Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Keeping Up With Alan Bennett

I've been reading extracts from Alan Bennett's diary for 2016 as published in the LRB. He has a life very like yours and mine- riding his bike, going to stately homes and garden centres, thinking about death- but punctuated regularly by encounters with the famous. When Bowie dies he writes about having met him in the 70s and finding him so washed out as to be hardly present and wrongly thinking him Scottish (because of the orange hair, I suppose). It made me wish I had simlar anecdotes in the locker. Like any other wealthy liberal Bennett is woebegone about Brexit and Trump and I'm not sure whether to find this reassuring- because he really is just like the rest of us- or disappointing- because where are the cutting apercus, the surprising sidelights?

I own both of Bennett's earlier collections of journals and occasional writings and will probably acquire the one he's publishing this year- if not hot from the press at least as soon as it starts showing up post-Christmas in the charity shops.

One revelation made me not so much sad as slightly angry. You know those antique shows where the buyers compete to make the most money at auction on items sourced from shops and car boot sales? Well, Bennett has it from a shop-owner friend- who declined to take part but learned things during the buttering up process- that sellers are told they'll be paid the full asking price for everything no matter how much the buyers appear to beat them down. So all the bartering that goes on is simply acting- and doesn't reflect the sort of deals the ordinary punter can expect to get away with. I'm shocked, I tell you, shocked.
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