September 22 frank Ifield and king Lear: the family story.

Frank Ifield was a pop star in the early 60s. He had, I think, a No 1 hit with ‘I remember you’ and two or three more top twenty hits before disappearing into relative obscurity. As a baby and toddler I loved Frank Ifield. This I was told me by mum and dad, although I had no real recollection of him when I was older. Years later in the mid-Seventies when I was a young teenager my mum came running into the living room where I was doing my homework. It was ‘The Frank Ifield Show’ on the telly. I had to watch it because of the family story that I loved Frank Ifield. He sang ‘Would you like to fly in my beautiful balloon?’ which was what everyone was singing in those days. Then he had Ted Rodgers the comic on as his special guest star and was in stitches at Ted’s lame quips. It was a lamentable show and soon taken off the air. But what a betrayal of the family story it would have been to say I did not like Frank Ifield any more, the equivalent of Lear’s daughters rejecting the ageing king.
I remember a similar incident with Uncle Joe and Auntie Pegg. The family story was that I loved jaffa cakes, and when many years later jaffa cakes and marshmallows were on offer I had to choose the jaffa cakes even though I now preferred marshmallows. I watched my sisters eating marshmallows as I was stuck with the jaffa cakes that fate had ordained for me, observed by smiling Joe and Pegg, agents of this inexorable fatality; the family story was being fulfilled.

September 15 maman, c’est quoi, l’amour?

L’amour c’est quand vous donnez quelque chose que vous ne possedez pas a quelqu’un qui n’existe pas.
Lorsque les gens tombent amoureux leur facon de voir le monde subit une transformation. Certains ont meme qualifie cette condition de maladie, tant la perception du monde exterieur est changee. Une fois la decision est prise d’accepter la condition d’etre amouteux, notre pauvre souffrant a tendance a voir seulement ce qui lui plait chez l’objet de ses affections. Tout ce que l’autre a ou fait devient l’ideal, et meme la notion de l’ideal s’adapte pour ressembler a l’image du bien-aime. Bref, premier perdant c’est la realite. La personne qu’on croit aimer n’existe pas.
Qui plus est, pour etre a la hauteur de cet amour d’un etre qui est la perfection meme, la personne qui aime ne peut pas rester toute normale. Comment sa realite pourrait-elle seduire l’objet idealise de ses sentiments? Il faut donc que nous nous equippions de qualites, de vertus et de charmes qu’on ne possede pas en realite.
La rencontre de ces deux etre ressemble donc a un rendez-vous de fantomes: celui qui se prend pour quelqu’un d’autre et celle qui n’existe meme pas. Pas etonnant que quand la realite se pointe et le couple se reveille de son sommeil maladif, la deception est grande.
C’est ca, L’amour, mon petit.

(Love is when you give something you do not have to someone who does not exist.
When two people fall in love their way of seeing the world undergoes a metamorphosis. Our perception of the outside world is so transformed that you might see this love as a kind of sickness. Now once the decision is taken to be ‘in love’, the poor patient tends to see only the good things in the object of his affections. Everything that the other person has or does becomes the ideal, and even the notion of what is ideal adapts to resemble the image of the true-love. So reality is the first loser. The person we think we love does not exist.
Moreover, to be remarkable enough to merit the love of this person who is perfection itself, you cannot remain your normal self. How could the truth about you succeed in seducing the idealised object of your affections? So we must equip ourselves with qualities, virtues and charms that we don’t really possess.
So the meeting of these two people is like a rendezvous of two ghosts: the one who takes himself to be someone else hitching up with the one who doesn’t even exist. It is hardly surprising that when the scales fall from their eyes and the couple wakes up from their sickness, the disappointment is great indeed.
That is love, my child)

September 7 western scepticism

My friend knew a Turkish man in Istanbul whom she thought we could have a coffee with while we were there. We received the text from the Turkish friend.
‘We will pick you up. Don’t eat much this afternoon.’
Immediately Western European fatigue is ignited. ‘We’? How many of them are there? I envisage a Pride of Oriental cousins. ‘Don’t eat too much’? A seven course meal with the requirement not to insult the hosts. How to phrase the reply? How to dampen enthusiasm?
‘Sounds great. Don’t go to too much trouble. Feeling a bit tired. Will need to be back by 11.30.’
As we text the message back we feel a bit pathetic. Practically every word of the reply was an attempt to mitigate any potential experience. Well, I am tired. The call to prayer has woken me up at five every morning this week.
Anyway, it turned out quite nice in the end. We are a bit rubbish.

September 7 airports and aeroplanes

I came to flying late. I used to go to Paris by the night ferry. When I could afford it the short flight was preferable. Less cruel hoarding of passengers into shacks in midnight ferry terminal rain. Less vomit. The plane remains a sober environment today. There is little space for commercial activity. Just a quick passage of a duty-free trolley which seems more symbolic than anything else these days.
However, it is at the airport where our worst dreams materialise. At the airport there is space for Man to work on his environment. Behind security the Circle of Hell is manifest: the brainless parade of air staff who all still seem to think this is the 1960s when flying may have been glamorous; the themed restaurants catering for every type of stereotype from sports bar to Latin pizza; the belligerent brands and their snob values all now twice the price of what you can get on the|High street; and, worst of all, the inane stamping and clipping of tickets perpetrated by certain uniform-loving lands (if I were an aspergic six year old boy I’d love it). Please show me to the airport mosque for some silent meditation.