As discussed previously, I don’t want to stop writing but I also don’t exactly know what to write about at this time. And so, an invitation. I would like you to play the role of newspaper editor. What would you like me to write about? I ask not in an attempt to go viral or shape myself to please an audience, but as a creative muscle-building exercise.
We’ll call this series “Sketches.” It’ll go on for however long it goes on. Through comments, the Facebook page or the contact form, send me your ideas. A word, a sentence, a topic. Serious, silly and anything between. I will do my level best to craft something in response. Honestly, I quite like this idea, for it changes this space from a monologue to a dialogue, which we desperately need more of in this world.
To kick things off, let us consider the word: introduction.
I don’t remember when I first came to love Britain. It must have something to do with Mary Poppins, which remains my favorite movie to this day. She is everything I would like to be – in control, beloved and respected, yet quite mischievous. I have a vague memory of attempting to work out how I could make my voice sound like that of Julie Andrews. (Not her singing voice; this alto/tenor will never hit those notes). Those childhood musings introduced me to the wonderfulness that is accents and impersonation, which in turn provided evidence that I could make people laugh, and thus often talk myself out of trouble.
History textbooks came home with me many evenings. I was probably the only child in the class who never understood why the Colonies chose to rebel against King George III. (I still don’t. We can fight about it later). By my teen years, I had strong opinions on Ethelred the Unready (a fabulous play on words), Anne Boleyn (never to be regarded as some saint of the Reformation), the East India Company (a bunch of criminals) and other topics that few were interested in discussing, save for the handful of students who joined me in Advanced Placement European History, where the jokes about popes and Poland flew fast and furious.
Documentaries, maps, photos and books galore fanned the growing flame of love. Alison Weir gained a forever fan as I read (and re-read) The Six Wives of Henry VIII. She was soon joined by David Starkey, Antonia Fraser, Winston Churchill, Lucy Worsley and so many others. I embraced Jane Austen and loathed Charles Dickens. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when Princess Diana died. Wrestled through Shakespeare and John Donne. Played a not-witch and squire named Patsy in scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I was, am and shall remain an Anglophile.
In 2009, I finally got the chance to visit the country I had dreamed of for so many years. I wrote about that trip, though I wish I had written more. London, Bath and Edinburgh in a dizzying and all-too short ten days. Set my computer aside for a good fifteen minutes just now, to leaf through stuffed photo albums. Lunches in Kensington Gardens. Hours spent in the National Gallery. Minding the gap. Late afternoon tea breaks in quiet cafes. Being warmly welcomed by a group of drunk Scotsmen. (At the time, I felt more relaxed in Edinburgh, despite the red-haired man who poked his fingers liberally into our food, but now…my heart beats for London).
How I long to return! I felt quite at home there. Strange, I suppose, for a crowd-averse, anxious person, born and raised in the Inland Northwest where nothing much ever happens. If money were no object, I’d hop on the first plane headed toward Heathrow. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, “America is my country and London is my hometown.”
For all posts in the Sketches series, go here.