Time and tide wait for no woman. So how should we approach the passing years?
Sheena McDonald considers.
Bumped into an r old pal at a hoo/y do the other night. 'l‘he hest sUl't Of Old pal A no ancient intimacies to remember and quickly forget —— just a faint and hawdy memory of foul-mouthed flirting. ncyer to he consummated hy' anything as committed as a pass or a grope or an unwise. latenight. drunken fumhle.
We caught up with gossip and exchanged ahusc as easily as if two years had not passed since the last meeting. He turned out to he giy'ing temporary house-room to a mutual friend whom I had taken in from the storm -- oh. it must he fifteen years ago now? Small world. eh'.’ And whoeyer thought one would he old enough to say ‘fifteen years ago' or more —- and still mean ‘as a consenting. yottng and eulpahle-if—not-responsihle adult‘f
When I w as younger and had more hrain cells. I charted the passing of days with the fearful and impotent fanaticism of the hourglass-ga/er. l‘he flyleafofeyery new noycl was anxiously scanned for proof that the genius w ritcr w as not younger than oneself when lill‘\l he ()l' sllc‘ lc‘ll immortal print on the sod of human .'ichieyement. A fairly hopeless exercise for aficionados ol l)aisy .-\shford. of course. who had set the seal on romantic fiction hefore she hit puherty (which is. when one comes to think ahout it. entirely reasonahle and proper) hut nonetheless. for a space of years. sometimes reassuring. l'il‘st noy'el at 28. first film directed at 3H. first hahy at 37 oh. time enough for all these thinng
'l‘wo things haye happened. ()ne —- there clearly is no longer time for all these things. ’l‘wo — it doesn't seem to matter qttite so much lhis may. of course. he the result on the amhitious hrain of too many hoozy dos- and too many friends‘.’ lmpossihlel hut anxiety which is the compensation for ady ancing years might actually he replaced with positiyc action.
Stultifying perfectionism tends to go. too to he replaced hy a more workaday commitment to deadlines. \Vhen y'ou'ye only got life’s afternoon left. so to speak. pirouetting around the exquisite detail of sentiment or locution hecomes an indulgence one cart not afford. Or am I wrong'.’
Was liliot. in fact. right‘.’ Did he hit the hotton in Little ( iidding. when he itemised the things to look forward to as decay. intolerance and sclf-hatred‘.’ 'l'here w as a time when I took masochistic delight in intoning the literally fateful passage. like some premature epitaph oy'er all that was to come. Yes. yes— l nodded.
That is indeed how it will he. and I may as w ell don the romantic weeds of the precocious cynic and start doing it now — raging and iny‘eighing and sneering and shrugging and generally doing the dismal trout.
The point is —- one runs out of time for such explorations of frailty. as well as everything else. It is the great luxury of youth that there are hours and hours ayailahle for intro- and extra-spection ~ and more than luxury: the great necessity. \Vhilc discipline and purpose may increase with age. original thought. rather alarmingly. does not follow any similar rising cury'c.
Perhaps it does for you —- fair enough. But I. hedhound. spent a chilling couple of hours recently. re-reading decade-old diaries. It was
not the seampering from dehauchery'
to delight that tnadc my ageing and fltt-hagged eyes pop. hut the extraordinary realisation that idle thoughts and inspirations which I had jolted into hooks and journals met the last twclyemonth. in the min helief that they represented the healthy growth of a fertile hrain. w erc- almost without exception — anticipated hy some impetuous childish apeeu from a hygone existence. I atn. it seems. the same amateur thinker l was when an unschoolcd neophyte ~ just a little saggier.
'l‘he implications are worrying. l lane I learned nothing in the last ten years‘.’ ls my philosophy so inflexihle‘.’ My mind so closed‘.’ .‘yly yision so limited and inward'.’
l’rohahly. And prohahly that is why I greet old pals across wine-dark years and hanqueting-halls with such case -~ hecausc it is the same for them. perhaps for cyeryone. A colleague. walking alone across a rugged (‘airngorm pass. spotted a
fellow-hiker approaching. 'l‘hey met.
the only heings ahroad within a score of miles. and recognised each other as fellow-students from some twenty-fch years prey'iously.
‘And she hadn’t changed a hit! looked just the same ~ extraordinary! We didn‘t exchange addresses or anything ~ didn't pretend we would stay in touch * just talked ahout then and what had happened to old so-and-so »—- and then walked on — it was really good!‘
And does that sense of flourishing. undiminishing friendship. that feeling that eyeryone you tune ever known will always he part of you and you of thctn. that knowledge that no relationship is ever ‘oy‘er'. that the great continuum of human interchange and support and kinship and enioyment maintains like some mighty uniyersal hond. defying time and circumstances — does that heat the precocious achiey'ement on the flyleaf‘.’ Pass.
The port. that is . . .
A Vision Of Love. The naked man with the ‘tash is Neil Bartlett. and the other person a fellow memberol the brilliant gay theatre company Gloria. Seethem both. and others besides. in Bartlett‘s dramatic adaptation of the story of
persecuted Victorian artist Simeon Solomon. See Theatre.
Kodak Classic. Toptrack stars trom the USA and USSR come to Glasgow fora three-way indoor contest with Great Britain. whose team includes Brian Whittle (see photo) of Ayr Sealorth. SeeSpon.
Davy Spillane. Thetormer Moving Hearts virtuoso piper gets the Edinburgh Folk Festival off to a flying start on Fri 17 March. See Folk Festival Listing.
Dangerous Liaisons. As the vogue tor adapting French 18th century epistolary novels aboutcorrupt aristocrats shows no signs otabating. Stephen Frears‘ newlilm. starring Glenn Close and Michelle Pteitter (pictured here) opens this fortnight. See Film.
Your guide to the next fourteen days starts here . . .
2 The List 10— 23 March 1989