The night before an exam, I went upstairs to say good night to my 12 year old son and found him sitting up in bed, reading a story he had loved when he was younger. As I looked at him, he said wrily “ It makes me feel better.”   I still have that book, Magnus Powermouse by Dick King Smith.

Sometimes I wonder if I namedropped, would it make me more interesting?

Like – Jilly Cooper introduced me to the Sunday Times.

Harold Evans took me to lunch.

I met Barbara Amiel at the BBC.

I chose these three names because they have all been recently publicised – Amiel to flog a book, the popular Cooper to memorialise the passing of the variously excellent former editor of the Sunday Times Evans.   But they were only part of the scenery as I was living my life.   Which is what we do if, along the way, we meet somebody well known.  We note what we think, how they strike us but we don’t know them.   Passing fair, passing handsome, passing through.   Unlike Magnus Powermouse.  He lingers.

Last night one of the very few women I know who is intelligent, good looking and likeable analysed the Covid situation and asked me where I stood ? – among those who were prepared to be sensible and do their best , however unhappy with the vagaries of the powers that be,  or with those who were jumping up and down about conspiracy and the infringement of rights.   As conspiracy theory is only ever interesting to me inasmuch as it reveals the fears and preoccupations of those who cite it – I am in the first group.  And as far as those parameters are concerned, I am fortunate.

I live alone, not wedded to seeing anybody.  I have personal resource – certainly as long as my eyes last.   I wear a mask, wash my hands, hair, self and clothes.  I am what we used to call sensible.  If it’s going to come, it’s going to come.
Today I saw the first item which suggested that many of the elderly would rather see family this Christmas and die in consequence than be cut off from them all.  Provided they take the further responsibility of Do Not Resuscitate and leave instructions not to hijack the appallingly overstretched NHS, I can understand that.

Not good at endless wimping, there is much of modern life I don’t miss but I know that much of the familiar is now out of reach.  It is a political act to go out, to go the cinema, to wander round the shops, to pick things up, to touch an arm in empathy or sympathy.  So you seek what is available to you  and occasionally you turn up a goodie, like ancient gold in the furrow.

Mary Stewart wrote a series of books about the Arthurian legend from the point of view of Merlin the Enchanter

photography by John Fox

where I found this when I wasn’t looking.   Merlin to Uther Pendragon about the king to come: “Mithras, Apollo, Arthur, Christ – call him what you will.  What does it matter what men call the light?  It is the same light and men must live by it or die.  I only know that God is the source of the light that has lit the world, and that his purpose runs through the world and past each one of us like a great river, and we cannot check or turn it, but can only drink from it while living, and commit our bodies to it when we die .”   It sounded like my father, wholly familiar.

In the last week, I have reached for old cherished reading, had my drains attended by a comforting and informative plumber and received emails from two men quite dissimilar but warm in their wish to communicate appreciation across the divide.  I know the books but I find new things them every time I look.  I did not know the plumber, his company costs the earth but always delivers while the two correspondents spoke quite differently – one in general appreciation, the other quite specifically.  For him my broadcast voice was part of the light and part of the light was its familiarity.


2 responses to “familiars

  1. I too remember you because of your broadcast voice. How precise and confident you sounded. How articulate and clear. How on the mark, all-knowing and so rational. All qualities that appealed to me in the late 70’s. The whole agony aunt was not really my thing. I was more just transfixed by your presence. I am 62 also on my own and a few years ago, reminiscing the past and those that had left a mark, I thought of you (still alive?) and googled, discovered your blog and subscribed. This is the first time I have commented.

  2. Another comment from me Anna, standing firmly in between the followers-of-common sense, and the tin foil hat wearing brigade (but please note I don’t possess such a garment!).
    So much has been said, so many of us are tired. Of vitriol, of argument, and in some cases, of life.

    If an arm can’t be given to someone unsteady, if a shoulder can’t be proffered to someone needing care, if a loving hug can’t be given to those grieving or preparing to grieve, then we have lost something vital to our world – compassion. If there is no compassion, is it a world worth living in? For me, the answer would be no.

    All best.

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