Apologies for going AWOL - again! - but yesterday 'SoD' and partner paid us a visit so of course the house had to be cleaned top to bottom, huge meals designed and cooked to perfection and the finest wines brought up from the cellars of Chateaux Duff - NOT! Actually, with his usual generosity, he brought most of the food with him and refused even to drink a beer. Anyway, it was good to see them both again, and the 'Memsahib' was, quite rightly, complimented by them on her amazing recovery - she is now walking around the house without even a stick to aid her.
However, all that was on Saturday and what I want to tell you about is my slightly odd Friday. I had to go up to London, well, west London - Teddington, to be precise, to see a play directed by a friend of mine. It's a tedious two hour journey but thankfully 90% of it is dual-carriageway so at least it is a fairly relaxing drive. I am quite happy in my own company and with Classic FM playing quietly on the car radio I can think my thoughts - such as they be. However, at the beginning of the journey, just as I was about to join the main A303 I did the most extraordinary thing - I actually picked up a hitch-hiker! No, no, she was not a blonde bimbo with long legs and a large chest, on the contrary, he was a young man with hair that would have driven my old sergeant-major to apoplexy and who sported sundry large ear-studs and a ring through his nose! Yeeees, quite, not exactly the sort of company you would expect a crusty old fart like me to choose to share a journey.
In retrospect, it was also extraordinary that I stopped to pick up anyone at all because I am by nature a loner who prefers my own company even if I am, frequently, even more boring than the people I meet! To give you an idea of my in-built - and increasing - misanthropy, let me tell you that on our occasional holidays staying in hotels I keep hissing at the 'Memsahib' not to talk to anyone! Then again, consider, if you will, the differences between me and the young man I picked up - he was young (a major sin, in my old eyes!), dead scruffy (no doubt the height of fashion amongst his peers) and if my experience with young people provided any sort of clue it was likely that he communicated with the world via a series of glottal grunts and clicks like a Kalahari bushman. Definitely not the way I had intended to spend the next two hours of my life. But, on the spur of the moment (a kind of repeating motif in my rickety-rackety life) I stopped and offered him a lift.
Well, as you have probably guessed already, the young man in question turned out to be a delightful travelling companion - lively, intelligent, curious, slightly eccentric and full of that cheerful optimism which used to be part of the charm of the young at heart but which these days seems to have deserted so many of them. Anyway, the journey passed most pleasurably and also provided me with a something of a boon - and at this point I do hope that my stern mentor, 'DM', is reading this - because during a coffee break, my young companion produced a very odd and eclectic selection of books from his rucksack. He immediately rose even higher in my estimation because anyone who reads books is halfway to being a good egg even before you know them. Amongst this collection of literary oddities I spotted one of those old, paper-back 'Pelican Books', this one dating from circa 1951-3 written by a Prof. Simeon Potter, a tremendous linguistics swot, called "Our Language". The sub-heading is "A popular study of our language - its sources, its history, its peculiar genius, and how it is and should be used in speech and writing". Already smarting under the withering scorn of my 'headmaster', DM, for mixing up 'peninsular' and 'peninsula' (see earlier comments), I immediately offered my young companion a couple of quid for the book which, being shrewd as well as amiable, he took. I am now waist-deep in the intricacies of Indo-European, although quite how that is going to improve the standard of English around this blog I do not know. Anyway, my thanks to Courtney, my young companion, for enlivening the journey and, hopefully, improving my education!
The play I saw was a favourite of mine, Rat in the Skull by Ron Hutchinson. If I tell you that it is a sort of summary of 'Oirish' history as played out to deadly effect in the recent 'troubles' in Ulster, I can almost hear your groans. However, Hutchinson is a superb writer whose prose can rise to lyrical heights. He takes no sides in this age-old, three-way dispute between the romantic and deluded 'Oirish' and the perplexed and uncaring English. By inference he simply declares his anguish and pity for war and its consequences. My enjoyment of this play is, of course, in no way influenced by the fact that I once played the lead and, of course, darlings, I was wonderful!
So, all in all, a really good Friday!