January 20th, 2020


I've never liked getting up in the morning. I've done shift work and wonder now how I coped with the early starts- but I did- and have fond memories of walking to the bus stop through empty streets- and watching the moon and stars fade out. That was thirty years ago.

These days I normally get out of bed around 8.00. It's not fixed to the minute. And I'm generally first up. Being up isn't the problem- it's getting up- transitioning from prone to upright, from warm to cold that I have always found difficult. Alarm clocks? I hate 'em.

When I was away at boarding school I slept in a dormitory and at seven o'clock or thereabouts an electric bell went off- a harsh rattling thing- like a fire alarm. It was horrible. I often wonder now why I didn't run away from school- but I suppose there was nowhere to run to. If I'd gone home my parents would have sent me back. And besides, I was very accepting of my lot. Fatalistic. Being shut up with four hundred other young men in a gothic rat trap on the Sussex Downs was just how things were. Didn't everybody live that way? (No, of course they didn't.)

(But the Downs were rather wonderful. And there was a sea view. I wasn't unhappy.)

I am passive but stubborn. That's how I see myself, anyway. I don't know that the people around me would agree.

A friend from long ago writes as she does once in a while- and she tells me about the death of a person she's known for 20 years. "Do you remember him?" she asks. And I think, "No, J, how could I have done? It's 30 years since I high-tailed it out of Dodge."

J's daughter- who I remember as a toddler- is having her 40th birthday bash. My kids are round about the same age. My daughter has already passed the landmark and the boys are coming up to it. I was 40 when I met Ailz. Start of the second part of my life.

50 was the big hurdle. I remember making an inordinate fuss about it. "I'm nearly 70," I used to say, half-jokingly- and Ailz never found it as funny as I did. She thought I was getting old before my time. Well, now I really am nearly 70. And it doesn't seem as big a hurdle as 50 did. I accept ageing. I find the process interesting. And I'm not afraid of death (if I ever was.)

It's my birthday tomorrow. That's why I'm writing in this vein. It's not my 70th; it's the one before. People are threatening to make a big kerfuffle about the 70th but I'm hoping this one will pass more or less unnoticed. Ailz says we can go to the pub in Lewes where they make their own pizza- which might be nice.

Time has passed since I began this post. Ailz is up now and going through her mail. LJ (bless!) sends her a notification that "A's" birthday is coming up. "And this is the problem," she says, musingly. "Birthday's are a problem?" I ask. And she says, "No, this is A we're talking about- and she's dead." "I'd forgotten." I say. "But it would explain why she hasn't posted recently..."

If a person is dead but I don't know they're dead is their death a reality? It's the Shroedinger cat thing, isn't it? As someone famous once said of some other famous person, "X is dead but I don't have to believe it if I don't want to."

TV Reviews: Vienna Blood, Dr Who.

The hero of Vienna Blood is a young Jewish doctor who solves crimes using the methodology of  Sherlock Holmes Sigmund Freud. Just to make it clear that we're in Vienna and it's the start of the 20th century he keeps bumping into the likes of Klimt and Mahler. The first episode ended in a confrontation on the Big Wheel which made no sense at all except as a homage to The Third Man- a movie that wasn't going to get itself made for another 40 odd years. It's all very silly but the art direction is gorgeous. Most of the filming seems to have been done- expensively- in the streets and salons of the city- and the costumes and hairdos are authentic.

I don't think I like Vienna. It's extremely pretty but all the extraneous decoration puts my teeth on edge. It's a birthday cake of a city. The makers of the show seem to feel the same because they're keen to show us that under the layers of cream and swirls of icing sugar there's all sorts of nastiness going on. The city fathers are corrupt, the soldiers are predatory, the doctors are pig-headed and there are proto-Nazis everywhere. In episode two, the killer -whom the doctor analyses while he (the killer not the doctor) is waving a sabre around and threatening to do for the helpless Inspector  Lestrade  Rheinhardt- turns out to have chosen his victims (spoilers ahead) for impeccably Freudian reasons- as stand-ins for the characters in The Magic Flute. If the stories were less preposterous it might actually be rather good. 

I'm afraid I'm finished with Dr Who.  I caught a few minutes of last night's episode- which was a dramatization of the Wikipedia entry on Nicola Tesla-  and it had a standard-issue storyline about malevolent aliens doing something or other and lots of extras wearing false moustaches. The actors do what they can- but the characters are dull- the companions especially- and Jodie Whittaker's Doctor has yet to come into focus. Chris Chibnall has Broadchurch to his credit- so he's not a bad writer- but he doesn't do wonder and strangeness and timey-wimeyness with any conviction.  Take the show off, rest it, bring it back in ten years time and entrust it to someone with the right kind of imagination.

A Footnote Really

Just for the record I thought the 3rd episode of Vienna Blood (which centres on a case of hazing in a military academy) was very much stronger than the first two- more plausible, less touristically in awe of its setting, less formulaic, less sensationalist (no female nudity for starters)- and with the chemistry between its leads bubbling along nicely. New shows often wobble about a bit before they find their feet. This one has finished its first season and hasn't yet been recommissioned. On the strength of the final episode I rather hope it will be.