Monday, September 03, 2012

Venetian Nostalgia

The greatest blessing of old friends is that you can get away with being stupid with them. Thus spoke Emerson, I think. Thank heavens someone thought so, as I have, in one way or another, been stupid with most of mine – occasionally in multiple ways at the same time. Being once described as having ‘a great brain but with bits missing’ left me wondering whether I ever had the right to excuse myself or not.

Last Wednesday, I received an unexpected email, via this website, from an old friend with whom I have had no contact for several years, and not seen since July 1991. That is an appallingly long time for me to neglect someone who was innately kind and honest. Way too long. The two-year-old son with curly red hair and striking eyes, playing cricket on the front-room carpet, will now be in his mid-twenties, as I myself was when I saw him. I can but ask forgiveness.

In the two years that El Escritor Inglés has been afloat, I must have received thousands of emails, from all parts of the world, the vast majority of which have been friendly and thoughtfully written. I have been fortunate enough, too, to receive offers of sponsorship and for the site to display advertisement links with free software products thrown in with the commission. None of it warrants serious consideration. I would rather readers know that, first, I am not writing in order to broadcast views which might not reflect my own; and that, further, I have no wish to make money. It will remain a serial labour of love.

I wish I could find time to correspond with everyone – to say thank you, if nothing more. Today, however, I should like to indulge myself just once by sending an open letter in return.

For the past few days, countless different words, images and sounds have flitted through my head: ’60s Motown; Woodstock; coloured pasta shells; a brown Vauxhall Nova; hand-written correspondence; scorers I could never be troubled to trouble; note-perfect barbershop harmonies; Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30; a long-leg fieldsman; a single-leg epidural; overshooting Newcastle and ending up in Scotland; the peal of church bells during a last-wicket run chase; a rucked-up tarmac path between two rows of bungalows; undergraduate nights spent reading anything that wasn’t on the syllabus; pints of Ward’s best sludge which I was, mercifully, never old enough to be served; not knowing one end of Edinburgh from the other; not knowing one end of a cricket bat from the other; a green-and-white rugby shirt complementing jeans with the customary hole in the crotch (check your photo); the coincidence of a Sixth Form Maths teacher who looked (to me) like Jesus after a fortnight in Marbella; former team-mates (Savage, Littlewood, Hammerton et al.) who are gone but never forgotten; the fact that Durham Cathedral is, and forever will be, York Minster sort of back to front (you’re smiling); listening to Phoebe Snow singing Every Night and howling along to it in the bath (you’re laughing); and, I hope, a sun that shines most brightly in the hour before it sets.

Yes, the rain man with the elephant’s memory remembers, you know; and he does so with unwavering fondness.

My friend, and all your tribe, this one is just for you (Figures 47.1 to 47.4).

Figure 47.1: Postcard from the past

Copyright © 2011 Google Maps

Figure 47.2: Spot the difference

Copyright unknown

Figure 47.3: The North East branch committee of Dark Glasses R Us, all clearly oblivious to the raincloudy sky, pictured the moment afore gannin doon te the booza. The blerk – sorry, bloke – far left is standing on a box, the one far right down a hole.

Copyright unknown

Figure 47.4: I remember a crescent in Venice ...

Copyright © 1993 Paul Spradbery

Copyright © 2012 Paul Spradbery

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