On This Island Look, stranger, on this island now The leaping light for your delight discovers, Stand stable here And silent be, That through the channels of the ear May wander like a river The swaying sound of the sea.
Here at a small field’s ending pause Where the chalk wall falls to the foam and its tall ledges Oppose the pluck And knock of the tide. And the shingle scrambles after the suck- ing surf, and a gull lodges A moment on its sheer side.
Far off like floating seeds the ships Diverge on urgent voluntary errands, And this full view Indeed may enter And move in memory as now these clouds do, That pass the harbour mirror And all the summer through the water saunter.
W H Auden once described his face as resembling a ‘wedding cake left out in the rain’. Anyone as devoid of vanity as Auden (except where arch expression is concerned) has to be ok in my book.
The two best lyric poets writing in English in the twentieth century were Auden and W B Yeats. Yeats was a bit too up his own arse mystical Anglo Irish fuckwit for my liking, but he was immensely talented. Auden was a drawling upper middle class Oxonian, but he had an easy familiarity with the English language that enabled him to produce a seamless lyricism that hasn’t been equalled since.
I particularly like the way the Microsoft grammar checker has a head fit when I type some of his writing. Frankly, it’s a relief. There are far too many ‘technical writers’ out there producing sub literate blurbs describing the intimate functions of vacuum cleaners for my liking.
Being a bone idle sort who takes great pleasure in watching other people enjoying themselves malingering on holiday, I rarely go on holiday myself.
I’m a short break specialist myself. I don’t pop on a plane to Barcelona equipped with the Rough Guide and a yearning desire to immerse myself in Catalonian culture; I book into a 4 star hotel within easy driving distance and seek out the nearest kebab shop. It’s the simple pleasures that appeal to me; albeit augmented with a monogrammed bath robe and some superior toiletries.
This year I’ve decided to go on a proper holiday. I briefly toyed with the idea of a four centre experience encompassing Baghdad, Kabul, Beirut, and Pyongyang. Thankfully my pathetic physical coward tendencies kicked in and I’ve decided to spend November in Cyprus instead.
It makes sense. The Cypriots all speak English, drive on the (proper) left hand side of the road, sell 12 year old brandy at five quid a pop, and have been known to rustle up the odd splendid kebab.
Maybe I’ll drive up to the Green Line and shake my fist at the Turkish soldiers (before running away very fast).
Being personally devoid of any class whatsoever in shape, form, or movement, I have tended to ignore the subject whenever possible.
Some people are, I suppose, natural aristocrats. Tramps and whores can, on occasion, rise above their lowly station and dismiss the world with an insouciant wave of the hand. Unfortunately, I’m just too petit bourgeois to get away with either glad handed magnanimity or a salt of the earth shrug of the shoulders.
Class is a British, or more particularly English, obsession that – not withstanding claims that a meritocratic nirvana has been reached – still permeates language, culture, and expectation.
Class has very little to do with money: a teacher is demonstrably middle class, while a plumber (despite earning twice as much) will always be a grubby little Sun reading individual clad in a boiler suit.
I suppose every society will inevitably produce a class structure. Even the Americans are still more or less (despite the odd toothy Kennedy) governed by the sensibilities of the New England families that can trace their ancestry to the seventeenth century. A hydra headed Cabot/Lowell/Bush/Prescott New England aristocracy governed the place for much of the twentieth century (and is having a woeful attempt at doing the same in this one).
I’d love to be a working class hero; but I wouldn’t feel comfortable sitting at a £30K Steinway piano in a Surrey mansion warbling about it. Being a wastrel aristo with massive gambling debts would be ok too, but I wouldn’t be so keen on drowning in a vain attempt to swim the Bosphorus.
I think I’ll settle for petit bourgeois mediocrity. It’s much safer on the whole. If I were to wear a pinz nez, or a flat cap, people might punch me on the nose.
Some people (joggers presumably) regard track suit bottoms (jogging pants) as a garment signifying sexual allure. I’ve never quite got it.
Admittedly I don’t jog; a short stroll is enough to have me collapse in paroxysms of boredom. Even so, I suppose sports related fashion monstrosities have their place. Lounging on the sofa clutching a Special Brew can the modern male can indulge in vicarious sporting triumphs whilst simultaneously resting his slippers on a velour footstool.
The things are fine in principle: it’s just that I couldn’t bear wearing them, even in private. Ball scratching commodiousness, admirable as it may be, is no excuse for legs clad in Aladdin’s cast offs.
For some reason I have a mental image of jogging pants being sub consciously connected with jumbo sized family tubs of Kentucky fried chicken. The health aspect of a well honed torso sprinting back and forth on the running track is inextricably linked with a tub of barbeque beans and a super size coke.
Personally, I think it’s about time certain garments were restricted by law to use for their intended purpose. You don’t find people down the pub wearing radiation protection suits, or dressed up as a sewer inspector.