Tuesday 30 July 2013

Things I never did


Getting a computer at home that was not connected to the internet simply led me to reread old newspaper articles that I had saved on it. In particular, I enjoyed rereading this one from the peerless Charles Moore, a wonderful writer and a soul-mate, about things he had never done. 

I have never knowingly heard  Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Oasis, Blurr or Coldplay, though my best friend's nephew is the drummer in Coldplay, a fact that makes me feel old. Nor have I heard or heard of almost any other pop group, but I know and like a very few: Bonzo Dog Doodah Band; the Beatles; Mungo Jerry and the Smiths.

I did once try to sew on a button. I have ironed on three or four occasions with limited success. I went twenty years without a camera and now, whenever I buy one, they seem
to break or go wrong. In any case, I rarely remember to pack one and when I do I forget to use it - though oddly enough people tell me my pictures are very good. 

I have never sailed, fished or skied. Unlike Charles Moore, I have never ridden to hounds, though I would have loved to have done so or ridden at all except for donkeys, once in Devon on holiday as a boy, once recently in Petra. I twice rode a bicycle, once aged eight a distance of ten or twelve miles and once, tipsily and very reluctantly, at university. I should like to take up cycling now. I have never married or had children out of wedlock. I have never learnt to drive a car or other vehicle.

I am ashamed that I never read Laurence - except for one poem and a quotation from his letters - though I am fully aware that F.R. Leavis thought Sons and Lovers the greatest of English novels. I have never read Aristotle or Burke or any Plato except the Symposium, not read Zola, only fairly recently discovered Dostoevsky, not read Joyce except for the Dead. I have only read Virginia Woolf's essays and her biography of Mrs. Barrett Browning's dog. I have never read  Adam Bede, Darkness at Noon, Moby-Dick, or Robinson Crusoe. I have also not read Jane Eyre or Clarissa and gave up after ten oages of Don Quixote (but has anyone read Clarissa or Don Quixote?) I only dipped into 1984. Much more shaming, I have never read or seen Antony and Cleopatra or Coriolanus. I read Shakespeare in my early teens and later at school but I have not reread him since I was 18 except for A Midsummer's Night's Dream and As You Like It, neither choice arguing great seriousness of purpose.

By the way, it is very odd that Charles Moore mentions that he has not read Trollope's The Prime Minister.Trollope wrote about fifty or sixty novels, I recall, and The Prime Minister  was the worst of the thirty-odd I have read, apart from Is He Popenjoy?

The only foreign language I speak is Romanian, well enough to read non-fiction but not well enough to read novels. I learnt Latin with the abominable Cambridge Latin Course and though I obtained an A at A Level I cannot read a word of Latin.

Although I come from Southend I never ate whelks, except once in Spain where they were called sea snails, or eel or other seafood from the Thames, except cockles which I love, doused in vinegar at Old Leigh. I have never eaten tomato ketchup, which my mother loved, or marmite. (Trollope, I recall, spelt ketchup 'catchup'.)

I have never learnt to blind type. I once thought I wanted to learn Italian to read Ariosto but I would settle very happily for being able to type quickly and rereading Shakespeare, Chaucer and Pope.

I have never written a great book, or any book, and this makes me very sad. 


  1. I remember on the single occasion I met Charles Moore, I told him my favourite novelist was D. H. Lawrence (I was very young!), and can still see his nonplussed expression. Most of the things he and others boast about never having done are downmarket things - watching Coronation Street/Eastenders, eating in MacDonalds or going to Disneyland - so their boast is really about asserting their class and/or higher intelligence and/or better morals. Derek

  2. How does one never go fishing? I can't even picture it. I've never been skiing myself but I was raised in New England so I've been sailing previously. Jamara Geechie Newell

  3. F R Leavis was right about "Sons and Lovers". In his assessment of English literature he was most often right. I did once meet Prof Lisa Jardine, who was tutored by Leavis at Cambridge. We had an interesting short discussion on Leavis's list of great novelists and whether they were relevant today. I thought I came down more on Leavis's side than Lisa. I have not studied literature academically or comprehensively, but believe there are things worth reading for education and some for entertainment, and sometimes there is a happy overlap.

    1. I fear on the whole Leavis did tend to be right, but he and Queenie were such frightful bullies I don't feel affectionate about them.

  4. Good grief, Paul, we agree on the Bonzo Doodah Band.

  5. Hi Paul, forget Moby Dick and read the non fiction 'In the Heart of the Sea' by Nathaniel Philbrick. It documents the sinking of the Nantucket whaleship Essex by an enraged spermwhale - the event which inspired the writing or Moby Dick. Geraldine

  6. Hi Paul, Forget Moby Dick. Read the non-fiction 'In the Heart of the Sea' by Nataniel Philbrick which documents the sinking of the whaleship Essex by an enraged spermwhale - the event on which Moby Dick was based - and what happens to the crew. Love n hugs

  7. Have never had a homosexual encounter.

  8. You might add the word "yet" to any or all of the above. Especially the final sentence.

    And yes to the Bonzos.