Most of the time I can find good in the things and events that I come across. I always look for it, and for much of the time it is easy. We have just returned from a family week in sunshine – no problem finding it there. We stayed in a villa which we shared with swallows who dived across the pool to drink water as we swam. Telephone birds hummed through day and night; a fizz of warmth that zinged at the back of everything we did. It was everything that a holiday should be. We relaxed, swam, chatted, visited ancient remains, read, discussed, floated in clear sea, explored, made meals, laughed and dived off rocks and cliffs of various sizes.
I waxed lyrical over To Kill A Mocking Bird, re-read for the umpteenth time, and decided that I would take it as my ‘other book’ if ever cast on that famous Desert Island. After The Scarlet Pimpernel, Atticus Finch was the first literary person I seriously fell in love with. My mother says that it must have been Gregory Peck I fell for, but I didn’t see the film until quite recently and Atticus had been top of my list for a long time by then.
Tom and Rosie were disappointed by The Great Gatsby. It is hard for a book to live up to a great reputation all the time. They seemed to imply that they had hoped for more of the atmosphere of the time, whereas in many ways it is simply the telling of a tale, and by the most effacing of tale tellers, too. It is hard to feel compassion for someone who is so hopelessly unrealistic in his desire as Jay Gatsby, no matter how sad the outcome. Tom compared it to Jack Kerouac, who is all atmosphere and hardly any story, which he preferred. I think I am the other way round. I compared it to A Tale of Two Cities, a book written, maybe, as a warning to the readers of its time, which is still an apposite warning to us now.
Jay chortled over David Lodge, while Ben ploughed through evil bankers, and we all pondered the hero who isn’t heroic.
Rosie and I read at high speed, shooting through eclectic collections of books, gobbling them up, and re-reading the ones we love. Jay, Tom and Ben are all slower, absorbing books with greater care, choosing more carefully beforehand. But I am becoming more selective with so many books to read and never enough time. Recently I have taken to dropping books off at the bus stop in the village where we have a book swap system. This isn’t really very kind as the books I am giving away are the ones I haven’t really liked; those I keep to lend to friends.
It is rare that we are all together for long periods of time these days and when we are it is all the more precious. Seeing Rosie and Ben off on the plane before ours at the airport was hard, and bidding Tom farewell later in the day equally so. I concentrated on reminding myself of all the compensations that awaited us at home, and held Jay’s hand tightly.
Rain, overgrown grass and dismal damp fought back. Followed rapidly by the need to visit our doctor. And now I am faced with the possibility that I may not be able to join one of my oldest, and dearest, friends as planned. Finding the silver lining is not easy today, even though I am looking hard. I am back in winter clothes, Hoover is looking bored by lack of walk, but doesn’t look delighted at the prospect of an open door either; the sog doesn’t beckon to her any more than it does to me. I do not relish the thought of more time spent in the company of doctors. What are the compensations? If I can’t go to see my friend, then I shall have more time to write, which is good. And it might even be cold enough to warrant lighting a fire!
There we are – silver lining found.