I know what I know, and that’s that. Not a very open hearted sentence, I realize, but it’s true. I'm on the verge of releasing my next book, More Tips From The Cruise Addict's Wife. My research recently took me and Husband to Copenhagen, Denmark, part of a fifteen-day, tax deductible trans-Atlantic cruise. Oh, the sacrifices we make for our craft.
I happily explored the streets of the city, a delightful mixture of the modern and the very old. The Disney Store shares a wall with a 13th-century building. Copenhagen's center is a no-vehicle zone, which is probably redundant since the tax on motor vehicles is 185% Cars are too costly for most people to consider. I've never seen so many bicycles in one place in my life! Mail, delivery services, commuters, all use bikes.
As a child, I was not allowed to read fairy tales. Following my tenth birthday, when the restriction was lifted, I read them all, Charles Perrault, Brothers Grimm, and Hans Christian Andersen. Mom may have been right...the originals were not meant for children. I felt a chill, touring Andersen's home in Denmark, as the images I devoured as a little girl leaped to my mind. We loved Denmark!
When I travel, I seek local souvenirs: a lobster cookie cutter from Maine, vanilla from Mexico, a windowpane shawl from Istanbul, chocolate from Iceland. In Denmark, I wanted liege sugar, a couple pounds of the pearlized stuff used in many fancy desserts. As I explored Copenhagen, I kept an eye out for a grocery store.
Over the course of a couple of days, we walked about eleven miles in the city center, but I never saw a food store. Finally, I asked a clerk at the hotel, where I was confident they’d speak English. The clerk was puzzled as to why I wanted sugar-- don’t they sell sugar in America?—but assured me a market was not far.
“Go down two blocks, inside the coffee shop on the corner, and down the steps.”
Baffled, I protested, sure she had misunderstood. I’d passed that coffee shop at least six times in the last 46 hours, never seeing any indication of a market.
“Just walk,” she nudged.
Reluctantly, I walked down the two blocks, inside the coffee shop, down the steps, and a grocery store lay before me. It was smaller than my living room, but well stocked and interesting. While Husband hunted for treasures recalled from his mission decades ago, I found the tiny baking-supplies shelf, and strained to make out pictures, since my Danish is non-existent. We made our purchases, a thick grey syrup for Husband, a bag of sugar for me.
I knew there was no market: I’d been by there. The hotel clerk knew there was a market; she’d experienced it. We need to listen to those who are farther down the road, rather than arguing, as is often our first impulse. In life, it never hurts to listen. In your writing, if a writer or reader you value suggests that phrase needs tweaking, or reminds you that you need a comma there, don’t argue. It’s quite possible she knows more than you do. At the least, ask why until you understand.
Oh, the sugar? Turned out to be desiccated coconut pearls; apparently my ability to guess at packaging is about as good as my foreign language skills. I ordered liege sugar online when I reached home. That’s not the point, is it?