Sunday, 12 August 2012
Prejudices, Gaffes and Kindness
Since Friday 27th July I have done my best to escape London 2012. It's not that I don't appreciate the youth, beauty, skill and athleticism of the competitors; on the contrary, I am awe-struck and bowled over by the determination and hard work they have so obviously put into their quest for glory. It's the commentary I can't take. I watched an early sailing event, horribly fascinated and repelled at the same time, with a British competitor being the favourite. Throughout the race the Brit's name was repeated, over and over again, hysterically, manically, while two other close rivals were anonymously 'the Dutch and Danish sailors'; during the same race I also tried to count the number of times the two words 'Great Britain' shrieked out at me from the TV screen: I actually lost count.
Gardener gave a wonderful example of this mind-set; naturally, the Olympics came up, although he belongs to the school of grouches who think that the money should have been spent on something more worthwhile, he seems to have followed Britain's unexpected success story and was even grudgingly appreciative. During one of his tirades against hype and overspend he mentioned a particular cycle race and a particular British cyclist.
"All that money from the Lottery, a bike that costs thousands of pounds, years of training, it's not worth it", he said. "What's the point, it's not as if he did anything important."
"But if he won, aren't you proud of him?" we asked.
"He didn't win, he came third," Gardener said.
"Oh, I see", we said, "so who came first?"
"No idea". Gardener waved the question away dismissively. "Just some bloke from abroad."
Looks like the old attitude : Fog in Channel, Europe Isolated still rules okay.
I put my foot into somebody's pet intellectual soft tissue the other day too when I wailed that I regret that English literature is peculiarly insular and parochial and that hardly anyone reads Continental European writers or work in translation. I mentioned that I had just finished W.G. Sebald's "The Rings of Saturn", in which the writer turns a long, wandering walk through East Anglia into a sequence of visionary meditations, which ultimately becomes an essay for the dispossessed. My neighbour at the dinner table, up to now a good friend, turned a furious face in my direction and told me that he found my remarks 'deeply offensive' and that I should go and immerse myself in Wordsworth's 'Preludes' or 'Tintern Abbey' where I would certainly find philosophy and meditation. We were all on the cusp of being drunk, which accounted for my outburst as well as his; he repeated the 'deeply offensive' remark twice, which I found, and still find, rather over the top, especially as he hadn't really understood my complaint. At the end of dinner we parted on good terms but I'm left wondering if I actually want to remain friends. Or if he does.
So it is with great pleasure that I can finally get away from gaffes and prejudices and tell you about something very kind which the immensely talented artist/illustrator/writer Elizabeth Rose Stanton of the amazing Pens Paper Studio did: when she heard how sad I am about Benno's death she sent me the card you see here. Elizabeth is a dog lover too and she knows just how I feel.
This is a card to keep. It will make me smile every time I look at it.