Day 10 – All the World’s a Stage

And I Marched Back Down Again…

I presume you recall Julie Andrews carolling away about the hills being alive and all that? Can I remind you that she was trilling away on top of a mountain. They kidded us that this was in Switzerland but I am sure it wasn’t…It was sited just outside Macclesfield and I have just climbed the bloody thing three times.

It happened like this I was plodding up this ghastly road – the sort of road that Kafka’s castle was on. – and when I turned round Jane had vanished. I grew convinced that she must have scooted ahead of me when I was preoccupied with the meaning of life or sex or death, happy little soul that am, but even when the road straightened out Jane was nowhere to be seen. Then an efficient looking lady walked towards me from down the hill and she told me Jane was nowhere to be seen.

I thought I had better wait and asked the woman that, if she saw Jane – small, with a vast straw hat… she is held together with bits of string, – to please give her this simple message:

“It’s all your fault!”

Like a demolition contractor, I like to get my retaliation in first.

Jane then sent me a text that reads; “sorry …come back to the bridge.”

When I got back to her the efficient lady had just delivered my pithy message.

Rare for Jane to admit fault.

I thought I wouldn’t rub it in, magnanimity is my middle name, so we walked in silence, until she said twenty minutes later;

“That was your fault…if you had done what I asked you to do then you would never have gone on as you did.” And on she went, “Darling, you have no idea.” What a diamond edge she can give that word when cross!

I was too out of breath to argue.

A Good Read

“I saw Sue Gibbs’ beautiful memoir ”The Call of the Litany Bird” in our host’s bookshelf today. It’s beautifully written and a must read for all those who recall Zimbabwe’s history with affection and sadness. Readers can get it on Amazon.

All the World’s a Stage

We are nothing like as confident as (we hope) the world thinks we are. Fortunately, most people take us at face value, and have little clue as to what’s going on beneath our cobbled-together facade. I learned some years ago that we should never take people at face value. Often we make lazy and foolish judgements about others based on the most superficial knowledge, and we are frequently wrong.

Time and again, I have convinced myself that so and so actively dislikes me and is purposefully cutting me dead only to find that instead he or she was preoccupied with problems or is in fact deeply shy. Further down the line, you often discover that the same person is actually delightful company and shares your passion for, say, poetry. It’s clear we should always reserve judgement.

Often we are so used to our own façade, we are only dimly aware that it exists. I am reasonably self aware, and I am convinced that if people knew what I was really like, I would be a friendless man. When this feeling overwhelms me, I try to follow Julie Andrew’s sugary advice: I hold my head up high, whistle a little tune and hope no one is watching me too carefully.

However, on occasion I become convinced that someone can laser through my cover. For example, I am positive a lady at church has me sized up and that she profoundly dislikes what she sees. I can tell by the way her expression slightly alters when she spots me; her head seems to shake and she frowns slightly – I know she knows. Whenever this happens, my mouth dries and my hands grow slightly damp. Mentally I begin to stammer the sort of apologies we used to make as inky-fingered fourth-formers when confronted by the head of house for smoking or other immoral behaviour.

Home Truths
The root is fear. P.G. Woodhouse suggested that if a telegram were to be sent to say 30 vicars at random reading, “Flee, all is discovered,” they would all instantly depart.

I have never thought that particularly funny because I think it’s probably true. I have often imagined my office door opening to reveal two men in striped suits silently standing there. I see myself nodding, then rising to tidy my desk. Not a word is uttered because I know it’s pointless. The fact that I am a complete fraud has at last been discovered.

Not for the first time either. I recall that when I was in the army, I bought dinner for a girlfriend in a smart London restaurant. I was young and gauche, and she was very pretty. I was out to impress – I talked incessantly and I was sure that at the end of the meal she thought I was Mr Wonderful.

When the coffee arrived, an older man strolled up and sat down at out table uninvited. I was about to protest when he sneered, “Just shut up! You have ruined my meal with your bragging stories. Everyone here was laughing at you. You are a dreadful little upstart and you should be ashamed of yourself!”

Then he turned to my girlfriend and advised, “And you are far too intelligent and attractive to be going out with a jerk like him, get yourself another boyfriend.”

I’m afraid to say she took his advice. It took me some time to recover…

Heart’s Desire
Men, particularly men, ought to be careful. I have a friend – let’s call him Mark – who was as faithful to his wife, Judy, as a randy ferret. He was known in the army as the “guided muscle” and he lived up to his reputation right royally. He was clearly deeply insecure and he filled his emptiness and loneliness with casual sex with whomever he could. He even convinced himself that his long-suffering wife was wholly unaware of his philandering, but of course she knew all about his hobby from day one. It would seem that most wives have something of a talent for spotting the signs of womanising and drawing the obvious conclusions.

Of course, the fact that Mark was a serial fornicator was well known to the couple’s circle too – after all he had made passes at most of the wives. Despite this, Judy decided to keep her husband’s infidelity a “secret” for years. While her four precious children were still growing up, she believed the best way she could protect them would be to turn a blind eye to her husband’s behaviour.

However, on the very day the youngest child left university, Judy announced that she had had enough of the evasions, lies and humiliation, and she wanted a divorce. Mark was gobsmacked but after he had recovered his equanimity he tried to play hardball by saying he couldn’t care less and would at once move in with his latest mistress.

“Fine,” responded Judy. “Do what you like but I still want a divorce.”

Off went Mark to tell his mistress that their fling was now a permanent relationship.

“Permanence is the last thing I need,” she laughed. “I cherish my independence too much – our twice-a-month motel meeting is all I want out of this.”

My pal has ended up completely alone in a grotty Clapham flat. It should be a warning to us all really: be careful what you wish for. As the old saying goes, there is only one thing worse than not getting your heart’s desire and that is getting it.

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