For five summers, a cliff-top idyll at Woods Hole, at the south-western corner of Cape Cod, MA, was where young Whitney spent his summers, grappling with the currents ripping through the Elizabeth Islands as he learned to sail in Buzzards Bay.
On the door of my study is an old American road sign, directing drivers to a small town down the road named Whitney. Insert a comma, and ‘WHITNEY STRAIGHT, AHEAD’ is my direction of travel.
This isn’t where I write – though I wish it were. It’s the place Georges Clemenceau retired to after losing the French presidential elections of 1919. It’s in St-Vincent-sur-Jard, about 30km down the Atlantic coast from Les Sables d’Olonne.