Toward(s) Home

While out yesterday, I was parked briefly in the town center (“centre” as they say here) in Potton. I noticed a banner on the rear of the local public library. It got me thinking, so I snapped a pic of it:

[Potton, England. Photo by me, October 2020.]

We have lived here since early 2019. Before that we had been in Hertfordshire from 2016-2019. Going back before that we were in various places over two decades: Wiltshire, London, and Dorset, to name just three.

I do feel at home here in Potton by now. But I also know that of course I am not a “local.” Indeed I am always aware I am “not of these shores” and never shall be.

The regular moving house has I think left me finding it easier quickly to root myself somewhere. Yet also at times it has left me feeling rather rootless – as if on the outside looking in. It is an odd mixture.

Later I saw that tweet: it is yet another addressing of that complicated subject. My books speak for themselves. (For quick summations of “casts,” see here and here.) To tell my stories, I include fictionalizations of some I have gotten to know over my lifetime:

[An excerpt from Distances: Atlantic Lives, 1996-1997. Paperback. Copyright 2015. Photo by me, 2020.]

Traveling as much as I have since my early twenties, I have come to understand that the wider the variety of those you come to know, the more you do learn – or you should learn. Take for instance those present above on that page: “James” is, essentially, me; “Brad” is a white American (older, at the time) doctor I knew; “Béatrice” is the daughter of a Jewish Algerian mother; “Clémence” is a half-Martinican. Those latter three, and others, are not in my novels to make some point(s) about our world; they are the point.

Also speaking of this complicated world, you also see there a language “mistake” I made – second line, last paragraph… probably because I hear it so often I used it there without realizing it. There are an estimated 250,000 non-military Americans resident in the UK – and I am one of them for twenty years now. I “slipped” there and wrote the British “towards” in that sentence and not the American “toward”; as you see I did not catch that pre-publication, nor did my (British) editor. When I first noticed that “oops” (I believe in 2016) at the time I recall laughing about it and I “bookmarked” it.

An American in Britain, having written there about a France I recall from time there in the 1990s. I worked to try to keep my “narrator” in those books in “American,” yet given there are some “90,000” words in each of them I cannot state with absolute certainty I have not done that sort of a thing elsewhere(s). To write is simply to be human, and so is never to be perfect, and we must never forget that either.

Have a good day, wherever you are. 🙂

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