It’s a while since I’ve written a (slightly) drunken blog, but I feel in the mood so here you are (or here you aren’t, if you’re too disapproving – or too demanding of coherence or of relevance to anything significant). Apart from wine it’s inspired by, and partly consists of, an email correspondence with Michael Fridjhon, to whom I’d had to send something this evening.
For the most part, it’s a matter of envy (mine). Firstly, I can’t remember anything, and Michael seems to remember everything, including high-minded stuff he’s read. Tonight, in response to my aside grumbling about ageing, he wrote: “I’m reminded of Peter Abelard’s introduction to his Historia – which I will find and send you.” (Wouldn’t you love to be able to be able to say something like that? I would.) A subsequent email expanded with these lovely words:
“Often the hearts of men and women are stirred, as likewise they are soothed in their sorrows, more by example than by words. And therefore, because I too have known some consolation from speech had with one who was a witness thereof, am I now minded to write of the sufferings which have sprung out of my misfortunes, for the eyes of one who, though absent, is of himself ever a consoler. This I do so that, in comparing your sorrows with mine, you may discover that yours are in truth nought, or at the most but of small account, and so shall you come to bear them more easily.”
Michael added the clinching quote, which he suggested could replace the last sentence:
“Thus do I imbibe, hoping to discover that my sorrows are in truth nought…”
Oh yes, indeed. If I were to aspire to a tombstone, I couldn’t think of anything more apposite than to have that rendered into the past tense and deeply inscribed in the polished granite:
“Thus did I imbibe, hoping to discover that my sorrows were in truth nought…”
The thing about being a mediocre writer (myself, I mean, not Fridjhon or Abelard) is that one is constantly in envy of what others have written. (Beware – more quotes to follow.) I have been suffering acutely tonight from such envy, though it’s been only latent within my utter delight in the sometimes absurdly excessive, always meaningful, vituperations of the English restaurant-reviewer, A A Gill, a collection of whose columns for the Sunday Times I’ve been reading.
They accompanied my dinner (with Gill’s presence hovering I won’t give details of that) and, perhaps more pertinently, a delicious half-bottle of Lustau Don Nuno Oloroso sherry. In fact, I’d turned to resume my Gill reading in something like despair at the TV series I had started with great hopes: the second series of True Detective – I’d so much enjoyed the first series, but the first episode of the second series is so full of jumps and twists and inexplicabilities that my softened brain couldn’t cope, and I had to turn to books. Well, to one of the few books that my dog Oliver has not yet reduced to shreds. (I thought he’d got over his taste for the printed word, but in the last few weeks he’s resumed his literary interests in a big way.)
So let me conclude this ramble with another quotation, this time from the bit of Gill that I’ve just been reading, on one of the pleasures he gets from returning from the countryside: the fact that there’s always “something new to hate”. “Hate is good”, says AA (the initials stand for Adrian Anthony, I believe).
“Hate is fine. Hate is warm and comforting…. Your collection of hates is the most precious thing you own. You will be remembered by the breadth, strength and tempered edge of your hatreds. Take that smarmy look off your face. I know what you’re thinking: ‘He’s just being a contrarian. He’s just doing it to annoy. Don’t rise.’ But you see, that’s what I hate about you – your supine, good-natured, path-of-least-resistance, anything-for-a-quiet-life docility.”
Etc, etc. “I wish I’d said that”, Oscar Wilde reportedly once said in response to a bon mot from James Whistler. “You will, Oscar, you will” replied Whistler. Ah – at least I remembered that one!