Here we are, about the step over another invented marker of our lives. We jump from 2019 (a bad year all round) to 20/20 (in the hope of new perfect vision).
My first wonder is, “I should live so long?” The essential element there being the final query. I fetch back to a distant childhood, when I wondered what a future of Dan Dare and unlimited, free nuclear power would be:
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Or perhaps not.
For now I repose, au Rees-Mogg …
… and notice that the post (only one delivery a day in these degenerate times) has brought the new London Review of Books. From a threepenny comic to a standing-ordered subscription — the progress of seven decades.
This issue bodes well to be a cracker.
For a start there is Alan Bennett’s Diary of the Year just going. Here at his tartest:
7 July: Sam Barnett has been on the Pride march. ‘Four and a half hours! I wouldn’t have agreed to be homosexual if I’d known it was going to take that long.’
30 July, Yorkshire. Thunder, which is somehow old-fashioned.
Two more memories:
- venturing along the marsh-side path, eastwards from natal Wells-next-the-Sea. Yellow furze to right, pouce sea-thrift to the left. Huge black thunder-clouds threatening behind, and no shelter in sight.
- the Liverpool ferry out of North Wall, the night I left a wasted university life behind. All round the horizon lightning flashes and distant rumbles of a distant electrical storm. A female Dublin voice calling for her daughter: ‘T’ray sa!”.
Here comes another crack in the paving:
Make the leap from Denis Thatcher to the Great Political Shambles of 1961-1963? Here it is, courtesy of Andrew O’Hagan:
… hidden in the biography [by Charles Moore], and too little remarked on in the reviews, is news of a friendship that sprang up at that time between Denis and Mrs Foreman, alias Mandy Rice-Davies…
It happened like this. Denis was for years the vice-chairman of a waste-management company called Attwoods, whose head office was in Florida. The chair of the company, Ken Foreman, was married to Rice-Davies, and Denis used to go there for meetings and stay with them, and over time he and Rice-Davies grew close. Denis was always more sociable than his wife. He loved long lunches at his club with his ‘chummoes’, and he had, as Moore puts it, ‘many expressions indicating the need for a drink without delay’. These included ‘blow the bugle’ and ‘let the dog see the rabbit.’ Anyway, many drinks were had, and Rice-Davies came to feel that Denis was ‘rather lonely’. Something was missing from his life. ‘He liked strong women,’ Rice-Davies told Moore, ‘quite bossy women, which is why he liked me.’ The Foremans had a house in Lowndes Square. ‘He’d just ring the doorbell and come in,’ Rice-Davies said.
Back in a dimly-lit past, the joined-up Connections of James Burke were — to me — immensely rewards.
The episode that particularly stuck with me was Burke taking technology from Cistercian monks deriving the use of waterpower from Roman technology, through German silver mines, Gutenberg’s printing press, the Jacquard loom, to card-index files and so to computer programming. Easy when one is shown the links, and jumps the cracks in the historical pavement. As for the Thatcher tie to Randy Mice-Davies, it merely reminds that this is a small world, London ‘society’ (even more so, its demimonde of waste disposers and politicians) is smaller still.
And for the rest of this hopeless/hopeful juxtaposition of two years, I intent to remain Rees-Mogg-like horizontal, with some excellent reading. Starting with Jean McNicol doing LRB‘s in-house account of Red Clydeside. Which I see starts from reviewing a re-issue of Maggie Craig’s When the Clyde Ran Red — which has been on my shelves since 2011.