Thursday, August 30, 2007

Oxford in August

You may have been wondering what happened to me. On the spur of the moment I accepted an invitation to attend a wedding at Birmingham University (England) mid-August and was rewarded additionally with the offer to housesit a beautiful cottage and garden in Oxford. I returned to Bozeman last night, very much exhilarated by my experience.

Birmingham was drizzling with rain, but a few forays to the countryside of Shropshire and Wales brought me to various rustic establishments including a two hundred year old cider mill, stilll pressing away as it distills a fine rich hard cider, once meted out to the field workers at a quantity of five gallons a day to get them through the harvesting. The tap water was unsafe so the cider quenched the thirst and spurred the peons on. Every inch of England is fraught with history.

August is tourist time in Oxford, but I was fortunate that my old school chum, Delphine Kelly, came over from Dublin to spend a few days with me. You will have read about Delphine in my memoir. We had not seen each other in sixteen years. She and her husband had spent five years at Oxford as a young married couple when John Kelly was a Don at Trinity College. Delphine showed me around all the authentic spots, and noted where her two oldest boys romped around on the college lawns and scampered over stone walls. We went to Blenheim Palace where Winston Churchill was born and were intrigued by a new kind of museum entertainment, a historical drama featuring former inhabitants of Blenheim, enacted by means of life sized wax figures and video beamed through mirrors and picture frames. All was automated, as doors opened electronically to let us through to the next scene of the drama. Quite a production! I've seen nothing like it in the U.S.

I was very fortunate to catch up with two people I had hoped to see, both Elspeth Huxley connections. C.S. Nicholls wrote a wonderful biography of Elspeth, and Tanzanian artist, zoologist, anthropologist, Jonathan Kingdom, who has done some remarkable work and who was introduced to me by Elspeth twelve years ago. More about these people will be revealed on another occasion.

I'm off to the magnificent van Cleve ranch in the Big Timber Canyon for the Labor Day weekend. Hope you're having as much fun as I am.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Ernest Hemingway's Havana Home Restored

My article on revisiting Cuba and the restoration of the Hemingway home in Havana appears in the current issue of Smithsonian Magazine, August 2007. So far the responses have been positive.

I have just returned from a conference in Vienna, a beautiful city, lighthearted, filled with the music of Mozart and Strauss, palaces and museums, trolley cars and river boats cruising the Danube.

Memoir Writing Workshop
August 4th, 2007 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Meagher County Bookfest in White Sulphur Springs, Montana

Come join my five hour memoir writing workshop if you're in the area.

Butte Irish Festival
August 10th, 11th, 12th

I'll be giving a talk at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday August 11th, following artist, writer, publisher, Russell Chatham, at the lively Irish festival in Butte. If you have a touch of the Blarney, it is an occasion not to be missed.