Time for bed… just wondered if there was anything to blog about.
I seem to have recovered my creative spark (touch wood) and have been making more desktop wallpapers… few of which ever get posted! I always find a reason to hold back, and I made three versions of the same one today. Haven’t decided which I like best, yet.
Have finished reading Snobs by Julian Fellowes, which I enjoyed. Before that, I read Watching the English by Kate Fox, which was also enjoyable. Part of the reason I wanted to read it is that sometimes I wonder how British I am! There are things that have thrown me about other Brits (or folk in general?), and I wondered if the book would help. I recognized myself in some of the descriptions, but not others… (the pub culture, for instance. Any kind of pronounced drinking has always seemed to me bizarre, whether of tea, coffee or beer… but Kate Fox offers an explanation for it).
Both of those books have something in common — a wry look at the English class system.
Because of all the recent faffing about out-of-date browsers, I had to switch my blogging from my small old Mac to my big new one. I didn’t want to, but I suppose it will be easier to post pictures to my blog… this is my picture-making machine.
I have been buying our Patrick O’Brian novels all over again… we invited a bookseller to our house to look through our books, and he took a lot that weren’t actually for sale. I’m still upset about the strangest books… like my small collection of Asterix comics, including one in French. (‘Ils sont fous, ces Romains!’) I bought most of them as a student, as a kind of ‘end of the day’ treat; a break from studying.
My mother said she misses books too… she had some in her possession longer than she’s had me! Her mother lent out a book she bought with her pocket money when she was a girl… Scottish Chiefs by Janet Porter. All these years later, and she’s still upset that it was never given back.
I guess I knew that books were important to us; worlds such as The Wind in the Willows are almost homes on their own… and you get used to having those particular books sitting there, lining the walls like bulwarks against the world. I still have my Wind in the Willows paperback copy. Printed 1973, quite battered, and with my name written inside along with ‘Primary 7’! But I feel that it’s MY copy, and not a replacement bought recently. This is the very copy that made me cry when Moley sensed his home nearby.
Still, it was a shock that I felt so strongly about losing the other books… you think “did they really matter so much to me?” Simply replacing them (possible in some cases) isn’t enough… you want your original ones back, like my grandfather’s copy of poems by George Mackay Brown. (I got my other GMBs back, but he had already sold that one after having it for just one day).
You would imagine this would label me as a die-hard ‘printed book’ reader, someone who would never use an eBook reader. It has had the opposite effect, though… the thought of having books that can’t be passed from my possession to someone else’s is suddenly very attractive. I can see an e-reader lurking in my very near future.
They are just books… so I tell myself! But I’m tightening my defences.
From one of the essays I read:
The autumn with its fruits provides disorders for us, and the winter’s cold turns them into sharp diseases, and the spring brings flowers to strew our hearse, and the summer gives green turf and brambles to bind upon our graves.
(From ‘On Death’ by Jeremy Taylor, 1613-67)
Thor died in April last year along with Mum’s cat Jay. This year it was the turn of Fusspot in March. Four of my sister’s friends have lost pets in recent weeks, both cats and dogs. Two of Mum’s friends passed on. Then I read the essay. “Hmm,” I thought, “I was just thinking early spring seems to be the time… but then I have said the same about November, December, and January.”
Leigh Hunt’s essays on blissful slumber are still my favourites, inspiring brighter thoughts… all those who have left us have nodded by warm firesides and curled up in soft beds. They have known sleep and forgetfulness of care, and they sleep now.
On Saturday I was tramping along in the hot sun, N’s dog Thundercloud at my side. I was thinking about the fragility of human relationships. In some nothing seems to be wrong but they fall apart anyway. All it takes is for one person to lack drive, to fear commitment, or to believe they can have something better with different companions. And yet there’s nothing wrong with living apart – we cannot own each other. It’s enough that people get along and give aid or friendship when needed.
Before that I had been thinking about the impermanence of other things. Nothing that we have thought, said or done will survive for all time. Only if humans somehow survive into infinity will a selection of our works and knowledge accompany them. But if the human race dies, everything we have created also dies.
While on that topic, there are the individuals – the plants, animals and people, dying one by one. It’s terrible to think of those we love just ceasing to be, yet immortality would be a terrible thing. Reproduction would have to cease if we didn’t want to live on each other’s shoulders, eight miles high.
I tried to imagine another world where every soul who has ever lived continues existence in more or less that form. How do they find the room? It must be full by now. It’s crowded enough where we are – how much worse would it be in this other world?
Still musing about doomed relationships and the fleeting nature of people and things, I passed a tiny, beautifully tended Japanese-style garden. Something about it was just too perfect and too manicured to be true.
“Somebody went to a lot of trouble with that patch of earth,” I thought, “and yet will be fighting with weeds and grass popping up where not wanted, and eventually will get tired of it and change it, or sell it to someone else who will dig up the whole thing and plant potatoes. And one day maybe it will all be barren land with rocks and scrub as far as the eye can see – no trace of this little place. Nothing lasts forever.”
And there it was – that phrase, the one that connected everything I’d been thinking. A song I loved as a teenager came welling out of a shadowy corner of my memories. I played it repeatedly in the house we left a long time ago in a town we no longer see. People and animals lived in that house who are long since gone. I haven’t thought about this song for years – and there it was in my head as though I’d been listening to it only yesterday.
Of that I’m sure
Now you’ve made an offer
I’ll take some more
Up till then I had just been trudging and thinking in a dull kind of way, but suddenly something changed. There was joy and rediscovery, mixed with sadness.
I loved that singer. Did he think about the same sort of things? When did he just fade into my past and remain forgotten? When did I become somebody else?
I can’t believe
It’s still the same old movie
That’s haunting me
This song has been in my head ever since that moment and I don’t want to let it go. It reconnects me to my past and brings perspective to the present.
For now it’s the same old scene – but nothing lasts forever.
Edit Feb 2008: Comments to this post when it was on Blogigo:
kateblogs wrote at Jun 12, 2006 at 13:28:
What a wonderful post. So evocative.
drifting wrote at Jun 13, 2006 at 07:21:
What kateblogs said!
jasrus1969 wrote at Feb 10, 2008 at 23:50:
Heard this same tune on Ashes To Ashes the other night, lovely tune, very thought provoking and just glad I tracked it down.
Feeling unexpectedly depressed! My faith in the system is at an all-time low. My hearing gets worse and worse, and I’ve been on the NHS waiting list (to be assessed for new hearing aids) for over a year. While putting up the Christmas tree, I was trying to listen to Mary’s Boy Child by Boney M, and realized I couldn’t hear the singing voices, just the beat. I don’t know if that’s because it was a CD instead of the records and tapes I used to listen to. The frequencies are possibly different.
Space Cadet (on TV) is not helping. I looked in for 20 minutes and felt angry. At least one of the young people swears every time he opens his mouth, even when he’s being affable. He probably thinks it comes across as vivid and expressive, but that’s a mistake a lot of people make. I’m hardly Miss Goody Two Shoes when I think no one’s listening, but tonight I was feeling pretty dismal already. And whether I watch it or not, I feel we are all affected by the principle of the show. It reminds me of the fable about the boy who cried wolf. Credibility is important – yet so many people give their credibility away without a second thought. Then we wonder why we struggle and why the world is so cynical.
While I’m on this tack, I’m reminded of when I asked people on a message board what the key to happiness was. To my surprise, take-up was slow to start with, and there were comments like “what a heavy topic!” It seemed to me perfectly straightforward – perhaps it’s ‘heavy’ because we wish to close our eyes to other people’s state of mind, or to the inadequacies of the system. Eventually the ice was broken and more replies came in, often along the lines “don’t compare yourself to others – be content with what you have.”
I’ve considered it – there’s some truth in it; for instance, it would be unrealistic for someone to be unhappy because he couldn’t paint or draw while people around him could. His skills are just different. His unhappiness might be understandable if the system determined that it was especially desirable to be artistic, or that all those who are not artistic must be abnormal or ‘not trying hard enough’.
When it comes to being happy, I think our greatest need is to ‘fit in’ and be accepted. Part of that involves looking around, seeing what the others do, and working out what we can do ourselves in order to fit in the best we can. We also look to see if we’re being appreciated. We need to feel of equal worth – maybe have a little bit more so that we can feel slightly smug!
The problem arises when individuals and businesses assume that the security and happiness of others is less important than their own strivings to do well. It’s not realistic to say “relax, you’re fine with what you have” – it’s impossible to relax when you know something has gone wrong in the scheme of things, and it’s even worse when you see people taking their relative prosperity and stability as an excuse to feel superior. I’m comfortable with what I have but I don’t feel secure – and not everybody is so fortunate. And it’s not because ‘the less fortunate’ couldn’t (or didn’t want to) do better. The problems we have are much bigger than any failure to pull our weight.
Perhaps I’ll feel brighter tomorrow morning, though of course nothing will have changed. Human nature is nothing if not resilient…