Who in His Right Mind Needs a Nice Girl or Boy?

March 22, 2017

Diary 21st / 22nd March

Lots of criticism of the concept of grammar schools lately. They’ve always been anathema to the socialists. And yet an entire generation of writers passed through them: Angela Carter, Ted Hughes, William Golding, John Carey, Tony Harrison, Alan Bennett – Angela Carter even went so far as to suggest they helped create a genuine British intelligentsia: ‘’a class of people who didn’t believe they were born to rule, who had no stake in maintaining the class-bound structure of British society but who made their livings through dealing with ideas.’

Carter, unlike other socialists, didn’t believe in ‘throwing the educational baby out with the bathwater.’

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A weather forecast, or rather pastcast: rain, rain and more rain; mostly this miserable soaking drizzle. For two days last week the moor was clotted with fog (low cloud), its granite slopes melting into white; its ancient hidden secrets further obscured, and the sheep and cattle became simple shapes in the murk: bedraggled and pissed off, no doubt – probably suicidal, even: but of course lacking hands they cannot take a razor to their throats, unlike us.

Then, on Tuesday, a cold front rolled in off the Atlantic. The rain turned sleety. It’s s’posed to be the beginning of spring…!

On a more hopeful note, last Sunday I heard a lark singing. It probably wasn’t ascending, but the sound brought a smile to my face.

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Some people have desires that can only be hinted at…

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As I grow older I become more forgetful. I’d give you some examples but I’ve forgotten them already.

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Notable events over the past week: lunch at Notter Bridge last Friday (this after an unexpected telephone call from my sister which I finally, rather rudely had to interrupt after almost an hour’s conversation, saying: ‘must go, we’re meeting friends for lunch…’)

Drinks with Henry B Saturday. He has an unending repertoire of anecdotes and a spontaneous humour that is the envy of us all. He is also currently persona non grata with the local BDSM group after last Christmas, and that unfortunate experience with D F. Still, his shoulders are broad and he handles his ostracization with casual good humour. He is, in short, unrepentant and imperturbable. For my own part, I have this indelible memory of Henry two years ago in lurid lycra, being flagellated mercilessly by an Asian lady in John R’s sitting room at St Mabyn.

Sunday I became quite intoxicated by the end of day. I managed to prepare food for us all. But afterwards fell asleep on the living room sofa.

Monday I finished my short story “Rats”. It’s a tale of a woman with a deep-seated fear of rats. It has a very unhappy ending. In part, I s’pose (and this with hindsight), the idea behind the story originated with a news report two or three years ago which concerned a woman who had a terrible fear of monkeys. This phobia meant she could never visit a zoo, and never even watch a wild life documentary on television if monkeys were involved.

She decided to seek help. She attended sessions with a therapist weekly for most of that year. Then she visited the monkey house with her family at London zoo. All okay. Her fear was gone, dissipated. She was cured.

The following year she went on holiday to Kenya with her husband and children. On the second day of this vacation she was attacked and torn apart by a group of angry baboons.

Tuesday was a hospital appointment and then shopping. Sleeting like mad when we left the hospital; peeing down with rain at the supermarket; bright sunshine on arriving home. All the seasons in the one day.

Talking, too, about the moor: how it can give substance to your dreams and nightmares. Ghosts on the moor, for certain. But then who’s to say that one or more of the people standing with you at the bus stop aren’t ghosts? That woman in a white raincoat and headscarf, for example?

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I was reminded yesterday of a party in Hampshire ten years ago. A young man taking the part of Nijinsky, dressed as the faun in ‘L’Après-Midi’, dancing behind his shimmering gauze, cock stiff and swaying for the delectation of all. What a wild, unruly night that became.

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‘Real artists are not nice people,’ W H Auden once wrote. ‘All their best feelings go into their work and life has the residue.’

So let that stand as a warning to us all.

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