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2007
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May 31st; Man comes to pick up NHS equipment lent to mother. Another man from a charity collects some of her clothes. Buy masonry gloss. Paint more window frames.

May 30th; Manchester: business in Chinatown. John & I try to find some fish & chips. He tells me about local architecture as we search. After 3 failures, we settle for cappuccinos. Back in Hebden, drinks with Tim & Sara, in which I step onto their romantic, soon-to-be-sold narrowboat. In a couple of bars we chat about borrowing money to have children, mineralised hemp in the building industry, bioethics, 'Black Sheep', & C.S. Lewis.
May 29th; About half an inch of water has re-entered cellar. Meanwhile, more worrying police-state stuff.

May 28th; In morning finish rereading 'The Last Barrier' by Rashed Feild. Felt more persuasive this time. Late 1960s London mid-30s antiques dealer (and ex-popstar, according to one Amazon poster) meets mysterious Turkish man with his own antiques shop. A teacher-pupil relationship on the Sufi path to enlightenment begins, involving many bus journeys around Turkey, and lots of eating feta cheese & olives. As spiritual-enlightenment odysseys go, not bad at all. Got this book as a gift from a mysterious American Sufi friend of a Hungarian student I knew once who had lived in Japan. My time obviously has not yet come. In the afternoon read 'That Hideous Strength' by C.S. Lewis. A book my mother bought about ten years ago, second-hand, in the same Pan paperback edition [lurid cover] as the copy of Lewis's 'Out of the Silent Planet' I read at Mr Hughes's house in Accra, Ghana, during my science-fiction phase. This, the third of the trilogy, didn't quite have the haunting charm of Silent Planet. {I remember liking the gentle beaver-like, flute-playing creatures who rowed boats of plant bark down the canals of Mars.} Hideous Strength [a quote from a poem about the Tower of Babel] is about a secretive committee of science researchers who aim with 1945-ish confidence and ambition to remake humanity along rational lines, and how they infiltrate a sleepy old university. The baddies are pitted against a group of vaguely Christian amateurs with a tame bear. Lewis manages to bring in vivisection, a resurrected Merlin, evil spirits from other planets, and bucket-loads of magical plot twists. Better than it sounds. However, as Orwell points out, real drama comes from not knowing that good will necessarily win. Lewis discusses relations between man and wife - the two central characters who end up on opposite sides are married. He suggests that a woman should obey her husband, but he must never feel he owns her, seeing a kind of balance of mutual deference as the best recipe for married love. In between the two books, emergency gas-leak man comes round to reassure me about the loud popping sound I sometimes hear in the kitchen.
May 27th; Church. Whit Sunday. Preacher uses a large fluffy black crow glove puppet [Sid, from Halifax] squawking at a large fluffy green parrot glove puppet [Polly, from Brazil] to illustrate how the Holy Spirit enabled people of different languages to communicate with each other. This light-hearted interlude is artfully sandwiched between the Old Testament account of God confounding the builders of the Tower of Babel by giving them all different languages with the New Testament account of God letting the apostles communicate despite them speaking different languages. Lovely lunch with Graham & Daphne, where I go on a bit too long about Dutch auctions. Pump and mop cellar dry. Still must locate leak point. By night finish mother's copy of 'Beyond the Outsider' by Colin Wilson. Not an immediate sequel to 'The Outsider' but part of the same cycle. An intelligent, clear discussion of what Wilson takes to be Descartes' mistake, why he thinks Husserl & Whitehead both saw the way out of the trap, and why other 20th-century thinkers like Sartre and Heidegger didn't. Obvious that this journalist [check his last paragraph] hasn't read Wilson or his sources thoughtfully, if at all.

May 26th; Paint exterior windowframes. From library, read 'Discovering Book Collecting' by John Chindley. Perhaps catch up with where I would have been had I attended Boots Johnson's sixth-form option on rare-book dealing. Nice glossary at back, though several terms in the book I didn't know weren't explained there. Some elegant examples of black-and-white book illustration.
May 25th; More pumping in cellar. The cellar door has been open several days, with the pipe from Tim & Sara's pump tied to the door handle, and then threaded through some callipers in the drawer under the draining board so that the pipe points straight into the sink. The kitchen now mixes the acrid stink of bad drains from the black fungus water being pumped up, the thicker, sweeter, headache-inducing, smell of fresh paint from the front door, and the pleasanter tang of fresh wood shavings. Only on the landing upstairs, where her duvet is still airing over the bannister, is there still the distinctive musty scent, neither pleasant nor unpleasant, of mother herself.

May 24th; Midday communion. Graham & Daphne kindly invite me to lunch, and point me towards a friendly local joiner who gives me three bags of sawdust to mop up slime in the cellar. Finish undercoat on front door.
May 23rd; Sara arrives at midday with hand pump. Over the afternoon, I pump most of the three inches of stagnant water out of mother's flooded cellar. Find an old radio, and rediscover the soothing qualities of Radio 4, The Archers excepted, of course. Paint some white undercoat on front door.

May 22nd; Meet Tim & Sara from church, and hear about the Toronto Blessing movement. They kindly offer to lend me their hand pump to drain cellar. By night reread 'Palace of Dreams' by Albanian Ismail Kadare. His image of a mysterious Ottoman institution that analyses the whole empire's dreams for the Sultan still compels.
May 21st; Train back from Manchester to Yorkshire village. Restick peeling wallpaper in bathroom and bedroom. By night finish mother's copy of 'Charity Ends at Home', by Colin Watson. Somehow this is not one of the better wistful Flaxborough elegies for a lost England of senile coroners and sausage-extorting village bobbies. Reasonable plot, but despite the adorably drunken Mr Hive, not quite enough good cameo characters or memorable scenes.

May 20th; James & Rosemary rate Sebald.
May 19th; Wake up at schoolfriend James' house in Didsbury. Spend whole day chatting with him and Rosemary, his mother.

May 18th; Mother's funeral & cremation. Afterwards, John sweetly drives me to Manchester.
May 17th; Travel north. Manage to get on and off three trains without poking anyone's eye out with curtain rod. Dan reaches Mytholmroyd, helps me put up net curtain.

May 16th; Another quiet day with Nigel. Buy net curtain & timer switches.
May 15th; Lovely meal with Rof friend in Covent Garden.

May 14th; Meet Piera & Giacomo at the Serpentine. Soothing show involving shadow films cast in silhouette on floor and wall, by Paul Chan. On train back to Nigel's are some elegantly muttering French people, a very loud Hungarian woman on her mobile who keeps giving me conspiratorial grins, and a girl speaking Icelandic to her sister in Denmark apparently.
May 13th; Relaxing lunch with Dan & Catey in Kennington. Nigel of Light brings Maddy & William to Catey's post-lunch art show. We join in with the circus skills being taught to the children. I steer well clear of the stilts though. Back in Catford to continue last night's medicine, Nigel of Darkness gets a DVD of the 2nd Charlie's Angels film, 'Full Throttle'. We agree it is darker and patchier. Nigel explains to me the film-industry term for plot excess "jumping the shark", from a TV show in which the Fonz surfed over a shark and the series went downhill from there on. Definitely some shark-jumping in this sequel, though still good light-hearted distraction.

May 12th; Nigel cheers me up in London a bit. In the evening we watch the 'Charlie's Angels' film in the hope that something frivolous might dilute the nightmares I'm having each night. Film quite light & entertaining, with insights into women's thinking, such as each angel having a distinct type of man she tends to fall for. Books remind me of mother, so though in the last few days reading a couple of books helped me through some difficult hours, they also made her absence worse. Her copy of 'Blue Murder' by Colin Watson was funny: well-judged mix of provincial and London characters, including a ruthless girl news researcher who says "Fluffikins" and "Christikins" all the time. Library copy of 'Nostradamus - the next 50 years' was entertaining yet sensible. Towards the end a bit boring in the detail with which Peter Lemesurier sets out the details of the possible coming Islamic invasion of southern Europe (unless we change the prophecies by acting on them, he adds). He explains the sheer muddle and evasion of Nostradamus's writing, and the 'Janus' theory that he expected events in his past to repeat, cyclically, so most of his quatrains refer to past, not future events. Lemesurier takes pains to reveal where his own translation takes chances, and he discusses common mistakes by other interpreters: the famous 'Hister' reference is the word for the Danube, not a prediction of Hitler, for example. George Orwell's 'Homage to Catalonia' was intriguingly split in two. There is his clear narration of what it was like taking part in pointless fighting in the Spanish Civil War, full of crisp detail and memorable images, and then a retrospective discussion of how he slowly began to understand that the Communists were sabotaging and rounding up other left-wing groups on orders from Moscow. A lot of stuff about craving cigarettes during tobacco shortages. Orwell's odd final paragraph about the red buses and blue policemen of England's "long, long sleep" show that almost all the charming parts of the book, despite his intentions, describe tradition. The book reveals a strange split between his sincere solidarity with working-class revolution, and his honest struggle to understand how revolution kept going wrong and kept replacing honour with betrayal. Perhaps I'll avoid books for a while.
May 11th; Arrange funeral in Hebden for next Friday morning. Catch midday train to London to stay with Nigel, and get a few days away from Yorkshire.

May 10th; Midday communion. Gavin from the congregation sweetly drives me to see the undertakers who handled his late wife's funeral, and James the vicar offers to do the service. Take back library books. Burst into tears in bookshop when they ask how my mother is. Get death certificate from registrar.
May 9th; Hideous sleepless night. Learn today that mother is dead. In afternoon John from Manchester kindly drives me over to see the body. Everyone very kind. Meet Judith in evening in Halifax, after she & her husband drive down to see the body.

May 8th; Go in to see mother in morning. Consultant Chandrate tells me mother has had all the treatment they can think of, and it's time to stop the treatment. I ask why not get a surgeon to operate on the heart valve if she's dying anyway? He is aghast, and it turns out he is a respiratory man, not a cardiologist, though he's been talking about mother's heart since she got in. The consultant reluctantly agrees to get me a second opinion from a cardiologist. I wait for the cardio all day while mother grows more incoherent and tired. The Catholic chaplin pops in to give a blessing, suggesting the doctors have decided she's going in hours not days. Go home in the afternoon leaving her dozing.
May 7th; Grim day at the hospital.

May 6th; Church in morning. Mother unchanged. Finish library copy of 'The Secret Teachings of Jesus', translated into English by Marvin Meyer. This is the early text of four apocryphal gospels unearthed in the Egyptian scroll find in the 1940s. The final one, The Secret Book of John, is a startling alternative version of Genesis, involving a matriarchal divine spirit, a false god throwing Adam and Eve out of Eden, and a complicated set of good and bad spirits. In the other three, a slightly harsher, more insistent, and much more paradoxical Jesus emerges than in the synoptic gospels.
May 5th; Judith drives north again. Afternoon at hospital.

May 4th; Leave Judith with mother. Try to unwind.
May 3rd; Long day at hospital. By night, finish library copy of 'Colossus' by Niall Ferguson. Not this Colossus. Ferguson says liberal empires are a good thing, the world needs one right now, and the fault with the Americans is that they are imperialists in denial, constantly trying to exert influence abroad without being willing to stay on the scene. He argues the young American elite is uninterested in joining a class of imperial administrators that settle and live abroad to run a liberal empire. Interesting data on some measurable benefits brought by British imperialism, as well as on the almost unimaginable scale of America's debt crisis.

May 2nd; Whole day at hospital with Judith talking to mother when she can follow us. Awful day.
May 1st; In the morning finish library copy of 'Occidentalism' by Ian Buruma & Avishai Margalit. Very worthwhile book. Doesn't tackle Said's 'Orientalism' head-on but traces anti-Western ideas back through Japanese nationalism and pre-war anti-Semitism. Their idea is that Occidentalists are anti-liberals trying to preserve the integrated world-view of their 'organic' culture seemingly being seduced by urban sophistication: haters of 'the metropolis'. They curiously omit the Jews of the Old Testament, calling down destruction on both the developed cultures of Egypt and Babylon, as the founding fathers of Occidentalism, but still a crisp, thoughtful book definitely worth reading. Around lunchtime, hospital calls that mother is deteriorating. Judith drives back down from Scotland, arrives in the evening.

Mark Griffith, site administrator / contact@otherlanguages.org

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