Monday, 7 April 2008

Lady Louise passes judgement

overcast, cool, highs 10

We had a wonderful dinner last night with Alan and Anne Craft. Never met them before but as you know Michael's writing a book on a massive screening for neuroblastoma (a tumor in infants) that he was involved in. It had quite startling results. So he's doing research. How great is life when researching a book means sitting in a terrific Knightsbridge restaurant with two delightful people? He's a paediatrician and former head of the Royal Society of Paediatrics and she's a former head nurse (matron as he kept kidding her) and very involved in hospice care here.

He was also recently knighted - which he explains they give to you after you've collected 273,000 Wheatabix boxtops. He said his elderly mother and her fellow residents at a seniors home helped.

I told them the story of my agent Teresa, who is actually Lady Teresa someone, married to Lord Someone - a hereditary title. For some reason no one finds this quite as extraordinary as I do. I think I'll have to stop telling this story. Can't begin to imagine what Teresa's husband, Charles, had to do for his title. (beyond winning the familial lottery).

I think I was raised in the wrong century and perhaps even the wrong gender. I was raised to believe in chivalry and sacrifice and courtesy. I hold doors open, and say 'thank you' and mean it. I remember my mother impressing on me that a 'real' lady or gentleman makes others feel good about themselves. Makes them feel safe and comfortable. Cared for and about. Not patronizing, but equal.

That made sense to me.

But I'm constantly surprised, especially here in the UK, by how few Lords and Sirs and Ladies I meet who are courteous to others.

Alan and Anne were last night.

Perhaps I need to understand that what my mother meant was the generic 'noble' spirit, not the actual 'nobility'. And perhaps, despite vigorous denials on my part, I really am a product of the colonial mentality, who expects Lords and Ladies to have been brought up with the same appreciation of courtesty as my mother, whose family were butchers in Wolverhampton.

Or - perhaps - I should just worry about my own behavior and let others be who they are.

Now, that sounds noble.

Off to a cafe this morning with Michael. Am taking the edited manuscript for book 4 with me to work on. Nearing the end of that editing. It's an amazing feeling to be promoting book 3 (The Cruelest Month), doing the final line edits on book 4, and writing book 5 (at 85,000 words)

Then meeting Teresa for lunch at Tom's Kitchen on Cale Street.

Sometimes, when I'm feeling overwhelmed, or very pleased with myself, I look at Michael and remember his job. Working with children with cancer. Or I listen to the conversation last night between those two charming men, Michael and Alan. Doesn't diminish what I do, but it sure puts it into perspective.

Be well, and I'll talk to you soon.


Larry Marshall said...

Regardless of your mother's definition of 'noble', she would be proud.

Cheers --- Larry

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Larry,

What a beautiful thing to say. I feel quite teary. Thank you.


Ellen Hanson said...

Hi, I'm curious about Michael and his book. My son is a 4 year Neuroblastoma survivor at the age of 5 years. (He is also a triplet.) We live on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. I hope you will write more about it.
Best of luck to both of you,
Love, Ellen~Sean's Mom resource for newly diagnosed Neuroblastoma families

Elizabeth said...

FYI, although there are exceptions, the accepted spelling in Canada, the UK and the U.S. (in legal contexts) is "judgment" with no "e" after the "g". By the way, I had three relatives who were knighted (they handed knighthoods out fairly regularly in pre-WWI Canada) and I can say with confidence that none of the individuals behaved in a particularly gentlemanly fashion. We saw far more gentlemanly behaviour in some of our friends from the American south, where raising young men to behave with courtesy still counts as important, at least with a certain segment of society.

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Ellen,
I am delighted to hear of Sean's successful battle with neuroblastoma. Congratulations. You must be deeply relieved that he's done so well.
Michael's book will tell the story of urine screening for neuroblastoma, pioneered in Japan, then studied in a 5-year birth cohort in Quebec, Canada. An extremely important, little-known study, with unexpected results. It's about half-written, but it could be years before it's published.
It's really about the screening - and a bit about the treatment of this disease.
How frightening for you to have had that diagnosis - and how wonderful to have him cleared. Michael says that's very, very good news indeed!

If you ever have anymore questions about neuroblastoma please write and Michael will answer them. In fact, Michael wrote most the the above email - not trusting that my medical expertise is nearly as good as his!


Louise Penny Author said...

Hi Elizabeth,

You are so diplomatic and kind. Thank you. This mis-spelling is not any confusion over correct usage but my own failure to pay attention in school. And lack of spell-check for this blog - I seem to have disabled it somehow. So, if you don't mind, I might just use you as my ancillery spell-check. Ancilliary? Ansillyairy?

Can't promise I won't write 'judgement' again - for some reason it just always comes out like that. A blindspot.

And I know what you mean about men from the south. haven't met many, but the few I have have been lovely.