Today’s Advice Column

As you probably know, I write fiction set in the late 20th century and – soon to come, hopefully – the late 18th century. I think I can do so in part because I feel I’ve gleaned a few basic insights over the years about people and relationships. We all do learn more as we mature further simply because we have usually come to experience more over time.

Social media also allows us, of course, to share our own unpleasant life moments – such as this one I saw on Instagram last night:

Screen capture of Instagram.
Screen capture of Instagram.

And social media also makes it possible for us to offer a little advice and even some (hopefully) reassuring words. Which is what I am about to try to do. Here is some insider information from an “old” married guy, which may prove useful for you as a woman.

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Rural England

England is a compact country of cities, towns, villages, and rural areas that often come up right against each other – little “middle ground” between them. While driving, one minute you may find you’re in a town, and suddenly you are through it and in countryside. The change between urban and rural (and vice-versa) is sometimes startlingly abrupt.

“Endless” suburban subdivisions as one sees in parts of the U.S. are virtually non-existent here. Very few homes have American-sized backyards. People live much closer together, which is probably why they prize their boundary hedges, fences, and generally try to respect each other’s privacy.

One also tends to forget England can be hilly, and with that height sometimes you get a broad view you don’t expect. It sometimes could almost be a painting. For example, here’s our Hertfordshire village from a mile or so away, spread out below:

Our Hertfordshire village, seen from a distance back in August. [Photo by me, 2016.]
Our Hertfordshire village, seen from a distance back in August. [Photo by me, 2016.]

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That Wide Ocean

America’s top official in France from 1785-1789, forty-something Thomas Jefferson, came to believe U.S. diplomats should not be overseas more than about eight years at a stretch. He felt if they (and they were then only men) were, they would lose touch with events and opinions at home. As a result, they would eventually be incapable of representing America properly.

He grew concerned also about young men “without attachment” becoming “involved” with European women, and felt their being overseas too long made such “intimacy” almost inevitable. The young women they encountered in diplomatic and social circles (and who, in France and elsewhere on the continent, could speak English) were overwhelmingly aristocrats. He believed “relationships” with those women could damage those “impressionable” young men’s “republican” sentiments and alienate them from the outlooks of most of their fellow Americans at home.

A few years before, a 16 year old future U.S. president became rather “enthralled” by young women he met while visiting Sweden. Yes, it’s a shocker: An American teenage boy loose in Scandinavia notices girls. Yet in that he demonstrated Jefferson’s concerns were perhaps not groundless.

Then lacking the television, internet, etc., that we take for granted, one could see Jefferson’s point about being too far removed from home as well. It took three months minimum for a letter to travel from Europe and to receive a reply from America; and that was usually during the summer months. Far fewer ships risked crossing the Atlantic between December and March – and even navies weren’t keen on it if they could possibly put it off until spring.

Sunset, Soulac-sur-mer, France, over the Bay of Biscay, which eventually becomes the Atlantic Ocean. [Photo by me, 2016.]
Sunset, Soulac-sur-mer, France, over the Bay of Biscay, which eventually becomes the Atlantic Ocean. [Photo by me, 2016.]

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It’s “Official”: I Hate iOS10

I know it does not matter what someone like me says about something like this. And I know I wrote “nice” things about iPhones yesterday morning. And I do like my iPad and my “old” iPhone.

But I want to “note” this regardless. Yesterday afternoon I had a technology horror that, frankly, I have not had the likes of in a very long, long, long time. Immediately after, I did what we do nowadays at moments like that: I vented on Twitter:

Screen capture of Twitter.
Screen capture of Twitter.

What happened was this. I often use Notes on my always within reach iPad or iPhone for, well, “writing brainstorms” for my manuscripts. Sometimes, they are lengthy “notes.”

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That 9:30 Lecture

The other day I mentioned that my niece – who’s 18 – has started university this week in Belfast. (She’s at Queen’s.) It’s her first extended time away from home without her parents around. I believe her previous “separation” record was when she was 15: she had flown with us – uncle and aunt – for two weeks in New York and in Florida, just us three.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a pencil and back to class text.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a pencil and back to class text.

If you are just starting out, university will seem unfamiliar and maybe at times intimidating. You are thrown back largely on yourself for perhaps the first time. Within days, though, trust me, it will all start to make sense.

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From Across The Irish Sea

Only minutes after I published yesterday’s post, my shaken mother-in-law phoned us with sad family news.

Excerpt from "Distances." Click to expand.
Excerpt from “Distances.” Click to expand.

My wife’s uncle-in-law, who was an inspiration for a gregarious, friendly Irish tourist in Rome in Distances, died at home in London early Sunday morning.

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Your Mark On Forever

I just got a text from my 18 year old niece. Her flight landed a little while ago in Belfast. She starts at university there on Monday.

How can she possibly be 18? Because that’s life for all of us. It’s the inevitable passage of time.

Thinking this morning about what I’ve worked on in recent days (examples are here and here) while the wife was away in Lisbon, and also in total over the last few months, I’m pleased for the moment at least.

Among what I listen to while writing. When the wife arrived home, she had, uh, caught me...listening to Sara Bareilles in the house. [Screen capture of my iPhone yesterday.]
Among what I listen to while writing. When the wife arrived home, she had, uh, caught me…listening to Sara Bareilles in the house. [Screen capture of my iPhone yesterday.]

Having finished another chapter, as I skimmed and re-read other more complete parts of that Conventions manuscript yesterday, briefly I’d disjointedly thought something along these lines:

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“Gee, I hope no one else reads this…”

You may have read by now that former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has had his email hacked. In emails dumped out for public consumption, various strong and private opinions are there for all to read. What has most caught media interest naturally are his personal views on the current major candidates for U.S president, and especially his, shall we say, “colorful” use of the English language several times.

We all write at times stupidly and unguardedly in email as if it were a private conversation. Happenings like this are reminders some say that we should perhaps save such opinions for the telephone (assuming that’s not being tapped). A quiet corner of a room whispering into an ear might be safest of all – although arranging that may prove difficult with someone who is NOT in that same room, of course.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a blue mail box.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a blue mail box.

Or we might also consider penning letters again as in… the eighteenth century! But even letters then were sometimes intercepted by third parties and published in unfriendly “news”papers. And governments read letters, too.

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A Pivotal Introduction

I had some “fun” yesterday after leaving you here. As I had noted in yesterday’s post, there’s always something that needs writing, or just more cleaning up. Aside from simply not wishing to write, there’s really no excuse for any author (or an aspiring one) to be idle.

Write, write, write.

View over the Potomac River, from the back porch of George Washington's Mount Vernon home. [Photo by me, 2011.]
View over the Potomac River, from the back porch of George Washington’s Mount Vernon home. [Photo by me, 2011.]

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No More “Hushed Voices”

I admit I share this nervously. But we must not be afraid to talk about this sort of thing. There is too much of this in the world.

I didn’t receive a birthday card from my sister. That was no shock to me, really, as this was my first birthday my mother wasn’t around. Thus I have further proof that my mother had prompted my sister to do many “ordinary” things in life while also implying she was actually doing them on her own.

Outwardly, my sister looks “fine” and usually appears “normal,” but she has been extremely “troubled” inside for at least a decade. She never moved out of the family home. She hasn’t held a job in many years. She has no friends. There’s something very wrong with her; her behaviors at times have been “bizarre.”

Free Stock Photo: Wood on the beach.
Free Stock Photo: Wood on the beach.

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