Summa: diary (December 10-15, 2022)

Capability + opportunity + assiduity = success.

December 10.

10.48 am and 11.08 am

December 12. 7.45 am. Ice underfoot. Walking gingerly, in the direction of the hospital. 9.15 am: An exchange of art. 9.30 am: A reference written. 10.00 am: Monday admin. 10.30 am: An unusual stillness outdoors. 10.45 am: I’ve yet to get instep with the day. The sound of the courier vans coming and going was conspicuous by its absence, until … 11.15 am: UPS. A heavy cardboard box, nearly my height, was dragged across the threshold. 11.45 am: Then, Royal Mail (bless ’em). 12.00 pm: Finally, DPD. Our Polish driver told me that the temperature is -20°C in his country today. Here, now, it’s 0°C. Much running up and down three flights of stairs, on my part.

7.15 am

In the late evening, I watched Nigel Kneale’s and Peter Sasdy’s TV drama The Stone Tape (1972), in honour of its 50th anniversary. The 1970s was the golden age of BBC productions on supernatural and sci-fi themes. This programme combined both. I was 13 years of age when it was first broadcast. I strongly suspect that its ideas ignited my longstanding interest in the relationship between technology, ghosts, and natural hypotheses to explain hauntings. The soundtrack by Desmond Briscoe and Glynis Jones of the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop is a masterclass in understatement and the marriage of form and content. The music is played on a synthesiser; as such, its sonorities compliment the presence of noise-emitting equipment, and the visualisation of audio frequencies, in the production. They’re as much characters in the story as those portrayed by the actors. I still find the sound designers’ rendering of the spectral scream unnerving.

Nigel Kneale and Peter Sasdy, The Stone Tape (London: BBC, 1972). BFI Archive Television, DVD.

December 13. -2°C. My policy is to wear clothes until they’re a disgrace. By my reckoning, I’ve already enough in my wardrobe to last until I die (or else I put on weight, suddenly). And enough is enough. I still have the jacket from my black Agnès b suit, as worn by the diamond thieves in Tarantino’s film Reservoir Dogs (1992). My fashion sense is this: dress in monochrome colours and an austere, classic style that doesn’t go out of fashion, and don ties (thin ones) only at funerals and weddings. Similarly, I prefer plain and inexpensive food. (The painter Mark Rothko famously disliked paying more than $5 for a meal.) In an ideal world, a meal should take only twice as long to cook as it does to eat. For this and other reasons, I’m by common consent considered the worst cook in our family. I’m inclined to agree. Maybe I do need new house-shoes for Christmas, though:

Goodbye!

December 14. 9.00 am: -5°C. In the late night, I’ve sat in my study armchair and read my diaries beginning, forty years ago, with 1982 — the year in which I first came to Aberystwyth. What opinion would that young man, back then, have of me today? No doubt he’d have disapproved of some of my present attitudes, opinions, and choices; shaken his head in dismay at my lacks and loses; been puzzled by the providences that had beset me; and disappointed by my falls. And what opinion do I have of him, today? He was ‘righteous over much’; too narrow and strict in his views; high-handed and censorious, while lacking sound judgement and discernment in many things; spiritually naive; unable to let go of things; unrealistically idealistic; and unfocussed in ambition. Neither the past nor the present self is acceptable. So, he and I press on.

The chair of the Chair.

December 15. The cold snap continues. There’s a sprinkling of snow on South Beach, so I’m led to believe. ‘Nurses hold biggest strike in NHS history’, says the BBC News website. At our local hospital, junior doctors are covering where they’re able. My family and I have received excellent support from nursing staff during our hospitalisations. No doubt many are wrestling with their conscience. I hope the government is too, with its own.

I sense myself winding-down from work and gearing-up for the children’s (and a ‘+1’) return home next week. Ironically, when my creative mind is turned down to simmer, it’s capable of throwing up some laudable ideas. Which is why rest and recreation are important not only in themselves, as a restorative, but also in enabling the muscles of our thinking to relax and become more reflexive. This is the first Christmas since 1992 (thirty years ago), when I’ve not had steel myself at the prospect of a holiday saturated with marking. (The Michaelmas Term ends on Saturday.)

Lessons (Diaries (1982 and 1983)):

  • The consequences of poor decision-making in the distant past may still reverberate in our present lives, and for years to come.
  • Rarely do our misdeeds remain covered forever.
  • While God can be trusted, we should remain suspicious of our subjective impressions of, and ascriptions to, Him.
  • Self-delusion is the pit over which we walk the tightrope of faith.
  • Great calamity may strike without warning, in the turn of a page.
  • Some things are denied us, necessarily. We may see the wisdom of the refusal only later in life.
  • Some things we deny ourselves, for the sake of others.

DIARY SABBATICAL UNTIL JANUARY 2, 2023.

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