I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Friday, 30 May 2014

'Tis the genes, of course

It was inevitable I would be at loggerheads with my father - a deeply opinionated, mainly insensitive oenophile with Tory leanings. And that when I reached 78, the age he died, that cameo would equally describe me once "Tory" was replaced by "Leftie".

But what about books? My father's enthusiasms were dry-fly fishing for brown trout and beagling (chasing after hare with dogs). His early reading reflected these matters:  Surtees' Jorrocks Jaunts and Jollities, Sassoon's Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, Cobbett's Rural Rides (but with the reformist themes ignored). Later his tastes widened but by then I had lost interest.

When he became ill he was reduced to asking me to lend him books. I had to think hard choosing titles. He didn't care for Michael Frayn who wrote the play Copenhagen (about quantum mechanics) and the novel, Spies, but I had more successes than failures. In fact he never returned Mark Twain's Roughing It.

The high-spot was his joy at Nabokov's comic novel Pnin. He read aloud the key sentence in the first chapter: "He is on the wrong train." and I realised we had more in common than I thought. A rapprochement ensued.

Something more difficult:

It is time that I wrote my will;
I choose upstanding men
That climb the streams until
The fountain leap, and at dawn
Drop their cast at the side
Of dripping stone;...

Reasons why. You must stop here, so I must too. The language is simple even if the aim - establishing the poet's preference for "pure" instincts - is metaphorical. The will grabs your lapels, the poetry (“climb the streams”, “the fountain leap”) says you are in intelligent hands. You are inclined to read on.

Yeats. (I swear I had no idea.)


  1. There's something about reaching, and passing, the milestone ages in one's parent's lives, a mildly superstitious thing I suppose, but we do mark them. Death's the big one, but I found I paused and reflected somewhat on reaching the age, late, as I've probably mentioned, at which my mother gave birth to me. I'm glad you had the rapprochement through books with your father, that neither of you was too proud to allow that to happen.

    The Yeats, in its wateriness is lovely, and serendipitous or not, the echo of the fishing theme and aging is deeply satisfying.

    A fine post, my friend.

  2. Lucy: My experiences seem to confirm Lord Clark's allusion to Yeats ("closest to a genius as any man I've met") in the final installment of Civilisation, prior to uttering the famous quote. But the next time I return to The Poet's Tongue I'm going to be gun-shy; folks will suspect a conspiracy.

    I appreciate the compliment.

  3. It's hard to believe verse exists that has more metaphorical possibilities. Multiple definitions for every third word helps. Don't get me wrong, I'm a Yeatsie. "When You Are Old" has ranked as my favorite poem for thirty years. Glad you got that connection with your dad.

  4. I loved Nabokov's Pnin! Other than that, I don't know if your father and I would have found much to talk about. But isn't it odd that as we grow older it's often those characteristics we weren't so fond of in our parents that we seem to acquire, rather than those we did appreciate? Maybe that's just what getting old does but I still think it's odd.

  5. MikeM: Since the poems are picked "blind" without immediately knowing the authors (via The Poet's Tongue which supports this system) I can take a certain amount of pride when I turn up something good. But this re-comment is being written after I launched an extract by R.E.Warner in a succeding post and on that occasion I've less to be pround of.

    Natalie: As a journalist I developed the ability to chat with anyone about anything. This more or less holds true except that now there is no need to apply it to say TV cooking programmes and Christian fundamentalism I am seen as less socially congenial these days.

    However, I think I was always entitled to rule out taking an interest in dry-fly fishing and beagling. My father tried to force both these subjects on me and both involved severe and (in the case of beagling) terrifying penalties. The results were the equivalent of aversion therapy. When, as I say, his reading tastes widened I was less impressed since my feelings towards him were then governed by my rather Pecksniffian attitudes towards his marital infidelities which broke up the family. It was only in the final year or so of his life that my attitude changed for the better.

    Being a parent is one of the salutary experiences of growing old. If either of my daughters now turned against me (which I'm happy to say isn't the case for the moment at least) I would be forced to look back and see whether they were justified. Chances are I'd probably agree with them. Like many fathers with an all-absorbing job I didn't pay as much attention to them as I should during the years which mattered.

    In that sense I am lucky and my father (if one excepts my final rapprochement) wasn't. And as we all know luck is a sometime thing..