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.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Magically transformed

Modern-day Eldwick. The self-conscious rock is very new.
As if it were a pebble in my shoe I grumble about my advanced age too much. Stupid. Here, in my blog I may be any age.

Bingley, Yorkshire, circa 1953. I wear a dull brown mac (short for mackintosh, ie, raincoat) like most local males. Not through lack of imagination, that's all there is in the shops. My hair, as dull brown as my mac, has been cut by a barber; it sits like a wedge atop my head. The sides are shorn bare. I'm on a bus for which I've paid pennies, climbing away from Bingley's mills to a village called Eldwick. Part of my weekly schedule as junior reporter with the Keighley News.

I call at Eldwick's newspaper shop, run by Robin Teasdale, once huntsman with the Airedale Beagles. "Any news?" I ask. He says no, as he always does. Outside I ignore rolling farmland leading up to moors which, I suppose, are exhilarating. For me familiarity has bred contempt.

The school’s headmaster sees me as a relief; he leaves his classroom and smokes a pipe in his office as we chat. He has an appropriate surname (Stone?) which I have now forgotten. Also a nervous tic causing him to grimace every couple of minutes. He seems unaware of this and does it in public before audiences, once caught in full contortion by the photographer from my newspaper.

For news of Eldwick Amateur Dramatic Society I call on one of two quite lovely women, blonde and brunette, in their thirties. One invites me in, the other keeps me on the doorstep. I'm a teenager, full of teenage juices, and I fantasise about both, leaving reluctantly.

These people must now be dead.

A long wait for the return bus. I may walk, since it’s downhill.


  1. Ok, I had another three years to “do" at Bradford Grammar when you were on your bus, but my problem about old age is your and others “pebbles in the shoe.”

    We are at that age when contemporaries, both personal, and from the wider world of arts, entertainment, and politics et al are popping off around us, and we look anxiously to compare their ages with our own, but I am in denial. I don’t want to know. I am fed up with others harping on about it and telling me about things they used to do that they can do no longer, and having long conversations about hospital treatments and illnesses.

    I know my own abilities in terms of physical pursuits has deteriorated, but I keep plodding on and prefer to look forwards rather than backwards. I think we all benefit to some extent by looking back, but it is better to focus on the good and noteworthy achievements rather than the melancholy, but of course you are a writer. I prefer to “walk" uphill rather than “downhill."

  2. Sir Hugh: I'm not sure I understand "prefer to look forwards rather than backwards." In a sense everything you post is looking backwards. Your report of a walk occurs after the walk and thus you look backwards in order to recall the details. More realistically, your posts are likely to include references to things that have happened in the past, these too could be considered to be backwards looking.

    Later you appear to modify this prescription by suggesting you should only recall "noteworthy" achievements not the "melancholy" ones. But what about "neutral" events that fall into neither, which simply illuminate the person you are? And what about recalling a "melancholy" event as proof that it eventually benefited you.

    I think what you are trying to say is that you prefer to remain optimistic rather than pessimistic. And yet pessimism (about Brexit, about Trump) can be a creative stimulus, the basis of a change towards more positive action.

    For me I must be allowed to write about anything. The alternative is self-censorship. Freedom of speech starts at home.

  3. I must try to be more explicit. I advocate avoidance of dwelling excessively and morbidly in the past. Using past events, morbid or otherwise to learn as you suggest is fine. I hardly regard details of a walk a couple of days ago as being in the past in the context of what I was trying to say. I hope you are correct in interpreting my outlook as optimistic, but I'm not sure if I consistently achieve that. These are personal opinions from both of us; one may disagree with the other, but neither is right or wrong.

  4. I like the way you revive the dead in these pieces, but I also like the gentle tussle between you and Sir Hugh afterward. Both the pieces and the comments are interesting character studies.

  5. Sir Hugh: Did you think this post was an example of "dwelling excesssively or morbidly in the past"? Surely it was simply the past, neither good nor bad; part of a sequence of events that has shaped me. (ie, those who fail to understand history are doomed to repeat it.) Facts rather than opinion ensure it steers away from being mere contemplation of my navel. While the style attempts to bring these facts into some kind of homogeneity - a story.

    Also, see below.

    Marly: Death wasn't on my mind until I was within fifteen words of the end. Being younger than any of the people I mention - a pure accident on my part - I have survived them. I see it as a privilege that I am able to resurrect their existence. It is even conceivable that I may be the only person alive able to bring their existences together in this way. Hence a sense of duty - but only retrospectively. I didn't set out to do anything so grandiose, only to re-live my own past as objectively as 300 words allow me.

  6. Woo-hoo for the Airedale Beagles!

    There's no certainty that they are all dead; the young women may not have been so very much older than you - as teenagers a ten year gap can seem an aeon of maturity - and may well be reminiscing about their glory days in the Eldwick AmDram, and the one even of how she regrets keeping that nice young man from the paper on the doorstep. Though admit that even (or perhaps especially, since I think perhaps it's a point where the lapse of years still hasn't quite sunk in) in my fifties so many of the seemingly unchanging, vigorous young grown-ups of my youth are suddenly frail and then no more, and it's something of a shock.

    A thing I long dreaded about old age was to be endlessly haunted, usually in the dark watches of the night, reliving and regretting the past; I know this was the case with my mother, and it that it was a torment. Another elderly friend who died some years ago also remarked that he found himself remembering everything all night like this, though he said it was neither a source of sorrow or joy, just what it was. Both of them though, I think, kept themselves too busy to do too much dwelling earlier, possibly even pushing the past away and distracting themselves from thinking about it, so there was a kind of backlog.

    Anyway, I find I'm doing it already; an hour or so of wakefulness takes me all over the place in the past, like an Airedale beagle quartering a field! Mostly though it's OK, I feel fairly neutral and detached about it, sometimes it's even a source of pleasure and satisfaction, which is a nice surprise. I wonder if, having always tended to regret, remorse and perhaps worst of all, embarrassment, when looking back, I've got a lot of that out of my system.

    Also, when one comes to realise how fragile and unreliable the faculty of memory can become, there's much to be said for the exercise of it in itself. I enjoyed the reconstruction of details, your haircut and the poor headmaster's facial tic.

  7. Lucy: Terrific. I would that they were alive, provided they might be capable of enjoying their nineties. Both exuded not just a neatly-clad, very English form of sex appeal but a special version - that of "an older woman", a phrase that still stirs my loins.

    As a movie Le Blé en Herbe immediately became a precious sacrament for me and I note that it emerged in 1954, one year after this composite self-portrait. I could have sworn that the "older woman" was played by Danielle Darrieux, a star who single-handedly made me yearn to be a French teenager, but the cast list says it was Edwige Feuillère who, despite her intensely Frenchified surname, lacked Darrieux's slow languor.

    Much later I read the book in French and my forties (fifties?) slid back into my teenager-ship via:

    "Une nuit, je suis venu m'abattre sous cette fenetre, parce qu'une révélation venait de tomber, foudroyante, entre mon enfance et ma vie d'aujourdhui. Elle chante, elle chante..."

    Your beautifully observed "unchanging, vigorous young grown-ups of my youth are suddenly frail and then no more, and it's something of a shock" is chilling. The transition from early certainties to the uncertainties of middle- to old-age, when one might have expected it to be the other way round. I envy you the possibility that you might have got "embarrassment" out of your system of reminiscences. For me the curse still remains.