Living With A Legacy

Emma has returned from a summer in Charleston, South Carolina. She has written various posts detailing how she’d had a wonderful time. We’ve been there, too; Charleston is definitely a gorgeous city.

A street, Charleston, South Carolina. [Photo by me, 2014.]
A street, Charleston, South Carolina. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Now, she tackles THAT question:

I think this is one of the things I’ve heard the most when I was in the U.S. : French people don’t like Americans. Well, let me tell you something. THIS IS NOT TRUE. I’m French, I’ve spent all of my 21 years of life in France, and I have never heard more than two or three persons maybe saying that they didn’t like Americans…

This issue is always hovering around out there. It has been a source for a great deal of literature as well as for uncounted plots in movies and television episodes. As an American who has spent a lot of time in France since, uh, the 1980s (yes, good grief, I’m now THAT old!), and read tons of Franco-American history, I’d like to take a crack at this one briefly.🙂

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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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Drama At Sea

One of the troubles with writing is you feel awkward discussing what you did at work today with those humanly closest to you. It is simply too difficult to explain. It just feels more comfortable to take to a keyboard and share it online with social media friends and readers who follow because YOU want to.

Meaning that here on my own writing site I’m not risking making a total “bore” of myself (I hope).😉

But one of the challenges in sharing what you did at work is if you include any excerpt it also shouldn’t give away too much; inadvertently “spoiling” your own upcoming novel is, frankly, idiotic. However, yesterday’s work, and this morning’s, was full of plot detail and “surprises” that I just don’t want seen yet. That said, having scoured it, I think I can share this:

Sneak Peek into  "Conventions." Click to expand.
Sneak Peek into “Conventions.” Click to expand.

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“Land of lovely dames”

A bit more “history.” Please don’t run for cover. I think you’ll find this amusing – especially given this is 4th of July weekend in the U.S.:

Excerpt, from Kindle for iPad.
Excerpt, from Kindle for iPad.

That excerpt is from a recent biography. The first part is from a 1782 letter written by the subject while he was traveling; the second half is from an 1811 letter he also wrote. In 1782 the writer had made his way across Sweden (including Finland, which was part of Sweden then) while returning from Russia.

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Your “X” In The Box

“Remember,” my (now late) mother lectured me some years ago, “Billy Joel said it best.”

“Huh,” I recall replying, “I’m afraid to ask about what. Something about Italian restaurants?”

He being another “real” New Yorker – and particularly a Long Islander – and not much younger than herself, my mother loved Joel’s music. [Full disclosure, I like him, too.] She paused after I’d questioned her. Suddenly, she looked puzzled.

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“Remain” Vs. “Leave”: All The Arguing

We don’t see this sort of thing happen in our lives too often. These next few weeks? Remember them:

Screen capture of Twitter.
Screen capture of Twitter.

For American readers, “luvvies” is British derogatory slang for….

a person who is involved in the acting profession or the theatre, esp one with a tendency to affectation

As you may know, on June 23 British voters will be asked to answer this referendum question, Yes or No: Should the United Kingdom remain a part of the European Union?

The arguments for remaining vs. leaving are now all over the airwaves, filling newspapers and the net. British voters are being deluged with opinions. As with those entertainers Sky presenter Kay Burley tweets about, it seems most every figure is voicing a view.

Taking no public position either way myself (I’m not British, so I don’t feel it’s appropriate), I will say I’ve noticed two major tendencies that broadly underpin both sides’ arguments:

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At This Journey’s End

Hello. I’m typing this on March 11 mid-afternoon here at a lounge in Newark Airport (in New Jersey), a few hours before our flight back to the UK. I think it’ll make for blog post on arrival “home” in England.

Around us on the sofas and chairs in the busy room are assorted people, some “type type typing” or “tap tap tapping” their mobile devices feverishly. I’m using my iPad with its Bluetooth keyboard. My wife across from me is on her Microsoft Surface. Some travelers are conversing quietly. Some kids I see are also engrossed on I-somethings. Some people are eating. Others are watching TV. (Nancy Reagan’s funeral is on the big set.) A couple I see in a corner are snoozing.

Sitting a few feet away from me is an American couple in their 20s to young 30s. Understand, I’m not trying to single out my fellow countrymen here – this lounge is full of other Americans. These two, however, seem to think everyone else has to hear what they’re yammering about.

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It’s Not Just About Enjoying “Downton Abbey”

The other day, we had a vital Amazon delivery:

[Photo by me, 2016.]
[Photo by me, 2016.]

It arrived while I had been doing bits of work around the house. My London-born wife was out. That’s one of her preferred teas here in the U.S.

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After Worrying Months, The Letter Arrives

I was reading still more late 18th century mail yesterday. This correspondence is almost entirely in French, and went on between an American man and a French woman. These two, shall we say, seriously fancied each other.

One thing that struck me is how his French is proper and relatively easy for an American reading French to follow. (It’s accessible even to one like myself whose French is not what it had been “20 years” ago.) In comparison, it being her native language, her French is more airy, romantic (although that could also have partly been due to her personality) and not nearly as “school textbook” as his. Yet you also get a vibe at times that she’s perhaps writing down to his fluency level: keeping it “simpler.”

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a stack of letters.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a stack of letters.

Gut-wrenching is what happens to them during one year of the French Revolution in the 1790s. It’s a scary moment. Reading it even now is unsettling.

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“America? Nope, never heard of it.”

Recently, the BBC was out and about, questioning people in London, India, and Singapore:

Screen capture of the BBC web site.
Screen capture of the BBC web site.

A practical point: the BBC’s social media linkage there is useless. I can’t see how to link directly to that update (for your ease in accessing it). The “Share” facility for some dopey reason takes one only to the entire page, thus requiring a reader to scroll down through over two days of other posts to get to it.

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