John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, is often thought to be the quintessential Restoration man, in terms of his debauched lifestyle and squandered brilliance. When he began one of his most famous poems, A Ramble In St James’s Park, with the statement that ‘Much wine had passed, with grave discourse Of who fucks who, and who does worse’, his aristocratic readers, recognising themselves as those who participated in such ‘grave discourse’, would have sniggered and enjoyed the allusion.
I sit on my terrace with the sun setting on an azure sea – or some such. In the fields around me cattle graze peacefully and sheep engage in sheep like wanderings, dispersed across the meadows. I note that three young bulls (all virgins) have just broken out of their enclosure and are heading for a neighbouring field full of dairy heifers. On the wireless news is brought to me of Iraq and the sectarian conflict erupting from its previous simmer. The Sun has, via the postman, delivered a free copy of its special ‘celebrating England’ issue. This is a masterly stunt designed to reinforce and infuse our World Cup efforts with a general sense of how brilliant the English are. Pace any Scots or indeed Welsh readers, there is acknowledgement that being English is inclusive.
The book was only sporadically reviewed and those notices it received were less than kind. Literary editors being, then as now, eager for ‘controversy’ sent it only to those most likely to condemn: ideologically conditioned feminists. It was suggested by one that I had used the interviews as a stimulus and that while disguised by microphone and machine I had pleasured myself with brisk games of pocket billiards. Another, having savaged it, admitted when we met at a festival that she hadn’t actually meant what she had written but ‘it was what was expected’. There were no royalties.
Justice Potter speaks in 1966: "Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime. Long ago those who wrote our First Amendment charted a different course. They believed a society can be truly strong only when it is truly free. In the realm of expression they put their faith, for better or worse, in the enlightened choice of the people, free from the interference of a policeman’s intrusive thumb or a judge’s heavy hand."
But we have our own yummy mummies. My local garage has a marvellous girl I shall (for the sake of discretion) call Molly. She is a grown-up woman with teenage sons but has kept herself together with great style. As well as a neat figure she has a sparkling personality that she deploys as a complement to her very tight jumper and very short shorts behind the filling station counter. There may be imaginative parallels with The Postman Always Rings Twice, but not in our village.
The builders and postmen go through the entire year in shorts. I wonder if this is because they are the only males who have access to village women at home during the day. This is not to suggest anything lubricious in the motivations of these fine men or the women they serve – if one can use the term in reference to the professional context. It may be a subconscious anthropological thing. There she is, knitting quilts in her kitchen, surrounded by garden and geese, her accustomed and dull bloke off burning gorse or in his fishing boat; here’s the postie or the craftsmen, with tanned bare legs and merry demeanour.
Have we become so conditioned to the cosmetic industry’s insidious grasp on the way women ‘should’ look that we’ve forgotten how they actually do look?
I cannot begin to see why everyone is so het up about the Crimea (a faraway country of which we know little). It’s mostly Russian and it voted to join Russia, by a handsome margin. The Ukraine on the other hand has just chucked its elected President in a coup, so how democratic is that? Neither the deposed Ukrainian ruler, or Mr Putin, or indeed most of the leaders elected or otherwise in that benighted part of the world are very nice people. But their history and culture aren’t conducive to promoting niceness and true democracy.
I have a lot of male friends. The nice kind. The kind that want a girlfriend, get sweaty-palmed before a date, and are giddy when it goes well. So I’m constantly baffled when, after a first date, I get the traditional phone-call run-down and they are disappointed because it ‘all went wrong’.
Valentine's Day - for some it's a Hallmark too far, for others a charming Victorian tradition, albeit one that's been marketed to death. When it comes to Valentines presents, I think I may have discovered some middle ground for men, often victims of the dreaded Valentine's Syndrome, i.e., that of Not Getting It Quite Right. Or even Hopelessly Wrong. While it requires a certain amount of effort on a bloke's part (like any kind of grand romantic gesture), get it right and there's usually a payoff; in this case it's a simple one: women love to be spoiled. It gets us in the mood to do terribly filthy things to you. Isn't that really all you need to know?