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, 5 May 2016

As James did to Louis

When did you last betray a friend? Five years ago? Ten? Never? Chances are it was within the last twenty-four hours.

Here's how. You've happily experienced a painting. It could have been a novel, a sonata, a sunset, a conversation or a sausage-roll; in which case the language may differ but not the nature of the betrayal.

You feel you must communicate this happy experience to a friend. You say: The painting looked like its subject (But a photo would have been even more realistic.). Its colours were well-chosen (But didn't nature choose the colours anyway?). It was inspired (By what? To what end?). It matches the painter's style (So what's the painter's style?). You get the idea. In broad terms you lied, not intentionally but because what you said didn't get close to "the truth". Whatever that is.

Your verbal inadequacy has left your friend uninformed about your happy experience. Since you felt it important to pass on details of this event, you've let your friend down. Betrayed your friend. But don't worry, your friend probably betrayed you twenty-four hours previously. It is in the nature of being human. Words are all we have. Words - so easy to understand as singletons, so slippery in groups.

V, my singing teacher, used to apologise before correcting me. But we've moved on. Things are more difficult (Intervals: oof!); V now shouts "No!" and I rectify. The level of difficulty, I’m told, betokens my progress. A happy event verifiable on the piano keyboard. I am unbetrayed because what V conveyed did not depend on the meaning of words.

Going back to that painting you enjoyed, perhaps you should try la-la-ing your happiness to your friend. You don't sing? Well V's tuition is worth a guinea a box.


  1. That film of Julius Caesar could do with a remake. I always felt that Louis Calhern was a most inappropriate Caesar, with his thick American accent. Presumably he was used to gain some transatlantic funding?

  2. Yes, but I fell for James Mason in that (and about the same time in Odd Man Out) when they showed it on telly at the time I was doing JS for O level, at the time I really fell in love with Shakespeare.

    The odd thing is, kids go on falling for Shakespeare at about that age, not just crappy gimmicky film versions of R&J (mine was Zephirelli's) but the real thing, the language, the code cracking, the psychology, the depth and timelessness of it; our grand daughter and her friends still are, and they aren't prodigies or exceptional kids at all, but that same lot who obsess about instagram and awful pop music and appear to have the attention span of gnats and like-execrable-like-diction which we enjoy deriding and abhoring just like Cato the Elder, then suddenly they're off to the National Gallery at the weekend of their own accord and falling for Shakespeare just like we did. It's enough to make me give up on despair.

    But that comment belongs to your previous posts. Failing our friends and dear ones; for some of us I really think the evil that we (think we)do to them lives after for us much more painfully than that which they (may think they)do to us, if that makes sense. I'm fairly sure I suffer a great deal more looking back on the ways I've hurt, failed, betrayed etc others than from recalling anything they've done to me. Is it that I've erred so often or do I have a very active conscience? Has no one really hurt me much or am I not inclined to place much importance on it? And, whichever, am I cursed or blessed?

    Good news that V has stopped apologising for correcting you anyway! Adults teaching adults can be tricky like that.

  3. Hey, just found Radio 4 have been doing Julius Caesar in the afternoon drama slot in three episodes this week! Hooray for Listen Again...

  4. So, sounds are more honest than words? Perhaps that is why music is so powerful? Presumably "No!" (with the exclamation mark of course) is classified as an honest sound rather than a word?

    Sorry about all the questions. I read Pinker a long time ago, can't remember which book or much of the content but recall that he has things to say about this problem. I intend to have a re-browse. It's a very interesting debate.

  5. Avus: If you'll forgive me, this is is a remarkably old-bufferish attitude. What accents (other than Kentish) would you also condemn? West Riding straight off, of course, since it locates north of Biggleswade. I'll have you know I once wrote a five-acter, for which I spoke the prologue and the epilogue and the interstitial narration.

    And you would definitely have hated a partial performance of JC I saw while still at school, since it sought to reproduce the accent Shakespeare might have heard on the Stratford stage - a sort of rural Brum.

    How painful the emergence of the SNP must have been for you. Those under-nourished fellows speaking impenetrable Glaswegian in that linguistic holy-of-holies the Palace of Westminster.

    Lucy: I knew you'd be the first to interpret that deliberately gnomic headline. Have you heard Eddie Izzard do his imitation cat-purr of JM. ("A word with you, Centurion.").

    Although you are forgiven for imagining this post was merely a continuation of RR's prolonged act of self-abnegation, I had hoped to lean more towards general philosophy than foetid psychoanalysis. The hypothesis being that those who are exposed to a work of art, and who profit from it, should if they are honest and honourable accept an unspoken contract - to do their best on its behalf thereafter. In effect to offer up well-constructed and parsable judgments capable of swaying the minds of the doubters and the ignoramuses. Thus opening up the possibility of further betrayal - in this case of the art's begetter.

    Like you I'm dubious about gimmickry. I can't believe it sticks. Shakespeare is hard and always was so. With only one or two exceptions (strangely including Two Gentlemen of Verona) I must confess that sixty-percent comprehension is a fairly high score for me on the first run-through. The counterbalance being that I end up looking forward to the second run-through. And those that follow. I am delighted about your discoveries ("they're off to the National Gallery") as I was when daughter Professional Bleeder, aged fiftyish and staying with us, announced herself willing to watch her first opera The Turn Of The Screw and has thereafter absorbed everything opera can throw at her.

    Do you need a reference on your CV to the effect that you have never hurt me, failed me, betrayed me; rather the reverse. That you are thrice blessed and a powerful argument for continuing blogging in these thinnish times. That you have only one failing: that you continue to grieve about the quality of wine you ordered at Erquy. You mustn't allow this to scar your soul. It could have been Irn Bru for all I cared; what arrived, unordered, was conversation (from the pair of you) that met every eventuality. Dwell on that.

    Sir Hugh: Music is not always a power for good. It can be sentimental, banal, derivative, reflective of the composer's worst tendencies, etc. But at its best it appears (to me at least) to be inarguable in its value and its intentions. Prose or even poetry, however obscure, is always more amenable to misinterpretation and argument because it is created out of an activity we use every day; most of us have prose skills, music skills are much rarer.

    Sounds present problems. We may moan in a moment of passion but the moan won't be guaranteed truthful. On other occasions, though, notably when someone stammers at an unexpected compliment, the incoherent sounds we hear may have the ring of truth. Off the cuff I'd say sounds need to be dealt with ad hoc.

  6. The accent was not the main problem with LC - to me he was just not up to the part and seemed totally miscast.