June 16th, 2019

Many Mansions

Afterlife: I don't like the word.

An afterword is a brief statement tacked onto the end of a more substantial piece of writing.

An afterthought is a subsidiary or qualifying thought.

An afternoon is when you pull your hat down over your eyes and go to sleep

An afterglow is pretty but fading.

And the word afterlife has something of the same vibe, something of the same colouring.

I use it because there's no alternative but I think it's frightfully misleading...

Actually there's just Life. It's behind and ahead and around. The bit we think of as life- our life in the body- is just one part of the whole. While we're in the body we can't see the rest of Life too well- because we've chosen to enter a section that's partially closed off- (but there are glimpses to be had all the same.) Birth is the way in, death is the way out- and that's all they are. Death is no more to be feared than birth. Every transition is from Life to Life. You go through a door and go through a door and go through a door...

Taking The Test

What was that dream? Ah yes. I've been hanging onto it all day so I might as well write it down.

I was sitting a test in Roman history for which I'd only studied half the course but I figured I could just about wing it if only someone would show me the exam paper. But they wouldn't. Or else they pushed bits of paper my way which might have been the exam paper but never were. Finally I figured that there just had to be a question on the holy grail so I started writing a piece about it, but then someone told me that, no, there wasn't. Then we had a comfort break (this was an invigilated exam with comfort breaks) and someone took pity on me and handed me a bunch of papers all wrapped into a ball and said, "Go out into the corridor and take a look at this." So I did. I went out- and unwrapped the ball and at the heart of it was a magazine article about Princess Diana's underwear.

Napoleon On St Helena

Most of the pictures of Napoleon on St Helena show him dressed in his little corporal's outfit standing or sitting on a picturesque headland gazing out to sea. I doubt he ever actually struck that pose ( he wanted respect not pity) but it's an affecting image and there are many, many versions, quite a few of them by British artists because the British love Napoleon. Even Turner had a go- though he varied the formula by having the Emperor with his back to a blazing sunset, gazing at an anemone in a rock pool.

He wanted his captors to address him as Majesty and they wouldn't, but was happy for 13 year-old Betsy Balcombe to call him Boney.

The picture I like best is by Horace Vernet. His Napoleon is doing the gazing out to sea thing but has changed his uniform for a baggy white suit and straw hat and is sitting on a rustic bench with a newspaper under his elbow. It won't have been done from life but I imagine it's the truest.