Letters from America by Alistair Cooke

Dear readers,

At the start of the year, I kind of promised that it would be hard to keep up with regular updates on this blog, and I am proving myself correct. Recently work has been hectic. I’ve also had to do renew my documents for tax purposes, which my lawyer did a great job at dealing with the dreaded Alcadia. The whole building is a hot angry tornado of people in endless queues, jobsworths winding up these people in these queues (it brings back memories of Little Britain and the Computer Says No woman), no air conditioning, no directions. Just an acid, sweaty tension in a swirling energy of hate. The devil goes on holiday there, I’m sure. I hope not to return soon.

Wedding plans. Obviously people who been married or organised one knows the work needed. The man’s job, to be fair, is easier than the woman’s. The woman wants everything she has been dreaming of since she was kneehigh; the man just worries about the bill, what his mates will do to him on his stag do and what the best man will say in the speech. There’s obviously a lot more. In my case, I need to get some particular documents to have the wedding legalised. One of those documents is proof that I am not married. In the UK, we do not have such legalised document. The registerar office doesn’t provide such thing. Going back to the UK is a bit of a no no. Off to the British consul in Tegucigalpa to see if he can write me a letter, as British lawyers can only write something called an avvict (or something of a similar name) which has no legal standing. If the British consul can’t help, it might involve visiting the British embassy in Guatemala City. I don’t mind going at all; the cost and time I do, however.

I have also started salsa lessons. I will write an update in the following days about this. President Juan Orlando has been getting his fingers burnt (along with his dictatorial pride) by congress over military, which I will also write about. Catholic classes have also taken a lot of my time. Baptisms, confirmations and marriage classes await, while I try to remember(or correct myself) the first few lines of the Hail Mary (I get confused with the first part of both stanzas). I’m recovering from a cold too. The cough still lurks. Two weeks of winding people up with grunting coughs. I don’t feel loved for it.

I finished reading a book on Tuesday night which I have been stopping and starting since July 2014. It’s a book that one can only dip in and out and take bits and pieces at a time, as the letters, as Alistair Cooke fans and critics might agree, are heavy information. At this moment, I’m rocking back and forth due to withdrawal symptoms; his letters become addictive. It is an excellent history book of the 20th century in the US, but also an insight into the differences of thought and lifestyle between the yankees and limeys. Although the cultures have bounced off each other over the years, our politics, our education, our customs, still have a gulf of difference, which some people fail to understand here (not all, but many). I often question myself whether being called gringo is more offensive to American or someone who just has the same colour skin. It’s racist, obviously when someone is out to offend, and I often have to remind Hondurans how they would feel being called “dirty Mexican”, which goes down like bag of drowning kittens and me ending up looking like a piñata after a birthday party. Back to the book, Alistair Cooke exemplifies a BBC mentality, doing his best to stay impartial and politically correct, and being fair in criticism to both the US and the UK. There are issues that America still refuses to solve today, such gun control and access to arms; people wielding dangerous weapons because something in their constitution says so. It seems like a fear mongered society in some parts, which the book touches on, but certainly, we learned from Dunblane back in 1996, one gun massacre is enough. An example of one of the great differences in thought between us and them.

Alistair Cooke was born in Salford but moved around various countries in Europe as a correspondent for BBC and the Guardian before landing a plum job as a chief American correspondent in the 1940s, specialising in theatre reviews, in the city that I have always wanted to experience, New York. He stayed there until the day he died in 2004, aged 95, working right up to his death. It seemed he loved doing what he did; reviews and radio announcements. What a life.

I have written about the book before, which shares the title of this blog update. My cousin Hannah bought it for me from a second hand bookshop in a small town in the Cotswolds a year or two ago during a quick trip to England. The name of the town I can’t recall, but I distinctly remember my mother trying to pinch it out of my suitcase (she claims baggage allowance; the truth is she wanted it for herself) before the return journey. I also remember my mother feeling a bit emotional when he died back in 2004. She enjoyed reading his columns and listening to him down the years. I might send her this book.

I recommend all Brits and Yanks to read this. His charming style of writing inspires budding writers (not only journos, but just about any writer who’s aim is to inform) and he’s informative and wise and makes you feel learned. This post is a dedication to him.

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About Nicholas Rogers

I am an English journalist/copywriter living in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and I have been here since 2011. I originally came to work with Casa Alianza, which supports street kids and vulnerable youths. I then stayed on, after meeting Pamela Cruz Lozano, who calls me her adopted Catracho. I work freelance journalism and I have my own translation business. Why did I come here? For the challenge, to open my mind and get out of my comfort zone. I love literature and I've written a book with street kids. I write novels, short stories and poetry, all of which you will find on this blog, as well as a lot of information about Honduras. View all posts by Nicholas Rogers

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