It is terrible to be alone

October 4, 2018

railings

Each of the hundred bedrooms with their shuttered windows might have held a corpse, rotting in humidity beneath the glacial swathings of the bed. In the lounge, a mist perpetually filmed the mirrors, the wicker armchairs gathering sociably around the glass-topped tables creaked at one another in the silence, so that now and then an apprehensive human head would bob up from over a writing table or the back of a settee. The rain was always audible on the glass roof of the verandah.

It is terrible to be alone in the darkness of rain, swept aside by one’s world’s indifference into a corner of a house. It is still more terrible to be swept aside into a corner of a continent.

Elizabeth Bowen
Salon des Dames

night

Diary 16th March

Earlier, a sky the colour of spilled ink, carelessly puddled over sleeping fields. No memory of daylight in its oppressive blindness. No suggestion of a dawn to come…And cold, too…Shivery cold.

The daffodils are out in patches along the hedgerow. I can sense them, not see them, but I know they’re there. It’s like standing in a crypt surrounded by fat cats on the patio. Soon the bluebells will dazzle visitors.

Now, I sit and watch the steam rise from my coffee cup…
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So far this week we’ve been told that foreign travel will become more expensive if we leave the EU. Our ports and airports won’t be able to cope with the influx of “visitors”. My Aunt Mabel’s tit will catch in her mangle…And now today we learn, horror of horrors, the high-flying Prime Minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat, said yesterday that if the UK exited the EU it would “not be trusted” again.

In any negotiate, he said: “EU leaders would be keen to show to their national audiences which might warm to the idea of leaving the union that such a process would be very ugly, painful and costly.”

And therein lies one of the major problems of the EU. All the politicians recognise how unpopular it’s become – not just in the UK, but right across the board. Yet they do nothing to address this situation…Let sleeping dogs lie; the gravy train must roll on!

Never mind. President Obama is coming to the UK to save the day…
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Recently read: “The Love-Charm of Bombs: Restless lives in the second world war”, by Lara Feigel, who has created an “ensemble piece” about five novelists who endured the bombs and blackouts in London when it was getting the shite kicked out of it by the German Luftwaffe. The novelists are Elizabeth Bowen, Henry Green, Graham Greene, Rose Macaulay and…Hilde Spiel (?).

“London is extraordinarily pleasant these days with all the new spaces, and the rather Mexican effect of ruined churches,” Graham Greene told Anthony Powell in December 1940. One hopes he had his tongue firmly planted in his cheek at the time (although I doubt he did!)…?

Henry Green was a volunteer fireman, Bowen and Greene were ARP wardens, and Macaulay was an ambulance driver.

Sex was a panacea to all that death and destruction surrounding them. The blackout became a time for heavy breathing and furtive couplings. Macaulay had an intense affair with a married man who had once been a Catholic priest. Green and Greene were both inveterate womanisers. Bowen lived with a husband who tolerated her affairs with other men’…only Hilde Spiel remained monogamous in this sea of bombs and adultery…

Enjoyed this gossipy book very much.
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comeoutotplay

Kathleen behaved well when, some months later, her fiancé was reported missing, presumed killed. Her family not only supported her but were able to praise her courage without stint because they could not regret, as a husband for her, the man they knew almost nothing about. They hoped she would, in a year or two, console herself – and had it been only a question of consolation things might have gone much straighter ahead. But her trouble, behind just a little grief, was a complete dislocation from everything. She did not reject other lovers, for these failed to appear. For years, she failed to attract men – and with the approach of her thirties she became natural enough to share her family’s anxiousness on the score. She began to put herself out, 7 to wonder, and at thirtytwo she was very greatly relieved to find herself being courted…

Elizabeth Bowen
The Demon Lover

Not alone now…?

April 19, 2015

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Letters dropped in at doors of deserted houses do not fly or walk to tables in halls. They do not sit on the dust of empty tables with the air of certainty that they will be found. There is needed some human hand—but nobody but the caretaker had a key. Under the circumstances she did not care to consider, a house can be entered without a key. It was possible that she was not alone now. She might be being waited for, downstairs. Waited for—until when? Until “the hour arranged.” At least that was not six o’clock: Six has struck.

Elizabeth Bowen
The Demon Lover

In 1936 Elizabeth Bowen had this to say about Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy:

“Returning again and again to Mr Darcy , one pays Jane Austen the compliment of deciding there was more to him than she knew. He has that cloudy outline important characters should have; does not seem to have been ‘created’ in the limited brain-bound sense so much as observed fleetingly out of the corner of an eye, recollected uncertainly, speculated upon.”

So characters in fiction take on a life of their own. In many cases they live on long after the author’s death, too. They achieve immortality, so to speak.