The Habits Of Sundays

A lazy Sunday morning here near Bristol. It caused me to recall what “todays” were while growing up on the other side. Memories of years long past.

Everyone’s home life is distinctive. Back on Long Island, Sundays were special in our house. My mother maintained her routine long after I’d moved out and away, and even in her last years after she and my dad had relocated to Pennsylvania.

It was “the day of rest” centered around lunch/dinner. As a teen, I’d probably have mowed the lawn on Saturday. My grandmother – my Mom’s mother – would sometimes have slept over Saturday night.

But one habit my mother eventually came to avoid and never demanded of us….

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Never In A Million Years

Laura had been born in upstate New York. She died August 26, 2004 on Long Island – 11 years ago now. Only 52 at the time, she’d died in her sleep of a previously undiagnosed cerebral aneurysm.

For those of us who grew up fans, she was like a local gal who’d “made it.” I saw her perform live once, and won’t ever forget it:

A sneak peek into "Distances." Click to enlarge.
A sneak peek into “Distances.” Click to enlarge.

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For Instant Happy Woman?

While cat sitting for friends last month, I’d noticed this coaster on their dining room table. I photographed it because, being a man, I’m not entirely sure how to take this: image

And it made me chuckle. We saw them again last night; they have just moved house temporarily until they move permanently to Cambridge in August. So we got to see their “interim” place in Bath, and she had that coaster on their dining room table once more.

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Various Thoughts: 23 April 2015

UPDATE 2: 16:50 (4:50 pm) UK time: I see no one jumped at (or so far even reacted at all to) my Periscope idea. So I’ll presume the answer’s “No”? ;-)

As you can also see, given I’m writing this, there has been no ninja attack on my house today…. as of yet.

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UPDATE: Duvet finished. Now, to what I need to be doing. That’s called writing. ;-)

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1) Would any of you be interested in joining Periscope with me? You need to be on Twitter too. It’s Twitter’s live video setup.

Screenshot this morning of the Periscope app on my iPad.
Screenshot this morning of the Periscope app on my iPad.

I don’t know much about it, but I finally saw my first live one the other day: a photographer I follow on Twitter was walking around her neighborhood in lower Manhattan.

Turns out she’s really amusing. But she sounded like nothing I expected. Isn’t that always the way?

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Our Old School Chums

Today, this blog is in “Hala mania” hangover mode. If you missed the party, it was not something that happens here very often. Thanks to my interviewing Lebanese journalist Hala Feghaly on Monday, through yesterday I’d been inundated with new visitors, mostly from Lebanon.

Yes, yes, yes, I know they came by for her, so I presume most won’t be back longer-term. Although, you never know; one can but hope a few stick around. In any event, let’s return here today to what passes for “normal.”

Dawn breaking over our back garden in Wiltshire. [Photo by me, about 5:30 am this morning.]
Dawn breaking over our back garden in Wiltshire. [Photo by me, about 5:30 am this morning.]

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Sneak Peek: “A girl in the apartment”

A “sneak peek” into another chapter I finished drafting recently in Distances. James’s father, who runs the family’s Long Island construction company, has just come home from work. He found James’s mother, Joanne, sitting at the kitchen table.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a house.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a house.

Joanne had spoken to James in Paris hours before. She’d rung their son at about two o’clock in the morning New York time (Jim had been asleep and later went to work without knowing she’d had), catching James, she believed, with a female overnight guest at his apartment. It had been too early in the morning in Paris, Joanne is sure, for that to have been innocent:

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“And where are you from?”

On our way out of church this morning, the priest asked me, “And where are you from?”

He may merely have been asking where I was from in the U.K. It wasn’t our “regular” church. Nonetheless, I was startled.

I thought: Gee, do I look like I’m not from here? I’m sure, to some extent, I don’t.

As we shook hands, I replied, “I’m from New York originally.”

The look on his face indicated that answer was a surprise. I suppose he had indeed figured I was going to say Bristol or something.

But I often don’t know how to answer that question. I was born in New York City, and when asked where I’m from that’s my initial answer. I grew up on Long Island, in Suffolk County; but most Europeans haven’t a clue where Suffolk County is, and they usually associate “Long Island” either with the Hamptons or The Great Gatsby. And, here in England, there is a Suffolk county too – the “original” Suffolk, of course.

US Embassy London on Google. It's closed today, Sunday.
US Embassy London on Google. It’s closed today, Sunday.

I’ve also spent much more of my adult life outside of the U.S. than inside of it. But I always feel American, and like a New Yorker. And I even still feel like a Long Islander – even though I have for years had no ties to Long Island whatsoever.

I don’t think I’ll ever not feel that way. We can move wherever in the world, but is where we are born and reared imprinted on us for life? Seems so.

Just a little “quiet reflection.” Hope you’re having a good Sunday. :-)

On Location: Long Island And The Catskills

It’s finally back here in Britain. Last night, we watched the second episode of Revenge for 2014-2015. (We saw the opener last week.) I’ve written about that escapist show before, although not in this context.

The program does accurately reflect aspects of the incredible wealth (often “weekend wealth”) seen on Suffolk County’s “South Fork” – in east end towns such as Southampton and East Hampton. But when I write of “Long Island” in the novels, it’s about the “middle class” island. In one exchange in Passports between Uncle Bill and Joanne (James’s mother), I decided to slip in this reference to the dramatic difference in lifestyles:

As her brother gave her a long look, Joanne added caustically, “You know, we were always imagining Lake Ronkonkoma as the sublime setting.”

“Really? What? Not East Hampton?” he joked.

“Oh, yeh, us Brookhaven billionaires,” she smirked.

Brookhaven is a large town (that would probably be better described as a “township” – encompassing many hamlets and villages) in central Suffolk that runs the width of the island from north shore to south shore.

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My Day

Friday was a relatively ordinary day. I started early, at the PC after 6am re-reading Thursday’s writing output. I then had a read of what’s going on in the world, messed around on Twitter a bit, and put up a post here. Actually getting dressed and eating breakfast followed. I then tackled a few things around the house as well.

Around 9am, the new writing began. Here, I use a large-screen, desktop PC that sits on a glass-topped desk positioned on our loft office space. I have a comfortable office chair (which has wheels). If I sit back for a think, I can see Windham Mountain through a window.

The desk is large, and I’ve got reference materials scattered all over it and stuffed in hanging files sitting off to the side. For a background history refresher, on the desk right now is also a book I’m re-reading on the Algerian conflict (1954-1962). Reference material like that usually ends up supporting only a paragraph or two, or a few sentences in a conversation; but I firmly believe that, for this tale, reality has to support the fiction believably. (Think, in a similar sense, of the likes of, say, The Winds of War, but on a much more intimate scale…. and with no character becoming close to a U.S. president or a Soviet dictator.)

I had sat down with a detailed part of a chapter already firmly in mind. (I have the sequel outlined, but “the guts” are what need filling in.) I also had had a brainstorm about an unplanned, new chapter for the second half of the book, and which I felt I had to sketch out at least. I don’t really want to add to “part 2” just now; but when an idea hits, I have to write it down so I don’t forget it.

When I get going, I “zone out.” I put in earphones and play music (often older stuff from the 1990s as inspiration). My wife jokes that she knows not to talk to me when I’m writing. (“Your brain is elsewhere, thinking I don’t know what, about I don’t want to know who, and I can see that.”) As I tap, tap, tap, she leaves me alone, and goes off to do whatever she has to do.

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Hours disappear. If you want to see your life vanish, write a novel. Nine o’clock yesterday morning was suddenly 1pm. Four hours gone in a flash. After a bite to eat, and a quick shower, it was back to “the grind.” Four o’clock rolled around faster than I could yell “Patchogue!” – hint: that’s an obscure reference to the first book:

“No, I’m definitely not English,” James made clear. Trying to play it cool, he looked down again at his notebook for a moment, unsure what to say next. Finally, he voiced what seemed obvious. “And you aren’t from Patchogue?”

Uh, to be clear, I’m not asserting there that “Patchogue” is obscure. I don’t want to get into trouble! Rather I’m noting only that the reference to it in the book might be. ;-)

Aside from a sandwich and the shower, in all those hours I had barely gotten far from the desk. The result was worth it. I had pages and pages of (what seems decent) material.

At some point, I checked Twitter. I could see tweeting pals either exulting or bemoaning Spain’s being kicked all the way to Amsterdam in the World Cup. I was back in “the real world” again. :-)

Happy Saturday!

Foul Mouths

Do Americans use foul language more than other English-speaking nationalities? I’m merely asking. Someone, someplace must have done a study? (Somebody always does a study.)

I have found that while bad language – the “F” word especially – is heard in Britain of course, it does seem less common than in the U.S. However, “America” is probably too wide a description. My personal experience is, naturally, rooted in what I’ve heard where I was born and raised: downstate New Yorkers, including Long Islanders, and New Jerseyans, seem to have an infamous reputation – deserved or not – as “foul mouths.”

Perhaps that’s due to impressions conveyed through books, TV, and movies – especially those involving organized crime and cop stuff? Yet are they encouraging its use, or merely conveying it is routinely used? Which comes first?

Whatever the reasons, it is common to hear, for instance, the “F” word used not just as a swear word. It is also routinely dropped into ordinary conversation – as in, say, “That’s f-cking great!” Really? Uh, is it?

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Or maybe I’ve just become more aware of it? My (English) wife abhors bad language. As a result, I almost never use it. Indeed, if I do – even in momentary anger in a situation one might consider “justifies” it, such as a death – she pulls me up on it.

As a result, I suppose I’ve backed off from foul language in my writing too. It’s probably safer to err on the side of not using it. It likely offends some readers, while avoiding it seems unlikely to offend anyone.