Sunday, 23 November 2008
Radio spot: Points of Entry and the Cambridge University Library exhibition
I have a programme on Radio Four tomorrow at 3.30-3.45 pm here the first of a Points of Entry series, written by people who came to England as immigrants. I'm not sure whether I myself will be able to listen to it at the time it actually goes out since I am up at the university then, but, as with most BBC programmes, one can listen again via the web so that is probably what I will do. I will be curious to hear what I have said. I have the script of course but have not looked at it since.
I have also been redrafting the speech I gave yesterday at Cambridge University Library. It seemed to go very well judging by the response but, as I said before, speaking is one thing, reading and writing another. When it is ready I will try to make it available in some way.
The speech was on the occasion of the Library's exhibition of my life's work. It is extraordinarily flattering that they should have decided to mount the exhibition at all, complete with scholarly notes. I can't quite get over that fact to begin with. The exhibition itself takes up ten glass cases and goes right back to the beginning: to the anthology edited by Martin Bell at Leeds; various early small press productions; bits from articles I had written; etchings I had made and illustrations I had drawn; some correspondence, including a letter from John Betjeman and another from Jacky, my OUP editor; the rest being chiefly books. There are quite a few of those including my own, my translations, anthologies I edited and the books for which I wrote introductions. Just as well they didn't have the books for which I have written blurbs since that might have doubled the quantity.
C's work runs parallel with mine and there are examples from her art throughout: her etchings for our Starwheel Press productions, drawings for other publication, relief prints, and then the book covers too, as well as the big Budapest book of 2006 which is more her baby than mine.
It is very strange surveying one's own life like that. People say you remember your whole life as you are drowning. I have never drowned so I can't comment. In fact I suspect I wasn't quite taking it all in, talking to people in a polite daze. But I do seem to have been monstrously productive. Odd really, since I have always thought of myself as naturally lazy and procrastinating. Maybe it was all procrastination, a thirty five year long furious procrastination, madly idling while Rome burned merrily in the background.
It seems astonishing that nothing has actually fallen apart in the process. That, if anything, convinces me it must all have been dreamtime work, a facility on haunted autopilot.
I thought I had better comment on the exhibition here and mark it in some way since it is a way of showing gratitude. John Wells, who had kindly organised and annotated the exhibition, took us, along with his partner Sue, to lunch afterwards in a university restaurant overlooking the River Cam. The sun was dipping quite fast. It was cold and bright. Cambridge looked sturdy yet fragile in the brightness. C drove home while I sat, still in a daze. Not working, just a daze.