LUCK

Remember this?…  “Do you feel lucky?   Well…do ya, PUNK?”

I love Clint Eastwood in the Dirty Harry films.  As long as Our Hero was always right, we didn’t mind that he played fast and loose with the rules, did we?  Who cares about a serial killer’s rights, when you KNOW he ‘done it’!

Okay, that’s fun in a movie, and maybe we like to feel that someone, somewhere, can even the score with the bad guys on our behalf; but in real life such behaviour does leave the door open to abuses.   We’ll keep Dirty Harry in celluloid, and avoid promoting the careers of his imitators in our municipal police forces, shall we?  Because his imitators cannot be relied upon to know who the bad guys are–and who they are not–since they won’t have a scriptwriter who is all-seeing and all-knowing.  The imitators might confuse ME or YOU with the bad guys in real life, and that would not be good.

Me dear ol’ Dad and I went to Bingo at the retirement residence recently.  (Yes, yes, it’s a bit of a stretch from Dirty Harry to Bingo with Daddy, but work with me, all will be well…)

I won diddly-squat from the Jackpot, as did Dad.  It was Lorraine’s day to win Bingo, twice.  I don’t begrudge it to her, because she usually doesn’t win at all, and Dad and I have won a few times previously.  But the Bingo gods did not smile upon us that day.  We will, however, be trying again…oh yes.

And that was essentially the impetus for this article, because I went on to wonder about luck, and the absence thereof.  Some people can win multiple lottery prizes, and the others don’t get a shoe-in.  How is that?

When I arrived home after visiting me dear ol’ Dad, I picked up my mail on my way into the house, and amongst my letters were two envelopes to my husband and me from the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency, for ‘them as doesn’t know’).

WHY do I automatically think that somehow I’ve done wrong and will have to pay for my sins when I receive unexpected official government correspondence?  My husband and I keep our noses CLEAN when it comes to squaring-up with The Tax Man.  We deprive him of NOTHING.  It is our earnest desire that he should partake of ALL our worldly goods, in much the same fashion as we pledged to each other on our wedding day.  But even so, I looked at those envelopes from the CRA, and I automatically felt worried.  The doors to the torture chamber and the rat-infested dungeon gaped wide.

It was nothing, as it happens.  Something our accountant did that required some forms to be filled out and signed.  No biggie.

But this momentary discomfort put me in mind of the times I’ve returned to Canada from foreign parts and had to pass through Canada Customs (another government authority).  Never a good thing.  Our Canada Customs Agents were given an exemption from Charm School, God Bless their bureaucratic, authoritative, snarly souls.

What is it about these people that makes me  nervous?  I was born here.  I do not bring goods into the country above the dollar limit allowed by law.  I have not got baggies of illicit drugs stuffed up my wazoo.  And yet the sweat beads on my forehead and I quake in my shoes when I hand the Canada Customs agent my passport with trembling fingers.  I always know that it’s only a short walk from there to a private room for an orifice search.

We live in a country where democracy and human rights are, or should be, evident whenever we  come in contact with government representatives.  But I try not to expect that, to avoid disappointment.

I’ve often wondered whether there might be another reason why I have an instinctual fear of authority figures; because, really, why should Customs Agents and envelopes from the CRA make me nervous?  Does this hearken back to my elementary school days where, as a shy eight-year-old, I was subjected to abuse from a tyrannical school principal?  Not sexual abuse, I hasten to add, just unjustified physical punishment and garden-variety terrorism.  Or does it recall my first job, working part-time at a grocery store while going to school?  My boss there was another loud-mouthed bully who had good sport terrorizing a timid, 16-year-old girl.  Perhaps the earlier one primed me for the later.

My first school principal and my first boss were nasty, rough men (not kindly, gruff men—I do know the difference; one causes pain and injury, and the other would cut his own throat before doing so).  These two were the earliest authority figures in my life outside of my family.

Coincidentally, they were somewhat similar physically.  One (the store manager) was larger than the other one, but neither was tall.  The elementary school principal was five-foot-nothing.  The store manager was maybe five-foot-seven, and stocky.  They were both men in their late 50’s who had eyeglasses, grey brushcuts, small moustaches centred above their upper lip (Hitler-style, but possibly a little wider), and brusque manners.  One would take them for brothers—the one perhaps better-fed in his developing years than the other–if one saw them together.

And I did see them together.

I remember the day the elementary-school principal and his wife checked through my register at the grocery store.  I hadn’t seen him since my childhood, six to eight years previously, and remembered his abuse of me vividly.  My blood turned to icewater on that day, but I managed to go through the motions of checking-through and bagging his groceries while he stood there and studied me, whistling almost soundlessly (as was his habit), not saying a word.  Then I saw the store manager come down from his office and exchange boisterous greetings with the elementary school principal.  I discovered in that moment, to my eternal astonishment, that they were good friends.

What are the odds that these two men should have been friends?  They were so similar, I almost think that the mother of one of them might have some ‘splainin’ to do.

And so I will not stop buying lottery tickets, nor playing Bingo with me dear ol’ Dad, because I have seen quite clearly that things of chance can easily happen.

The question in my mind at this point is whether these two men are the reason why my encounters with anyone in authority will, to this day, provoke feelings of uneasiness and anxiety.  Is it because I KNOW, thanks to them, that it is possible to be  completely innocent of wrongdoing and STILL be subjected to punishment?  After the age of eight I had to be on tranquillizers or I couldn’t go to school.  Thankfully I was able to discontinue these shortly before leaving high school.  My parents never knew why I needed them in the first place.  I could not tell them until I was in my late forties.  I couldn’t tell them that when I learned for the first time that violence could be done to me gratuitously and at any time by someone in authority–someone whose power over me was (to my mind) absolute–it rocked my world.

I remember being that 16-year-old cashier at the A&P on that day, and for one mad moment having the thought of following the elementary-school principal, his wife, and their buggy-load of groceries out to the parking lot to give him a tongue-lashing for his crimes against my eight-year-old self.

It would have been madness, because I was upset well past the ability to speak intelligibly.  But I didn’t do it only because I knew that there would have been more than my own head on the chopping block afterwards.  That store manager would have fired my mother as well as me.  Her long years of service to the company, her ability and her dependability would have counted for nothing.  My mother could do fast mental calculations—a real advantage in those days before scanners.  (Twelve oranges cost $1.72…how much are 5?  Quick!)  She could remember the price of every item in the store, and could multi-task under pressure while continuing to be courteous to the most obnoxious of customers like no one I’ve ever seen.  She was a lady, and a clever one.  I saw that the manager seemed to like her, and he held her in grudging respect, but I readily believe he would have fired her as well as me.  I’m quite sure the pleasure of exercising power while simultaneously causing pain would have been too irresistible.  Somebody else would have had to hire and train her replacement, and mine, anyway.  No skin off his nose to lose two employees simultaneously.

And so, we come back around to the subject.  Luck.  It was my luck–bad luck–to have been thrown in the way of these horrible men at vulnerable, early stages in my life.  How I wish they were alive today, because I feel ready, finally, to ask them some questions, and to demand answers.

When I hear about other people who have been abused, I am able to understand that it is often down to luck and nothing else if one manages to pass through the early stages of life without permanent injury.

I’ll finish this with some good, practical advice to all abusers:  choose very young victims, and—mark this carefully—only cause harm to them while you are in late middle age.  That way you stand a chance of being dead before they are older, stronger, and able to come looking for you to talk about ‘old times.’

Because it might be a very unwelcome, unpleasant, UNLUCKY renewal of acquaintance for you, Punk.

 

Icons of Style: Fran Lebowitz and Quentin Crisp

“Frances Ann (Fran) Lebowitz (born October 27, 1950) is an American author and public speaker. Lebowitz is known for her sardonic social commentary on American life as filtered through her New York City sensibilities.  Some reviewers have called her a modern-day Dorothy Parker.”  (Wikipedia)

Some of her books (I have these three):

  • Metropolitan Life, Dutton, 1978.
  • Social Studies, Random House, 1981.
  • The Fran Lebowitz Reader, Vintage Books, 1994.

“Quentin Crisp became a gay icon in the 1970s after publication of his memoir, The Naked Civil Servant, detailing his life in homophobic British Society. […] Quentin Crisp was born Denis Charles Pratt in Surrey, England, on December 25, 1908. A self-described flamboyant homosexual, Crisp changed his name in his early 20s as part of his process of reinvention. Teased mercilessly at school as a boy, Crisp left school in 1926. He studied journalism at King’s College London, but failed to graduate. He then moved on to take art classes at Regent Street Polytechnic. […] He moved to Manhattan in 1981, when he was 72 years old; settling in a studio apartment in the Bowery. […] Quentin Crisp died in November 1999, just shy of his 91st birthday, while touring his one-man show.” (These biographical details were taken from biography.com)

He once described himself in this way:  “I am the last of Britain’s stately homos.”

So what have these two got in common?  For a start, the ‘sardonic social commentary’ that Fran Lebowitz is famous for, was practiced with equal skill by Quentin Crisp.  And they both lived in New York City.

For those unfamiliar with Lebowitz’s writing, here’s a taste from her essay, “My Day:  An Introduction of Sorts” from The Fran Lebowitz Reader:

12:35 P.M. – The phone rings.  I am not amused.  This is not my favorite way to wake up.  My favorite way to wake up is to have a certain French movie star whisper to me softly at two-thirty in the afternoon that if I want to get to Sweden in time to pick up my Nobel Prize for Literature I had better ring for breakfast.  This occurs rather less often than one might wish.

[…]

1:20 P.M. – I go downstairs to get the mail.  I get back into bed.  Nine press releases, four screening notices, two bills, an invitation to a party in honor of a celebrated heroin addict, a final disconnect notice from New York Telephone, and three hate letters from Mademoiselle readers demanding to know just what it is that makes me think that I have the right to regard houseplants—green, living things—with such marked distaste.  I call the phone company and try to make a deal, as actual payment is not a possibility.  Would they like to go to a screening?  Would they care to attend a party for a heroin addict?  Are they interested in knowing just what it is that makes me think that I have the right to regard houseplants with such marked distaste?  It seems they would not.  They would like $148.10.  I agree that this is, indeed, an understandable preference, but caution them against the bloodless quality of a life devoted to the blind pursuit of money.  We are unable to reach a settlement.  I pull up the covers and the phone rings.  I spend the next few hours fending off editors, chatting amiably, and plotting revenge.  I read.  I smoke.  […]

Yes, she reads, she smokes, she writes, she gives interviews, and she has performed in a television drama (as a judge in ‘Law and Order’)–and I had to force myself to stop typing any more of ‘her day’ or this would have been a very long article in which I would have said nothing on my own account, which I feel a strange compulsion to do.  You may prefer to read more of what Fran has to say, and I wouldn’t blame you, but for that you will need to purchase one of her books (see above).  I believe there may be more than the three I’ve listed.

And speaking of my strange compulsion to write things, she says (again in The Fran Lebowitz Reader, p. 12)…

Very few people possess true artistic ability.  It is therefore both unseemly and unproductive to irritate the situation by making an effort.  If you have a burning, restless urge to write or paint, simply eat something sweet and the feeling will pass.  Your life story would not make a good book.  Do not even try.

All well and good if the aspiring amateur enjoys sweets, Fran.  My personal preference is for salty/savoury, and I’m afraid that that would not produce the desired effect.  I will need another means of diversion.

And now I’m going to call on Quentin Crisp in support of a person trying to express themselves in some way…

First, the profound:

“Ask yourself, if there was to be no blame, and if there was to be no praise, who would I be then?”

Then, the glib:

“There are three reasons for becoming a writer: the first is that you need the money; the second that you have something to say that you think the world should know; the third is that you can’t think what to do with the long winter evenings.”

Maybe the glib is more profound than I think.  It is February, after all, and I started this blog last month, in January.  The winter evenings have been very long indeed.

As for Quentin Crisp’s own means of earning a daily crust, he wrote books (The Naked Civil Servant, How to have a Lifestyle, Manners from Heaven: a divine guide to good behaviour, and Resident Alien, The New York Diaries, among others.)  He also did theatre and film work, as well as interviews.  Here’s a quote from Resident Alien, The New York Diaries:

When I go on television, I remember that there only one law prevails:  the survival of the glibbest.   If your interviewer asks the question, ‘What is the secret of the universe?’, you do not stutter, you do not hesitate, above all you do not say, ‘A good question.’  You say, with a gracious smile, ‘I am happy to tell you there is no secret.’  The remark is inane, but you are smiling and your lips are moving.  You’ll be back.

Back to Fran, this time in the Paris Review, Summer, 1993, No. 127, Fran Lebowitz, A Humorist at Work, Interviewed by James Linville and George Plimpton:

I used to love to write. As a child I used to write all the time. I loved to write up until the second I got my first professional writing job. It turns out it’s not that I hate to write. I hate, simply, to work. I just hate to work, period. I am profoundly slothful. Practically inert. I have no energy. I never have. I just have no desire to be productive. Now that I realize I don’t hate to write, that I just hate to work, it makes writing easier.

Also…

There are few books written by people in their twenties that, even if they are great books, are not in some way young people’s books. It’s that base longing of youth that really irritates me. I like a person who is more embittered. That embittered sensibility is not possible in a young person. You can be nasty when you are young, but you really have to be older to achieve bitterness.

Well then!  Slothful and embittered…this is the stuff of which writers are made. I’m quite sure that I can find these attributes somewhere in my nature without looking for too long. I have been cultivating them for some considerable time, and have finally, in the past few years, realized some success.

Doesn’t matter, anyway.  Even if I never rise above the level of dilettante as a writer, I’m having fun doing this blog. But never mind that, here’s an interesting thing…

“In September 2007, Lebowitz was named one of the year’s most stylish women in Vanity Fair’s  68th Annual International Best-Dressed List.  She is known to wear tailored suits by the Savile Row tailor Anderson & Sheppard.”  (Wikipedia)

I found that a little startling, I have to say.  Fran has always dressed in a ‘mannish’ sort-of way…most often a shirt, a suit jacket, jeans, and cowboyish boots.  This mode of dress seems to have been pretty consistent throughout her life.

Fran on windowledge

The very first time I ever saw Fran Lebowitz was in a television interview with someone a very long time ago (probably more than 20 years).  The format was for the interviewer and Fran to be sitting on chairs facing one another in a pool of light with the surrounding set dark, if I remember correctly.  I was fascinated, because I couldn’t decide whether she was male or female.  Her voice was low—probably the result of her heavy cigarette habit—and her mannerisms were somewhat ambiguous from a gender standpoint.  She had no makeup, her hair told me nothing, and even the way she sat in the chair did not specifically signal ‘male’ or ‘female.’

I came to the interview late, so I didn’t hear her introduction at the beginning of it.  I’m not sure that there was any internet then to enable me to find out anything more about her.  I may have heard her name mentioned, but ‘Fran’ can also be a man’s name (Fran Tarkenton, for one).  So I listened to the interview not only for interest in the subject matter (whatever it was), but also for a clue as to her gender.  It was an interesting exercise, and I’m not sure that I resolved the conundrum during the program.

This puts me in mind of the very first time I saw k.d. Lang, as well.  That was in the music video of the song, ‘Crying’ with Roy Orbison.  I thought she was a young guy.

So either I’ve got a problem, or these women are sufficiently androgynous to fool some of us.

The fact that Vanity Fair thought Fran Lebowitz was one of the year’s most stylish women in 2007 begs the question of what constitutes ‘style,’ I think.  ‘Stylish’ evidently does not mean that a woman dresses in haute couture from one of the major fashion houses.

And here I’m going to call on Quentin Crisp again, this time to define ‘Style’ for us.  Incidentally, I have one of Quentin’s books, Resident Alien, The New York Diaries.   I also have the movie based on his autobiographical book, The Naked Civil Servant, which starred John Hurt as Quentin Crisp–so I do have a little more original material than just ‘Quentin Quotes’ from websites.  The DVD also has a documentary of the man himself as an added feature.

Here’s Quentin Crisp’s definition of ‘Style’ as distinct from ‘Fashion’:

“Style, in the broadest sense of all, is consciousness.  More specifically it is a consistent idiom arising spontaneously from the personality but deliberately maintained.”

and

“Fashion is what you adopt when you don’t know who you are.”

Elle.com reporter Kathleen Hale interviewed Lebowitz on March 24, 2015, about her unwavering devotion to men’s shirts, suit jackets and Levi’s…

Kathleen Hale: You don’t have a uniform, per se, but you wear a jacket, a men’s shirt with cufflinks, Levi’s jeans, cowboy boots, two gold rings, and tortoiseshell glasses every single day.

Fran Lebowitz: Yes.

Walk me through your outfit.

This jacket is from Anderson and Sheppard in London. I don’t go there, they come to me. Or they did. Now they have a dummy made of me.

What people don’t know is: Clothes don’t really fit you unless they’re made for you. Especially when you wear men’s clothes, like I do. American women think that clothes fit them if they can fit into them. But that’s not at all what fit means. I get all my shirts at Hilditch and Key. There’s one in Paris and one in London. There’s not one here, I don’t know why. They’re men’s shirts—they don’t really fit—but I don’t really care if shirts fit perfectly. I have all my suits and jackets made, but I’ve never had a shirt made. I’ll have them shortened, so that there’s not three yards of cloth hanging down. But it’s not as important to me that they fit perfectly.

I used to buy all my shirts at Brooks [Brothers], but that was completely ruined about 20 years ago. They discontinued the shirt I liked. If I had only known this—I mean, if you’re going to discontinue an item that thousands and thousands of people buy, announce it. Say, ‘We will no longer be making our excellent Brooks Brothers cotton shirts that we made for 5,000 years. We’re going to change them in some awful way. We’re alerting you so you can buy a lifetime supply.’ Shirts don’t go bad, they’re not peaches.

Quentin Crisp on the other hand, while he didn’t actually dress in drag, was effeminate and wore makeup to enhance eyes, lips and complexion.  His clothes were essentially male in character, but given flair and individuality usually with a silky cravat and a fedora set to a rakish angle atop his tinted coiffure.

Quentin Crisp 5

His definitions of ‘style’ and ‘fashion’ work very well for Fran, I think.  She is definitely stylish rather than fashionable, and her mode of dress is certainly a “consistent idiom arising spontaneously from the personality but deliberately maintained.”  That also works very well for Quentin, himself.

Choosing quotations from a womanish man to explain the personal style of a mannish woman seemed very apt, to me.  I don’t know if they ever met in person, and I can’t find evidence of what they might have thought of one another.

I like it that Quentin and Fran blur the lines between the sexes a little in the way they present themselves.  Once one discards surface appearance for being a meaningless way of defining a person, what’s left is the essential human being.

Both Fran Lebowitz and Quentin Crisp are self-revelatory and insightful in their writing, while being witty, engaging and sometimes acerbic.  Possibly they’ve exaggerated aspects of their personal lives, as well as their thoughts and opinions, for their reader’s or listener’s entertainment–and to pay the rent, of course–but I’ve enjoyed their writing, and am intrigued by their personalities.

Sadly, Quentin has left us long since, but I expect to hear more from Fran.  I believe we need people who are capable of showing us the world as they see it; people who are not swept along by media hype and marketing and technology, and who can point out different aspects of our lives–and theirs–in a quirky, humorous way.  That’s what Quentin did, and what Fran has done and is doing.

I like their style.

Sir Charles Petrie, Historian

He was the younger son of Sir Charles Petrie, 1st Baronet, and his wife Hannah.  Born in Liverpool, he was educated at the University of Oxford, and in 1927 succeeded to the family baronetcy.

He was also my second cousin, twice removed.

He was my father’s second cousin, once removed.

He was my grandfather’s second cousin.

He was my great-grandfather’s first cousin, once removed.

And he was my great-great grandfather’s grand nephew.

Aren’t family relationship charts fun?

I somehow ended up in the blogsite, ‘Tea at Trianon’ one day, which had an article posted about Sir Charles Petrie.  I was a little surprised that they described him as being an outsider during his time at Oxford University, owing to his being both a Liverpudlian and a Catholic.

I know that he was born in Liverpool on September 28, 1895, and that his father settled there some eighteen years before he was born, but his family was not Catholic.  Not that it would matter, except for the fact that the writer says his Catholicism had a great influence on his work and his life.

Here is the information from Sir Charles’s autobiography Chapters of Life, (1950) that refutes the assertion that “his family derived from the Irish Catholic aristocracy”:

We attended Sefton Park Presbyterian Church, then in the days of its glory under Dr. Watson, the great “Ian Maclaren” and later under Mr. Connell.  Rarely have I seen a church so crowded as it was every Sunday morning:  even pew-holders had to be in their places a quarter of an hour before the service began, and there was a majesty about the church officer that would not have shamed a Lord Chamberlain. (Chapters of Life, p. 20)

He’s a funny sort of a Catholic to be going to a Presbyterian church every Sunday morning.

Here’s a quote from the ‘Tea at Trianon’ article:

“It was not at all that he wore his Catholicism on his sleeve. Indeed he seldom discussed religion overtly in any context. (When he helped establish the Military History Society of Ireland, he insisted on the complete avoidance of sectarian disputes; to this end, he successfully offered society membership to Lord Rathcavan — Protestant Speaker of the Ulster Parliament at the time — and De Valera.) Nevertheless Petrie’s Catholicism did give him a habit of mind which he would not have harboured if he had sprung from the agnostic or atheist upper-middle-class environment which has produced most recent British scholars.”

The article I’m referencing is pasted-in towards the bottom of this article. I subsequently discovered that she (the Trianon blogger) lifted her text out of the online article referenced immediately below:

In search of Sir Charles Petrie

by R. J. Stove

National Observer Australia’s independent current affairs online journal No. 83 (June – August 2010).

And thus is misinformation propagated on the internet!

If they’d just said that his family was Catholic, I would have said, “Well, that’s not right, but who cares?” However, you can see that they are presenting ‘his Catholicism’ as somehow being an influence on his work–his ‘habit of mind.’

Perhaps they thought that was a fit because of his writings about the Jacobites and his sympathy (supposedly) for the Stuarts, and maybe because amongst his 50-ish books there are biographies of three Spanish Kings?

He did a biography of Louis XIV as well, who would have been Catholic, but he also wrote about the Four Georges, who would not.

Maybe somebody decided he was Catholic when he wrote for the Catholic Herald (which he apparently did, according to Wikipedia), although one did not need to be Catholic to write for the Catholic Herald. I looked through the past contributors for that publication, and did not see Sir Charles listed. The list does include Malcolm Muggeridge, however, who once wrote a column, “Why I am not a Catholic.” Interestingly, as Wikipedia says, “he (Muggeridge) later became a Catholic and a columnist for the Herald.”  We assume they mean, “regular columnist,” since he had already written a column when he was not a Catholic.

Conversion to Catholicism seemed to be a thing some of the literati were doing during the past century; among them were G.K. Chesterton, Graham Greene, Anthony Rhodes, Evelyn Waugh, and Tennessee Williams (although I hesitate to include Williams since he was not British).

So possibly Sir Charles Petrie converted, although I can’t find evidence of it.  In any case, they say that his family derived from the Irish Catholic aristocracy, and that wouldn’t be right.  In fact, his/our family derived from the Scottish aristocracy, since we can trace our lineage in a direct line to Robert the Bruce, (King Robert I of Scotland), through my 5x great-grandmother, Elizabeth Colville, daughter of the 6th Lord Colville of Culross.  (She would be Sir Charles’s 3x great-grandmother.)

I wonder whether Sir Charles was aware of our connection to the Kings of Scotland.  Perhaps he didn’t look at the females in our ancestry.  Some of them had very interesting pedigrees indeed.

The information that follows comes from Sir Charles’s biography, Chapters of Life, 1950.

As stated above, he was born in Liverpool on September 28th, 1895, and it was his home until the outbreak of the First World War.

The Petries originally came from Scotland, Aberdeen and Kincardine. In the early years of the reign of Charles II, one Robert Petrie, laird of Portlethen, was Provost of Aberdeen on several occasions, and was M.P. for that city from 1665 to 1667 and again from 1669 to 1674. He was knighted by the Duke of York, afterwards James II.

According to Sir Charles…

Not long afterwards the family fortunes declined, for the Petries supported the Stuarts after the Revolution.” He goes on to say that Sir Robert’s great-grandson, and his own great-great grandfather was George Petrie, soldier, and that as a subaltern George was captured with his regiment, the 21st Foot, at Saratoga.

I have a small problem with this—and wish I didn’t—because it would be nice to know for a certainty that there is a line of descent from Robert Petrie of Portlethen to George.  I’m not saying that there isn’t, but I haven’t found the intervening connections.

I know that George was the son of Robert Petrie and Elizabeth Colville; and that she was the daughter of the 6th Lord Colville of Culross (again, it is through the Colvilles that we are connected to Robert the Bruce).  Therefore, George was Sir Charles’s great-great grandfather, and my 4x great-grandfather.  BUT, I personally can’t fill the gap between Robert Petrie of Portlethen and the later Robert Petrie, my 5x great-grandfather, George’s father.  I’m still working on that.

The reason I’d like to know that Robert of Portlethen was a direct ancestor of George (and me), is because Robert of Portlethen married Anna Forbes, who was the daughter of Sir William Forbes.  Sir William, the first Baronet of Craigievar (created by Charles I, apparently), built–or rather, finished building–Craigievar Castle in 1626, and it is now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland.

I do love Craigievar Castle; it looks like something out of Disney.  I think it would be such fun to say that this was one of my ancestral homes…owned by my 7x (?) great-grandfather.

Craigievar_castle_1991

Well, I can’t claim it directly, not yet.  But I will continue to try.  In any case, Sir Charles, a historian, believed that we are linked to Robert of Portlethen and Anna Forbes.  I wish I could see his sources.

Sir Charles also says,

More remarkable than George Petrie was his wife, Margaret.  She was born in Canada in 1750 and died in 1857.”  This would have made her 107 years’ old at the time of her death.

I have to take issue with that.  I’ve found George’s will (he died in Ceylon/Sri Lanka), and there’s no indication there that he was married.  If he was married to a ‘Margaret’ and she outlived him, he obviously didn’t know anything about it.  Also, there should have been mention of their only surviving son, Peter, in his will, and there is nothing.  So Sir Charles’s assertion that George Petrie married Margaret is something I have yet to validate–but I’m very doubtful.

He goes on to say,

My father was five at the time of her death, and he remembered her description of Wolfe’s capture of Quebec.  This event had naturally impressed itself upon the old lady’s memory, for she was a MacDonald by birth, and her father (James MacDonald, a younger brother of Aeneas MacDonald, one of the Seven Men of Moidart) had managed to escape to Canada after fighting for the Stuarts in the Forty-Five.”  (Chapters of Life, p. 12)

Again, I can find no ‘Margaret MacDonald’ who married George Petrie.  The census information for Ireland does not record the existence of Margaret.  I suspect that the elderly lady Sir Charles’s father remembers was Jane Thomson or Thompson, who was the widow of Peter Petrie, purported son of George.  Jane would know nothing of Wolfe’s capture of Quebec.  I suspect that Sir Charles’s father’s childhood memory was faulty.

As Sir Charles says, our branch of the Petrie family “had left Scotland for Ireland, and had settled near the mouth of the River Moy on the borders of Mayo and Sligo.”

I can add here that they left Scotland from Dundee, where my great-grandfather, Alexander Petrie, was born.  (My great-grandfather Alexander was born on February 21, 1845, and died in Bay of Islands, Newfoundland, on July 29, 1892.)

Another of his links with the past was his grandfather, Alexander Petrie, whom he says was

…born in 1823 and he did not die until 1920.  An elder of the Presbyterian Church, a strong Radical, and a supporter of Home Rule, he was a man who did not know what compromise meant, but he was universally respected, and he is still remembered in Ballina.

Sir Charles’s grandfather, Alexander of Carrowcarden, was the brother of my great-great grandfather, William of Rosserk.  My great-grandfather, Alexander (son of William of Rosserk), was named for his uncle.  [No doubt this family connection stuff is very confusing and not a little boring! I include these details in the expectation that my cousins will want to see them.  My sincere apologies to anyone else reading this.]

Sir Charles relates an anecdote about his grandfather, as follows:

It must, however, be confessed that humour was not his strong point, and there is a story which illustrates this weakness on his part.  One Sunday morning during a very hot summer in the seventies when he arrived at Ballina Presbyterian Church he was told by the minister, Mr. Duff, that instructions had come from the General Assembly, then meeting in Belfast, for prayers to be said for rain.  “All right,” replied my grandfather, “pray away:  but it isn’t much use while the wind is in the East.” (Chapters of Life, pp. 13-14)

I find the details of daily life in those times fascinating.  Sir Charles tells us:

One rose at six, and breakfasted very substantially at seven:  there were light refreshments between twelve and one, but they amounted to no more than sherry and biscuits, and the pangs of hunger had to be repressed until five when there was a truly gargantuan repast which centred round, if the season was right, a salmon which had been boiled whole.  When the gentlemen joined ladies later in the evening, tea was served and, after a last look round outside to see that everything was all right, one retired to bed at nine.  Although my grandfather was advanced in his opinions he was conservative in his habits:  smoking indoors he would not tolerate, there was no lighting save lamps, and the closets were of the earth variety.  He was wonderfully active until almost the end of his life as is attested by the fact that he drank a whole bottle of whiskey to his own cheek in the Moy Hotel, Ballina, on his ninetieth birthday. (Chapters of Life, p. 14)

[I’d like to talk about Sir Charles’s grandfather’s brother, my own great-great-grandfather, William of Rosserk, but I’ll need to do that separately or things will get confused.  We’ll carry on with Sir Charles’s immediate family…]

Sir Charles says,

When my father was Lord Mayor of Liverpool in 1901-2 heavy eating was still the order of the day.  Here, for example, is the menu of a dinner which he gave in honour of Lord Rosebery:

Caviar             Anchois

Tortue Claire

Saumon, Sauce Médoc           Filet de Sole à l’Adelphi

Poulet, Reine Demidoff        Asperge en Branches au Beurre

Quartier d’Agneau

Filet de Bœuf Hollandaise

Granit au Kümmel

Canard Sauvage         Bécasses           Russian Salad

Pouding Impérial       Macédoine au Fruits      Méringue au Crème

Pouding Glacé à la Chantilly

Dessert

Private dinner parties of eighteen or twenty people were the rule rather than the exception, and the small dinner was unknown.” (Chapters of Life, p. 18)

“In the provinces, as in the capital, King Edward VII had been on the throne for some years before there was any general relaxation of the customs which had obtained during the later decades of his mother’s reign.  Social relationships were subject to a rigid code of etiquette.  All women who had any social pretensions had “At Home” days to which they strictly adhered:  my mother’s, if I remember aright, were the second and fourth Thursdays in each month.  (Chapters of Life, p. 18)

I doubt that this level of formality ever existed at my great-grandfather’s house in Bay of Islands, Newfoundland.  My great-grandfather would have been Sir Charles’s father’s first cousin.  (More boring relationship stuff.)

This is a rather fun comment on Sir Charles’s writing style, as provided by R.J. Stove in the Observer article, “In Search of Sir Charles Petrie”:

As for Petrie’s prose style, one of its most appealing features is the formal elegance with which he could trash his opponents. A few instances will serve. Here, from A Historian Looks at his World, is Petrie’s agreeably catty verdict … on Stanley Baldwin:

“Baldwin also possessed the supreme merit of being able to learn from experience; indeed, it may be said to have been the only way in which he did learn.”

[A note:  Stanley Baldwin was the British Prime Minister during the abdication crisis of 1936.]

And here is Petrie delivering the coup de grâce to Mussolini’s Foreign Minister:

“Whereas Edda [the Duce’s daughter] was very good company indeed, with her diverting stories of Shanghai, where she and her husband had lived for a time, Count Ciano seemed to me to be one of those people of whom it could be said that if one bought him at one’s own price and sold him at his there would be a considerable profit on the transaction.”

Zing!

Below is the Tea at Trianon blog site article (which is an extract from R.J. Stove’s Observer article)—and its comments about the influence of the (Presbyterian) Sir Charles Petrie’s “Catholicism”:

In Search of Sir Charles Petrie

One of Britain’s finest, and yet most completely forgotten, modern historians.

Meanwhile other men who called themselves historians, and lacked even one tenth of Petrie’s learning, received honours piled on honours, such as Petrie never enjoyed. This was the case even when they consciously and deliberately betrayed Britain itself, by siding with civilisation’s enemies. More of them later on.

First of all, Petrie belonged to a very different social class, and a very different geographical background, from the average British academic. He was born in 1895 in Liverpool, where his father was Mayor; but his family derived from the Irish Catholic aristocracy, and his father had been educated in Dublin. Through his father he met, at an early age, a great many notabilities, both British and, in particular, foreign.

Liverpool was, and is, largely Hibernian-Catholic in its population; and during Petrie’s youth it was mostly despised in Oxford, Cambridge and London. The days when the Beatles would make Liverpool’s public image not merely interesting but fashionable lay unimaginably far ahead. As a consequence of this background, Petrie, while he did go to Oxford, was separated from most of his fellow Oxford students by his creed and his city of origin. This separation marked his whole life. For all his conviviality of temperament, he had what was very much a Latin outlook, a European outlook, retaining little patience for English parochialism. It was not at all that he wore his Catholicism on his sleeve. Indeed he seldom discussed religion overtly in any context. (When he helped establish the Military History Society of Ireland, he insisted on the complete avoidance of sectarian disputes; to this end, he successfully offered society membership to Lord Rathcavan — Protestant Speaker of the Ulster Parliament at the time — and De Valera.) Nevertheless Petrie’s Catholicism did give him a habit of mind which he would not have harboured if he had sprung from the agnostic or atheist upper-middle-class environment which has produced most recent British scholars.

[So…he didn’t wear his Catholicism on his sleeve.  Perhaps, since he was Presbyterian, that might be expected?]

The following is Sir Charles Petrie’s entry in “The Peerage”:

Sir Charles Alexander Petrie, 3rd Bt.1

M, #549078, b. 28 September 1895, d. 23 November 1977

Last Edited=25 Feb 2013

Sir Charles Alexander Petrie, 3rd Bt. was born on 28 September 1895. He was the son of Sir Charles Petrie, 1st Bt. and Hannah Lindsay Hamilton.  He married, firstly, Ursula Gabrielle Borthwick Dowdall, daughter of  Harold Chaloner Dowdall, on 7 October 1920.  He and Ursula Gabrielle Borthwick Dowdall were divorced in 1926. He married, secondly, Jessie Cecilia Mason, daughter of Frederick James George Mason, on 24 February 1926. He died on 23 November 1977 at age 82.

He was educated privately. He fought in the First World War. He gained the rank of Lieutenant in the service of the Royal Garrison Artillery. He graduated from Corpus Christi College, Oxford University, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, in 1919 with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.). He graduated from Corpus Christi College, Oxford University, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, in 1921 with a Master of Arts (M.A.). He was a historian. He was invested as a Fellow, Royal Historical Society (F.R.Hist.S.). He was a corresponding member of the Royal Spanish Academics of History and Hispanic Society of America.

He succeeded to the title of 3rd Baronet Petrie, of Carrowcarden, Castleconnor, Tieragh, co. Sligo [U.K., 1918] on 13 December 1927.

He wrote the book The History of Government, published 1929.1 He wrote the book George Canning, published 1930.1 He wrote the book The Jacobite Movement, published 1932.1 He wrote the book History of Spain, published 1934, with Louis Bertrand.1 He wrote the book The Four Georges: a revaluation, published 1935.1 He wrote the book The Stuarts, published 1937.1 He wrote the book Life and Letters of Sir Austen Chamberlain (Volume One), published 1939.1 He wrote the book Life and Letters of Sir Austen Chamberlain (Volume Two), published 1940.1 He wrote the book Diplomatic History 1713-1933, published 1946.1 He wrote the book Earlier Diplomatic History 1492-1713, published 1949.1 He wrote the book Chapters of Life, published 1950.1 He wrote the book The Marshal Duke of Berwick, published 1953.1 He wrote the book The Carlton Club, published 1955.1 He wrote the book Wellington: a reassessment, published 1956.1

He was invested as a Commander, Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.) in 1957.1 He was invested as a Knight, Order of Civil Merit (Spain).1

He wrote the book The Royal House, published 1958.1 He wrote the book The Powers Behind the Prime Ministers, published 1959.1

He was Honorary Counsellor in 1959 at Institute of Fernando Catolico, Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain. He was invested as a Knight, Order of Isabella the Catholic (Spain).1

He wrote the book The Victorians, published 1960.1 He wrote the book The Modern British Monarchy, published 1961.1 He wrote the book Philip II of Spain, published 1963.1 He wrote the book King Alfonso XIII, published 1963.1

He was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) by University of Valladolid, Valladolid, Castile-Leon, Spain, in 1964.1

He wrote the book Scenes of Edwardian Life, published 1965.1

He was invested as a Commendatore, Order of the Crown of Italy.1 He was decorated with the award of the Order of George I (Greece).1

He wrote the book Great Beginnings, published 1967.1 He wrote the book Don John of Austria, published 1967.1 He wrote the book The Drift to World War 1900-1914, published 1968.1 He wrote the book King Charles III of Spain, published 1971.1 He wrote the book A Historian Looks at His World, published 1972.1

Child of Sir Charles Alexander Petrie, 3rd Bt. and Ursula Gabrielle Borthwick Dowdall:

Sir Charles Richard Borthwick Petrie, 4th Bt.  b. 19 Oct 1921, d. 1988

Child of Sir Charles Alexander Petrie, 3rd Bt. and Jessie Cecilia Mason:

Sir Peter Charles Petrie, 5th Bt.  b. 7 Mar 1932

**********************************************************************

Sir Charles’s second son is the present Baronet:

PETRIE, Sir Peter (Charles) is the 5th Bt, and lives in France.  He’s married to the Countess Lydwine Maria Fortunata von Oberndorff, and they live at The Hague and Paris.

He was ‘Adviser on European and Parliamentary Affairs’ to the Governor of the Bank of England, 1989 – 2003; and HM Diplomatic Service, retired.

Wonder if I should call ’round for a cup of tea, sometime?

After all, we’re third cousins once removed…his father was my second cousin, twice removed…his grandfather was…oh never mind…

 

 

The Man Who Would be King

…if or when his mummy hands off the sceptre to him in the British monarchy relay.  Nobody is in any hurry, I think.  At the time of writing, Her Majesty is 89, and due to turn 90 in April of this year (2016), as would my own mummy, had she lived beyond age 87.  Her Majesty was born April 21, 1926, and my mother was born April 16, 1926.  Both remarkable women.

Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales, has taken some hard knocks, due largely to his disastrous first marriage to Lady Diana Spencer.  I also feel some sympathy for her, in view of the humanitarian work she did, but this is tempered by an inability to understand the more ill-advised choices she made.

Even looking back on the Cinderella days of their courtship and marriage, it’s possible to see that they didn’t have a snowball’s chance of making a happy life together.  So different in every way.  And she was so young…only 19 when they announced their engagement.  She had turned 20 on July 1, 1981, and married Prince Charles on July 29, 1981.

In retrospect, a superstitious person might consider the muddle Diana made of Charles’s names during her wedding vows an ill omen.  She put ‘Philip’ first in his list of names, but it was perfectly understandable under the circumstances.  Her wedding day would have been a good deal more nervous-making than most, as was her subsequent role as the Princess of Wales.

I suppose Prince Charles’s choices for a marriage partner were narrowing down considerably, and at age 32 he must have been feeling intense pressure to find a suitable mate…someone with aristocratic connections, ideally, and someone who did not have ‘a past’ in order to satisfy the older, more traditional members of the U.K. and Commonwealth citizenry.  British royalty was still expected to hold to a particular standard, and this standard could only be relaxed for royal family members who were not direct heirs to the throne (I’m thinking of Prince Andrew’s marriage to Sarah Ferguson—the standards went on to become very relaxed, indeed!)

So we know that the marriage made sense on the face of it, even with some inherent difficulties.  Such an onerous adjustment period for Princess Diana, “Shy Di” in the public eye, but I suppose that she, like most other 19-year-olds in the world, before and since, thought that she could handle it.  The Royal Family probably had misgivings, but maybe they expected that, being young, she would be adaptable and perhaps grow into the role expected of her.  I’m sure they couldn’t foresee that she would be an international sensation of nuclear proportions.  For anyone raised on stories of fairy tale princesses, she was a fascination, and we couldn’t get enough of her.

Later on it would be claimed that Prince Charles and the Royal Family did not give her enough support…but I have to wonder if anyone could.  There has never been a ‘star’ amongst aristocrats or Hollywood actors or musicians and performers whose celebrity rivalled hers, and we know what happened with many of them:  self-destructive behaviours, multiple marriages, and strange lifestyles.  The pressure on her must have been enormous, and the bulimia that resulted was therefore not surprising.

Much has been made of Prince Charles’s offhand response to a television interviewer at the time the engagement was announced.  When he was asked about being ‘in love,’ Prince Charles jokingly replied, “Whatever ‘in love’ means.”  Diana laughed at that at the time, in response to his tone of voice if not to the words themselves.  This tiny moment on tape was raised to the status of an epiphany and endlessly replayed at the time of their marital breakdown.  It was seen (again and again and again) as a moment in time when Prince Charles supposedly revealed the true nature of his feelings–or the lack thereof–for Princess Diana. That’s how the media presented it, and so that’s what it became.

A couple of quotes from Marshall McLuhan’s writings might be relevant here:

“All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values.”

and

“A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding.”

I see that remark, “Whatever ‘in love’ means” as something integral to Prince Charles’s nature–that he might seriously have questioned what exactly it means to be ‘in love’…the physical, mental or emotional nature of it.  He was, and is, an intelligent man who thinks about many things beyond their surface values.  In any case, it was an idiotic remark on the part of the reporter, and really deserved nothing more than the reply it got.  So whether Prince Charles’s response was philosophical or flippant, it certainly shouldn’t have taken on the level of importance it was later given.  Many of us say offhand things without considering the full effects on the listener, but our remarks are rarely immortalized on film and replayed ad nauseum.

Even Princess Diana herself took this as sign that he didn’t feel the same way she did at the time of their engagement; call to witness her voice coach’s (Peter Settelen’s) 1992/93 videotapes of his sessions with her.  In the Settelen tape she says that Charles’s remark ‘really threw’ her and ‘absolutely traumatized’ her; but at that point in time, many years after that engagement interview, I suspect she had simply absorbed the media’s magnification of Prince Charles’s casual remark, and elevated its status in her own mind–and perhaps for her own purposes.

In the Settelen tapes she talks unguardedly and at length about many intimate details of her marriage, and it’s quite a performance, if one is a bit cynical.  I find it difficult to believe that she could reveal so much to a man whom she knew on very short acquaintance–while being videotaped–and then keep the tapes instead of destroying them, as she should have done unless she intended using them at some point.

“A lot has been made of the fact that the footage was never intended for public consumption. Diana had possession of the tapes and could not have known she was going to die so young and they would end up first in Paul Burrell’s attic, then in Settelen’s hands […] By her early thirties, the age she was when the tapes were made, did Diana feel she existed away from the cameras? Did she do or say very much that wasn’t ultimately intended for public consumption? ” (Barbara Ellen in The Guardian, December 12, 2004)

And did he love her?  I would guess that he did in the beginning, in spite of what he later said.  When he came out with the confession that he never loved Diana in his Dimbleby biography of 1994, his marriage was an unrecoverable shambles, and he was firmly committed to Camilla.

It seems that the marriage to Diana failed in part because she and he could not find a common intellectual ground—a shared interest of some sort, apart from their children and their work.  He was a little bit opera and she was a little bit rock n’ roll.  Their differences could only be magnified over time, and since Charles evidently never lost his attachment to Camilla, the inevitable happened.

Also, if one were to believe Wendy Berry, who wrote, The Housekeeper’s Diary, Charles and Diana before the Breakup, there were serious personality conflicts at work as well.  I have only read Amazon reviews of this book, myself, but they seem to agree on that point.  Wendy Berry was the housekeeper for Charles and Diana, and it seems that her purpose in taking the supposedly low-paying housekeeper’s job was to write this book about them.  Did she embellish her observations to boost book sales?  Probably, but there must have been some truth to it, judging by subsequent events.

And then there’s Diana’s collaboration with writer Andrew Morton (a poor choice on her part…if she had to write an exposé of her life in the Royal Family, at least she could have chosen a less heavy-handed writer), and her interview with Martin Bashir (another poor choice, in my view).

Here’s a quote from ‘The Guardian’ newspaper of February 7, 2003,

“Michael Jackson yesterday made an official complaint to TV watchdogs over the controversial documentary on his life, and angrily accused interviewer Martin Bashir of “utterly betraying” him.”

[…]

“The 44-year-old star said in a videotaped statement yesterday: “Martin Bashir persuaded me to trust him that his would be an honest and fair portrayal of my life, and told me he was ‘the man that turned Diana’s life around’.”

Bashir’s remark about his impact on Diana’s life was a bit egocentric, and not entirely accurate, since what he did was to encourage her to say things that resulted in her divorce–not really a positive thing, IF there was any hope at all of reconciliation.  I really wonder why Jackson would have chosen Bashir after watching Bashir’s Panorama interview of Princess Diana on November 20, 1995.  Bashir was quite obviously out to milk her for every scandalous, damaging remark he could get.  I think she was very foolish to cooperate with him to the extent that she did–if only for the impact it must have had on her children–and that Jackson should have been forewarned by it.

I watched Bashir’s interview of Jackson, and agree that it was patently a betrayal of trust, and a total manipulation of Jackson’s revelations to highlight anything that might be construed in an unsavoury light.  Jackson’s naïveté was so much in evidence throughout that I can readily believe the allegations of Jackson’s impropriety with children to be false.  Granted that a grown man should not be sleeping with children, even if it is or was all completely innocent, but in Jackson’s case it appears to be no more than a flouting of societal conventions–through ignorance, it must be said.  Society will accept an adult sleeping with a child if the adult is the child’s parent, and there to comfort a child who is ill or upset.  If there is no parental relationship, suspicions are aroused.  It can be said that because Jackson’s life and upbringing were so far from ‘the norm’ of a regular childhood, and his adult life so far removed from the average person’s experience, we can probably allow for the fact that he would have no concept of this.

Diana interviewed by Martin Bashir in Panorama Nov 20, 1995

In any case, within a month of Diana’s interview by Bashir, her press secretary had resigned and the Queen had sent Charles and Diana a letter urging them to divorce quickly.

LONDON, Dec. 20— Queen Elizabeth II has written to Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, and to his estranged wife, the Princess of Wales, urging them to agree to an early divorce, Buckingham Palace said today.  (The New York Times, Dec. 21. 1995)

Bashir revealed himself even more clearly in later years; the following is from a December 5, 2013, online article in the Independent:

“Bashir, 50, described Mrs. Palin as a “world-class idiot” and “America’s resident dunce”, before suggesting that someone ought to defecate in her mouth – a punishment historically administered to slaves by particularly cruel slave-owners.

He later backtracked, apologising to Mrs. Palin for what he called his “ill-judged” and “deeply offensive” remarks.”

Yes, Mr. Bashir.  Deeply offensive indeed.

And then there’s Andrew Morton, who was interviewed by journalist Deborah Ross in the Independent, November 30, 1997, three months after Princess Diana’s death in the car crash in Paris:

“We now know that Andrew Morton’s Diana, Her True Story was based on the Princess’s own words. He has the six C90 tapes to prove it, plus the hastily updated and snappily retitled Diana, Her True Story – In Her Own Words, which will earn him a second fortune for practically no extra work, the cheeky little monkey.”

[…]

“But is Andrew being true to himself – or to Diana, for that matter – with this new, updated version of the book, which includes 69 pages of her own, transcribed words? The Red Cross was not impressed. It refused to accept a donation from him. Bob Geldof was even less impressed. He called Andrew “a loathsome creep gorging on the memory of the woman who handed him his cheque”.

[…]

“He began researching his Diana book in the winter of 1990. Of course, he did not expect Diana to collaborate. But, even so, he asked Dr. James Colthurst – a mutual friend – if he would ask her to consider answering some questions. Amazingly, she agreed. Why? Because, he thinks, “she wanted to get her retaliation in first.” Retaliation against whom? “Charles, for going back to Camilla shortly after their marriage. Then Charles got his own back by doing the Dimbleby thing, which was actually promoted as the complete riposte to Morton’s book. Then Diana retaliated by doing Panorama …” He says that any accusations that he might have further wounded Princes William and Harry with his revelations are ludicrous. “Their parents had said it all in public already.””

Well, I guess they wouldn’t be the first couple to ‘have a go’ at one another when their marriage went sour.  Charles’s response to Morton’s book was to participate in the writing of Jonathan Dimbleby’s book (an authorized biography), which stated that he never loved Diana…”Buckingham Palace said yesterday that Charles had no regrets about cooperating with the biography, which describes him as trapped in a nightmare marriage with a bored, bulimic, self-absorbed and obsessively jealous young wife.” (Los Angeles Times, October 17, 1994).

It was unfortunate that all these accusations, recriminations, and extremely hurtful remarks should appear in the public forum, and in the hands of such as Martin Bashir and Andrew Morton.  There can be no mitigation or retraction of words that are published in print and recorded on film.  I question Charles’s departure from the stoic, stiff-upper-lip and stony silence on personal issues that the Royal Family has always maintained in the past.  His revelations in the Dimbleby book were ill-advised, in my view.  And I really question Princess Diana’s judgement in choosing Morton and Bashir, if she absolutely had to fire a salvo across the Royal Family’s flagship.  So I have to wonder about some of her other choices.  Dodi Fayed?  Hmmmm…

Dodi Fayed was famously described as a Muslim playboy and film producer, who was the son of Mohamed Al-Fayed.  He was engaged to model Kelly Fisher at the time of his ‘fling’ with Princess Diana, and had bought a house in Malibu for Kelly and himself, reportedly with his father’s money.  Kelly Fisher later sued Dodi Fayed for breach of promise.  Evidently Princess Diana, who believed herself to be a betrayed wife with a ‘third party’ (Camilla) involved in her marriage, didn’t scruple to be the third party in someone else’s relationship–and not for the first time.

Mohamed Al-Fayed, to all appearances, was a little bit obsessed by the British Royal family, and had pretensions to aristocracy himself (he added the ‘Al’ to his name to indicate this, and some of his family members followed suit for a time and later dropped it).

“In 1986 he signed a 50-year lease on the Parisian villa of the duke and duchess of Windsor, which he promptly restored.”  (Encyclopedia Britannica)

I know that I’ve read somewhere (and can’t find the source at the moment) that he wanted the Royal Family to use their influence in getting him British citizenship, and he was rebuffed.  Maybe that was speculation on someone’s part at the time, but it fits.

“Although frustrated in his efforts to be accepted as a British citizen—his application was first denied in 1995, and subsequent attempts were also unsuccessful—Fayed continued to play an influential and highly controversial role in Great Britain. Fayed had numerous feuds with the British establishment and helped wreck the careers of several Conservative politicians.” (Encyclopedia Britannica)

“Fayed’s contentious relationship with the British establishment was well documented. In a rancorous takeover in 1985, he beat out mining giant Lonrho to purchase the House of Fraser, the holding company that controlled Harrods department store.” (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Of course, after the deaths of Dodi and Diana, his relationship with the Royal Family was open warfare, as is clearly seen from his court action against them and the security services (Feb 18, 2008), and in this article from the Daily Mail, June 27, 2011:

“Mohammed Al Fayed has burnt the royal crests that used to adorn the wall of Harrods as part of a TV documentary on the death of Princess Diana.

Al Fayed also brands the Duke of Edinburgh a ‘Nazi’ in the film, which will not be shown in Britain because it is far too libellous.

In the controversial scene Al Fayed is pictured standing in the grounds of his country estate near Oxted in Surrey.”

al-fayed burning Harrods's royal warrants

In any case, in the 2008 court case Al-Fayed charged that MI-6 murdered Dodi and Diana on the orders of Prince Philip, and branded the Royals “Dracula Family.”

He believes that Diana was pregnant with Dodi’s child at the time of her death.  Wishful thinking, I believe, since this was very likely his aim…to connect his family to the Royal Family.  Any child of Diana’s would be a half-sibling to an heir to the throne (William).

There really can be few other men who would have been less desirable as a connection in the Royal Family’s view than Dodi Fayed.  Easy to see how it all came about…Mohamed Al-Fayed no doubt saw an opportunity for his son with Princess Diana after her divorce, and the invitation he extended to her, William and Harry for a holiday in the south of France in 1997 was a calculated move that paid off.

“Diana and Charles divorced in 1996. Diana was hosted by Al-Fayed in the south of France in the summer of 1997, with her two sons, the Princes William and Harry. For the holiday, Fayed bought a 195 ft yacht, the Jonikal (later renamed the Sokar).  Dodi and Diana later began a private cruise on the Jonikal and paparazzi photographs of the couple in an embrace were published. Diana’s friend, the journalist Richard Kay, confirmed that Diana was involved in “her first serious romance” since her divorce.” (Wikipedia)

And of course Dodi and Diana died in a Paris car crash while being pursued by paparazzi on August, 31, 1997, a short time after their relationship began in that same summer.

Naturally there was a shocked reaction from all quarters, and an outpouring of public grief at the tragedy.  Even though I shared in the shock and grief, I remember seeing on the news broadcasts all the notes to ‘Dodi and Diana’ amongst the flowers piled at the gates of Buckingham Palace, and wondering how people could possibly imagine that they were Romeo and Juliet.

It was so obviously a match orchestrated by his father for reasons of his own, in which Dodi collaborated–in spite of his engagement to another woman, and likely because his wealthy father held the purse-strings.  Diana could no doubt see the affair as a spectacularly effective retaliatory measure.  Or perhaps she was just making another poor judgement call?  After her affair with James Hewitt, and publication of the book he collaborated on with Anna Pasternak, Princess in Love, (1994), one would think she’d be more cautious.  But she seemed destined always to misplace her trust in a rather grand way.

As for her trust in Andrew Morton, I think we can see how that went wrong.  Immediately after her death, he re-published the book he wrote about her, with additional transcripts held back from the first publication, and he openly revealed her cooperation.

Very sad that two little boys should have been exposed to all this about their mother just after her death.  What a rocky few years it was for them.  Did she ever pause to consider the effects of her revelations on her children?  Had the boys been foremost in her thoughts, would she not have done her utmost to protect them from all the animosity between their parents, and the ugly publicity that fed on it?  If she had to make a life for herself separate from her husband’s, why wouldn’t she just get on with it?  It would have been the better choice for herself as well as her children.  I suspect that if she hadn’t made the attack on her husband–their father–and a play for public sympathy in that first book of Morton’s, it might not have set the wheels in motion that brought her life to a crashing halt in a Paris tunnel.  A sad waste of a life that was capable of so much good.

The following is an excerpt of a New York Times review (March 5, 1999) of a more recent book written by Andrew Morton about Monica Lewinsky.

‘Monica’s Story’: Tawdry and Tiresome, By MICHIKO KAKUTANI

“Like Morton’s two Diana books (“Diana: Her True Story” and “Diana: Her New Life”), “Monica’s Story” reverberates with the cloying sound of the talk-show confessional. All three books also share an annoying, and sometimes inadvertently amusing, propensity for Gothic melodrama and romance-novel prose. Describing the hopes of Ms. Lewinsky’s mother and aunt that her infatuation with the president was winding down, Morton writes, “Over the next few weeks, however, like blood seeping out from under a closed door, the awful truth began to dawn.””

I haven’t read the Dimbleby book Prince of Wales (yet), but that one was apparently a retaliatory move prompted by Morton’s book, and contained Prince Charles’s remarks  about feeling pushed into a loveless marriage by his father.  Those two books really put an end to the marriage, if it wasn’t already dead, and everything that happened subsequent to that was the flogging of a dead horse.

If one can put aside all the drama and tragedy of his marriage to Diana, accept that she is gone, and allow for the happy marriage to Camilla that resulted, I like it that Prince Charles is interested in urban planning and organic farming and environmental issues and architecture…

At the 150th anniversary of the Royal Institute of British Architects (May 30, 1984) he said, “Why can’t we have those curves and arches that express feeling in design? What is wrong with them? Why has everything got to be vertical, straight, unbending, only at right angles – and functional?”

He also said that a proposed extension to the National Gallery in London would be a “monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved friend.”

And apparently he got up everyone’s nose with that remark, but what’s the problem?  If he has no power to dictate to people about what they can and can’t do, why should they mind that he says what he thinks?  I think his views are worth listening to, and I think he would do very well as king…someday in the distant future, I hope.

What I remember about Prince Charles during all that difficult time his and Diana’s marriage imploded before our eyes was the fact that he kept a speaking engagement at a U.S. university shortly after the ‘Camillagate’ tapes were being played on radio and television. (Were the ‘Squidgygate’ tapes prior to, or subsequent to that?  Oh…I don’t really care.)   In them, two people who were apparently Charles and Camilla, were having an intimate conversation.

I watched a news report around this time which featured a reporter who went to the university campus and interviewed some of the students there prior to Prince Charles’s arrival.  One young fellow with a purple Mohawk haircut and multiple piercings and tattoos was very disapproving of Prince Charles, and I remember thinking, doesn’t it just beat all that this strange-looking article should criticize Prince Charles, whom I thought was very brave to continue to honour his public engagements in spite of all the sensationalism and public censure.  It was very “Keep Calm and Carry On” of him.

I realize that that motto from the days of the London Blitz is overworked these days, but it was very heartening to see it in practice.

 

Gutenberg.org–and my other Favourites

What a joy to this bibliophile’s frugal heart is the gutenberg.org website! FREE offerings of electronic books of all sorts (books which are no longer protected by copyright law in the U.S., that is), available to readers with no registration necessary.  Book choices may be read online, or downloaded in various formats.

This is from their website:

“Project Gutenberg was the first provider of free electronic books, or eBooks. Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg, invented eBooks in 1971 and his memory continues to inspire the creation of eBooks and related technologies today.”

https://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page

And the online books are organized in various ways to make searching for something in particular a breeze. Additionally, we can see which books are popular downloads for our fellow readers by clicking on the “Top 100 Books and Authors,” or we can click on “Recent books” to see what has been added to the inventory since we last visited the site, or visit the “Bookshelves” to see groupings of related books, or access the online catalog and “Browse by Author, Title, Language or Recently Posted,” and so on. There also appears to be some sheet music on offer, and audio books, etc. I haven’t explored it all, but there’s a vast and growing body of literature available to readers—with no strings attached. Needless to say, I support the Gutenberg project with my donations. It’s a worthy and worthwhile endeavour.

I also support the ‘Brainpickings.org’ site and the ‘Wikipedia’ site. These are also places that I visit regularly, and whose benefit to me is immeasurable.

https://www.brainpickings.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

I only have to look at sites supported by ads briefly to feel assaulted by their intrusiveness and junk content. I never stay in them long.

‘MSN’ is a prime irritant.  I sometimes end up there, like it or not, because I use hotmail.  Today I saw a headline flash by on the MSN page:  “Four dead, male suspect held in Canada school shooting – RCMP”.  I was shocked by the headline, and wanted more information immediately, but by the time I’d clicked on it, the photo and headline had moved on, and when I clicked, I ended up in some dog and dog-owner lookalike article.

How infuriating to suddenly find oneself in a rubbishy article like that, when one is trying to get information on what is apparently a terrible, tragic event of national proportions.  So I exited the dog-lookalike article, and scrolled back through the MSN items until I found the “Four dead…” headline again.  When I clicked on it, I found myself being forced to watch a car-sales ad, while a ‘McCafe’ ad, with whipped-cream-topped coffee mug and stacked chocolate cookies flashed some animated characters to attract my attention at the side of the screen.

So here’s a newsflash for MSN from me:  I did not click on the news item to be sold a car.  I did not click on the news item to be told by McDonalds that ‘Love is Everywhere’ and that I should have a cookie.   I needed to know what happened in a Winnipeg, Manitoba, school for four lives to be lost in a shooting.  Throwing obstacles in my way will not improve car, coffee or cookie sales.  It will merely cause me to grind my teeth and growl.

I realize that the user of these commercial sites is just ‘a mark,’ and fair game for anyone.  But I have to wonder whether the advertisers would persist in allowing their ads to be played indiscriminately on MSN if they were aware that they risk attracting the viewer’s enmity and disgust.  I might now have an AVERSION to their products as a result of this experience.

By contrast, my favourite websites are oases of calm and repose.  Nothing jars my sensibilities or impedes my access to the information I want.  These sites do not aggressively ram links to other sites down my throat; force-feeding me ads ‘here,’ scrolling photos rapidly across the screen ‘there’ while frantically running videos ‘someplace else’ on the same screen.

Giving Project Gutenberg, Brainpickings, and Wikipedia a few dollars now and again to support their efforts is an obligation that I gladly fulfill.  If everyone gave them a few dollars regularly, I’m sure their operating expenses would easily be met.

Imagine what the internet would be like if every site needed advertising dollars to keep it going–an internet with no respite from interference.  We’d find ourselves continually waiting interminably for our screens to unlock while some video ad that requires all our computer and communication resources loads something we have no wish to see.

Hideous thought.

That said, the reality is that websites require funding to continue their existence; and, for some, advertising dollars must be the way for them to sustain themselves.  We must hope that they can find a happy balance between service to readership and service to commerce.

I won’t make a habit of visiting them until they do.

 

Jackie, We Hardly Knew Ye

I had a dream about Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis the other night.

I was manning a table at a charity bazaar when she approached.  Can’t remember what I had ‘on offer,’ but I remember a display of doll-size Bentwood rockers, with elaborate wicker scrollwork on the sides.

Since I was pretty sure she had already given a donation in support of the charity–and probably attended the bazaar on the observance of good form alone–I thought she was entitled to take whatever she liked, and any necessity to pay was superfluous.

She looked at the miniature Bentwood rockers, and I told her to take one.  She hesitated a moment, and then unfastened the clasp on her handbag and quickly dropped a Bentwood rocker into it.  I judged at that point that I might be inhibiting her shopping experience, and so I made myself scarce.

A little while later she came over to where I was, and she was modelling some lovely gold-finish bracelets and a necklace.  She held her arms out with a flourish for my admiration and comment.  I said that they looked lovely, and appeared  quite authentic–not being too brassy-looking in the usual way of costume jewellery.

She gave me a cheque for $209-plus-change (I can’t remember the exact amount), and that’s all I remember of my dream.

I have no idea how miniature Bentwood rockers came to feature in my dream.  As for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, there could be a variety of reasons for that, I suppose…dusting my bookshelf and noting the location of the Pierre Salinger interview CDs (couldn’t remember where I’d put them), or watching a documentary about JFK Jr. and Carolyn Bessette on television recently.  Or was it perhaps that I’d rooted-out my Camrose Jacqueline Kennedy reproduction jewellery to wear during the festive season just past?

I also have a book entitled, “Cooking for Madam, Recipes and Reminiscences from the Home of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis” (1998) by Marta Sgubin (and Nancy Nicholas).  Marta was the family cook in the post-presidential years, and apparently her book was encouraged and endorsed by Caroline  and John Kennedy Jr.  I was very interested in what food was served in the household–and how Jacqueline maintained her weight so successfully!  (She loved chocolate cake?  Really?  Hmmm…perhaps as a table decoration.)

thin Jacqueline

Am I a fan of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis?  To a degree, I suppose.  I admire her style, and the way she managed her public persona.  But I’m not a devotee.  If I could admire her unreservedly, I’d probably never give her another thought.  (Sad to say, but  I never think about Mother Teresa–there are no questions in my mind about her.)  I thought that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was very wise to  guard her privacy as much as possible, and try to give her children as normal an upbringing as possible.

Some might say that she avoided publicity in order to attract people through her mystique.  At least one cannot look at her and say that she was professionally packaged for sale to the celebrity-market consumer.  She apparently gave them nothing, and what would be the benefit to her if she did?  Granted that there were third-party benefits:  newspapers, magazines and television programs attracted consumers when they featured articles or segments about her–due to her history and her glamour and her aloofness.  And perhaps in some sense she (and they) understood the laws of supply and demand.   If a commodity is rare, it is intrinsically more valuable.

Then there are her marriages…JFK was an exceptional man from all appearances, who appeared to handle power judiciously.  But evidently he was a philanderer, being unfaithful to her and their marriage with a number of women.

Let’s compare Jackie’s marital experiences with Princess Diana’s for a moment (Diana is another complex topic).   Diana collaborated with a writer in producing a book about her husband’s infidelity with another woman.  Just ONE other woman.   The fact that it was only one other woman doesn’t make Diana’s circumstances any better, but one of the two betrayed wives laid out her problems for the public, and one didn’t.

I’m sorry in both cases that they were disappointed in their husbands, but I have to say that Jacqueline Kennedy was the wiser one for not inviting the public to judge or to comment on her marriage.  I’ve read somewhere that Jacqueline’s silence on the topic of her husband’s infidelity was bought with her father-in-law’s money.  Seems unlikely.  Just speculation and gossip–who could ever know?

Maybe she didn’t care, anyway.  Perhaps she really had no deep feelings that could be outraged by her marriage partner’s betrayal.  I’ve read it somewhere that she might have been impervious to emotional hurt in this way, having experienced the results of her father’s infidelity and her parents’ failed marriage.  So she may have been desensitized.  Was it that…or did she merely have a sense that she would not wear martyrdom well?  It simply wasn’t done, and especially for someone of her class in society.

What a background and history she possessed…such glamour and elegance, good taste and style.  She had all the privileges of an upper-class American upbringing, but spiced (or spoiled?) by a dashing father, “Black Jack” Bouvier, who was a source of drama and insecurity in her life.  Jacqueline’s stepfather, Hugh Auchincloss, had to walk her down the aisle at her wedding when her father was reportedly in ‘no fit state’ to perform his father-of-the-bride duties.  But there’s no mistaking where Jacqueline got her striking good looks…

Black_Jack_Bouvier

Jacqueline, as we know, married an American politician who became the first Irish-Catholic president, and the youngest president in the history of the United States, at least to that point in time.  They created the new ‘Camelot’–a brief, shining moment in time when younger people led the country and encouraged the arts to flourish:  a dîner français after the stodge of the Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower years.

Photo of Jackie Kennedy

And there followed his tragic, public murder and her dramatic, heart-rending part in the events that followed.

Johnson oath after assassination

But consider that the funeral was orchestrated by her (according to reports), and it became a national event of great future historical importance.  How did she muster the strength of mind and character to put her imprint on a national event that was such a huge personal tragedy?  Think of the imagery from the funeral:   little John Jr.’s salute as his father’s coffin is carried by, and later the black-veiled widow walking with the late president’s brothers, Robert and Ted Kennedy, to St. Matthew’s Cathedral.  This was the first time that a first lady walked in her husband’s funeral procession.  Very dramatic and memorable–she seemed to epitomize the strength and endurance of American womanhood.

Jacqueline in JFK funeral

Later in her life there was her marriage to the Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, and all the public opinion against that, and all the subsequent trouble–conflict with his children, and so on.

Why did she marry Onassis?  Such an unlikely pairing, on the surface of it.  After Bobby Kennedy’s assassination it was popularly reported that she said something to the effect that if ‘they’ are killing Kennedys, her children would be prime targets.  I don’t believe that she said anything of the kind.  Why would she imagine ‘they’ wanted to kill her children?  I can more easily believe that she was simply attracted to Onassis’s wealth, power and personality.  Of course, she no doubt  knew that there would be a public outcry from Americans who would have great difficulty letting go of their idealized image of her–the assassinated President’s tragic widow–and accepting her marriage to a wealthy Greek.

IF she did say that she thought her children were in danger after Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, possibly she thought that saying so might provide an acceptable explanation for marrying Onassis–essentially trading on public sympathy in connection with the assassinations to buy acceptance for her decision to marry Onassis.  If anyone were foolish enough to believe that the Kennedy children were in danger from assassins, they would likely be capable of believing that this would be the reason for her marriage to Onassis.

And then at her death we read the synopsis of her life in the People Magazine article of June 6, 1994.

Among other things, we are asked to believe that she was a shopaholic who once bought 200 pairs of shoes in a single foray, running up a tab of $60,000.   Consider for a moment that $60,000 in 1973-ish (approximately the time this event might have taken place, since Onassis died in 1975, and they were separated prior to that) is equivalent to around $320,000 today.  This is a time before Manolo Blahnik became popular, as well.  I cannot imagine the sort of wild-eyed, frenzied, frothing-at the-mouth shopper who might be able to buy TWO HUNDRED pairs of shoes in a single shopping trip.  And at that cost?  If I could imagine this poor, demented creature, I’m quite sure that she would in no way resemble Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.  I suppose she never said that she didn’t buy those shoes–but why would she?

It might be something similar to the royal family in Britain not taking the time to deny every outlandish accusation levelled at them in the popular press.  Once you start that, you can never stop.

But ultimately we cannot know anything for sure.  Her children seemed to be level-headed people, for as much as they have shown themselves in public (prior to John Jr.’s tragic death).  And I was very impressed with Caroline in her explanation of the early release of the 8.5 hours of the Salinger interviews of her mother (it was intended to remain ‘sealed’ for a much longer period of time, but Caroline authorized the release to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of her father’s inauguration as President of the United States.)

I liked Jacqueline Kennedy in the Salinger interviews, which were done only four months after the assassination.  She was so candid and open, and natural.  What follows is a quote from the transcript of the interview, this being a comment on the events shortly after Nixon conceded to Kennedy in the presidential election.   She said:

“And then–oh, then I had to see the press in Ethel’s house–all those women saying, “What kind of First Lady will you be?”  Those horrible women.  And then we all had our pictures taken together in the big house.  Then we were all going to go down to the Armory and Mr. Kennedy didn’t want to come.  So sweet, he always tried to stay in the background.  I remember just grabbing him and saying, “You have to come now.”  He was so sweet.  And we all went down to the Armory.”

I love it that she said the press (women for the most part, I suppose) were ‘horrible.’  That’s an honest assessment!  And saying that her father-in-law was ‘so sweet.’  I have to believe that that was an honest remark as well, because it was something he would never hear.  There cannot have been any self-interest behind it.  We all make these assessments of one another (hard for some to admit), and I find it so refreshing that she said exactly what she thought, and felt.

I believe that, ultimately, the best indicator of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s character might be the type of people John Jr. and Caroline became as adults.  They appeared to be her primary focus, and she did pretty well there, I believe.

I’ve read somewhere that Jacqueline was very much opposed to her son’s enthusiasm for piloting small airplanes.  After her passing, he supposedly devoted more time to this hobby, and of course it lead to the tragic accident in the summer of 1999.

Was Jacqueline prescient, or is the story of her concerns about John’s airplane hobby apocryphal?

Just something else that we can’t know for sure.

Jackie and John Jr

 

Live it Through

I was just cruising through the contents of my hard drive, looking for anything that might be of interest to you, and found a poem entitled, “Live it Through” by David Ignatow.  I could not remember anything about it.  So I re-read it, and thought, yes, I must have liked it when I saved it to my computer, and I still like it.  I then found a link that talks about David Ignatow (1914-1997), and it’s below the poem that follows…

LIVE IT THROUGH

By David Ignatow

I dreamt a huge liner stood in the desert, its crew leaning

over the railing looking down as though the ship were

plowing through the waves of sand. I was afraid to ask

how a ship could come to rest in the desert. I was afraid I

might hear of a monstrous happening that would set my

heart to beating wildly and kill me with its fear. The world

itself was strange enough and that was all I cared to know,

and so I hailed the crew from my position on the sand and

asked where they were sailing to and was answered, Into

the desert. I was glad to get such an absurd answer, since

I could assume it masked their own fears.

 

Can I climb on board, I then asked and was answered Yes

promptly and a rope ladder dropped down. Eagerly I

climbed it. We would go through with this madness

together, think of it as real as life itself and help each other

live it through.

 

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/david-ignatow

In an interview of David Ignatow by Gerard Malanga in The Paris Review, The Art of Poetry No. 23, Ignatow says that the poem of which he is the most proud is Rescue the Dead.

Rescue the Dead

Finally, to forgo love is to kiss a leaf,

is to let rain fall nakedly upon your head,

is to respect fire,

is to study man’s eyes and his gestures

as he talks,

is to set bread upon the table

and a knife discreetly by,

is to pass through crowds

like a crowd of oneself.

Not to love is to live.

 

To love is to be led away

into a forest where the secret grave

is dug, singing, praising darkness

under the trees.

 

To live is to sign your name,

is to ignore the dead,

is to carry a wallet

and shake hands.

 

To love is to be a fish.

My boat wallows in the sea.

You who are free,

rescue the dead.

 

I pulled the quote below from the biography of David Ignatow on the poetryfoundation.org site:

“Ignatow commented on another significant difference between his earlier and later work; regarding “my early concentration in my poetry on injustice and cruelty,” he once told Contemporary Authors, “these poems were written with the assumption that somewhere, somehow there was a social system, idealized in faith by me, that practiced justice and decency consistently and with pleasure. I was wrong. At seventy-five years of age, I no longer have such hopes and expectations, though my heart still leaps at any and all pieces and fragments of good news.”

Ignatow died in 1997 at age 83.

 

Peacock-Blue Ink

It has been hovering in the back of my mind for lo these many years that I must yet again make an effort to write a journal–with diligence and a firm resolve to continue it faithfully into the future.  ‘Diligence’ and ‘resolve’ are provisos that must accompany this intent, because I have started a journal, or diary, many times previously, and somehow it has fallen by the wayside.

I think perhaps my problem is that once I start to write, I cannot easily stop before the sheer volume causes my writing hand to cramp up.  This would not be a bad thing (the pain aside), if time constraints did not thereby become an added obstacle to my journaling time.  At some busy time in my life, I will look at my journal and have to say to myself that I do not have an hour or more to write in it.  As subsequent days go by, the tendency to avoid taking up the journal intensifies, and it gets relegated to a place on a shelf instead of my bedside table.  Moving it from where the sight of it nags my guilty conscience is a necessary step for the promotion of a peaceful night’s sleep.  And so I forget about it entirely.  But thoughts of it lurk in the back of my mind, and I know that one day–oh yes–I will try again.

Why do I want to write a journal?  Lousy memory, partly.  I could use a source of reference for remembering things and events.  Also I find that when I record the events of the day, I can feel that I have accomplished something with my time.  I always appear more useful and productive on paper, for some reason.  (Fiction?  Probably.)   Also, some thoughts that are irritating, annoying or worrying can be offloaded in writing, and thereby cease, in some measure, from disturbing my mental balance and emotional harmony.  I really believe that I think better in writing.  It was always a way for me to see issues more clearly, and settle on future actions with more confidence and determination.

In past years, I have used ‘the New Year’s Resolution’ as a way of resuming journaling, but hadn’t intended that this year.  My thought to begin yet another journal started with a view of some beautiful handwriting in a historical document which I saw on television in a program presented by historian Dr. Lucy Worsley.  I’ve tried my hand at calligraphy, and believe that I might have some aptitude for it.  Be that as it may, I do enjoy trying.  So the writing tools one requires for making beautiful handwriting came to mind in connection with this–and also something that I remember from my elementary school days, when we used fountain pens (ballpoint pens not being sold in those days; oh dear, that dates me):  peacock-blue ink.

I wondered whether it was still possible to buy peacock-blue ink, so I searched on the internet, and found some bottles of it on Amazon, where it’s called ‘turquoise’ ink.  There were two bottles available, and I bought both of them.  Then I wondered about a pen.  I have cartridge fountain pens with a calligraphy kit, but obviously I now needed a fountain pen that could be refilled from a bottle.  Found a nice-looking Pilot Metropolitan pen on Amazon (a Japanese make, apparently), with a lovely gold finish, and some decent reviews from previous purchasers.  Am waiting for it to arrive at my door.

When it does, I shall begin my journal again–or, rather, a new edition.  And this time I will enforce a quota on the amount of writing to be done at one sitting.  No more ‘writing until my hand cramps.’  I shall write a single page a night, just before bedtime, with my shiny gold fountain pen and lovely peacock-blue ink.

 

How Did I Get Here?

Well, I’m a little bemused at the moment.  I had no intention of starting a blog site, but it seems that starting a blog site was in the cards for me today.

“So what happened,” you say?  (A little flight of fancy on my part–imagining that someone, somewhere, will read this and want to know how my blog site came about.)

I started out reading a story written by a member of the writing club wherein I lurk–since I’m on their e-mail distribution list–and wanted to lend my support to her effort by ‘liking’ her story, since I enjoyed reading it very much.  (So I liked her story, and I wanted to ‘like’ it, if you know what I mean.)

The link to the story is above, and she won third place, tied with another writer, in the contest she had entered.

Anyhow, as I said, I wanted to ‘like’ her story, and when I clicked on the ‘like’ button below it, I was presented with a signon screen for WordPress.  Well, that’s fair enough, one cannot just ‘like’ things without being members or subscribers to a particular site, so I tried to register.  And I found myself signing up for this blog site.

Not that I mind.  I have a website domain and have been trying to get back to working on the design for it.  Was side-tracked earlier this year by my father’s illness.

All that effort to develop my own website; signing up for web design courses and javascript courses, and here I’ve just dropped onto something ready-made, apparently.

Am writing my second ‘bit’ for my new blog site, and feeling mildly perplexed that I’m sat here doing this.  I still must try to ‘like’ the story I set out to support, if I can find my way back there.  And while I don’t know how I got here, following the path of least resistance has been my ‘modus operandi’ throughout life.

No point in stopping now.