Sunday, 19 September 2010

De Profundis

The title is self-indulgent enough for such a blog post I guess. Having been too busy at gigs in festivals, hosting workshops, or in the few times one was free, doing the coastal path or getting away for a holiday on the beach, there's been no time to write a entries for a fourth blog.
But this one isn't going to be work related.
How does one interpret the matter when it looks as though one has lost one's oldest friend? Not an argument or a disagreement, nothing so certain, just a falling away - an ill tempered exchange, a making up, leading to a half-promise that turns out to mean nothing in practice, seemingly. What does it mean when you know no one from school (actually I'm grateful for that!), but no one from any phase of life until university, and then this was that person - not that they even went to your college! but visited it at least, and you spent a lot of time at theirs.
What does it mean - to try to reconstruct everything good about them or what the friendship consisted of? To take up history yourself, to try and stuff yourself with Batty Langley and Issac de Caus instead of their Gladstone and Disraeli, to try and remember what you knew of the Fabians in the name of his Peel. To tear off strips of history and immerse yourself in them to recreate the thing you had in common. Except the C19th is too painful now, for you it will be the C18th.
Country houses and gardens - but you always preferred the dramatic and went around in a dream, whereas they stalked about reading inscriptions forgotten tomorrow. One thing you had in common was being cherished youngests of the family. You hated it, fought a war to shake it off. He relaxed into it, swimming in the warm bath of a gentle selfishness a preciousness so at odds with one so kind, so compassionate, such a good and loving friend. You understood each other yes, but it was something you despised and he seemed happy to live with. That preciousness that can cripple a life - that looks on a small boat as a danger instead of as nearer where the action is.
Gardens - no hanging around sedately sniffing flowers for you, but a dashing off down the steps, or up the hill to seek out all the hidden and forbidden corners. The lawn means no shoes and a run, not sitting down to admire it from a bench. Remember you might have loved the same things, but in such a different way!
Classical music - and was it just that you knew only two other people who did, and one of those you saw so very rarely! For you, it meant endless looks of surprise at concerts - yes, you were under a hundred, and no, you - oh well, never mind. Someone else who liked the stuff, and hymns, and old churches, old buildings, organ music, stained glass, the Pre-Raphaelites...actually you do now know one person who likes the latter. Morris, Tiffany...pianos and keyboards...
Old films and actually you'd grown away from them, much more into live theatre...the remnants that remained can be filled by the ever-marvellous YouTube. Into some of your favourite films? Not really, you'd both changed, and you'd come to think of ones he still cherished as bucolic; the ones you loved, passed him by.
Politics - there are more of those, but current affairs junkies...well in a sense neither of you were. I think you had a fantasy he listened to a lot of Radio 4, I'm not convinced he did. Or even Radio 3. Michael Wood historical documentaries were a big shared phenomena - but you vaguely know others who liked them, though perhaps not with the collector's passion.
An understanding of how you felt about the 'popular' music you cared about? Understanding - or just a willingness to engage and commit to being bored by a friend for the sake of the friendship? There was one other, but he also is gone. Too private strangely to share with other 'fans' (you even dislike the word) on sites like Facebook...and you're oddly convinced that though they say some things you think, that trying to really communicate with them, or worse, meeting up, would lead to blows. Just an uneasy feeling you have, and one which means you will not risk it. What is a 'favourite band' but a cohort? an atmosphere of a set of moments dear to some at a time of change? How could you, not having been there together at the time, now share what you each deemed to be crucial later in adulthood? It couldn't work, surely?

And of course, beyond all this 'running with the common notion', all this stripping out and attempt at salvage, you know that nothing will replace the lost shared past - the referring to events at which no one else was present, the remembrance of places that can no longer be visited, the old shared jokes, the times you spent together, the faith you thought they had in you, the faith you thought unshakeable in them. How do you replace all that?

The only thing you really can be sure of is that things will go on. The seasons don't stop turning just because you've lost some of your shared past. Being really busy and knowing a heap of other folks will take your mind off it, I suppose, even if nothing like a remedy seems at hand. Drowning out the silence with noise is the best way I have found. If anyone has a better....