Tag: middle age

thing 30: ‘we are the wood drake’: reading together

‘… and then you’d think aha! something interesting is going to happen and then someone would mention Derrida and it would all be over…’

Thus my friend Simon, speaking about his time reading English at Oxford and the death-by-theory thing which can so often happen during formal study. I know what he means. In my very first group supervision at Cambridge we were issued copies of a poem—I have repressed the knowledge of what it was, if I ever knew—and the Director of Studies’ opening gambit (more…)

thing 29: ‘one person, and they’re talking to you’: a radio interview

A few years ago I was interviewed in a sort of rent-a-therapist slot on Radio Cumbria; they wanted someone in the biz to say something vaguely intelligent for a “dealing with difficult events” programme. Getting the phone call from some BBC gofer I’d thought it was a wind-up, but there I was, about an hour later, sitting in my study being invited to pronounce on a variety of things down the telephone—and live on air. Surreal. ‘Ah yes, (more…)

thing 25: ‘swimming with the fishes’: sun, speedboat, snorkel

Yes, I know it means dead in Godfather-speak. But it’s what makes snorkelling different from swimming: that you can see you’re swimming with the fishes. So I’m going to call thing 25 that anyway.

Crete, early September. Still around 30 degrees; sea deliciously warm, sky a cloudless forget-me-not blue. We’re towards the end of a two-week stay and unfortunately, because of some health problems (which aren’t mine and must therefore remain private) quite a lot of it has been pretty bad—a debilitating medley of stress, heartbreak, fury, frustration, exhaustion, helplessness… It’s all gone on for years and most of the time I just get my phlegm on, so to speak, and “deal”, but lately I seem to be finding it harder to do so—or perhaps am less willing. Here I am in a lovely place, on holiday and in sore need of relaxation and refreshment. Instead I find myself howling tears of desperation in the middle of tourist-crowded street while people try to sell me lunch, leather goods and windchimes made of shells. More Mike Leigh than Francis Ford Coppola (and  (more…)

thing 24: ‘… and miles to go before I sleep’: St Bega’s way, part (ii)

It was one of those days Messrs Ordnance & Survey tend to put on the covers of their 1:25,000s: deep green hills, and water sparkling under a sky whose few meringues of cloud only emphasised the depth of the blue.

Usually, stopping for a squint at the map during a trudge across the rain-wreathed landscape, your cag hood rustling about your ears and your face screwed up against the wind, you regard these images with a sort of resentful disbelief. (I call this look ‘the (more…)

thing 23: ‘where the soul can think aloud’: a walk on the beach

Nobody brings anything small into a bar round here.

One of the lines which convinced me about Tom Waits; and I remain convinced, despite the discovery that the line was lifted more or less verbatim from Harvey. In the film, Elwood P Dowd also claims ‘I’ve wrestled with reality for 35 years… and I’m happy to state I finally won out over it’. I went to the beach, this day, feeling that reality had definitely won out over me—more TS Eliot and a reality overdose than Jimmy Stewart and an escape from it. But maybe people rarely bring anything small to the sea, either. (more…)