2007 — 5 December: Mid-week lie-in, heh?

It's now 10:22, and I've been "up and at 'em" for, oh, easily twenty minutes! This won't do, will it? It's presumably auto compensation for the poor sleep the previous night. I woke at 03:45 but went straight back to Uncle Morpheus1 (not that I remember any dreams), and resurfaced, again only briefly, to listen to the BBC weather forecast at just before eight o'clock. (Who cares about any of this? All my readers who are working stiffs are already at work long since, bless 'em.)

Today we're tackling that daylight drive down to Fareham, Andover and a Parcel Force depot. somewhere for a spot of lunch! In fact, it's now 15:32 and we got back quarter of an hour ago having ended up doing the rounds of Stockbridge, Salisbury, the Hilltop café, Stonehenge, Hursley, Romsey and Winchester (not necessarily in that precise sequence) and adding another 101.7 miles to the running total, which has reached 1,987 miles. Christa would have liked the (lady, judging by the size) eel we saw in the river at Leckford, the brilliant rainbow we chased along the road from Hursley to Winchester, and the views as we passed Stonehenge in gorgeous sunlight but with heavy dark clouds also lurking. She would not have liked, and nor did I, how incredibly hot the vegetable soup of the day was, and I now have a sore roof of the mouth as a reminder.

One more chore to do, for which I shall engage Shank's Pony before my legs atrophy, and that's a pretty good day's worth so far. Tomorrow, I'm moving onto a régime of daily driving lessons in the run up to my Test on the 15th December. I suspect I shall be glad when that comes to an end.

An aside to Christa

I'm really doing my best, my love! I hope you're watching me from somewhere, and I hope that smile is an approving one. Remember when we last saw Stonehenge? And, for that matter, when we first did, back in 1975 as we drove down to Penzance from our flat in Old Windsor on what was essentially our delayed honeymoon? That was such a wonderful fortnight, my love. I shall post a couple of photos from then when I've scanned them in.

You mentioned the need for me to have further laughter and smiles in my life going forward without you, remember? Well, if you weren't already dead my love, you might well have died laughing today when you saw the generosity of the UK's Department of Work and Pensions. They have just plonked a stunning £10 payment into our account, though without much (anything, actually) by way of explanation. Why, that's very nearly half a driving lesson paid for! Even ERNIE, bless 'im, has done better than that.2

Thank you, Zahid!

It was very sweet of you to pop round with a tray of rice, chickpea and yoghurty stuff for supper — Christa would have wolfed it down, I promise you, and enjoyed it very much. However, it's just not my cup of tea at all. Sorry! At least, as you said, I get points for my honesty... But it does prompt me to start my own preparations while (once again) BBC Radio 3 is playing the Academic Festival overture. Gaudeamus igitur indeed.

Bet you didn't know jazz trumpeter Guy Barker's dad was the Reggie Perrin stunt bottom seen disappearing into the sea, did you? Good ol' BBC. Leonard Rossiter decided the sea was too cold, and demanded a stunt man did the immersing.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Christa was a woman of considerable erudition. I was very pleased when she allowed me to buy3 her the Oxford Companion to German Literature when that was published in 1976. It made a nice companion piece to the well-thumbed copy of Sir Paul Harvey's Oxford Companion to English Literature she had treated herself to in late 1969 while she was studying in Würzburg. My inscription to her in the newer book, I see, was Meiner Geliebten Gefährtin — no change needed there!

The text she chose to accompany the announcement of her death in the local German newspaper is, I now find, a poem ("Final piece") by Rainer Maria Rilke.

Der Tod ist groß
Wir sind die Seinen,
Lachenden Munds.
Wenn wir uns mitten im Leben meinen
Wagt er zu weinen
Mitten in uns.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Death is big
We are his family
of laughing mouths
If we're in the middle of my life
He dares to cry in the middle of us.


A couple of hours browsing the web is more than enough to show me that Rilke was a remarkable poet. Just a handful of examples: "For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation." Put a lot more powerfully and neatly than the similar conclusion I reached in the past few months, and tried to express in my penultimate paragraph here.

Or how about this wonderful insight? "Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky."

Christa always said that what she liked best about "us" was that we each allowed the other to be "free"; to be their own person. This also accords with Rilke: "I hold this to be the highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the solitude of the other." And this: "Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other."

I take only very cold comfort at present, however, from this: "It is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be a reason the more for us to do it."



1  I do recommend Neil Gaiman's Sandman graphic novels, by the way.
2  Though, of course, I have to send your winnings back, along with (if you please) both a death certificate and either the original will or a photocopy certified by a solicitor. Somehow, I can sense that £10 payment evaporating fairly soon; can you?
3  For £10, naturally!