Unfortunately, The Breakfast Part Is Bangers ‘n Mash

Between the ostentatious watch ads and emaciated models displaying fashions from an H.P. Lovecraft story in WSJ Magazine, this month we find an article about English manors run like bed-and-breakfasts:

Some of England’s peers have found more creative solutions. They not only inhabit their ancestral piles, but run them as businesses too, dangling their glittery goods like fishing lures to attract much-needed cash. “In the United States, we tend to have a romantic view of owning a great British estate,” says Tom Savage, the director of museum affairs at Winterthur, the 175-room Delaware estate of the late chemical heir Henry Francis du Pont, which houses the foremost collection of American furniture and decorative objects. “But often the veil falls when you see inheritors to whom collecting is not a choice but an encumbering obligation: Out of economic necessity, they’re doing everything in their power to hold on to what they’ve got.”

For more than 20 years, Savage has been hooking up connoisseurs of the decorative arts with the owners of England’s great estates, where most of the finest antiques are to be found. He regularly takes groups of 12 to 16 Americans on private tours of British homes and country houses, even having them stay (as paying guests) for a night or two. Not in the old laundry or the converted stables, but in the mansion itself while the owners look on, content in the knowledge that the visiting Yank is helping to keep their homestead humming.

If I’m going to England for a vacation, I’m going to have to consider staying overnight with nobility, werd.

Back at Keys

Good day, fellows.

I am back at the blogging bit after a brief vacation with my beautiful wife in southern Florida.

I’ve gotten a little tanned (or “sunburned” as we call it here in the Midwest) and have had a number of days of reading, loafing, and general laziness. I haven’t touched a computer in four days, friends.

You might not know this, friends, but it’s always summer in Florida. Whereas Missouri is about to start into spring, with buds and flowers springing forth after the brown and infrequent white of winter, the palms are always green in south Florida. Every time we visit, I remark that I cannot imagine what living without seasons must do to the psyche of Floridians, or what it would be like to grow up without the physical representations of the passage of time or the school year. Cannot do it.

And if you must know, if your personal commentator (me) has a single flaw, it must be a fear discomfort with air travel. I don’t know where this discomfort began; as you might guess, as a poor young man, I had few opportunities to fly when I was young. I flew took two trips via air in my first twenty-seven years of life. I took my third and fourth trips in 1999, but somewhere between there and 2002 I grew very leary of air travel. I don’t attribute it directly to the 2001 attacks. However, I did become very aware of how little control I have over the situation, and how few people survive mishaps.

To put it bluntly, Heather and I passed a car turned on its side on I-95 just north of Fort Lauderdale this morning on our way to the airport. She missed the physical manifestation of the accident (except the lane closures); I reported the car on its side and the people sitting beside it, on the median wall, looking sheepish that their parents might find out that they were driving their high-school-graduation present at unlawful speeds after a couple tablets and a couple drinks; in air travel, there are no sheepish survivors ashamed at their choice of transit or response times.

So laugh at me, or mock me, but every time those wheels chunk into their housings on takeoff or the engines change to idle to begin the descent, I notice and begin to sweat. Some people simply trust the professionalism and competence of untold score of personnel involved in the construction, maintenance, and operation of air travel equipment, and some of us can only (however actively) hope that those professionals handle their jobs more competently than some of us handle our household maintenance.

The quality of the library should not be judged by the gaudy nature of its bookends, though, and I had a wonderful time.

The Chicago Printers Row Book Fair, Reviewed

While in Chicago, Heather and I spent a morning at the Printers [sic, and the Chicago Tribune, sponsor of the event, should know better!] Row Book Fair on, well, Printers’ Row, in Chicago. You can find the Chicago Tribune’s review here if you hurry.

You want to hear my review? Here it is: What idiot would go used book shopping with 10,000 friends? (Please exclude current blogger and his esteemed spouse from your answer.) You cannot adequately peruse and handle interesting books while actively and purposefully jostling nearby extras, guarding the wallet, and annoying Howard Dean pamphleteers by telling them, “I will vote only for a candidate who frequently affirms he served in Viet Nam” (which works best if you can somehow pronounce it as two words).

However, when you’re in Chicago, do visit Printers’ Row on Dearborn. You will find a most exquisite shop of rare and fine editions. If you’re like me, you won’t afford them, but they’re nice to see. You’ll enjoy it much more if you think of it as a zoo instead of a book store.