Stepheny: Traveling Beyond Rocky Mount, NC – Suggestions For Your Itinerary

Stepheny’s Side Garden – Home

Maybe the gift of a few days strung together with lower temperatures and less humidity put me in mind of going back to school, the day after Labor Day. I got to wondering if grade-school children are still asked to write about, ‘what I did over summer vacation?’

I don’t know how you have spent this summer, but l traveled extensively catching up with friends and meeting new fascinating people. I spent time in Washington, DC where I met a man named Clint Hill. He was assigned to the Secret Service detail for Jacqueline Kennedy. His devotion was obvious, her safety and welfare paramount. Her constant desire to travel took them to interesting destinations. I went along. When I tell you Clint Hill is the man on the back bumper of the car reaching for Mrs. Kennedy in Dallas as she is trying to climb out of the back seat of the convertible, you remember that image well. The political backdrop, the events, the names of those who surrounded the Kennedy’s, this supporting cast, are brought to life again. I liked this particular quotation of Mrs.Kennedy. “We do not want our children to become a generation of spectators. Rather, we want each of them to be a participant in the vigorous life.”

( BOOK: Mrs. Kennedy and Me by Clint Hill, Special Agent, United States Secret Service)

I made a second trip to D.C. to meet Robert Kennedy during the time he decided to run for the Presidency in 1968. The time spent was not a definitive picture of his life. There are a few personal stories, and a nod to his death without detail or comment. I remain amazed at how President Johnson, running for a second term, had a problem similar to Biden’s problem today. The country was not buying Johnson’s selling of the Vietnam War. Biden talks about everything but inflation. Johnson wasn’t listening to the country and neither is Biden. From previous visits with Robert, I have always been attracted to his Irish soul that has a poetic turn. His political interests are but one side of the coin. When left to his own devices, I think his flip-side is quite compelling.

( BOOK:The Unfinished Odyssey of Robert Kennedy by David Halberstam)

I love England. Samuel Johnson said: when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. I’d already met Winston Churchill’s three daughters, but on this summer trip the focus was on Diana, Sarah and Mary. I spent fascinating hours with them. I hated to part from them even for an hour. As an aside: If you have not read, Citizens of London by Lynne Olson, you have missed a significant book. This is where I first met the sisters. Think of the time period after Joseph Kennedy, Ambassador to England leaves London with his rambunctious family and returned to America. You meet ex-pats, Averell Harriman, and Edward R. Morrow. Also Lindberg and the Ambassador who followed Kennedy, John Gilbert Winant. He is the reason I made the trip this summer to see in particular, Sarah Churchill, the middle daughter, who Winant fell in love with and she with him. You must pursue this amazing man on your own, who was an idealist, a man of great integrity, who had campaigned for social justice all his life. He was 43 years old and a close friend of the Roosevelts. To spend time with Winston Churchill’s daughters is intriguing. You can imagine the rich and interesting lives they lived, not without great sorrows and problems. I look forward to the next time we meet.

Traveling as far as London, I went on to Oxford. I’ve been there many times. I visited at Christ Church College where sadly, a young student was found dead in her room in Tom Quad across the great quadrangle. I met a new inspector, Bridget Hart, who was in charge of the case. I love details like this…..Bridget is made aware of the green door in the north wall. “It is featured in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” Bridget remembers that Charles Dodgsen, better know as Lewis Carol had been a mathematics tudor at Christ Church in the 19th century. Alice Lidell was the daughter of the dean at the time. The mystery of this crime was solved while I was there but it was difficult to decide from the list of suspects who was responsible. I am quite taken with the woman, M S Morris, who says wonderful things like….he turned around and the smile slid from his face like melting snow sledding off a roof.”

(BOOK: Aspire to Die, Bridget Hart Book 1 by M S Morris)

Venice

I made it to Venice. I know a writer there who first introduced me to Commissario Brunetti; he has become a valued friend. I’ve seen his two children grow up and I admire his wife greatly. Paola teaches at the University. Not only her Italian cooking for the family is important to me, but the places across the city where Brunetti and his team have their coffee, or stop for lunch, adding to the richness of Venice. To a certain extent, I have a sense of how business is conducted in this ancient city. With the sights and sounds, even the smell of Venetian life, I am no longer a stranger to the city. Both Brunetti and his wife, bright and educated, have reading habits I find interesting. I’ve seen behind the curtain at the Opera House and other destinations Brunetti traverses. I’ve grown quite fond of the on-going ensemble who help solve the mysteries of the City. Once introduced to Brunetti, I guarantee you will travel to Venice as much as I do.

(BOOK: The Temptation of Forgiveness by Donna Leon)

I didn’t know a thing about Corfu Greece, had no idea who Gerald Durrell was. That all changed when Sunday Night Masterpiece Theater ran six seasons of a fabulous production called, The Durrells In Corfu, based on the writings of the famous Gerald Malcolm Durrell, OBE (7 January 1925 ā€“ 30 January 1995). He was a British naturalist, writer, zookeeper, conservationist, and television presenter. He founded the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Jersey Zoo on the Channel Island of Jersey in 1959. He wrote approximately forty books, mainly about his life as an animal collector and enthusiast, the most famous being My Family and Other Animals (1956). The memoirs of his family’s years living in Greece were adapted into two television series (My Family and Other Animals, 1987, and The Durrells, 2016ā€“2019) and one television film (My Family and Other Animals, 2005). He was the youngest brother of novelist Lawrence Durrell. You MUST check on this program through YouTube. The 1st season begins with a charming intro like this. Please click on: https://youtu.be/rMwKSdynmls

I can be found the rest of August and into the fall adventuring with this family finding exotic birds and monkeys and more snails found in Gerald’s pocket as a child. These travels have been delightful, intriguing, and left me marveling at how different our life scripts are; how unique God has made us, calling us by name and setting the possibilities of life before us. Gerald’s writing is magical. Here is a quote found in Botting’s book. Durrell writes of arriving at Corfu as a young boy where he begins his life’s work.

Gerald recalled of that fateful crossing, ‘out into the twilit sea, and as we slept in our stuffy cabins, somewhere in that tract of moon-polished water we passed the invisible dividing-line and entered the bright, looking-glass world of Greece. Slowly this sense of change seeped down to us, and so at dawn, we awoke restless and went on deck. For a long time the island was just a chocolate-brown smudge of land, huddled in mist on the starboard bow. Then suddenly the sun shifted over the horizon and the sky turned the smooth enameled blue of a jay’s eye … The mist lifted in quick, lithe ribbons, and before us lay the island, the mountains sleeping as though beneath a crumpled blanket of brown, the folds stained with the green of olive-groves.

(Books: Gerry and I, a memoir by Jaccquie Durrell) Gerald’s 1st wife

Gerald Durrell: The Authorized Biography by Douglas Botting

The Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell, which includes three of his famous books still to be read.

This writing is dedicated to those who love to read, whose bookshelves are like an archeological dig into their reading lives. Arm-chair reading, allows us to travel where we meet people and see places we otherwise would miss. From the child my mother read to until this day, I cannot imagine my life without books. Without them, who would I be? Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin 8 August, 2022

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