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.
journalist [check his last paragraph] hasn't read Wilson or his sources
thoughtfully, if at all.
Paint exterior windowframes. From library, read
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.
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.
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.
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
Archers excepted, of course. Paint some white undercoat on front door.
Meet Tim & Sara from church, and hear about the
Blessing movement. They kindly offer to lend me their hand pump to drain cellar.
By night reread
of Dreams' by
Kadare. His image of a mysterious
Ottoman institution that analyses the whole empire's dreams for the Sultan
Train back from Manchester to Yorkshire
Restick peeling wallpaper in bathroom and bedroom. By night finish mother's copy of
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.
James & Rosemary rate
Wake up at schoolfriend James' house in
Spend whole day chatting with him and Rosemary, his mother.
Mother's funeral & cremation.
Afterwards, John sweetly drives me to Manchester.
Travel north. Manage to get on and off three trains without poking anyone's eye out
with curtain rod.
reaches Mytholmroyd, helps me put up net curtain.
Another quiet day with Nigel. Buy
curtain & timer switches.
Lovely meal with Rof
friend in Covent Garden.
Meet Piera & Giacomo at the Serpentine. Soothing show involving shadow
films cast in silhouette on floor and wall, by
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.
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
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
Nigel cheers me up in London a bit. In the evening we watch the
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
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
- 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
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.
Arrange funeral in Hebden for next Friday morning. Catch midday
to London to stay with Nigel,
and get a few days away from Yorkshire.
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.
Hideous sleepless night. Learn today that mother is dead. In afternoon John from Manchester kindly
drives me over to see
body. Everyone very kind. Meet Judith in evening in Halifax, after she & her husband drive down to see the body.
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.
Grim day at the
Church in morning. Mother unchanged. Finish library copy of
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.
Judith drives north again. Afternoon at
Leave Judith with mother. Try to
Long day at hospital. By night, finish library copy of
by Niall Ferguson. Not this
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.
Whole day at
with Judith talking to mother when she can follow us. Awful day.
In the morning finish library copy of
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 /
up to top of page