Friday 25 September 2009

Could it be that the softer impact of his feet on the lawn gave rise to extremely fanciful notions in the man’s brain, while the harder impact of his feet on the gravel of the paths jolted it back to better sense? This is what Denniston found himself wondering as he walked beside Turing through the park. And yet, the brilliance of his practical suggestions far outweighed any of the weaknesses of his more fanciful ones; so that when Turing finally turned to Denniston and asked him what he thought, Denniston replied “I find your ideas are convincing in the aggregate.”

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Crashaw's Diary (part iv)

Wednesday 21st September
Mr Jenkins’ brother Frank came over to see me today, arriving in a mood of great excitement such as I had never seen in him before. He said he had written a new version of an old hymn and wanted my opinion of it. He unfolded a piece of paper from his pocket and laid it in front of me:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
It’s ten feet high and six across
The beams are eighteen inches wide

The beams are in cross-section square,
Their surface flat, and without bevel;
It’s raised up perpendicular
Two thousand feet above sea-level ...

I told Frank it moved me in ways I could hardly describe. He spoke excitedly about Wordsworth, his exactness, his factual nature and said that this was what he wanted to bring to his new modern up-dated hymns. Suddenly his eye alighted on a copy of Sonnets from the Portuguese on my bookshelf. “This infuriates me!” he exclaimed, snatching it up, “the one that begins ‘How do I love thee? let me count the ways’

I asked him why.

“Because she doesn’t tell you. She doesn’t tell you how many ways! By the end of the sonnet she’s completely forgotten she’s meant to be counting and starts talking about Death and God and candlelight!” He slammed his hand down on the table. “She should have ended it with the exact number, so we knew.”

I suggested to Frank that he might want to write a new version of the sonnet and he went off happy with the suggestion. I tried to carry on writing my sermon but wasted some time trying to count exactly in how many ways EBB loved her husband. About nine, I decided.

Thursday 17 September 2009

Crashaw's Diary (part iii)

Thursday 8th September
Today I saw Lizzie Harvey tripping down the hillside in the cool autumn air. Her motion in the sunlight reminded me of things in the bright underwater, as if she moved rippling through a more buoyant element. Her feet struck the ground with the lightest of blows, like a string of gentle puns all on the same subject as she stepped down the hillside. Raising her arms as she went, each white forearm was like a humorous poem, starting at the firm foundation of her elbow, and moving up through her slender wrist to the most fanciful conclusions, the tips of her gay fingers. And then, as she drew closer, here were the fine line of her nose, those dark eyelashes that “keep a lid” on her warm humorous eyes, her dusting of freckles, her anecdotal chin. I waited for her at the road and she greeted me warmly.

I accompanied her some of the way to K--- and we talked of their farm’s drainage problems. At times I barely could speak for feeling. As we were parting she clasped my hand warmly and asked: Would I think of her sometimes? I assured her I would.

Oh Lizzie! Lizzie! I will think of you in the morning when the rising sun wakes the little puns on the branches, and the little jokes start in the wet, dewy grass. Oh, my dear Lizzie! I will think of you then.

Friday 11 September 2009

Crashaw’s Diary (part ii)

The story so far: Philip Crashaw is the Curate to the Rev. Arthur Jenkins in a Country Parish in Dorset. The year is 1870.

Saturday 27th August
A memorable evening as I accompanied Mr and Mrs Jenkins and the Misses Milligan to a concert in the Guildhall in B--. Mr Jenkins’ younger brother Frank is visiting from Chippenham and came too. All the way in the carriage Frank complained bitterly about the programme of music we were to listen to: he said that he only wanted to listen to music that stirred the "grandest emotions", the music of Brahms and such – not string quartets from a hundred years ago.

When we arrived the Guildhall looked splendid, the chandeliers sparkling with a thousand stars and casting a warm glow over the crowd. Soon the musicians took to the stage, looking very impressive in their tailcoats. A delicious hush fell. Then --- what a splendid programme we were treated to, including a string quartet by Haydn. How that immortal composer’s music speaks to me! That feeling of getting things done, of sheer good nature and handiness: to me, it was quite incomparable.

On the way back, Frank continued to complain about the music, until Mr Jenkins said (rather irritably) that, if Frank had known all along that he would not enjoy the programme of music, then he should not have come. To which Frank replied that he had merely wanted an evening out, and that was all.

“But, dear Frank,” I said, “to come to an evening of eighteenth century music while knowing that you would not enjoy it, surely you knew you were on a Haydn to nothing.”

Frank offered nothing in reply but, as a stray beam from a lantern entered the carriage, I noticed the younger Miss Milligan regarding me with a serious air.

Friday 4 September 2009

A Match Made in Heaven

That night in the crowded bar of Boyle’s Hotel was the first time they saw each other. Their faces lit up and they just knew. She was Phillumena Tinderwood, daughter of a prosperous, I mean, phosphorous merchant. He was Al Lumette, night club pianist and professional gambler. “Strike a light!” he muttered. There and then they struck up an acquaintance.

Tinderwood Senior, of course, was dead set against the match. He had brought up his daughter to sit in a box at the Opera, not to run with the common pack you find in nightclubs. He had even engaged the services of a matchmaker. He summoned his daughter to him. “I’m not letting you run off with shome hothead,” he slurred, after his third whiskey. “That damn fellow’sh leading you ashtray.”

But she wouldn’t listen. She was a fiery little thing.

There was a fellow called Blaze Carpenter who did odd jobs for Mr Tinderwood. He was a macho type who’d known Phillumena from a little girl and had always carried a torch for her. So when Tinderwood sent Blaze photographs of Phillumena kissing Al, he spluttered with rage. He raced down to the cheap hotel where they were staying and threatened Al. “Be careful!” gasped Phillumena, “he’s a strike-anywhere type!” But Al was a match for anyone, and quickly laid him out. “Who sent you?” Al demanded. “Spill!”

Out in the glorious moonlight, Al waxed lyrical to Phillumena. “Some burn brightly for a little while,” he murmured, “but others’ lives just taper off.”

“Oh, Al,” sighed Philly, “I’m so happy I could burst into flame.”

But Al’s old trouble was flaring up. Safety had to be their first concern: the fast life was no longer for them. They married a few days later and chose for their honeymoon a spa hotel in the mountains where they would not be disturbed – a cool, dry place away from children.

(next time: after this light romance, a lighter romance.)