Saturday, 17 March 2012

Last stretch & dinner

The last two days have been either reading excerpts from novels for a fellowship or dashing for the line in the current translation. I am so close to the end I can see the tape, and once things get to this point all I want to do is get to the end. Hence the lack of posts yesterday and this short belated one today.

All day I work on it then in the evening old friends arrive for dinner, a last minute arrangement. C produces another magnificent improvised spread. He, the poet, is in his eightieth year and uses a stick now, she, the theatre producer, is a year older than I am. Both are still energetic and full of life. We launch straight into subjects: the Hollis Edward Thomas, Siegfried Sassoon, Ivor Gurney, the line of English landscape / nature / ecology / pastoral that runs from Thomas, and before him John Clare, through Mabey and MacFarlane. I almost add Andrew Motion, but I know his opinion so leave that alone.

From there we get on to mutual friends, their jobs, fates and predilections, whizzing on to Hungary and its ailments, to thoughts of retirement and pleasure (they think I should retire from teaching and write even more). We talk about what happens to our papers. Mine are at Cambridge as are his, though the British Library has some of his too. We talk of politics - he is Tory but dislikes Cameron, Clegg and the whole bunch but thinks Blair more vile, while I'm on the left but cannot help loving him - then we all list the prime ministers since the war (easy) followed by the leaders of the opposition. We do well on this too. She tells how her father in the war commandeered a grand piano then exchanged it for beer. I tell how my father made off with a train full of armaments from the Ukraine and was arrested at the end and sent right back to the Ukraine again.

We have known each other almost forty years. Nothing seems to have changed though everything has. He glitters and laughs. We all laugh and marvel. It has stopped raining. The big washing up follows. Gone eleven. I slept only four hours last night. Another dash for the line tomorrow, then on to Poetry Review matters.

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