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.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Dear Ellena

Lucy's just e-mailed me to say Ellena's died. With more time at this end (ironically there are doctors and hospitals to visit) I could have done better. Should have done better. Here's my comment.

O hell's bells. That's hard to take. And perhaps that's a measure of what Ellena meant to me; that I should immediately behave so selfishly without a thought for you and the rest who have lost so much. But then I can't help it; I can't of course hear her voice but believe me her writing was a wonderful ambassador on her behalf.

Her aim was to be modest, to go beyond modesty almost to invisibility. And she failed as she - a subtly intelligent person if ever there was one - must have known she would. Often her talk was of the smallest domestic matters but shaped in a way that made them glitter. Her style of writing seemed artless but it was the best kind of art - serving the subject never herself.

She said it took ages to come up with comment. At first sight I thought this was an ingenious excuse but quite quickly I knew it was the truth. Sometimes she'd leave less than ten words with me but the indirect angle and the lack of a single unnecessary word were unmistakably her.

One thing I can be proud of: I wasn't about to let her extraordinary skills go uncelebrated. Over and over I told her I was on to her; that no one who wrote as well as she did it for any other reason than a love of language.

And finally - how I hate that word - she brought her style to bear on a very big subject, her masterpiece: "The geriatric care wing of a pavilion attached to a nearby hospital" in April last year. A deliberately cumbersome title for a series of visits she made to old people. Here's how the first visit ends:

I push the glass softly against his mouth and slip a straw between his lips.    Glass empty..... his eyes still closed. 

I feel triumphant.

As well she might.

Although I've done this before I feel I must do it it again. EB White's children's book, Charlotte's Web, ends with a tribute I cannot better:

It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte (and Ellena) was (were) both.


  1. Oh Robbie. Your words about our dearest Ellena are so true. I find my eyes going all blurry again. I miss her so much.

  2. I can echo every word of your tribute.

    I discovered only last night that Ellena was gone and it was like being punched in the chest. She made such a deep impression, with all the qualities you describe, and it was impossible to think of her as a far away stranger. Somehow, even though we only recently learned that she was ill, I thought she'd still be here indefinitely. I clickd on her blog as usual, expecting her to be there.

    Dear Ellena, wherever you are, you know that you are loved.

  3. She was not well known to me but I am sorry fro your obvious heartfelt loss.

  4. All: Thanks for that. It's good to be part of a group, not usually one of my day-to-day sentiments. But let's remind ourselves of something I forgot. Ellena was fun. Is fun, damnit. Viz:

    Tweezer-style is the only way I know to eat them (ie, mussels). Here the large mounds of oysters are served in wide deep plates. Lots of space to manipulate the contents. $20. gets you 'all you can eat'. I pig out on three servings each in a different sauce.

    PS "Hop" comment last post referred to photo showing one-legged RR.

    Oh yes, she likes to be gnomic too.

  5. How right you are! I was reading back over the comments she left on all our blogs and found myself smiling over and over.