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.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

I stand corrected

“Never perfect a self-tied bow-tie. It might look like a made-up.” RR to JH

When we miss someone are we being selfish? Or is it just me?

VR and I recently attended a drinks reception to honour Joe Hyam's editorship of the influential magazine, Caterer. The usual worthies were present, including telly celeb chefs Anton Mossiman and Anthony Worrall-Thompson. People spoke warmly for Joe was well regarded. Afterwards, on a more personal level, VR and I enjoyed a meal with Joe's nearest and dearest.

Back home I'm doing what I usually do. Rewriting one of my novels, Blest Redeemer. Thinking of Joe in a different context.

When Blest Redeemer starts Judith is 51 and has suffered. Time then steps back and a lengthy central section covers her mid-teens to her late thirties.

I concentrated on middle-aged Judith, thinking younger Judith would slide in naturally. How wrong I was. In effect I needed a new central character. Like asking the plastic surgeon for a replacement face.

I’ve never worked so hard on so much unusable crap. Joe, my editor, stayed calm, urged and suggested. Frustrating months passed. Finally Joe was able to say: "Time to have a bit of fun with Imogen.” Imogen is a secondary character and I could leave Death Row.

In comparison the current work is superficial, polishing not re-creating. Goodish bits are showing up. Joe deserves to see those bits; they are his as much as mine. Mind you, he might disagree. I miss him. Selfishly.

Blest Redeemer. Imogen had a theory about Middle European carnality and after three weeks it was made flesh. Momentousness occurred.  Since it wasn’t news Imogen felt could wait she told the tale still wearing an immaculate bandeau and sitting on Judith’s bed at two in the morning.


  1. Put it the other way round. Would you think he was being selfish if it was he who is here and you who were not, and you having a magic ability to observe him, assuming the writing/editing roles were reversed?

    I don't think so.

  2. Funny, what Sir Hugh said, I'd been thinking that I don't reckon Joe wouldn't have been at all apologetic and probably not self-deprecating about missing you if the boot had been on (or the bucket kicked by...) the other foot.

    Thinking about this missing?mourning thing, I'm not averse to facing the fact it's selfish, self-pity etc, in a way that seems obvious, a truism, a so-whatism, if you like. Yet it seems to me it's often not clearly about one's own needs not being met or the other person's (or dog's, or whatever's) sorrow or suffering or unkind removal from a life and world they loved, it's just a kind of visceral, affective response to the nature of the change, and the irrevocable passing of time it represents, and rather defies analysis.

    I still buy postcards (I've a good one from Morlaix museum which can only be of Swann and Odette), store up stories and pick out lines of text, with him in mind.

    His bow tie really is a fright, isn't it, and he looks rather uncomfortable, but you look very dashing and at ease!

  3. Sir Hugh: There's a prima facie case for saying that missing someone is proof of the misser's altruism - typically implying that the missee is missed for all the right reasons (generosity, sympathy, etc).

    I am suggesting that it may say more about the misser than the missee. That the misser may be irritated by the absence of the missee who is thus unable to do the misser's bidding. Selfishness in fact.

    Lucy: It's hard to mount that hypothesis. Joe volunteered to edit what I wrote but I didn't return the favour. For one thing I wasn't equipped to comment intelligently on his poems, for another we had a difference of opinion about short stories and I fear this inhibited me from being honest about his. In any case I can't ever remember Joe inviting me to comment on what he wrote and I - unlike him - would have required that permission.

    I did comment (uninvited) quite frequently on the style of his blog writing. He had evolved a special unassertive, indirect approach which I greatly admired even though I could never have adopted it.

    On top of that I doubt whether he would have publicly mourned my passing. When his brother Michael - the judge - died it was clear Joe liked and admired him. Especially the heroic circumstances in which Michael, rather than submit to surgery, chose to complete a complex case first. This subsequently led to the amputation of Michael's leg. Michael deserved and got a full-page obituary in The Guardian. I spoke to Joe about this and he was remarkably buttoned-up in his responses. I would have accepted that from him in my case - but then I would have had no option.

    The postcard detail is especially poignant. Selfishness is a million miles away.

    The photo. Joe chose to act up in front of the photographer and paid the price. Just for once I didn't smirk.

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