What’s It All About, Alfie?

So what is this book I’m trying to get out there? Here’s the story:

Back around 2002 I found a small diary in my parents’ house. It was obviously old and the writing inside was in scratchy, dull pencil. When I asked my mom about it, she told me it was the diary kept by my dad’s mom when she went on a six-month Grand Tour of Europe (and the Middle East and Egypt) in 1907-08 with her sister and mother. She rather cavalierly dismissed it, saying all they did was buy lace and go to the American Express office to stock up on more cash.

I knew it couldn’t be that two-dimensional. After all, my grandma was a real fireball in her youth, and she was 27 when she went on this trip. So I took the little book and spent literally months transcribing it. Of course, I discovered this wonderful, vibrant and humorous voice full of wonder and appreciation for all she was experiencing.

In fact, it was so inspiring that I decided that, damn the torpedoes, our family had to retrace this journey. After all, Katie would also be 27 when we went on this trip. Imagine that: exactly one hundred years separating the two journeys! And the thing about the two daughters, and the mother. Of course Richard, my husband, was essential to the trip; while Grandma Ruth had the Thomas Cook travel agency handling all of their affairs, we only had the internet and my husband’s strong back (he liked to refer to himself as the “hod carrier”) to depend on. We told our daughters we would pay their way; their only obligation was to, as I would, keep diaries of their own.

There were only a few major hitches. One was that the euro was at an all-time high ($1.60+), and so this was going to cost us an ungodly amount. Then the big one: while Ruth et. al. spent six leisurely months cruising along their path, we had to squeeze it into five weeks. Five weeks! So when people found out we were going to Florence, they’d say, “Ooo, Florence! How long are you going to stay?” and we’d say, “One day.” Travel itself took up a good chunk of the time, as we found out.

Away We Go! Liz, Richard & Katie

And so the book recounts this mad rush through Europe, Israel and up the Nile during which each individual’s particular obsessions, dislikes, bull-headedness, weaknesses, etc. came into full flower. We had to laugh to keep from crying in abject misery. Actually, the laugh part only came awhile after the misery part. And then there was the three months of family therapy following our return. But it was all good fodder for–a book!

So there you have an abbreviated account of the book’s content. Now I just have to figure out those meta tags.


About Holly J. Pierce

You thought vacationing with small children was hard? Try traveling with your two daughters in their 20's, yet be glad that you have your peace-mongering husband along. Put it all together with your own laser vision of an epic journey and you have the basis for my book. Will I ever see it published? Will those self-published volumes ever move out of the garage? We'll see, won't we.
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2 Responses to What’s It All About, Alfie?

  1. Jill Cooper says:

    Holly, we have no degrees of separation. Your cousin Debby and I are friends in the same book club. You and I both attended Dana Junior High and Arcadia High School. I know that I went over to your house to hang out at least once. I remember being impressed early on with your writing in an English class at Dana. You wrote about horses, as I recall, in wonderful short phrases, but our teacher dinged you for not writing in complete sentences. It was so petty and unfair! I was a teacher of energetic first graders (just retired in June) and like to think that I was a lot more encouraging and positive. I’m very interested in reading your blog and I’d love to read your book, too. Did you ever read “Our Hearts Were Young and Gay”? (I’m sure that no one reads it anymore!) Your grandmother’s diary sounds like a similar story. Anyway, I wish you very good luck.

  2. You remember that piece about the horses?? I do, too. In fact, it was supposed to be inspired by the third movement of Beethoven’s Fifth. Remember that whoever our teacher was played the music while we wrote? And I recall being unhappy about the teacher invalidating my piece for using phrases. Bad on her.

    Haven’t read “Our Hearts Were Young and Gay,” but will try to find it in the library. It really was so different a century ago. It would be fascinating to see if they were similar in tone and content.

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