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Wimbledon

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

I’ve never played tennis, but I always enjoy watching Wimbledon.  It’s something I started doing with my husband’s mother, Geraldine, who was born in Wimbledon in 1883.  She used to spend her pocket money going to see matches there.  Geraldine was an artist, and instead of a written diary, she kept a painting diary her whole life.  I used to love going through her albums with her and seeing her early sketches of women in long white dresses wielding their rackets.

Geraldine valued good manners on and off the court.  While I always liked John McEnroe, his temper tantrums made him an unappealing player to her.  We both liked Arthur Ashe, Bjorn Borg, Billie Jean and Chrissie.

Geraldine was an early feminist.  She was a woman who had to give up her dreams of art school to be a nursemaid, and after leaving England when she was 19 to work first in India and then Canada, she never saw her mother again.  I have a portrait of her mother which she painted, and another of Geraldine herself, aged 2, painted by her mother.  My husband doesn’t like them over our bed–it unnerves him to think his mother and his granny are watching him in bed–so I keep them in my study.

Geraldine had an indomitable spirit.  I never heard her complain about the difficulties of her life.  Instead, she charged forth to enjoy life, taking painting lessons when she could afford them, studying languages, traveling, and continuing, when I met her in her great old age, to play the piano every afternoon for two hours–followed by a martini.

On her hundredth birthday, the Queen sent a very tepid one-sentence telegram, but the president of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club sent a lovely long letter, recognizing some of Geraldine’s accomplishments (Olympic gold medal in poetry, published essays on Wimbledon in its early years.)

Next weekend, as I watch the finals, I’ll pour a glass of champagne for Geraldine and think with pleasure on her, on our hours scrutinizing the players together, and on the great example I was privileged to have by knowing her.

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9 so far this year

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

That’s murders in the United States by people connected to white supremacist groups, according to Chip Berlet on June 18th’s Fresh Air.  Apparently, we can’t have anti-hate-crime legislation in America because it violates the 1st Amendment; we can’t control handgun ownership because that violates the 2nd Amendment.

What we can have is hysterical commentary on U.S. talk radio shows about things like Obama wanting to take people’s guns from them–the fear that apparently propelled Richard Poplawski into ambushing and killing 3 Pittsburgh police officers.  We can let a man who tried to kidnap the Federal Reserve carry weapons.  We can let a man convicted of carrying explosives in his car carry weapons.

And if we mutter something about gun control, or background checks, a well-orchestrated outcry will silence us.  Meanwhile, the credit card reform bill passed by Congress included a provision allowing people to carry handguns in national parks and wildlife refuges.

Some days it’s all I can do to get out of bed.

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Good Websites?

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Thanks for your support.  I’m sorry to whine in public–just wanted to explain why I’m not keeping on top of the blog these days.

My web mistress, Lisa Hazen, is revamping my website.  Along with other changes, she’ll be able to incorporate the blog directly into the website. She’ll also use software that will allow me to update things like tour information much more easily than I can right now. Lisa asked me for some of my favorite websites, and I gave her a few suggestions, but I’m wondering if there are sites you really love that she and I should look at.

Thanks,

Sara

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Things Could Be Worse

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Things could be worse; they often are, and I am lucky.  But I’ve had a lot going on in my private world involving many different doctors and many different family members.

So, my dear friends of the blogosphere, I am a little distracted, and will not often be posting here.  I need to focus on my novel in progress, due at the end of this year, and on supporting Hardball, and I still have trouble using my hands as a result of nerve damage from a serious injury 3 years ago.  I will get to the blog when I can, but I hope you won’t forget me and will check in from time to time.

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D-Day: – and + 1

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

65 years ago tonight, my husband, S C Wright, was the radar officer in the code room on the HMS Apollo.  He decoded the message that announced the June 6 commencement of Operation Overlord.  The Apollo lay in New Haven, a port in Wales.  They were told to sail for Portsmouth.

The Apollo, a fast light mine-layer, was chosen as the headquarters ship for General Eisenhower.  They left Portsmouth the night of June 6 and reached the Normandy coast early on D-Day +1.

My husband, a 20-year-old naval lieutenant, had grown up in Vancouver, BC.  His parents were both British, and from an early age, my husband was navy mad.  When war began, he was afraid it would end before he could serve and wanted to join at once, but my mother-in-law insisted he finish his BA.  He went to the University of British Columbia and studied day and night and graduated in 1942 with a BS in physics.  Canada had agreed to supply the Royal Fleet with radar officers, and my husband was seconded to the Royal Navy, where he served until 1946.

 

My husband in 1944 in his naval dress uniform

My husband in 1944 in his naval dress uniform

 

When they reached the Normandy coast, early on June 7, the seas were rough.  British warships fired shells overhead at German redoubts; the men on the Apollo could see the shells as they went over.  Unfortunately, the Apollo went aground.  My husband had the dubious privilege of being on the bridge when one of her screws caught in the ground and the mast began to tilt.  He was a few feet from General Eisenhower, who was both dismayed and angry–and was quickly removed to a back-up command ship.  The Apollo limped back across the channel at 2 knots to Newcastle.  They were lucky not to be sunk–submarines underneath, dogfights above, and no ability to dodge either.  The first V-1 rockets were fired that night, and as they slowly rode back to Newcastle, the crew could hear their ominous engine rumblings without knowing what they were.

Like many of the so-called “great generation,” my husband went on with his life–to a distinguished career in high energy physics–without dwelling on his war experiences.  About a decade ago, he finally decided he wanted to revisit Normandy in peacetime.  We arrived on a day of bright sun, calm seas, no guns and made the solemn pilgrimmage to Utah, Omaha, Point d’Hoc.  It was at Point d’Hoc that my husband’s composure broke down.  The monument there, to the Rangers who lost their lives scaling those cliffs, is a monument to America–every nationality is represented in those names.  And to stand there, knowing that he lived a whole life denied to these youths, shook him, and me.  Like most other visitors, we could only weep.

Every French person we encountered, from the youngest teen to the oldest shopkeeper, when they learned about my husband’s service, treated him with extraordinary respect.  That someone would come from overseas to save their country is a sacrifice none of them every forgets.

 

Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach

 

 

I admire my husband and respect the sacrifice of every person who has ever died or fought.  As a Jew, I am grateful a thousand times over for those who saved a tiny remnant of my family from death.  I somehow can’t bear the thought of Barack and Sarkozy making publicity out of Normandy, though.  What goes through my head tonight is that Wilfred Owen poem:

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood  

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,  

Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud 

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,  

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest 

To children ardent for some desperate glory,  

The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est  

Pro patria mori.

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Are the Cubs a Giant Boil?

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

Chicago’s book fair, which is always the first weekend in June, will take place June 6-7 this year.  I’ll be taking part in a panel on the Chicago Cubs at one p.m. on June 6; a lot of Chicago crime writers will be talking about crime fiction (if you’re going to talk about crimes, just go straight to the Cubs), the endlessly inventive Mary Zimmerman will be present, as will short story virtuoso Jean Thompson.

And if you don’t want to sit through a program, all writers will be signing books after their events.  Mystery writers will be hopping in and out of the Centuries & Sleuths tents.  Dozens of booksellers set up tents where you can actually handle a book and see if you want to read it without downloading it to your e-reader.  Paper, ink, illustrations–it doesn’t get any better than that.

The Chicago Tribune, the book fair’s sponsor, interviewed me this morning about the Cubs.  The interview explains why I compare the Cubs to a giant boil.

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