – “Get out of Dodge” is too American. It’s probably, “I must away,” or something similarly Jane Austen-y.

It happened to me. After a downcast day when the streetlights came on at 3 pm, I looked maniacally at my computer and booked a cheap and cheerful trip to Morocco for the pucks’ spring break. My father was living with us at the time, so we brought him too.

We stayed at an alleged resort outside of Marrakesh. When you book cheap and cheerful in Morocco, “resort” is a tenuous word. The alleged resort lost power several times during our stay. The pool towels were damp even when they had just come out of the dryer.

And we were next to a Moroccan dinner experience, which featured desert horseback riding skills set to loud music. The finale of each performance was the Darth Vader theme from Star Wars.

There were a couple nights when the dinner experience had power and our alleged resort didn’t. We used flashlights to return to our rooms to the tune of “Dun, dun, dun, dun ta dun, dun ta dun.”

One evening we went into Marrakesh to have dinner and see some belly dancing.

I’m going to pause here to say I’m a feminist and I believe that belly dancing can be an expression of a woman’s empowerment and bodily autonomy.

However, as she jangled on our tabletop between our tajines, I didn’t feel like I was witnessing female empowerment. I felt like I was watching steamy erotica with our preteen and teenaged hockey pucks, Mr. Hockey, and my 82-year-old recently widowed father. This was not the wholesome variety of feminism I had imagined.

During the car ride back, we each complained how we were traumatized for life by this family experience. Except for my father. He only grinned and added, “I liked it!”

I’m glad the January doldrums drove me to log onto Expedia to book cheap and cheerful. Our family had fun and our therapists have thanked us for the hours of material.

Weatherwise, living in the Hamptons during the winter is far better than living in London. I can’t be bothered to check any statistics, but it sure seems like there are more sunny days than not. And holy moly, our 4 pm beach sunsets are spectacular!

The beach sunrises are probably good too. I wouldn’t know – I’m not awake at 7 am.

So, here we are in the third week of January. The holidays are over. It’s just me and Mr. Hockey at home. There have been a few grim days where the view from my writing garret window has looked inhospitable.

Have I succumbed to the winter-induced siren call of Expedia and the lure of cheap and cheerful? Let’s just say we have a couple trips planned.

Sometimes, you need to get out of Dodge.

Or as the 9th Marquess of Queensbury, Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill, Jane Austen, poor Lord Douglas, and the folks at Her Majesty’s Prison Service would have said, “We must away.”


Published in The East Hampton Press on January 19, 2023

Photo by Me!

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Tracy, I so thoroughly enjoy your Holiday letter every year and I finally went onto your website. I love this article about Wormwood Scrubs - I believe you taunted my son Stephen who was a paid to be an umpire at those awful baseball games. " I don't want to have to throw you out Mrs. Grathwohl ".... because you were asking for more strikes to be called to end those games sooner. I miss out days in London.... and I promise to go back and read more of your articles. Colleen Bowman

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