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Letter From Home “Self-Isolating With Winston Churchill” 3/26/20

March 26, 2020

All residents of Wisconsin, along with millions around the nation, are finding ways to self-distance and remain safe during this pandemic.  I assume that for some people being in the basement in a workshop, or gathering ingredients from the pantry and baking, or pulling out the sewing machine and starting on a project are perfect ways to be creative while adhering to governmental orders so to curtail the virus.

As for myself, the perfect place for self-distancing can be found on the third floor of our home in a window seat. It is almost as if when this floor was built the dimensions were made specifically for me.  I can sit for long stretches of time with a book in hand and hot coffee in a cup nearby and feel perfectly at home.  Unless there is a vehicle without a muffler, or someone slamming garbage can lids, there is no outside noise to be heard. With no phones upstairs there is no one to call and disturb the peace.

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All my life I have found the reading nooks which have been cocoons of sorts, insulating me from the world noise and the stresses of life. This current spot is also a cocoon from the virus that has spread far too widely, not only in Madison, but around the country.

Sitting under a very large oak tree on the front lawn of my Hancock home, while I was a boy, started my love of finding the right place to read the right book. I discovered Ian Fleming and the adventures of James Bond under that tree back as a boy, and throughout my life I have worked to locate those perfect places for reading whether it was an apartment I was renting, or now the home that James and I own.

The other night as I sat here in this window seat a rather heavy rain was falling on the isthmus. And I again rejoiced in the soothing sounds as the drops hit against the windows and plopped down on the roof. For many years when living in an apartment that sound had been denied to me.  But once we bought the top two floors of this house the sound of my boyhood, when the skies open up, can again can be thoroughly enjoyed.

Today I am reading about Winston Churchill and throughly enjoying his profoundly funny and perfect comedic timing in the delivery of his lines, either when spoken in the House of Commons, in a diary entry. Churchill: Walking With Destiny by Andrew Roberts is simply a brilliant book.  I am reading Chapter 14, the years of the Great Crash and the economic implosion.

Churchhill has told a friend that his sole consolation over the Dardanelles disaster was “that God wished things to be prolonged in order to sicken man-kind of war, and that therefore he had interfered with a project that would have brought the war to a speedier conclusion”. Churchill was deeply involved with that military operation, and it was a colossal failure.  His opining on God’s role in it was really quite wickedly funny.  Churchill also declared that the existence of the Almighty could be deduced by “the existence of Lenin and Trotsky, “for whom a hell is needed”.

The author also describes how on September 21, 1929, when Churchhill is taking a three-month tour of Canada and the United States, he will meet Charlie Chaplin at a large party.  Chaplin was perhaps the most famous actor in the world at the time and despite his support for communism, which he absolutely abhorred, Churchill got on very well with him. It is just yet another example of how Churchhill was not allowing politics to prejudice friendship.

Charlie Chaplin will visit Chartwell, the wonderful home of Churchill in Britain, in 1931. Churchill’s children managed to persuade him to do his boiler hat and walking stick routine. Churchill asked Chaplin what role he was playing next and Chaplin answered Jesus Christ.  Churchill quips, “Have you cleared the rights?”

Winston Churchill often found himself at the center of historic moments throughout his entire life, and so it probably comes as no surprise he will actually be on Wall Street on Black Thursday.  The very next day from directly under his window in the Savoy Plaza Hotel a man will throw himself 15 stories down to the pavement causing as Churchill reported “ a wild commotion and the arrival of the fire brigade”.

We all need to find our sources of strength during this pandemic. We need to find our outlets so we can continue to be challenged with ideas, moved by humor, and filled with optimism. History books often allow for all that to happen and we can do ourselves a great deal of good by stepping back away from the news, from time to time, and entering a world of books.  Learning new things and understanding that there is always a better tomorrow. We can get through this pandemic. Stay safe.

Find your special place and turn the pages.

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