The nap has it

Sunday September 24, 2006

I watched the Blair-fest on morning TV and was disappointed, as always. The interviewers never ask the right questions! I have yet, in all these years, to come across a good interview with Tony Blair. I think the problem is that the programme makers always field an interviewer grounded in journalism, particularly political journalism. Blair is a smooth operator, and can wriggle away from any question framed on such a basis. I suspect that the only way to get beneath the squeaky clean defence of the man is to have a psychologist, philosopher or social historian interview him in an academic setting. At length. There’s depth there, but Blair has spent so long covering it up and concealing it from public view that even he must find it difficult to get back to his basics. I’d be interested to see what’s there.

So, I huffed and I puffed, and I pulled my collected works of Cavafy from the newly organized shelves in my study. Why Cavafy I don’t know. Perhaps because his work is clean, open, and honest. The considerable depth of the man is there for the careful reader to discover. I wish I had fluent Greek and a better knowledge of Greek literature; my translated copy is good but I know I’m missing out on fingering the quality, the sheer craft of his work.

Whatever, I seldom fail to find a poem that speaks to me, or for me, when I read Cavafy:


As much as you can
Even if you can’t shape your life the way you want,
at least try as much as you can
not to degrade it
by too much contact with the world,
by too much activity and talk.
Do not degrade it by dragging it along,
taking it around and exposing it so often
to the daily silliness
of social relations and parties,
until it comes to seem a boring hanger-on.
C.P. Cavafy (written 1905; published in 1913)


I’m not convinced by the English word choice of ‘degrade’ in lines 3 and 6. I don’t think Cavafy was proposing superiority or inferiority here, opposing the inner to the outer life, or preferring one over the other. Both are necessary. To me, the poem recommends a degree of separation, not complete divorce. Such separation is of benefit to both sides of life. There’s connection for me here with the artist seeking a space of his own in which to work, a place where, at a suitable point, he can throw down his pen, put on his coat, and go out to seek other things.

So. On to other things. I had a very ordinary day. Attended to the pile of laundry. Cleaned windows. Practiced my new piece on the piano, where I seem to have caught up after the long interruption. A Ginster’s steak and ale pasty for lunch, and my luxury fish pie for dinner, complete with those King Prawns I’ve been anticipating with such relish.

And now, I’m debating the alternatives open to me before driving over to St Audries to pick up Graham. Should I nap, or should I watch crap TV? I think the nap has it. The nap has it.



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