Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bank Holidays are all the same!

The weather today was indifferent to the point of direct insult. When one considers that it was also a Bank Holiday then the effrontery of such blustery, wet, miserable conditions seems like studied insult.

And there is a carpet of pine needles strewn across pavement and road to show exactly how blustery it was last night!

However, it did encourage me to read “The Fry Chronicles: An Autobiography” by Stephen Fry.

Perhaps the word “chronicles” should alert the wary reader that what he is going to read is some sort of archaic construct with all the built-in ambiguity and glossed-over historical detail that chronicles as histories usually offer.

Let me first point out that this book is an episodically amusing and lightly written rambling memoir which is easy to read. What it is not and emphatically not, is an “autobiography” in any meaningful sense. “Stephen Fry” the person is artfully hidden among all the anecdotal exposure of personal neurosis and ostensible confession.

This book charts another eight years to extend the autobiographical writing of “Moab is My Washpot” which fleshed out his childhood and adolescence. They are eight significant years which saw Fry established (or well on his way to being established) as a National Institution much like his revered idol Alan Bennet – but a more knowing and more studied version than him.

This is an oddly coy book too; famous names are dropped into conversations: most glaringly when a casual reference to “Paul” commenting on Fry not singing turns out to be Paul McCartney and another Paul on page 366 turns out to be Paul Whitehouse by page 394. Perhaps Fry has borrowed the technique from Alistair Cooke who regaled the 50th anniversary of the Cambridge Mummers (as related by Fry) with an anecdote about a young architecture student who came to audition for a part. Cooke told him to carry on with his studies as ‘“I’m sure you’ll be an excellent architect.” He did indeed get a First in Architecture, but whenever I see James Mason now he says to me, “Damn. I should have taken your advice and stayed with architecture.”’

Such things I can take from Cooke but not from Fry. This book hides much, much more than it reveals and Fry’s repeated “honesty” begins to irritate rather than illuminate.

The cover photo of Fry shows him in his customary garb looking straight out at the reader with a trace of a smile as if daring the reading to put any significant detail on the featureless wall that acts as a background. I certainly didn’t.

Two days of the week have now gone and the real struggle tomorrow will not be rise and start life at an unreasonable time, but rather to keep remembering that tomorrow is Wednesday.

It is also the day when the author of the children’s story that we have translated is supposed to be coming to see and speak to and with the kids who have done the translation. This has been much delayed and I am not sure that there will be much to say, but it is a courtesy that is worth making to bring the two sides together. I have no idea whether this lady speaks English or only Spanish. If it is the latter then I sincerely hope that there will be someone other than my good self and a gaggle of students in the room where the meeting is supposed to take place. I fear that the discussion may be a little lopsided otherwise! Which may be interesting in itself though I feel not ultimately productive either to my status as a stumbling teacher floundering publicly in the language which I have been translating or for the kids as they struggle to ask questions which do not question the literary worth of the story which they had been translating.

We are building up to another marathon session of examinations which should come to a climax during the period of my birthday. I have noted this auspicious event in many different ways but never with a red pen on student’s work.

My present from Toni has been eventually ordered on line and my present to myself has now also been processed: both should be here by the beginning of next week.

The biggest birthday present of all, of course, is the magic age which means that I am entitled to my lump sum and pension and the illusion of freedom until I see just how little my pension gives me and I realize that the job (however poorly paid) is an essential part of my present life style.

My Mr Micawber response to the economics of real life has never really been of help in trying to work out the truth about how much actual money is needed to fund my sybaritic life style. I do not intend to change the habits of a lifetime and suddenly become sensible and start treating money as if it was significant; I am sure as someone said, “Something will turn up!”

As will tomorrow for which I am not prepared – though a casual glance at my timetable for Wednesday shows that I can busk my way through the day! The only important thing I need to remember is a towel for my swim after school.
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