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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.
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Sunday, 8 May 2016

Too many damned questions

Desserts. When it's up to me they never change: on non-diet days a raspberry-cranberry yoghurt (always eaten with the same thick-handled teaspoon), on diet days a Braeburn apple and a satsuma. However VR not only hates alimentary sameness she hates it on my behalf; yesterday she made us plum crumble.

I reflect. That yoghurt/fruit duo has persisted for several years, perhaps a decade. Partly due to old age, resistance to what's new. You could say repeated meals are in themselves harmless. But are they symptomatic of something more serious? Am I also sticking with the same literary diet? Should I really be watching As You Like It for the tenth time or relishing the new Don DeLillo? Worse still, am I now thinking the same thoughts?

Am I now left-wing by habit, not conviction? Do I reject new ideas if they are ungrammatically expressed? Is my liking for Germany born out of unrefreshed sentimentality? Are my fantasy women film-stars on the elderly side?

I took up singing recently. At age eighty. But did I want to prove I could do something radically new? A slightly ignoble reason.

Note in passing: this is not a post about yoghurt. Or Braeburns.

This is also familiar speculation. Hardening of the arteries goes with old bodies; hardening of opinion is equally prevalent. Ought I to seek out debate with younger, more energetic thinkers? Fine if they opened my eyes and my brain. But suppose I wiped the floor with them, for I am an unpleasant and tenacious arguer?

Enough. Enough. One of Roman Polanski's best movies ends with the words: "It's Chinatown, Jake." Here, something more old-fashioned: "It's anno domini, RR."


  1. I do not think there is anything deleterious about taking all the years of a long life to form considered opinions and develop personal tastes, RR.

    For, probably,70 of your 80 years you have had ample time to bring all these to fruition. You are an intelligent man and have intelligent opinions (I think, from what I read of yours). Is there need to change now?

  2. Avus: I fear so. First it's as well to know one is capable of change. Also, if I took your last two sentences at face value I might conclude I'd been perfected. Luckily a professional life spent asking myself, sotto voce during interviews, "Why is this bastard lying to me?" has encouraged me to doubt many things and especially received wisdom. Just around the corner in all our lives is that infinite period of no-change. While we still have the wherewithal I think it's a good idea to at least consider different paths.

  3. I do like a tenacious arguer Robbie and enjoy a good argument. Maybe we should pick a topic one day!

  4. Be subversive and don't give in when they say we're on the trash heap of life. Learn to sing when you are 80. Oh, you're doing that already? Make a fabulous dessert that takes three days. (Real croissants, maybe?) Write some more poems and novels. Go hiking with your brother. Etc.

    So glad there are no rules. We don't have to read the new X. Shakespeare is always new, or should be.

    I can't stand the level of jargon among the collegiate young at the moment, particularly the whole gamut of gender jargon. It rubs me the wrong way--we had enough words to talk about our world already. As soon as the jargon kicks in, I'm done.

  5. Blonde Two: I had in mind an intellectual romp based on transubstantiation. Get down on your starting blocks.

    Marly: Goodness me, I'd say you were my John the Baptist if the suggestion wasn't hubristic. Real croissants! - could I really give up great chunks of my writing and singing lives to such an ephemeral end? But then perhaps ephemerality is the whole point and should be sought out.

    Jargon, yeah, a crime against humanity. Also the needless use of five-dollar words like hubristic and ephemeral. Which of us might cast the first stone? Luckily in you I have a stone caster extraordinaire and revel in the fact. Don't forget, a sling (you call them slingshots) casts them further; I believe that fact is engraved on a tomb in Mesopotamia.

  6. Michael made proper croissants. Three days. Once. I still think about them! That good.

  7. Marly: Congratulations! The single response to that long string of questions I've been asking myself is to shift my perspective. The croissants were not only Mr Marly's labour and his intention, they were your delight; and my world is wider than that defined by the first person singular.

    I had reached this conclusion by other means but had already forgotten. The aim of learning to sing is not simply to deliver a solid, perfectly pitched E, rather to hope that one day a single note will give someone else pleasure. An almost mythical target at this stage of my development, but then unattainability adds charm I think.

    The Michelin Guide to restaurants in France provides the following definition: Two Stars (Il vaut le détour.). Three Stars (Il vaut le voyage.) From my point of view this visit of yours to Tone Deaf rates Three Stars. Keep on trucking.