Saturday, 28 March 2015

I Anticipate A Holiday

In preparation for my Roman holiday, I've just Googled, 'What do Romans do?'  The first result starts like this: 'Some things Romans did for fun were horrible.'  Having watched Russell Crowe fighting his way to a dubious and vengeful moral victory in Gladiator yesterday evening, I couldn't agree more.  

The next result of my inquiry discusses the Roman invasion of Britain.   This makes me remember that I've never visited the site of the fourth largest Roman city in Britain, Wroxeter.  Wroxeter is just outside Shrewsbury, where I've lived for over twenty years.

The third: 'Your stay in Rome is all about your state of mind.'  I'm still thinking about that one.

The original saying which prompted my search: si fueris Romae, Romano vivto more ...  When in Rome do as the Romans do ... has been attributed to St Ambrose, to St Augustine, and to other purveyors of such wisdom.  If I follow this advice, based on my experience as a Londoner who's never been to Madame Tussaud's, I probably won't visit the Sistine Chapel, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, or even the Coliseum, arena for many of the horrible things Romans did.

What I might do is sit around in cafes with my sons, anticipating a bowl of pasta, noticing the latest trends in Italian fashion, imagining Keats, here but dying, drinking 'a beaker full of the warm south', enjoying dolce far niente - the sweet Italian art of doing nothing.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

I Laugh Out Loud

On our way to badminton this evening, my son and I were catching up.  Whilst we were discussing school, Aled Jones told us that the flute concerto we had been listening to was by CPE Bach.  Carl Philipp Emanuel was the fifth child of JS Bach.

“It must have been hard for him,” I said, “following in his parent’s footsteps.”

“Yes.  Big shoes to fill.”

“Is that how you feel?”  I asked, with a wink in my voice.

He looked puzzled.   Blank even.

“Oh … you mean you!”

“I got a good review of my poetry last week in a magazine.  The reviewer called my language ‘Larkinesque’.   Do you know who Larkin was?”


“D'you mean Shane Larkin of the New York Knicks?”

Still laughing!

Monday, 16 March 2015

I Launch A Website

There are quite a few things which I have intended to do for a while.  It's been 5 years since I updated the photo albums, for example, and I still haven't learnt how to tango.  Learning to tango was my new year's resolution for 2013.  I did 'phone the Shrewsbury tango club in May 2013, but they said I had to come with a partner, and I haven't got round to that bit yet.

I've been meaning to create a website ever since I heard that it was essential for any writer wishing to be published to do so.  It's about profile and presence, apparently.  It makes perfect sense.

The problem is, I've always been good at being distracted.  At primary school, I spent a lot of time staring out of the window watching the London planes grow their leaves.  As a teenager, I lay around in the chaos of my teenage bedroom on Saturday mornings reading just one more chapter of whatever novel I was into.  Once, at the height of my first Thomas Hardy phase, my mother came in and commented that my room looked like a jumble sale.  I told her I'd intended to tidy up but that Bathsheba had just met Sergeant Troy.  I can still hear her next words: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions".  

Sources suggest that it was Virgil who got the ball rolling with this particular source of guilt when he wrote in the Aeneid that "the descent to hell is easy".  Bernard of Clairvaux wrote that "hell is full of good wishes and desires", and John Milton, in Paradise Lost, fanned the flames of fear by commenting: "Easy is the descent into Hell, for it is paved with good intentions."

There are different ways of interpreting this proverb, but none of them are comforting.  The implication is that getting into hell is as straightforward as leaving your clothes lying around on the floor. Hell was a serious business in our house, and I felt my mother's words as a sentence, instead of an expression of simple frustration.  And we know what happened to Sergeant Troy.

Even now, whenever I put something off, even goals I've set for myself, I feel my feet slipping a little.  So, when I launched my website at 11pm yesterday evening, it felt as if I was, at long last, getting more of a grip.  

Sunday, 1 March 2015

I Bend The Rules

As part of our ongoing fiftieth birthday celebrations, my longest-serving friend Helen and I decided that we would take a photograph each day of February.  Here are my 28.