Last Friday in Hyde Park, I ran next to a woman pushing her baby son in a pram. As she ran, she sang the names of all the American presidents.
I couldn’t decide whether this was an impressive vision of motherhood or of madness. All I knew was that I had to keep up with her. Not only was this woman able to run and sing at the same time, she bravely chose to compose a song with pretty challenging creative ingredients. I mean, presidential surnames include Van Buren, Hoover and Eisenhower.
I ran just behind the woman long enough to hear her bellow the chorus a few times: ‘GEORGE WASHINGTON WAS THE FIRST PRESIDENT!’
Yes, he was. I knew that, but that was pretty much all I knew. We studied the American War of Independence at school but for some reason I’ve blurred early American history with the plot of Sleepy Hollow.
I googled George Washington and the image search yielded this portrait of him, a miniature.
When George Washington’s step granddaughter, Martha (Patty) Parke Custis became engaged, she wrote to her step-grandfather asking him to sit for a miniature as a wedding gift.
He replied by saying he couldn’t believe the wish nearest a young lady’s heart was to possess an old man’s picture, but consented nonetheless.
This is the result, a watercolour on ivory, by Walter Robertson set in gold.