Miscellaneous writing

Splendid isolation

‘Were you to live three thousand years, or even thirty thousand, remember that the sole life which one can lose is that which you are living at the moment; and furthermore, that you can have no other life except the one you lose. This means that the longest life and the shortest amount to the same thing. For the passing minute is everyone’s equal possession, but what has once gone by is not ours…the sole thing of which anyone can be deprived is the present; since this is all you own, and nobody can lose what is not theirs.’

Marcus Aurelius [121-180 BCE] – Meditations, translated M.Staniforth [with variations by J.Pitt], Penguin Books, 2004, p.16-17.

Note: I live and write in Australia. This country, for better or worse, has not had to deal with the enduring tragedy the pandemic has wrought in much of the rest of the world. Indeed, Australia has isolated itself, while its nearest neighbour, Indonesia, is now gripped by a catastrophic outbreak. So much so that Australians have the time to ponder which vaccine to have, and whether they ought to have any vaccine altogether. There is complacency among politicians and the public, for this is a democracy of shallow debate.

Miscellaneous writing

Title page

On opening a Penguin copy of Flaubert’s Bouvard and Pecuchet [1978] that’s been unopened on my shelves for years, opened today as I am near finishing Sentimental Education and speculating on what next to read.

On the title page this inscription:

To … The Marx Bros. films & this book are all I need to survive in this stupid, humorless world…and sex, yes, I can’t forget sex. I hope you like it. The book that is, not sex. Well I hope you like sex too, for that matter. Enough of this. I really must be going…Hello, Hello, Hello! Love …

All capitals by the way. Inside a bookmark inserted at p.49. This advertises a New York bookstore Bookshelfwe sell new and used paperbacks. Address for any American readers out there: 135 Windsor Place, Brooklyn, NY 11215.

I don’t remember if I bought this book in New York – which would have been 2000 – or in the UK. Spelling of humorless suggests inscriber was American. Either way, this Flaubert has well travelled since 1978.

Miscellaneous writing

I left it here

The race to ‘normal again’ is on – economic normal. The graphs have been pointing down a while and now the politicians are eager to see those lines heading north again. Some commentators point to the V effect, and to resume that upward tick is about pumping out more growth targets – more shovel-ready projects. Hopes for a rational re-think of how we pursue our lives [shops are open again and the TV news shows crowds gathering outside before the doors are thrown open, the pent-up frenzy palpable through the tube] gone in an instant.

Yet I think I caught a news item [by caught I mean spotted fleetingly a flash on my mobile of a news item seeking my attention; or I may have been browsing a news site and caught this ‘flash’] somewhere about scientists emphasising we have ’50 years’ before climate reversal becomes untenable.

Miscellaneous writing

Sailing to Byzantium

‘That is no country for old men. The young/ In one another’s arms, birds in the trees/ – Those dying generations – at their song./ The salmon-falls, the macerel-crowded seas,/ Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long/ Whatever is begotten, born, and dies./ Caught in that sensual music all neglect/ Monuments of unageing intellect.’

first stanza.

WB Yeats from The Collected Poems [1973], Macmillan, London, p.217.

Miscellaneous writing

Welcome 2021

Welcome back. Much has changed since my last post back in July 2020. But let’s not talk about the C!

This year I’d like to try something different: to expand the scope of the blog beyond typography, in fact to everything! What got me thinking this way was checking out Substack this morning. I was wondering if this might be the way to go but then realised – hell no. I’ve already got a blog and some who follow it. Surely be better, I mused, to build on this small following than start out afresh. Therefore, I propose to incorporate my musings on life as seen from the perspective of a 60+ year old, white, Englishman who’s lived in Australia for the past 16 years. Yes, there will still be typography from time to time but a lot more too.

Let me know what you think.

To begin here’s something I wrote in 1975: my recording of a conversation between two women sitting on a station platform in south London as they patiently wait for their train.

Someone was singing Waltzing Maltida. The air was given a shrill rendering by a man just coming down the steps leading to the London platform. People cast an eye towards him – someone too gay in the morning is one person too many; it makes all others sad. The two women turned to each other. Both wore glasses, both had their legs crossed.

‘You know you can’t get the bus from Kingston now?’ one of them started. ‘So I’ve had to catch the 171 which takes you right round the world. It’s fortunate I can catch that or else I wouldn’t be able to visit my sisters regularly. You know it’s dreadful the way they’re operating these services. Just like the trains.’

‘And what about the 161?’

‘That goes right out of my way. It has to be the 171.’

‘Yes. Do you know I’ve discovered you can have your teeth repaired as you wait? I never go to work without my teeth. I’d rather have a couple of days sick than be seen without!’

‘How are they now, your teeth?’

‘Well, to be honest, I’ve had some trouble with them. When I first got them they kept slipping out and, of course, I had to send them away for a week or so. But they’ve been okay recently.’

‘I think it’s going to be fine today, though they’ve forecast the rain. There was a red sky this morning.’