Friday, 17 July 2015

At Last!

Hello, after a long absence, I’m finally putting up a new blog.  I know, it’s been two years, but what is Ho Hum for you, is brain surgery for me !!

I’ve been doing a series of live radio talks on Siren FM Midweek Drive for about 3 years.  They’re a diverse collection of my thoughts & opinions on a wide-range of topics, everything from the lunacy of driverless cars, to an overview of the rides and rescues I’ve endured in pursuit of my career, and of course, my passion for the animals.   An example of these talks is included in this post - the extraordinary seven-year relationship I had with Wanda, a black bear & her cubs, on our Hudson Valley property.

I’m in the process of compiling a book of a dozen or so of these rambles titled “Airwaves”, and would appreciate your thoughts & comments on this “Letter From the Other Coast” & the two others I’ll be posting in the coming weeks.  When published, a percentage of every sale will be donated to the Born Free Foundation

If you haven’t tuned in to Siren FM, you’re missing a unique mix of music & intelligent thought-provoking conversation delivered fresh to your mind each Wed. by host Alex Lewzcuk,  compere extraordinaire.  You can hear this drive-time treasure live Wednesdays on starting at 5pm UK time, or download at


Once again it’s that time for my annual promotional sale of autographed & personally inscribed photos from my photo gallery page.  Purchase any two and receive a third free of charge !  This sale will expire on 15th Sept. 2015, so please don’t hesitate to take advantage of the savings now for either your collection or for gifts.  Click here for more information.

Letter From the Other Coast April 29th.2015

Lost in Translation”

It’s rare that a book comes into my life and unexpectedly is not only a wonderful read but offers a solution to a problem that I was unaware existed.

“H is for Hawk” is just such a book, and I’ll be eternally grateful to its British author, Helen MacDonald, for the illumination.

Those of you who have heard me on this show rattling-on about animals and the rights we don’t allow them to have, or followed me on Facebook know that I’m batty for all creatures great & small.  “H is for Hawk” is right up my alley.  It chronicles the devastation the author experienced at the sudden loss of her father, and how she decided to fill this void by acquiring and training a young wild goshawk.  Those who would dismiss this as just another example of an animal lover’s need to humanize a wild creature, you’d be not only wrong but denying  yourself a unique insight into the ability of an animal from the wild and a human to create an intimate common dimension.

But before we go any further, let me state unequivocably that I can never condone the taking of a wild creature to satisfy a human need, and in the process invading and altering its nature.  Whether it’s a zoo or Helen MacDonald it’s wrong & can never be made right.  That said, it’s the only negative I have to a book so filled with fine writing and deep insights into the human and animal natures.

Like Helen MacDonald I, too, once had just such a relationship.  Not with a hawk but with a female black bear I named Wanda.  And therein lies the intersection of how MacDonald’s Mabel and my Wanda provided the answer to a question I was unaware needed asking.

It’s almost a year now since I’ve moved three cats and a husband from a mountain-top in New York’s Hudson Valley to a home in sun-drenched Southern California.  Every day, as I take-in the miles of white sand beaches and temperate climate, I count myself blessed – especially when friends back in New York tell me they’ve just come through the most brutal winter imaginable.

And yet….and yet.  In the past month or so, I’ve had a vague but growing feeling that something’s not quite right, a bit unbalanced and drifting off course.  But on what course was I off and what balance had I misweighed?

My thoughts kept turning to Mabel and Helen MacDonald’s attempts to modify the hawk’s instinct to hunt & kill prey with a necessary set of commands that would impose order on a creature who is purely a killing machine.  The hawk was built for speeds swift and sure as a sniper’s bullet.  Once Mabel locks onto a target there’s no need for the fat lady to sing.

And then, on one of my early walks on the beach it hit me.  The problem that I’d been avoiding and hard on the heels of this came the solution.  What was missing in this California paradise of mine was Wanda and the indelible bond that had joined this being from the wild to a woman who had spent her life playing by the rules of civilization.

I met Wanda while attempting to carve a hillside garden out of what should have been a geologist’s playground.  The slope was more ice-age rocks than soil.  I was deep in consternation about a particular rock that remained stubbornly embedded no matter how hard I applied the crowbar, when suddenly I was aware of a presence above me.  I glanced up – and there, resting on a huge, flat-topped boulder not ten feet away, was a black bear looking down at me with large, liquid brown eyes.

If this situation had been in one of the TV scripts in which I played the damsel in distress, I’d have gasped in shock and then let out a shriek that would’ve catapulted Simon Templar to my rescue.

But that didn’t happen.  To my astonishment I was completely calm, and as our eyes locked, I had the inescapable feeling that, as Claude Rains told Humphrey Bogart in “Casablanca” …”This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.”

And indeed it was just that – a beautiful friendship.  For seven years I had Wanda in my life and, as Issac Dinesen wrote in “Out of Africa”, “If I know a song of Africa, what song does Africa sing of me?”  I’d like to think that Wanda had a “song” for me.

But before you start rolling your eyes, let me assure you that this was no ordinary hen party.  Wanda would suddenly emerge from the woods surrounding the house and take up her place on the huge boulder, whether or not I was working in that part of the garden.   She seemed to sense from the very start of this ritual that even if I was nowhere in sight, I’d spot her and take up my position below her.  Our time together progressed from my making “small talk” – cooing phrases such as “Hello Wanda, what a beautiful girl you are” and she uttering low grunts at what seemed to me appropriate moments in the conversation, to longer and longer silences, where we just “were.”  Other times I would relate the doings of my life, daily and intimate.  She “listened,” her head & ears canting now & then, as if processing my words .   I wasn’t under any illusion that Wanda had suddenly become conversant in the English language – but I had the inescapable sense that she & I were on the same wave length.  Indefinable & unmeasurable.

Let me be clear that Wanda was not my pet but her own being as I was mine.  Where Helen MacDonald, in order to train Mabel to return to her after a hunt, was forced to invade and alter the hawk’s instinct and behavior, Wanda and I never interfered with each others innate character.  Not once in our seven years did I touch her, nor she, like a domesticated cat or dog, show affection – if indeed she possessed such an emotion – by rubbing against me.  Where we met was in a unique “space,”34 one in which I had a transforming peace and tranquility.

That first year our meetings went on until October and then Wanda was gone through the winter – denned-up somewhere in the forest.

When she reappeared in the spring, she was trailed by four black fur balls – her babies born over the winter and soon to become  a precious part of my daily life.  I had become an “aunt” and as Wanda proudly displayed her new brood, I listened to their squeals And barks as Wanda answered with what sounded to me as a new and quite complicated language of grunts and rumbles obviously directed toward their discipline and survival. Of course, her dialogue was also accompanied now & then by cuffs of her huge paws that would send the cubs sprawling whenever reason didn’t prevail.  Tell me that all mothers don’t have the same problems!

Listening to Wanda & the cubs exchanging their vocal gives & takes, it struck me that the sounds they were making weren’t all that different from the harmonies & tempos of the 60’s Doo Wop music.  And so, in a madcap moment I named this woodland version of the Jersey Boys, “Wanda & the Gumdrops.”

Over the next year and a half I watched Wanda train her cubs into self-sufficient youngsters, devoting the endless hours it takes to give them, like our human children, the skills and self-confidence needed to keep them out of harms’ way in a world filled with waiting pitfalls.

During this time, an extraordinary event took place – one that indelibly proved that Wanda considered me “valuable” to her.

Every now & then, Wanda and the cubs would be accompanied by another female who looked to be about Wanda’s age.  From her take-charge attitude with the cubs, I came to realize that she was most likely Wanda’s sister.   And so, in keeping with Wanda’s musical heritage, I named her Peggy Sue.

From her first appearance, Peggy Sue seemed to accept me only because of Wanda’s confidence with me.  However, she maintained a wary distance, & yet, in dozens of meetings she never evidenced any aggression toward me.  Until she did.  One day, as I walked toward where Wanda & the now adolescent cubs were basking in the sun, Peggy Sue suddenly let out a menacing low growl and slowly moved toward me, her fur bristled in anger.  Before she got any closer Wanda quickly came to her feet and ran toward us.  With a series of sharp grunts, she placed her body sideways between Peggy Sue & me – her eyes riveted on her sister.  Peggy Sue halted, hesitated only momentarily & then quickly moved off into the woods.

There could be no mistaking what Wanda had done and no further comment is necessary.

At the end of our seventh year together, Wanda disappeared from my life.  I have no idea why or what brought about my loss of a dear friend.  Speculation brings no solace.  But she was a deep presence in my life on the mountaintop, a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I know will never be repeated.

What came to me that day on the beach when I realized that what was absent in my new life in California was not the physical presence of Wanda, but the fact that I have no “other” such friend here, & never will.  Wanda will be in my heart forever – but what I had for those precious six years in the Hudson Valley I now realize cannot and should not be replaced here on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

So, what have I come away with from this unlikely bonding?  Have I a new-found wisdom into both the animal & human condition?  If so, it has so far eluded me.  Perhaps whatever, if anything, will become “usable” in my life needs time to percolate.  But for now, I’m content to find the question far more intriguing than an answer.

In this new life I have the certainty that Wanda is very much a part of this fresh beginning.  No less real than when she & I had our long days together on that hillside garden those many years ago.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

“Attention All Forgers ! I’m Available .”

Lately,  I’ve been getting quite a few enquiries about how I choose a topic for my monthly “Letter From New York” Radio talk on Siren FM.

To cut to the chase, it’s almost always something I’d like to have a conversation about with someone who’s a lot smarter & a lot more knowledgeable than me.

For example, this upcoming talk is called “Attention All Forgers ! I’m Available .”  It springs from a recent meeting with a well-known young artist who informed me that I won’t have arrived as a serious artist to be reckoned with until I’ve attracted my first forger.  Now how can you not want to talk about that over a very dry martini or a steaming cuppa!?

The talk, this Wed. 27th Nov, at approx 6.05 pm UK time covers some interesting history of art frauds, including a 600 yr-old scam that you simply shouldn’t miss.

I hope you’ll join the growing audience for the show hosted by that MC with a smooth gift for snappy patter, Alex Lewzcuk.

Cheers, & as always, please be kind to the animals.  Also, please check in to my FB & Twitter for animal news.  Your help & support is much needed.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

• “Two Rooms with Baked Beans” is the title of my next “Letter from NY” broadcast on Siren FM Radio

It’s a rumination on my grandchildren’s new bedrooms & my hopes & apprehensions for them still years away from having to deal with a world that has increasingly less thought for fairy princesses & pirate race car drivers.
It springs from an essay I read recently written by a very wise & talented writer who shares my admiration for the problem-solving powers of baked beans.
The broadcast is this coming Wed. 30th Oct. at approx. 5.30pm UK time on   or,if that time is inconvenient, you can download it on     Please listen in , I think you’ll enjoy it.  And your feedback is much appreciated.
As always, my “Letter” is one segment of a truly engaging & informative show hosted weekly by that also truly engaging & informative raconteur, Alex Lewzcuk.

As an added incentive for your listenership, here’s the recipe for the baked beans that sparked the essay I read written by Robert Olmstead & handed down by his mother.
1lb. navy beans
Smoked pork or smoked bacon (as a vegetarian, may I suggest that you’ll do a pig & yourself a big favour by substituting any one of the many “smoked” products now on the market made from soy)
½ cup sugar
½ cup molasses
Salt & pepper if wanted.
Soak the beans overnight to soften.  In a heavy pot, cover beans with water, add sugar, molasses & any seasoning.  This goes into the oven at 400 degrees f. (200 C) for about 3 hours.  You may have to add water now & then to make sure the beans are always covered by an inch or so.

I haven’t yet tried Mrs. Olmstead’s take on this classic, so if you make a batch let me know how it turned out !

As always, cheers & please be kind to the animals.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

“TO BE MICROSOFT OR not to be Microsoft? OY! There’s the rub!”

That was the title of my recent “Letter From New York” radio broadcast on Siren FM.

It’s topic was computer security - or the lack of it in my case.

 So, in this first of an occasional posting, I’m reprinting the “Letter” in its entirety, on the blog page of my website, & I’m asking you to respond with comments or your own experiences with the perils of today’s internet & the dragons that lurk in its shadows !!!

“TO BE MICROSOFT OR not to be Microsoft?  OY! There’s the rub!”
A few weeks ago my computer was hacked.  Correction – a few weeks ago I was hacked.  Correction – last one, I promise.  Actually, neither I nor my computer were really hacked.  Confusing?  You’re not alone, & therein lies the tale of this ramble.
First off, when my laptop began slowing down & acting erratically, I called a geek friend of mine & heard the dreaded “you may have been hacked by the sound of it.”  He advised that I get in touch with Microsoft Support & have them run a check.
I typed in & with the speed of summer lightning up comes the website with a comforting list of services including a live talk with a Microsoft tech to talk me through my problem.  In no time a velvety toned young man with a charming Indian accent assured me that help was at hand.
After a few instructions for me to follow to allow him access to my computer, he announced with appropriate gravity that I had indeed been hacked. And not by any run of the mill virus, but by the villainous ‘Trojan Zeus’, & to back up the alarm in his voice, there on the screen in bold letters was the warning “High Risk”.
He explained that the Trojan Zeus was extremely invasive, like a nuclear chain reaction if not eradicated completely & immediately.  Panic stricken I said I’d take it straight to my own technician, but he stressed strongly that it had to be a Microsoft certified technician.  He then asked permission to transfer me to a Microsoft certified tech, one trained to deal with the dreaded “Trojan Zeus”.
Before he did that I asked if there was a charge, & of course there was.  “Only $299 “ he chirped, & it comes with a full year’s guarantee.  “That sounds a bit pricey” I managed & before I could say that I wanted to think it over, he instantly came back with a buoyant “But it’s your lucky day!”  It seemed that his team was running a special promotion that week, & the charge would be only $159.
Somewhere in the recess of my memory remained the echo of a double-glazing saleman’s  slick pitch when he came to my door ages ago, greeting me with “Lady, this is your lucky day!”
Before my day got any luckier I beat a rapid retreat from the velvety Indian gentleman.
What in the world had gotten into Bill Gates, I wondered, when the world’s richest man needed to scam poor little moi?  Had the recession reached even the likes of him?
Only when I brought the laptop into my local repairer did I discover that I, like countless other innocents, had logged onto a bogus Microsoft website configured to replicate the authentic Microsoft site.  And to unmake my day even more, I hadn’t been hacked at all, the repair guy reported – my hard drive was ‘bad’.
I relate this travail not only to alert any and all  who might fall into the same snake pit I did, but also to ruminate on the whole question of security & trust in the world today.
From Great Britain, the country with the most security cameras in the world, to the NSA, America’s super-secret spy agency, we’re under surveillance as never before, & yet, it seems never so vulnerable to having our privacy & secrets hijacked with such ease.
Intruders still breach Buckingham Palace by low-teching it over a fence.  Thousands upon thousands of top- secret secrets have been leaked by Julian Assange & Edward Snowdon from the  NSA’s supposedly unhackable files.  So where does that leave the  likes of us? 
True, the concept of privacy, that eleventh commandment of our parents age, if breached was branded as sinful gossip, has now been deep-sixed by facebook, twitter & dozens of other loudhailer sites.  Today, the “Attention must be paid to me” generation has reaped both the rewards & penalties of the need to go public with everything that once made Rupert Murdoch a billionaire scandal monger.
But even as we willingly give away the skeletons in the closet, we still yammer for more secure ways to stay in touch.
A week or two ago, I read about Apples’ latest entry into the iPhone market & what they’re trumpeting as a revolutionary advance in high-tech security.  Instead of a password to activate the phone, a sensor will read & store your fingerprint.  Because, supposedly, no two humans have the same prints, the phone will be uniquely secure.  Apple says that they are certain that this innovation will go over especially well in China & they’re gearing up for a major marketing blitz in that country.
I don’t mean to put a damper on their dreams, but maybe Apple would be interested in my personal history with fingerprints & China.
Some years ago, when I was being fingerprinted for my American Passport, the FBI employee operating the electronic scanner finally ran out of patience when my prints refused to register after five attempts.  “You & half the Chinese women in the world” he growled as he switched off the machine.  It seems, he explained, that some Caucasian women with slight bone structure & a preponderance of Chinese women’s prints can’t be read by the scanners.  Something to do with our loops & whirls not being deep enough, & nothing to do with racial profiling.   
I don’t know if this is true or not, but if I were in charge of Apple’s upcoming assault to market their new iPhone in China, I’d give the FBI a call, or target their sales to women with a bit of heft.

As mentioned, this reprise of my “Letters” will be a now & then event – but I hope you’ll become a regular listener to the monthly live broadcast, so nimbly & effervescently hosted by Alex Lewczuk.  It’s fun!  Join us! .
The day, date & topic of each “Letter” is posted here & on facebook in advance.

Please join the growing audience & my thanks to all who have contacted me with kind words & suggestions for future topics.  Come on, get some ideas flowing & send them to me.

Be well, be happy and as always, please be kind to the animals.

Cheers, Annette

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Sept. Broadcast

What in the world could my fingerprints have to do with Chinese women?  And when is the official Microsoft website not the official Microsoft website?  Knowing the difference could save you pain worse than teenage acne & keep a bundle of dosh in your jeans!

To learn all this & more tune in this Wed. 25th Sept. at approx. 5.20pm UK time to my live “Letter from NY” broadcast, on Siren FM’s Midweek Drive, hosted by the inimitable Alex Lewczuk.
If you miss the live show you can download the podcast for future listening excitement

Be well, be happy, & as always please be kind to the animals.

Cheers,  Annette

Sunday, 1 September 2013

After Matisse

As I’ve mentioned, I’m a dedicated part-time painter.  From childhood I’ve loved art, first as an avid museum –goer to a progression from pencil sketching, water colours, & now painting in oils.

Although I’m largely self-taught, in the past few years I’ve taken some lessons from a handful of artists I’ve admired, each for different reasons.  All recommended that I copy a couple of paintings by one or two of my favourite artists, the object being to deepen my understanding of their techniques & choice of subject matter.

I’m posting here the first of my copies, a Matisse that I painted about five years ago.  For this I used acrylics on canvas (37"x37")

I’m really interested in your comments, as I’m a firm believer in the concept that no art, from painting to writing, music to acting exists in a vacuum, that all art is meant to be a shared experience.

So, please I look forward to some honest feedback either here or on my facebook page.

Subsequently,  in a short while I would like to post a couple of my original works.

So, in anticipation of hearing from you, all my best wishes, & please be kind to the animals.

Monday, 26 August 2013

My broadcast Aug.


For those of you who like solving puzzles, try this one:  What do President Franklin Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill,  “Big Brother” & “The Sopranos” have in common?

Stumped?  Then, you owe it to yourself & your loved ones to tune in this Wed. 28th August to “My Letter from NY” broadcast live on  at about 5.45 pm UK time .  If you can’t hear it live you can download it a few days later on

And thanks to all who responded to my announcement that I’ll put one of my paintings on to my blog page.  Promise you it’ll be up any day now!

Cheers ! And please be kind to others & the animals.