My Dearest Marge
I am afraid to confess that your letter finds me a little under the weather. It really is the most extraordinary thing but no sooner had I returned from the revivifying airs of Surrey et les environs than I found myself succumbing to a particularly insidious form of infection. Not, I hasten to reassure you, that Mr Gove but something equally offensive to the body's well-being. Thus for the past few days I have been snuffling porcinely into a handkerchief and feeling my interior climates rising and falling with the unpredictability of the FTSE.
But enough of my aches and pains. These things, after all, are sent to try us. Into every life a little rain must fall, I always say, especially if one lives in Belgium. That being said, we have been enjoying unusually clement weather for the season and barely a drop seems to have fallen from the heavens in goodness knows how long. Thus, at dawn when I go to start the engine of our motor car I find my forefinger wiping a swathe of dust - a heady mixture of Saharan, house brick and suburban skin I'll be bound. Perhaps, too, sinister particles deposited from the aeroplanes that have been so thoughtfully rescheduled to fly over our heads almost without interruption between the hours of 5:30 am and 11 pm. This has nothing whatsoever - or so I am told - to do with the Flemish transport ministers whose houses are located within the very areas now sacrificing this form of aural entertainment.
It must be a good three weeks since I last sat at my escritoire and committed pen to paper. What a time it has been! Faced with a whole two weeks to fill I made a solemn vow to refrain from all distractions and finally get down to The Great Work. True to my word I sat and stained many a page with ink and not a few tears. Modesty prevents me from divulging the results but we will see what time brings forth - whether cherub or abortion. The Muse is a wanton slut. Nevertheless, the Process (which I believe is all that counts these days) was cathartic. A form of purging not dissimilar to that brought on by an unfortunate meal the other night.
And talking of meals, I am enclosing a picture of three jolly little lobsters that we purchased at the seafront at Folkestone on our way over. I cannot remember the prices exactly but it was a mere pittance compared to what those mountebanks at Waitrose (et al) demand for similar toothsome crustaceans. We consumed them with a light salad and a crisp sauvignon blanc and talked far into evening - at least until the ten o'clock News.
A man who answers to the name of Bob is the hearty purveyor and his caravan displays a proud sign announcing that supplies are dictated by weather conditions and hangovers. Oh! that our supermarkets might exhibit such disarming honesty and human frailty this world, my dear Marge, would be a happier, saner place.
On Saturday I managed to take an expedition to Oxford our alma mater and home to lost causes. I was pleased to find the Ashmolean Museum was still standing unaffected by those unfortunate cuts that one reads about so often in the better newspapers. It was with trepidation that I stepped within its precincts, dreading that one would find a burger emporium was now plying its wares amongst the Antiquities. Thankfully not, although I was concerned by the rather populist nature of certain items on sale within the Gift Shop (dread word). Oh that the tat-peddlars be cast out of the temple! (Matthew, 21, Authorised Version, I quote from memory). Having sequestered myself within a convenient nook, I was startled by a large photograph of a young man who seemed oddly intense. I took out my trusty camera and took an impression which I will also enclose:
Such an image of Purpose! He seems to have been striding towards us for many years and - by all accounts - will stride on beyond us. Imagine, too, my feelings when I discovered that due to the glass protecting this picture, my very own Self was to be seen superimposed upon the young man. Perhaps a trick of the light and I flatter myself. But I honestly began to feel that I might - in some remote way - be but one and the same. How unlike you, my dear, I hear you say! Indeed, how to reconcile these strange stirrings with our shared love of Mr Rossetti? It was with some difficulty that I made it back to the bus stop to await the arrival of the number 2A with the appropriate measure of composure.
My evenings, as you know, are spent quietly with my reliable Companion and Rock in Times of Trouble - the Gramophone. Two weeks ago there arrived through our letter box a wonderful compendium of Mr Xenakis' oeuvres pour orchestre. So far I have only been able to listen to an early effort - Metastaseis - noticing that as the opening bars commence the cat disappears downstairs and out into the garden with a velocity quite out of character. It seems building work is carrying on at number 2 next door. However, I am pleased to say that thanks to Mr Xenakis I have noticed little.
Another composer who has come to my attention is a young man - there are so many by all accounts - called Max Richter. I confess to be somewhat - what is that modern expression they use on the BBC radio these days? - conflicted - that is it - about his music. Rather audaciously he takes a favourite of ours - The Four Seasons - and recomposes it in ways that would make Signor Vivaldi turn in his grave, I'll be bound. Another recording - The Blue Notebooks - named, I imagine, after that book we banged our heads against by that terribly miserable Austrian - arranges barely developed piano motifs against fragments of poetry. I suspect a strong influence by that modish American Mr Reich but wonder if it is - at the last resort - all froth and little substance? There is minimalism and minimalism, as we were only saying last year in Andover, with but a millimetre between them. However, I remain open to be seduced. Aurally, that is.
And that, as they say on the television, is all that we have time for. Another aeroplane has just flown over my head and there is the morning coffee to prepare. The other inhabitants of the house are already out and about on their many chores and I must not be Found Wanting.
Next time I must mention one or two of the volumes that have given me amusement (mirthful and otherwise) these past weeks. However, that will have to wait for the next temporal parenthesis in my day.
I hope this finds you as it leaves me - in which case you may need a Lemsip