“So who would you live with if I died tomorrow?”

My octogenarian in-laws have been thinking more than ever about what happens after one of them dies. After dinner last night, around the table a discussion arose among the four of us about their London house, and where would the survivor live, etc. My father now living without my mother in the same house they had bought together in Pennsylvania, and what he is going through as a widower, was the main immediate conversational catalyst.

However, my father-in-law insisted several times on taking matters too lightly for my mother-in-law’s taste. At one point, she put him on the spot: “Don’t joke,” she admonished him as he chuckled. “What will happen to you if I go first like Robert’s mum? You’re useless. You can’t do anything for yourself. You couldn’t live alone….”

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My Mom And Me

There was a time we rummaged through shoeboxes and dusty albums and stumbled on nearly forgotten photographs of deceased loved ones. No longer. Nowadays, we find hordes of digital camera photos that had once been uploaded onto now barely used PCs:

Outside a cousin's wedding, in Manhattan, 2002. [Photo - I think - by my wife.]
Outside a cousin’s wedding, in Manhattan, 2002. [Photo – I think – by my wife.]

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We Don’t Fight, We Write

Pardon a brief rant. I just want to get this off my chest. I don’t do this on here very often….

Always at the ready for reference. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Always at the ready for reference. [Photo by me, 2015.]

To a slug “relation” (by marriage):

Last year, I lost someone I loved. You think I give a rat’s you know what about you at all? And if you actually imagine you are ever going to get my wife and myself to humilate ourselves by bending to your will, well, dear, I got news for you: I’m a novelist:

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Spouse Or Country?

International marriages have become pretty ho-hum in the last two decades or so. My (English) wife and I have laughed with two sets of Danish/English married friends about how there also appears to be something between Danes and the English. ;-) In their cases, the women are sisters who both married English men. One couple lives in England, while the other couple did live in England and now lives in Denmark.

I bring that up for this reason. The BBC tells us:

Stephen Kinnock, son of the former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, has been selected as the Labour candidate for Aberavon at the 2015 general election.

Mr Kinnock, 44, is married to Danish Prime Minister Helle Thoring-Schmidt.

He is based in London and works for the business advisory company Xynteo, and worked for the British Council and the World Economic Forum….

Unlike our friends, apparently Kinnock and Thorning-Schmidt (she perhaps best-known in the U.S. for that “selfie”) have long been accustomed to marital separation owing to geography. Wales Online explains:

….When interviewed by WalesOnline in December, Mr Kinnock said the couple – who have two daughters – had maintained their family life despite living apart for much of their marriage, with Mr Kinnock serving in positions in Russia, Sierra Leone and Switzerland, as well as London.

A couple’s private marital arrangement is entirely their own business. Yet although it might be considered, at minimum, interesting, neither report touches on this public policy question: Are there concerns worth addressing about a married couple of differing nationalities serving simultaneously in elective office in their different countries?

Imagine if a U.S. senator were married to a British MP, or to a member of the French National Assembly…. or to a Danish prime minister? How might such a pairing be received by many in both nations? One suspects eyebrows would be raised at the very least.


It has been asserted that, back in the 1920s, U.S. Army Chief of Staff General John J. Pershing did not marry his French girlfriend because he believed Americans would not accept it if he, the country’s top soldier, had a foreign wife. True, attitudes have since softened considerably. Voters seem far less troubled now if a government official has a non-citizen spouse. (Or a soon to be foreign new spouse…. even after his wife had divorced him for cheating on her with that woman.)

For example, it is well-known that British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s wife is Spanish. However, Miriam Clegg is not a member of the Spanish government. And she resides in Britain with her British husband.

We know we are all “good friends” nowadays, yet issues may still arise that place countries on “collision” courses. It definitely remains an uncommon marital situation, but it nonetheless raises an intriguing hypothetical question: Which would come first for spouses serving in their different countries’ governments? Their spouse? Or their country?

Quick Take 3: “Uncle Bill”

How many of us have a handsome and charming uncle who is a successful crime novelist, considers himself a nuanced observer of the passing global scene (in a world made up mostly of those who invariably lack his uniquely well-informed outlook), and never allowed his marriage to an attractive Italian immigrant to the U.S. to get in the way of his pursuing other women…. and now, given time stops for no one, as he ages they are becoming increasingly younger women?


Okay, true, most of us aren’t related to a successful crime novelist, of course. ;-)

But James has that for an uncle. Moreover, some of those women actually do return Uncle Bill’s interest. As James’s mother – Bill’s younger sister – castigates her brother:

“You always really goddamn know everything, don’t you…. other than to not use a joint credit card to cheat on your wife.”

Part rogue, part wannabe family man, he is a contradiction; and even he appears to grasp that. There are moments he is so obnoxious and infuriating that seemingly everyone wants to punch him in the face. Yet, at other times (sometimes only moments later), he is sagacious and a useful person to hear out thanks to, one might say, his, uh, world of experience.

See related:
Quick Take 2: “Valérie”
Quick Take: “Virginie”