General

The Stuff Of Novels

A new week. The last one you may recall was not easy. Let’s attempt to get back to what passes for normal on here.😁

Yesterday, we unpackaged the new walking sticks to give them a tryout. They are German…

[Photo by me, 2018.]

…and are super-aerodynamically engineered to the micro-degree…

[Photo by me, 2018.]

…so, of course, they are German.😂

With them, off we went for a long walk in the nearby Hertfordshire (about an hour or so north of London) countryside:

[Photo by me, 2018.]

It was a beautiful day. We crossed fields and streams and made our way through woods:

[Photo by me, 2018.]

Eventually, we reached our goal:

[Photo by me, 2018.]

Yep, it was the Brocket Arms pub in Ayot Saint Lawrence. We’ve been here a bunch of times. The last time was in June. (The wifi even remembered us: I don’t know that I’m happy about a pub’s wifi remembering me.😂)

It is not far from George Bernard Shaw’s house. Less well-known, more recently, novelist/biographer Carola Oman (1897-1978) – who is most famous for her Admiral Nelson biography; I have a first edition of her award-winning 1953 Sir John Moore biography, which I found in a secondhand bookshop in the Isles of Scilly (pronounced “silly”) in 2005 – also lived in the village.

[Photo by me, 2018.]

So authors were on my mind at times as we rambled there. As I have been recently, I thought also about my mother and my uncle. I ended up remembering this.

Let me tell you a story about this chapter in Passports. It unfolded in real-life pretty much as I recount it in the novel. In Paris, in the mid-1990s, at my uncle’s request I dropped in with my then girlfriend on his French publisher:

[Excerpt from Passports. On Kindle for iPad/iPhone. Click to expand.]

When I had beforehand told my mother what my uncle had asked me to do, she huffed and derided him much as usual. My mother never quite “approved” of him being an author and regularly took potshots at him about it. (I recall her really pummeling him once over the phone after she had read a biographical piece he’d written about my late grandfather for some anthology about Italian-Americans: “You make Dad sound like a communist,” she went at him. “He was an FDR liberal, you moron. You didn’t know him at all.”) I had also felt that underneath it all my mother was also never entirely comfortable with how “close” I had independently become starting in my early twenties with her older brother – whose personal life was, frankly, a mess.

My mother also never saw what I saw at that publisher. “Isabelle” and I had literally walked in off the street one morning, and as we introduced ourselves to the young woman receptionist (who spoke better English than I did) I could not help but notice several of my uncle’s French-translated books on prominent display. Next to them was a framed promotional poster that included my uncle’s smiling face – and he looked downright dashing. It felt surreal, as if I had stepped into some alternate universe: here my uncle was greatly admired.

Naturally, I was wowed. When a handsome (and I then thought “middle-aged”; but thinking back from now, he was probably about as old as I am now) and smiling Frenchman appeared behind the receptionist after she had rung him in his private office, I did not know how to react and I was a bit embarrassed. It didn’t matter: my uncle had told me how I would be received and he had not misled me. You would have thought I was someone actually important! We sat with “François” for about half an hour, had a wonderful chat (that was inadvertently personally revealing about my uncle), and he gave me a couple of desk copies of my uncle’s books (in French).

“François” is no longer there, but that publisher still exists. (I’d had a peek not too long ago at its web site.) In writing Passports, I could not resist including that happening and built an entire chapter around it. Thus, yet again, life as the stuff of novels.

As we took that walking break at the Brocket Arms before turning around and heading home…

[Photo by me, 2018.]

…and with all of that – about my uncle, my mother, authors, Paris, publishing, and Passports – bouncing around in my head as I drank my Guinness, I realized I had a blog post subject for this morning!😀

Have a good Monday, wherever you are.🇬🇧 🙂