I’m flying to New York (alone) next week for a 10 day visit to check on my father in Pennsylvania and also check on our house and “lock it down” for a Catskills winter – where temperatures can easily fall to -10C (14F) for days on end. Hopefully, no “local guests” have eaten it completely since I was there in June! You may remember what was awaiting me the last time…
This dawned on me as well as I explained that plan yesterday while I was answering a message from a cousin in Connecticut. Now married with two young sons, she and I grew up living around the corner from each other on Long Island – where none of our families now live any longer. With my mother’s one year anniversary upon us, she’d written me asking how my dad is doing these days.
We went to a family funeral on Thursday in north London.
A couple of weeks ago, my wife’s uncle-in-law died at home in his sleep at 85. While there is naturally sadness, at the catering hall gathering that followed the church service and cemetery his son reminded me (perhaps he was also telling himself this as a way to deal with the loss) that his dad had been 85 and he had had (as they sometimes say in this country) “a good innings.” And his mother was coping okay so far at least.
I also bumped into a guy there I had not seen since he was at my wedding in 1999. His late father had been German, his mother (a close friend of the widow) is Irish/English, he himself raised in Switzerland and he lives there now with his wife, who’s Canadian. In case you are keeping track. (His wife did not come to England for the funeral.)
Well, my absentee ballot has arrived here in Britain. The election is almost upon us. I vote in New York state, in the 19th congressional district, which is located upstate partly in the Catskills where our house is:
Let me offer a quick explanation of that ballot because this fact might baffle some people. The United States does not have a presidential election as such. It has essentially 51 presidential elections simultaneously – separate elections in all 50 states and the District of Columbia (meaning Washington city, which is not in any state but is the national capital named after, OF COURSE, HIM!).
As I vote in New York State, I vote for electors – locals whose names one rarely knows – who gather at Albany in early December. They are pledged to cast THEIR ballots formally for the pair of candidates who had received the most votes back on November’s Election Day.
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.
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.
Working away yesterday on Conventions, at one point it struck me again how you may outline and pre-plan a novel to the smallest degree, but that’s nowhere near the same thing as actually writing it. I find some of my (in my opinion) “best” stuff comes via improvisation and even accidentally…. while I’m actually writing. Such is how real life itself, too, often unfolds for us, of course.
I thought it might be fun relatedly this morning to share some “quick hit” samples that may give a “feel” of fictional characters within the tale and their time. They “co-exist” amongst what were real historical people. Among the fictional, first and foremost, and perhaps unsurprisingly, is the New York-born twenty-something around whom the tale unfolds:
And he’s just the start.
There’s the (initially 17 year old) daughter of an English baronet:
As you may have heard, a man with a knife slashing at people killed sixty-four-year-old American Darlene Horton and injured half a dozen others in London’s Russell Square on Wednesday evening. If learned, as of this writing his motive has not yet been made public. (“Mental health” issues have been cited by police.) As to a description of him circulating in British media, including on the BBC, ITV news’s Charlene White took issue with it on Twitter:
"Norwegian national of Somali descent"
Which technically makes me a "British national of Jamaican descent". Not just…you know…British.
Via Wikipedia, one uncovers that Ms. White was born in London. That same source also states her parents were “Black Carribean.” Given her tweeted reference to Jamaica, I will assume for discussion’s sake that means they were born there and moved here to the United Kingdom.