Friday, April 19, 2013

Being random, as the blog's title implies

1. My wife and I were outside this morning in the sun chopping down the upper half of the holly hedge that separates our house from our neighbours' place.  It was a beautiful morning.  We then spent nearly an hour around 1pm talking to my son and his wife in the States, on Google's equivalent of Skype, went to go outside and found it was pouring with rain.  Since then the temperature's dropped considerably and we're now trying to get the house warm.  After all the fine weather we've had any cold day comes as a bit of a shock.

2. A friend lent me a copy of Edmund Gosse's book, Father and Son, a couple of weeks or so ago.  I'd heard of this book over the years, but never got round to reading it, even though it has some status amongst the English classics.  What an odd book!  Gosse was the sun of Philip Henry Gosse, who was a famous zoologist in the 19th century, around the time of Darwin.   He was also a Puritan Christian, as was his wife - the mother of Edmund: she died of breast cancer when Edmund was still under ten years old.  Philip married again, a few years later. 

The book is supposedly the factual memoirs of Gosse as a child, and of his relationship with his father, who, according to the book, was virtually a recluse, and a very rigid Christian.  (Gosse's mother was as puritanical as her husband, according to Gosse junior.)  The book claims to be fact, but later biographers of both father and son have found a good deal of fiction in the writing.  It's very much the view of a man who has cast his parents aside along with his religion, but in writing about it he colours the characters of his parents - his father in particular - in such a way as to make the reader recoil from them. Knowing that Gosse's writing is more biased than not is quite helpful in reading the book: you see how he shows himself as the one treated somewhat unjustly, when in fact this was apparently less than the truth.  He also, perhaps unwittingly, shows himself as rather pompous and quite class conscious.  Those who are lower than him in the social scale are written about in such a way as to show that Gosse despises them - it's not just what they do, it's how the author describes them.  For example, in describing John Brooks, a poor man who doesn't do the right thing according to Gosse's lights: John Brooks was a heavy dirty man, with a pock-marked face and two left legs...  I'm not sure how Brooks manages to have two left legs, but doesn't it immediately make you feel he's something of a monster?

I'd got to a point with the book where I thought I wouldn't finish it, but I will.  However, Gosse has lost my sympathy quite some time ago! 

3. I'm currently learning lines for the play, The Sunshine Boy, in which I'm playing Al.  He has a substantial enough part, but it's nothing like as long as that of the main character, Willie.  There's a great deal of humour in the play, and it'll go across well with an audience.  The line-learning has kind of interrupted my latest attempt to learn Psalm 119 (the longest in the Psalmody).  It's a tough psalm to learn, but I'm making slow progress on it.  I'm also singing with the Sunny Side Up group tonight, at one of the retirement villages, and I'm revising words and music for that as well.  So the brain is getting quite a work out at present!

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