Saturday, 23 May 2015

But I’ll be back (©Schwarzenegger et al). And a little more on Somerset Maugham, a rather better man and nicer chap (and better writer) than many

I’m sitting here in the right-on-the-sea restaurant on my very last day, with just just hours to do before I head back to Palma airport, via the hotel where I’ll pick up someone for a lift to the airport. I was right about making it a little longer than just a week, though by just a few days. And I’m glad I did. I’m also glad I pushed out the boat and hired a car for all that time. I’m not really one for hanging about in bars getting rat-arsed (which isn’t to say I never was), and got to see a bit of Mallorca. I shall certainly come back, though possibly later in the year when it is a tad warmer.

The weather has certainly been better than the crap I understand folk in Old Blighty have suffered, but three/four/five degrees hotter wouldn’t have gone amiss. I shall also try to find somewhere inexpensive to stay here in Colonia de Sant Pere, where I am sitting at the moment. Inexpensive because all you need is a clean bed and hot water. Everything else is optional. OK, it’s not ‘exciting’ for a late teen, early twenties style dickhead or dickheadess, but as I am not of that age (whether or not I am a dickhead is for you to decide – I don’t think so, but I’m liberal enough to hear alternative views), but for what I want from a holiday it hits the spot.

As it is, I’m off to the Fatherland for four days in July for my brother-in-law’s 60th birthday party, then, most probably, off to Bordeaux in late July to accompany my stepmother’s sister to a series of concerts as well as enjoying them myself. Then later this year it is off to Seth Cardew’s in wherever 70 miles north of Valencia (see below, where the small brown block is) for a week (or a few more days perhaps). As this is my first
week off from work, I probably have enough paid holidays left, but also as I past the magic 65 last November (ignore all previous jokes about being just 32 – I bullshit quite a lot, you do realise that, don’t you?) and income naturally notwithstanding, my time is now more my own than it ever has been.

In theory, I can tell my bosses to fuck off now, given that if the shit hits the fan, I am, at least guaranteed my £113 a week (tax-deductible, of course) and although I most certainly shan’t do that – for one thing I like them and the paper I work for – it’s a good feeling that, again in theory, I am no longer a wage slave. I have now been promoted to pension slave.

Just for the craic, I’m listening to Lisa Ekdahl as I write, who is a great and interesting singer. Great, well, just listen; interesting because as far as I know she started out as a Swedish pop star – she’s Swedish – but also sings in English with a great ‘backing band’, pianist, bass guitarist and drums and both a great voice and a feel for the kind of jazz she sings in English. That’s just by the by. I’ll post a track or two at some point in the future. You can find out more about her here. If you like jazz singing, but don’t like all that rather silly forced rhyming of the 1950s and 1960s, give her a whirl. (If, of course, you don’t, don’t bother. QED.)

Don’t really know what else to write. It’s curious: I love writing. The real problem is I don’t have much to write about and, more to the point, I still haven’t tried my hand at fiction (or hardly, to be fair). Why? Well, I’m scared of failing, of others thinking what I write is 24-carat bollocks and why, but why, does he bother? Who’s he kidding but himself?

I’ve already thought of several stories while I’ve been here. I find my imagination comes alive when I am away from home/my routine. Before I married, I went off to Sicily by myself for two weeks and at the time warned Celie, my wife to beat the times, that I would always want to travel. Well, I still do, though naturally the main, only, consideration will be money – being able to pay the household bills and council tax, plus some for Celie and my son while I am away, but paying for somewhere to stay. In that respect I am glad I’m not demanding. A clean bed and hot water really is enough for me, and I don’t eat a lot. But all that is then, so see what happens.

As for writing, well, I’ve been reading a biography of William Somerset Maugham, and a more fascinating and, in some ways more admirable, figure I think it might be hard to find. What is interesting is that while in his later life he was thought – and was – a predatory homosexual and not particularly much more, he was also when he was younger and until well into his forties something of a predatory heterosexual. He swung both ways, and quite possibly a lot further than many of us, certainly further than me, although I have yet to bat for my own side, mainly because I’ve not yet felt the inclination.

What I like most about Maugham – of what I know, that is – was his self-discipline: wherever he was – in London leading the social high life once he had the money to do so as an moneyed Edwardian, serving as a volunteer - I stress volunteer - Red Cross orderly in the First World War (called by some the ‘Great War’, why exactly, except that it had been bigger than man a war beforehand), on Capri, in France, in the Far East – he sat down for several hours in the morning, whether he had anything to write or not, and wrote.

The first and only principle any would-be writer should possess: Get It Done! Maugham knew that, and stuck to it all his life. He described himself as in the first rank of the second rate, but that is just his usual self-deprecatory pose: he can write better than many, but there is none, but none, of the showing off, the self-indulgent ‘I must be an artist’ bollocks about him.

He was often described as ‘cynical’. No, he wasn’t, he was merely – ‘merely, what a description, damn already! – honest with himself and down-to-earth. He had, or from my reading seems to have had, very few illusions about himself or the world. And I’ll drink to that. If that makes me cynical, too, well, so be it and fuck you. It’s your problem, bro’ not mine.

. . .

One story that has occurred to me was sparked by Maugham. He live until he was into his 90s, and had as a ‘companion’ one Alan Searle who, we are told, inveigled Maugham to disinherit his daughter Liza in favour of him, Alan Searle. Well, who knows?

Undoubtedly, Maugham, as I say well into his 90s was slowly losing it and had, for example, lost a lot of sympathy - in the 1960s, for Christ sake, a more hypocritical age it is hard to imagine - by writing a rather vicious memoir of his marriage to Syrie Wellcome, who, as far as I can gather, was something of a nightmare – mare, for you young folk.

My story is simply a long letter to a daughter or even son, by someone like Maugham, ensconced – imprisoned at 90 one might conjecture – in somewhere like, well here, Colonia de Sant Pere, trying to describe, honestly, his relationship with her mother, someone like Syrie, while a snake in the grass, someone like Alan Searle, perhaps,  is wafting around with very much his own agenda, of which the main character is at times aware, at times not.

There would have to be a topping and tailing device for the letter – discovered in the archives of his publisher’s perhaps, though for many years ignored because the writer, though rich and once famous and bankable, was no longer dans la vent (‘in the wind’ – please keep up!). It could well be made ‘modern’ for ‘modern’ tastes, with a little clever, clever tooing and froing in time and perspective blah, blah – you can always pay off self-appointed moderns if you try hard enough – but would have to be well-written enough to be worth the effort for the reader. And that, dear friends, is what I shall do.

I have before tried extremely hard, some might even claim excessively hard, to plug my ‘first novel’, which, though I say so myself is not half bad, and better than some, but so far with no luck. None. Zilch. Philistines, the lot of you. Ashamed? You don’t know the meaning of the word. If – if, a huge fucking ‘if’ anyone is interested, you can still find it here. But I’m not holding my breath. Pip, pip. Philistines.

Pearls before swine. Ever really understood what that means? No, thought not! Think William ‘Willie’ Somerset Maugham (portrayed, I understand by a writer friend as ‘Gilbert Hereford Vaughan’) is cynical? Give me a break. He merely informed the world that, do you know what, shit stinks, while everyone else for a variety of reasons pretended it didn’t, especially when crapped by royalty, nobility and money. Thank you, Mr Maugham. I’m your fan, if now no one else is . Oh, and I have read some of your stories recently, and you can write, very well. For those unconvinced try P&O, a touching account of a woman who finds a kind of peace, though an unexpected kind.

So, that’s the world sorted: Somerset Mauagham wasn’t quite the cunt the modern world – quote marks for ‘modern’ cos, face it, nothing really changes – and Lisa Ekdahl is a fucking good jazz singer.

PS 1,606 words: if I could write this much crap every day for one month and 15 days, then find a publisher, fortune, respect, fame and the acquaintance of any number of art-fags of both sexes would be mine. Though, dear friends, gays need not trust in any success. Better make that clear, before there are tears before bedtime.

Christ, this is a nice spot. Colonia de Sant Pere (Colinia St Pere for some), though if you tell anyone, I'll kill you, if you do! What is best: no cunt there except me (more or less).

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