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.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Son of Satanic Mills snuffs it

Passion’s overrated, detachment makes better reading. Try writing one’s own obit.

ALTHOUGH tall, RR seemed inauspicious. Sideways he was S-shaped; stooping shoulders down to convex derrière. He ruined the effects of a magnificent nose - long, straight and Romanic Рby constantly fingering it. Uncut grey hair, aimed at aping Byron, was rarely washed. Worn once, his clothes immediately looked secondhand.

Many thought him sociable. Not so! He asked questions, remembered answers, then divulged what he’d learned to embarrass the questionee. He sold writing as a form of morality but was a fraud. Unbefriended he wrote to disguise an existence that was no more than shouting down a dry well.

RR's sporting interests (rock-climbing, ski-ing, swimming) were inevitably solitary. During National Service with the RAF he attached a line by Horace to his foot-locker: Odi profanum vulgus et arceo (I loathe the profane mass and spurn them). In an unexpectedly long life he drank wine and memorised many bottle labels; alas he imposed this knowledge on those he dined with and frequently ate alone.

Impatience and assertion were at odds with his left-wing politics. His few achievements were tainted: non-idiomatic, if inventive, French allowed him to avoid monoglot English tourists in France; the lengthy difficult novels he’d read discouraged bookish conversation in his presence. He married well and some were “astonished”.  There was polite applause when he took up singing late in life but suspicions grew when he refused to release recordings of his progress.

That he was tolerated says more about those who did the tolerating; residents of North America in particular treated him as a once menacing animal, now tamed and harmless: a scorpion perhaps. In an uncharacteristic burst of irony one asked: “Whence comes such another?” A short answer suffices: From West Yorkshire.


  1. Elegantly done, RR. However it is too soon for such a self composition. You are a mere 80 and hopefully have additional paragraphs to add to this.

  2. A brilliant writer on any subject. Considered a genius by fellow curmudgeons.

  3. Avus: This is an intellectual exercise; it was not written under the shadow of some pathological starter's pistol (as far as I know). The only major change I can envisage (and devoutly pray for) is being able to hit middle F without my throat strangling the note at birth. Very important in producing the line "For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory" with any degree of plausibility.

    MikeM: Fellow curmudgeons but in countries other than the UK; countries where my talents may have a flashy snake-oil-salesman appeal.

    Lucy: I thought about this one but I can make a case for it. Friends made through blogging are abnormal; the initial appeal is conveyed by those tricky, unreliable, frequently stolen things called written words. In instances where the S-shaped body, the shaggy hair and deplorable clothing have manifested themselves physically, the unlucky bloggee may be forced into politeness. One can never tell, it's all to do with accents, class structure and whether someone knows what to do with a serviette. Brits are famed for their social endurance but it's wise not to presume.

    I envisage a tomb with money set aside for the carving of afterthoughts. If I've offended you perhaps it's time to take out Roget. I've always thought there was a pleasing resonance between "bastard" and its French translation.

  4. Course I'm not offended yer soft bugger.

  5. (Yes the time signature is correct. Stricken by insomnia I have crept downstairs to record two chapters of Diana of the Crossways, for my sins. Ugh. Thought I quite liked Meredith, based on 'The Egoist', but it's never too late to change your mind. Now the first blackbird and thrush are telling it how it is and setting the alleys ringing, and my feet are cold, but sleep is still nowhere to be perceived.)

  6. Lucy: This one went badly wrong on my part. Even wronger than you might suspect since I seem to remember we discussed another aspect of friendship some years ago (Is duration a necessary qualification?) quite amicably. My wrongness grew out of a desire to go off at a tangent compounded with a shocking bout of forgetfulness. I'm not convinced I can get myself off the hook on this one but the attempt will require more words than can be comfortably accommodated in a comment. Also I need more time than I had earlier and than I have now. Expect a knock on the back door soonish.

    And Omigod my bowlful of bitter aloes overflows. You thought you liked Meredith (never mind whether you appear to have recanted) and just recently I've been so cruel to Meredith. But where? My failing mind struggles to remember. Logic suggests it should be in my new novel but it just doesn't fit. My present heroine is setting out to cut off the privates of male society in general and I fear you're due a justifiable bout of irony at learning this news.

    Thank God for your generosity of spirit.

  7. Lucy: PS. At least this time I'm not the guilty one who set the earworm a'wriggling.

  8. There there not to worry.

    Now famished with wakeful hunger and waiting for my partially reconstructed loved one to bring me my nicely soft boiled egg.

    I do seem to remember you abhorrence of Meredith (Trollope too, you see your not the only one that stores up that kind of information), though not recently. In theory I sympathise with his sympathy with women (especially in the face of his apparent biographical ill-usage by them), and his understanding of the dilemmas, injustices and traps they find themselves in; trouble his his women are either somewhat non-entities or, as in the case of the eponymous Diana, so intensely irritating one begins to want to give a a bit of a slapping oneself. Sorry.

    Also, he really doesn't write very well, does he? His syntax is often almost impenetrable and downright weird (maybe WP technology might have helped him?), and I can read a whole page over and over, and even when I succeed in concentrating I can't really work out what he's saying. Plus, he uses words like 'sincereness' instead of 'sincerity'.

    Still, I suppose I am doing socially useful work.

    Sorry again, this has not much at all to do with your post, which I did in fact enjoy. Except to bely the bit about discouraging bookish conversation, I suppose.

  9. A bit of a gimlet-eyed look at Roderick Robinson. There's not any "Robbie" at all!

    Now I am thinking you could be a new John Aubrey and do a whole clever book of Brief Lives.

  10. Lucy: That thing about bad writing to be found in what are sometimes called the classics: not Meredith or Trollope, someone more elevated (name, alas, forgotten), I was reading recently, and exactly the same point arose. Paragraph after paragraph of generalities without anything specific I could get my teeth into. The story drew me along but it was a running battle between the plot and these blah-bahs. How much rope should he be allowed? I asked myself. Well, he's lasted. Though perhaps I'd now be able to remember his name if he'd written better.

    A man who can calculate the time needed for a soft-boiled egg is beyond rubies. But you already know that. VR, alas, must look elsewhere although I'm relentless in serving booze.

    Marly: Perhaps you deserve the full picture.

    My full name, Roderick, is only used by those who teach me French. The accents, you see, and the two rs.

    To my wife, VR, and a few of her relations, I am always Robin. A leftover from when I started work in London and I was looking for a new, non-Northern, identity. A friend (a leader writer on The Times and, therefore, decisive) made an impromptu decision and introduced me as that. It sounded slightly feeble but I couldn't really argue.

    To all Americans I became Rod. Roderick, they felt, was two syllables too many.

    In the RAF and at school, those that spoke to me (not many) I was Robbo.

    Virtually everybody else: Robbie, doggish rather than dogged.

    If you'd like to do me a great favour I'd be pleased if you called me Graham Greene. Evelyn Waugh is the better writer but that first name is unfortunately androgynous.

  11. Dear Graham Greene,

    Those must have been Yankees. I've long noticed a tendency toward name-snipping without permission in the Northeast.

    I note that you are tugged strongly toward the alliterative.

    Good cheer,
    Wm. Shakespeare (may as well go whole hog!)