For the last twelve days I have been sailing up the Brazilian and Argentine coast giving a lecture or two to a group from Hillsdale College. That remarkable institution takes pride in refusing financing from the government and therefore enjoys an independence that differentiates it from other universities. But for much of the time the mysteries of wi-fi and the Internet at sea blocked David Calling.
In Buenos Aires I had a small personal project. My grandfather was one of eight children. He used to tell how a brother of his claimed to have a brilliant idea and approached his siblings to invest their money with him. He then absconded with their various fortunes to the Argentine. This was just before the First World War when there was no extradition treaty.
I hesitated. I had often fantasized about this branch of the family tree. Rumor has it that they have been successful in the Argentine. It was easy to imagine my runaway cousins hanging up if I telephoned, perhaps bringing a grudge or even a claim. Maybe it was only kind to leave them alone. One Alan Pryce-Jones (also my father’s name) is to be found on Facebook, but that is another mystery to me. I could get no further than discovering that he lives in Chile. To avoid contact in the end came to seem like cowardice, and a lost opportunity. The Buenos Aires directory lists Caroline Pryce-Jones and Maria Pryce-Jones. Whoever answered the first number said that Caroline had not lived there for four years, and Maria’s number was steadily engaged and I never got through. A line in a play by the once fashionable but now neglected Christopher Fry speaks of the “unhoming” of human beings, and that seems the right word to describe the dispersal of family members too far out of touch to be contacted.
Normal service will be resumed shortly.