I began the week in Miami, looking forward to what a friend of mine describes as “the finest sight in all Florida — the departure lounge.” That is a little unfair; a tour of Cape Canaveral is mind-blowing. But beyond that I confess I find the state brash and gaudy, a fitting place for Donald Trump’s retirement. If indeed the 45th president has retired. No one will be surprised if he runs again, nor if he is re-elected with the help of his Republican Party which has been busy restricting voters’ rights and playing origami with constituency boundaries. I doubt he will win the popular vote, but nor does he need to with the Electoral College on his side. The 2020 election was a referendum on The Donald and so will the 2024 election prove to be. Which explains the desperate maneuvers of Republican state legislatures to strangle their opponents’ votes. I live in Massachusetts, the state that began gerrymandering — which is the process by which politicians choose their voters instead of the other way around. My home is in an overwhelmingly Republican district, but our congressman is always a Democrat. About 30 percent of Massachusetts residents identify as Republicans, yet all nine congressmen from the state are Democrats. I’m not unhappy with that, but then I drive a Tesla, which is reviled by Republicans as a wimpy car owned by “woke leftists” who believe the Earth is warming.
I confess I feel very woke whenever I pass a gas station. So far we’ve put just over 2,000 miles on the Tesla and our running costs have been zero thanks to a house roof covered in solar panels. The only regular maintenance it needs is filling the windscreen-washer reservoir. But my favorite feature of the car is “dog mode.” We take our new puppy to the supermarket and leave her in the car while we shop. The car is locked, all the windows are closed and the merciless sun beats down while well-meaning people patrol the car park looking to rescue dogs and small children thus abandoned to death by roasting. But when a would-be rescuer peers into our car they see the enormous screen emblazoned with the message: “My driver will be back soon. Don’t worry, the A/C is on and it’s 71°F.” The first time I tried a verbal command to activate dog mode the car attempted to take me to Dogmode, Utah.
The puppy, named Vicky, made her stage debut this summer in the Cape Cod Shakespeare Festival where she appeared as Robin Starveling’s dog in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She stole every scene, needing to do no more than look cute, a talent she has long mastered. This was our first Shakespeare Festival, but will not be our last. We lost our beautiful theater to a “developer” who, so far, has developed it into ruination, so we performed in the park at the town center and it was a brilliant success. True, we began with the two best comedies, Midsummer and Twelfth Night, but as ever it was a joy to see those ancient works still provoking laughter and enjoyment. The success was only marred by my attempt to introduce half a dozen of the younger members of the cast to the joys of sailing, taking them on a thirty-mile voyage the length of Nantucket Sound, at the end of which five of the six were deep in the miseries of seasickness. That night’s performance was not our best.
I was much saddened by the death of Hilary Mantel, who I have long regarded as the goddess of historical fiction. I read and re-read her books, marveling at their precision and the power of her storytelling. I suspect that Maggie O’Farrell will inherit her role as queen of the genre, and if you have not read her superb novel Hamnet I recommend it enthusiastically. The real Queen, of course, is irreplaceable and I was touched by the sympathy extended in America on the news of her death. A friend of ours was in Bermuda when the Queen visited and was in the line waiting to see her when, to her astonishment, the Queen stopped and asked where she was from. Our friend, utterly overwhelmed by the occasion, attempted a curtsey and blurted out: “Welcome to Boston, your manatee.” It was ever thus, of course. As Duke Theseus says in A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “Where I have come, great clerks have purposed to greet me… I have seen them shiver and look pale, make periods in the midst of sentences… and in conclusion dumbly have broke off, not paying me a welcome.” I am fascinated that in Shakespeare’s time what we Brits call a full stop was a “period,” as it still is in the United States. When and why did we abandon the word? I hope Dot Wordsworth can supply an answer.