Just as I promised, Mrs. T and I pulled up stakes last Tuesday, made our unhurried way to the Connecticut coast, and checked into a cozy room at the Inn at Stonington, the place where Hope Springs was filmed. (While we were at it, we also went to Mystic Pizza.) We then spent the rest of the week doing nothing in particular. Instead of going to shows and writing about them, I slept late, ate good dinners, relished the salt air, drove randomly around the countryside, watched Citizen Kane and the first episode of John Malkovich’s passably promising new network TV series, read in bed, listened to Chopin and William Walton, and otherwise played professional hooky. Neither of us was remotely ready to go back home when our little holiday was over.
Not only did I put aside all thought of work, but I kept yet another promise by eschewing the department of literature that Jeeves called “improving books,” plunging straight into George Simenon’s Pietr the Latvian and The Late Monsieur Gallet, the first two Maigret novels. They are plain, laconically told tales of violence and obsession set against a contrasting backdrop of ordinary bourgeois life, and I found them as diverting in their quintessentially French way as the mysteries of Rex Stout, the spy stories of William Haggard, or the crime novels of Elmore Leonard. I expect I’ll be reading a great deal more about Inspector Maigret from now on.
Having recently heard of yet another study which purports to demonstrate that vacations provide no long-lasting psychological benefits to those who take them, I take leave to sneer at science. No doubt it’s true, but so what? I enjoyed our four days off more than I’ve enjoyed anything that’s happened to me in recent weeks—except, of course, for this.
Above all, I enjoyed driving around Stonington and its environs with Mrs. T, gazing with pleasure at eighteenth- and nineteenth-century seaside houses and stopping wherever and whenever it suited us to do so. What’s more, I was delighted to learn that my brother and sister-in-law, in a perfect interfamilial harmonic convergence, took the same week off and spent it in Gatlinburg, the Tennessee resort town to which my parents brought David and me many times in our youth (and to which I returned seven years ago on a sentimental journey).
I love my life, but I also love being able to step outside it and let the world happen to me in its own good time. That’s what it means to go on a holiday, if it means anything at all. I eat far too many meals with one eye on the clock and read far too many books in order to write about them. It took me long enough to learn the importance of taking breaks from my daily rounds, gratifying though they are, and I expect to continue taking as many as I can before those rounds draw at last to their inescapable close.