Churchill, The Greatest Briton

It is the time for nostalgia. I fondly remember Christmases from my childhood in England with a close friend and our two families. Here in New Jersey, my wife maintains many of our English culinary traditions, since they’re from her childhood too. Christmas pudding (also called Plum pudding) was acquired weeks ago. None of our children will touch it, a disdain I’ve wasted little time trying to reverse since it means there’s enough left for Boxing Day too.

COVID has canceled bits of Christmas, including our annual Christmas Eve fish dinner with friends. And a virtual church service remains a poor substitute for live Christmas carols. I admire our rector for gamely pressing on in solitude in front of a camera, but this year organized religion has offered less when some needed more, leaving it with a diminished role.

I’m currently reading These Truths: A History of the United States, by Jill Lepore. It was on Bill Gates’ summer reading list. An engaging read, it covers much but rarely in depth, since it’s a single volume. I have reached the 1940s. Winston Churchill knew that Britain could only prevail against Germany if the U.S. could be persuaded to enter the war. Following World War II, Churchill referred to his bonding with President Roosevelt thus, “No lover ever studied the whims of his mistress as I did those of President Roosevelt.”

My old country could use Churchill’s leadership today. Most of the population is under virtual COVID house arrest, and they’ve agreed a Brexit deal with the EU very different than voters were led to expect during the 2016 referendum. I have never regretted growing up there, nor leaving for the U.S.

How ironic that British PM Boris Johnson’s wonderful biography The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History represents a bigger tribute than his current leadership of the country.

Few individuals produce enough lifetime material for a book of humorous quotes, but my library includes The Wit and Wisdom of Winston Churchillboasting over 1,000 entries. Browsing reveals gems such as, “Although always prepared for martyrdom, I prefer that it shall be postponed.” Another favorite is, “There’s nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at without result.” When a close friend of mine with COVID risk factors survived an extremely mild case, I read this quote to him.

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