Upstairs brushing my teeth earlier on, it occurred to me that although I had replied to your email, I hadn’t, in fact, replied in the sense of responding in that I didn’t in any way touch upon any of the points you made about your life and tenaciously stuck to my affairs and concerns to the exclusion of the rest of the world. I didn’t for example ask you about the upsetting (I should think) and most definitely rude and self-centred behaviour of your son _______. What he said must have been hurtful Nor did I ask you any more about your diary/commonplace book.
Well, having realised yet again that I’m just as self-centred as the rest of the world, I shall do so now.
My first question is - I, too, have a daughter, 20, who seems in an odd way a little more distant now than she was while growing up and until a few years ago, and a son, now 17 - what has been your relationship with ________ as he grew up, was he affected by your troubles with you wife and subsequent divorce, and why do you think he is behaving in such a dismissive way (e.g. that nasty crack about your library)?
Was he at all grateful that you gave him a roof over his head, irrespective of whether or not he was paying rent? And were there any signs in him as a lad, from 0 to 20, of this kind of behaviour? How old is he now? I was about to move onto my daughters rather distant behaviour when I remembered just how I had begun this email. So tell me about ______ (a good RC name, by the way. Was it your or your wife’s choice?).
As for your jottings, and I agree that it is difficult to give them any descriptive name which does sound arch, twee, pretentious or self-regarding, so I shall stick to ‘jottings’ which strikes me as the least offensive and most descriptive name, keep them up. I suspect you are writing them for exactly the same reason I began to write a physical diary - in hard-backed A4 ledgers bought especially for the purpose - for about 15 years (until I married, actually, in 1996, and topped because I didn’t want any private thoughts to be read by my wife and also because I no longer felt so bloody lonely as I had done in the five years I lived in London, and writing them had been an odd, though effective, escape from that loneliness.
If nothing else it was like chatting to someone, only there could never be any guarantee that those diaries would be read. In fact, the chances that anyone would come across them were tiny, and the chances that anyone who did come across them would even bother to spend more than a minute trying to decipher my grandiose, but illegible handwriting, were even smaller.
By the way, I once had a friend (a fellow hack with the apt surname Penman, who had also briefly gone to the OS) with whom I had shared a flat with in Cardiff and occasionally saw for a drink in London who once, before he married, very shamefacedly admitted to feeling lonely. What struck me at the time was quite how ashamed he felt of it. Ashamed?
Well, I can understand that in a way, and perhaps it is a guy thing where we believe we must at all times be tough, resilient, heroic and sport a perpetual hard-on, and that any deviation from that behaviour was unwelcome proof that we were wimps of the first order or, for men of your and my generation who had been sentenced to five years in one of Her Majesty’s Public Schools (despite being wholly innocent of anything except being the sons of men and women with, most probably social pretensions and through some wheeze or other money to burn) quite possibly homosexual or in the now dated phrase queer. I don’t know about you, but I had never heard of ‘queers’ when I first got to the OS, but then I and Bettesworth - I still remember the name, on of three brothers at the OS - were the only ones who hadn’t gone to a prep school.
So any admission of what might be seen as something sissy, under which admitting to feeling lonely was sure to be filed, was most certainly not on.
At this point it has occurred to me that this letter to you, for letter is what it is although I shall be sending it as an email, could prove to be a useful blog entry to keep my tally up. I think I have before published and email to you as a blog post, but again I shall comply with your wishes: if you don’t want it to be one, please say so and I shall take it down again asap.
You say that you are writing them to as somewhere to keep pieces of text and prose you have come across and want to keep etc (which would make it a commonplace book) but that you never write about our family. Why not? The chances of anyone somehow or other coming across your laptop and then stumbling across the now 62-page long Word document are tiny. Mention your family, let it out, that’s what I urge you to do. And I am also intrigued by your cryptic comment that whenever you do mention family in conversation it ‘invariably lowers the tone however bizarre the circumstances implied’. Care to elaborate? I would be interested. Did they all, against all expectations, drop their aitches?
Well, that is it. I shall email this and also post it if that is OK by you. By that I mean if you object to me posting this as a blog entry, I say so and I shall immediately delete it. Deleting a previous entry, one which has upset my sister, is what I shall suggest I might do if she so wishes. Even though I was surprised she didn’t realise that in my blog entries, or at least in most of them, I am essentially speaking with my tongue in my cheek, I should prefer her to be happy and that we get on as well as possible rather than insist on any higher justification along the lines that ‘a blog is sacrosanct and cannot be censored’. For that would be total bullshit and as I say I love bullshitting for fun but don’t ever want to be tempted to doing it seriously.
So sorry I didn’t actually address any of the points you made in your previous email and please fill me in on quite why any mention of your family immediately encourages folk to leave the room and cross you off their Christmas card list.