Tuesday, July 14, 2015

America the Beautiful, take two

Other people’s holiday snaps are merely things which test your acting ability and your vocabulary as you search for synonyms for ‘lovely’, ‘nice’, ‘how interesting’ and so on. So the fact that I’ve already droned on about visiting the USA and here I am extending it even further is a good reason for you to stop reading now and leave a comment consisting of one or more of the synonyms.

If you’re still here, I’ll make it worse by telling you that one of the evenings was spent with my eyes full of tears because I was laughing so much. I won’t name those responsible but they know who they are and one of the topics that came up was the direction my writing career should take. They started to plan what my next novel (or, better, series of novels) should be. They had the title of the first and kept trying out various pen names of which the least offensive was Ophelia Groyne. The title itself came in for some close textual analysis when the original suggestion – Under the Scotsman’s Kilt – was refined to Under m’ Scotsman’s Kilt and then Under da Scotsman’s Kilt. You see what I mean? This was just a tiny fragment of what genuinely was a hilarious evening but on the screen, it just looks embarrassing.

The Moon Gate
So, let’s get back to the snaps. We were a couple of weeks too early to get the full pleasure of the Azalea/Rhododendron Garden near the URI campus but I’d really love to build a replica of its Moon Gate in my own garden.

Guns and concrete

On the other hand, while I was fascinated by the extraordinary column in Providence made of guns concreted together, I wouldn’t like to have too many reminders of the proliferation of firearms around. But, on the other side of the road there’s a great restaurant called Parkside, which had terrific food, a great ambiance and cost far less than I’d have to pay in Aberdeen for rubbish.

My wife and I have come to an agreement about shopping. She won’t let me come with her – ever. Her reasoning is that she can’t look around, compare styles and prices and things without being aware of my glowering, resentful presence. My reasoning is that she’s absolutely right. I hate shopping (unless it’s a hardware store full of interesting things whose function isn’t clear but which I want as soon as I see them). But in the USA, it’s different. I know we have malls, but they have MALLS, and the one in the middle of Providence is the biggest I’ve ever seen. It’s like being in a Star Trek set without the Klingons.

Mystic Seaport
Finally, though, another visit, to a beautiful place in Connecticut called Mystic Seaport. It’s much more to my liking because, as its name suggests, it’s about the sea and boats. It has a great collection of figureheads and I got talking to three of the volunteers there who act as guides and general sources of information and enthusiasm about the maritime history of New England. I told them I was writing a sequel to The Figurehead and that I had a couple of problems about the accommodation offered to passengers who were emigrating from Scotland to the USA in the 1840s. I wanted to know how conditions in steerage could be improved and one of them simply told me to visit the Charles W Morgan, the last wooden whale ship, which was originally built in 1841, the year in which my novel will be set, and is being restored and preserved at Mystic. He told me to go aft to the officers’ quarters and look for some particular features. I did and found not only what I was looking for, but things that would be of special interest to the woodcarver in my book. Without the guide’s directions, I would never have noticed them. That was just one of the serendipities of the trip. As you can probably tell, I had a great time.

OK, you can stop pretending to be interested now.


Jean Henry Mead said...

Awesome photos and descriptions, Bill. New England is the only part of the U.S. that I haven't visited and I would love to travel there to complete my 50 state tour. I enjoyed "seeing" it through your eyes.

Jackie King said...

I loved this article as much as I enjoyed the first. You may have been embarrassed, but I was highly amused. I'm so pleased you enjoyed your trip to my country. Wish you could travel on to Oklahoma one day. Even more, I wish I could visit yours.