Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Why youth is never truly gilded

Plutarch was reflecting on reflections, notably his face in the shaving mirror (I believe Robert Graves wrote a poem about this). I took up the baton, acknowledging changes in my own face and pondering (gloomily) on the internal changes. I posed the question: would 40-year-old BB “get on” with the present version?

A new variant occurs. Present-day BB would certainly detest (does detest) 23-year-old BB shown here abseiling off a cliff above Bingley, a town in Airedale. I remember that day well. Offstage was a youth with the misfortune to be more badly educated than me. Chatting about Alpine climbing he referred to the Chamonix aiguilles (Literally needles; actually pointed flakes of rock about 2000 m high) as “aigillies” and I corrected him. A decent carpenter lad; I wince 52 years after the event.

Some showing-off is permissible which is just as well because Works Well is full of it. Self-deprecation helps, though readers’ forgiveness is more important. The above example is beyond forgiveness even though, within the hour, I seem to recall I realised what I’d done. Ultimately it was beneficial, seared as it is in my memory.

The photo has historical significance. These days pensioners abseil off cathedral towers for charity and photos appear in the local press. Closer examination reveals they are protected by hard hats, special harnesses, durable gloves and – most important – a top rope. There is no real danger of falling. In the fifties we took a more robust view. My mother knitted the sweater, my favourite until Mrs BB, whiling away her first confinement, knitted me another.


Hattie said...

What a handsome lad you were. And I'll bet the young man you thought you humiliated forgot all about your correction right away.
I try to be kind to my young self, even though she was a heavy smoker and a terrible gossip.

herhimnbryn said...

Wisdom comes with age...
Great image of you BB.

Plutarch said...

Wearing learning lightly has always seemed to me to be a desirable quality. But to wear it lightly you have to have some learning in the first place. As far as I am concerned I would love to wear it lightly if I had enough of it, but as I consider myself no more than a belated and rather clumsy pursuer of it, I confess to throwing about what little fragments of knowledge come my way.

Relucent Reader said...

Good post. Ever since I heard my brother-in-law make the not too sotto vocecomment about 'know-it-all Scott', I pause before offering a Wikipedia moment or a correction. Now I remain silent, or tell 'em I don't know.
Adolescent RR was even thicker and sometimes more of a lout than the current version.Still tons of room for improvement, while I internally deal with moments similar to the one you describe.

Lucy said...

Splendid picture, I like the way the landscape is all vertiginously skewed in the background, like when one takes off in a plane, and you were indeed a handsome lad.

I really think we should count ourselves lucky if the wrongs we did others hurt more to remember than the wrongs done to us. It shows that in addition to being fortunate not to have been victims of worse evil than we were, and that we must have active enough consciences to afflict ourselves with remorse. The latter still bloody hurts, though.

Barrett Bonden said...

Hattie: Had you been an Airedale contemporary, you would have been very much in the minority with that judgement. Young women held me in contempt and escaping that contempt was one of three major reasons for leaving the area in 1959 for London (along with professional development and the belief that London would be more fun).

HHB: But senility comes too. I take it the word "image" was carefully chosen and implies qualities no longer existent. Dauntlessness comes to mind; fecklessness also.

Plutarch: Exactly. It's almost impossible not to flaunt newly acquired learning. And since such learning is quite likely to be incomplete the potential for booboos is enormous.

RR: Such moments have incredible persistence and often present themselves during periods when we are least able to bear the memory. I'm particularly vulnerable when driving alone and overtakers are no doubt fascinated when they see me beating the steering wheel in an attempt to disperse the embarrassment.

Lucy: The photo was taken professionally and used to illustrate an article I wrote for the house magazine of Westminster Press, parent company of the newspaper that employed me. There was no real justification for me to be seen abseiling other than (a) it looks more dramatic than rock-climbing (the subject of the article), and (b) I could do it.

Handsome? Why wasn't there a woman to confirm this at the time? Just one! Even my mum! Adolescence (which I am only now leaving behind) might not have unmanned me.

There's a religious aspect to these memories even for those who are not religious. The concepts of official heaven and hell are hard to accept and, in the case of the latter, unnecessary. These piercing darts of self-hatred provide an earthly equivalent.

Lucy said...

CS Lewis, believing of course in heaven, said that the blades of grass there were horribly sharp, and cut the feet of new arrivals to ribbons, but after a time that stopped and you could start to enjoy yourself (which seemed to indicate that he was in some way combining the discredited notion of purgatory with heaven, a kind of theological merger...).

I've sometimes wondered if allowing them to do so plenty before we get there might offset some of that... if I believed in it anyway, that is. As I don't really, then, as you say, the earthly equivalent is also great and will suffice.

herhimnbryn said...

No it wasn't, honest guv! How about 'photograph' instead? Not senility, just 'senior moments'.

Barrett Bonden said...

Lucy: Always had an equivocal relationship with C.S. Lewis; read the sci-fi books but nothing much else. On my bookshelves is my mother's copy of The Problem of Pain, as yet unread on the offchance that the title may turn out to be ironic.

Appreciate these little pourboires as, for instance, the idea that purgatory is discredited, confirming a dimly-held belief. In which case I am denied a wounding attack on the Tory government, said to be intent on privatising all welfare services. In general I'm against this but perhaps purgatory could have usefully been privatised had it still been operative.

HHB: Did you imagine I was persecuting you in some way? "Great image" was a little too concise and open to several interpretations. For instance, as if I'd risen from the dead. A senior moment is just senility dressed up in Social Services rags. If I'm mad I'd rather it was non-euphemistic madness. Incidentally, do you do blue plaques like those identifying residences of the famous in London? And if so what is your order leadtime? I'd keep the inscription short: BB blogged and may have gone mad here. send me a quote in a brown paper envelope.

herhimnbryn said...

Hell's teeth I wouldn't use a Social services 'term'! Never did when worked for them and wouldn't now. The 'senior moment' was something coined (I believe) by Terry Wogan. Trust me, I'm an ex social worker!

Re blue plaques...am still working on a good clear font for mosaics.