Saturday, 5 April 2014

Commonplace books and a Leicester Square epiphany

Came - by complete chance - across the term Commonplace book and am intrigued. Traditionally these are books for recording concepts, facts and formulae. They are not diaries or travelogues but something else. Just love this idea: a scrapbook for thoughts and ideas. E.M. Forster's Commonplace Book (or one of his commonplace books, perhaps) has been published.
It reminds me: I used to keep notebooks, when I had more time. In the front I kept notes, clippings and postcards; stuff about work - in the back. I tried to make sure that the front part was fuller. How sad to have stopped.

Love St James's Piccadilly's mantra for Easter (on its website): Create in me a clean heart, O Lord.
Cleansing the heart: very hard.

A Friday afternoon conversation at Cafe Rouge, Leicester Square, with a colleague who is a Catholic Brother. We're talking about a group of volunteers at work and the dynamic within the group. There is a problem as one woman feels excluded from the main clique. We don't understand why, and those in the main clique say 'What's the problem?'

B.:  'They don't realise, you see, because they're part of the group. They don't see the exclusion clearly.  I remember ... as a chaplain in a school ... there were dinner ladies and a new one started and there were terrible problems, they didn't include her. So I had a word with them all, gathered the old guard together and asked about it.  And one said 'Well, I don't know why she thinks that, I've said nowt to her."'

Changing the subject: Easter approaches. I say that I haven't been back to church since last Easter when I had an argument at a quiet Pascal reflection about Judas.  I said I just couldn't forgive Judas. Someone was trying to make a comparison with Oscar Pistorius (that still seems absurd to me) -  on the lines that we must not judge without knowing the facts. We do not know what drove Judas to this, she said. I said: well, no, but he took money, he betrayed it was a crime. I can't forgive that.

B. is quiet. We settle the bill. He insists on paying.
He says 'You know, when I was working in Cambodia I saved up enough to put the son of one of the families in the community through college for a year. He was really pleased. It took me a long time to save up the money. Then I found, after a few months, that he hadn't gone to college. He'd used the money to pay for food and school for his brothers and sisters. I was not pleased, I can tell you.
Then I thought....'

We emerge into the sleazy light of Leicester Square. People are queuing at the ticket booth. There is fat on the pavement from an infinity of take away pizzas and greasy sandwiches. The sky is grey. It is a raw April evening.

'And you know,' he continues, 'then I thought ... when my time's up and I'm at the Pearly Gates and the big question comes - and .... what have you done with your life? I thought, well, the key question will be 'How much have you loved?'

He smiles.
It is a bit of an epiphany.

Reading and watching

  • Foot by Foot to Santiago de Compostela/Judy Foot
  • The Testament of Mary with Fiona Shaw at the Barbican
  • The Testament of Mary/Colm Toibin
  • Schwanengesang/Schubert - Tony Spence
  • Journals/Robert Falcon Scott
  • Fugitive Pieces/Ann Michaels
  • Unless/Carol Shields
  • Faust/Royal Opera House
  • The Art of Travel/Alain de Botton
  • Mad Men Series 6
  • A Week at The Airport/Alain de Botton
  • The Railway Man/Eric Lomax
  • Bright Lights, Big City/Jay McInerney
  • Stones of Venice/John Ruskin
  • The Sea, the Sea/Iris Murdoch
  • Childe Harold/Lord Byron
  • All The Pretty Horses/Cormac McCarthy
  • Extreme Rambling/Mark Thomas
  • Story of my Life/Jay McInerney
  • Venice Observed/Mary McCarthy