Fergit wot did dept: Sunday three
men in a basket
dropped out of the sky into our picnic, bounced a couple of times across a
field then spent an hour fighting the billowing dragon of a hot-air
balloon watched by a silent crowd of cows. Monday it rained and the ducks
came up from the pond with their sinister smiles walking the heath paths
in single file and gobbling up the little new bees that had come out of
their holes in Sunday's warmth and couldn't get back.
"You can understand Jack not getting on with Niloufer," said Therese on
Tuesday in the kitchen. "They're too much alike. Poetic, creative,
artistic" - she nearly said cultured but caught my eye. Some old wildly
inaccurate speech that had been fermenting away. "Aye," Ellie kept saying,
one eyebrow up in that brooding, Ben Turpin slow burn, peeling green
potatoes with a dagger. Your real poet jibs at this kind of talk.
Maggie and Ellie, I thought on Wednesday, in case you wondered about their
common denominator, can both tell shit from sugar. The difference between
artists and people who art comes up through the soles of your grubby little feet in places like
Burwell, Larkhall and Ryhope. And The Five Towns.
"Arnold Bennett died last night," Virginia Woolf noted in her diary,
"which leaves me sadder than I should have supposed. A loveable, genuine
man; impeded somehow a little
awkward in life; well-meaning; ponderous; kindly; coarse; knowing he was
coarse; dimly floundering and feeling for something
else; glutted with success; wounded in his feelings; avid; thick-lipped;
prosaic intolerably; rather dignified; set upon writing, yet always taken
in; deluded by splendour and success; but naïve; an old bore; an egotist;
much at the mercy of life for all his competence;
a shopkeeper's view of literature..."
Cloth caps take decades to distil into something drinkable at college
hall. Arriving today, William Shakespeare and John Clare would pass unnoticed by The Old Bull
and Bush (thick with the New College of Speech and Drama)
and on to the BBC where Robin or Dania would, unerringly, whip them both into "The Archers".
I don't know how other people
manage these diaries but everything else has got to happen during
the night to meet the
week's deadline. Whistle and ride, I like folk who are intent upon their
own thing and haven't got much time for you and get your name wrong for
they're less likely to glue around demanding bits of your mind and time.
"I can always talk to you," they say. I know you can, darling. You look at
some people and you see about six others, names and places and tortuous
situations on their backs like a long-running series in search of the
one-armed man. Usually they assume they have rescued you from boredom and
"Run out of ideas? It does you good to have a rest. You know Cyril?" Or:
"They tell you roughly what to write, do they?" Dreary misconceptions come
out of colleges and groups or any place where the half-blown poppy is
dissected, ideas and techniques "exchanged" - however one exchanges
fingerprints or intention to rape Miss Russell.
Books are better than people. Your mind can wander through books without
"There must have been moments even that afternoon when Maggie tumbled
short of his dreams - not through her own fault, but because of the
colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond Maggie, beyond
Brussels, beyond the sanity of a million screaming readers. Jack had
thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way..."
Thank you Scott Fitzgerald, thank you Nick Carroway, thank you Daisy and
Jay Gatsby and all those yearning years of their separation and all the
cold reality of their eventual abortive reunion. I tell you what - where's
(The Guardian, Saturday 5 May 1973)