I'm sorry about the delay. I had a wonderful time in London, much to tell you, some of it even knitterly. I got home in good order on Saturday, and found all in good order here. Then on Sunday I got ill – a 24-hour flu, I think, mitigated by the fact that I have had the flu injection. I'm better today.
I'll start at the end, for London. On Friday I went to the British Library to see the Alice in Wonderland exhibition, which I enjoyed enormously. It begins with Lewis Carroll's diary open to the page about the "golden afternoon" on which he took the three Liddell girls up the river and entertained them with the story of Alice. He records it matter-of-factly in a sentence: no notion that a classic of English literature had just had its first outing.
He later, I believe because Alice insisted, wrote it all out for her and illustrated it. When it came to be published, Tenniel used Carroll's illustrations and added a few of his own. It was the first book in which illustrations and text were integrated on the page.
In the 1930's, Alice Liddell had to sell the manuscript book due, we were told, to the need to pay inheritance tax. It went to America. In 1946 it came on the market again, and an anonymous group of Americans bought it and gave it to England, to thank everybody for standing up to Hitler. The Archbishop of Canterbury was called upon to receive the gift. Why not the King?
And then – naturally enough, with Iowa only three days away – I thought of the caucus race and wondered what the phrase might have meant in Carroll's day. The answer seems to be that "caucus" is a rather mysterious word, probably of American origin and indeed probably Algonquin. It means different things in different political contexts. The idea of a "caucus race" was Carroll's own invention.
I feel quite pleased about Iowa, but nothing like the exhilaration of eight years ago when Obama won. We were snowed in in Strathardle that Tuesday, on our way back to Edinburgh. It took all morning, and the intervention of a providential car full of strong strangers, to get as far as the village. I saved up the Iowa result to think about when we finally got to Blairgowrie and lunch.
Subsequent primaries this year should be nothing if not interesting. And at least Trump is no longer inevitable.