Friday, January 29, 2021

Language is wine upon the lips

 I was looking at some Proust yesterday. Specifically the C. K. Scott Moncrieff version “Remembrance of Things Past.”  Philistine that I am, it made me weep with laughter:

For a long time I used to go to bed early. Sometimes, when I had put out my candle, my eyes would close so quickly that I had not even time to say "I'm going to sleep." And half an hour later the thought that it was time to go to sleep would awaken me; I would try to put away the book which, I imagined, was still in my hands, and to blow out the light; I had been thinking all the time, while I was asleep, of what I had just been reading, but my thoughts had run into a channel of their own, until I myself seemed actually to have become the subject of my book: a church, a quartet, the rivalry between François I and Charles V. This impression would persist for some moments after I was awake; it did not disturb my mind, but it lay like scales upon my eyes and prevented them from registering the fact that the candle was no longer burning.

The immortal Beachcomber (J.B. Morton) was brought irresistibly to mind. "Ah, Lolotte has just entered. Lolotte, the little dancer from the Brebis Qui Tousse, who used to shoot plums off trees with a rook-rifle - how long ago?"

Any road, I started googling the great man to see if I could find any more Rive Gauche first-person-singular riffing when I came across "Morton was born at Park Lodge, Mitcham Road, Tooting." Further research revealed "the house where he was born, now demolished, was on the site of what is now the Morley’s store on the corner of Franciscan Road." I feel that there is a pilgrimage in my future if a 15 minute walk counts as a pilgrimage.

Morton applied his love of the surreal not just to his writing but to everyday life. Walking through Guildford one day with Gerald Barry, Morton stopped at a pillar box. He talked into its opening: "Are you alright, my little man? Don't worry, we'll soon get you out." Soon, a concerned crowd gathered to see who was trapped inside. Somebody summoned the fire brigade to help, while Morton and Barry made a discreet exit. Events like this were quite frequent: on another occasion he littered Virginia Woolf's front doorstep with dozens of empty, quart-sized brown ale bottles.

I have added littering Morley's front doorstep with empty brown ale bottles to my to-do list.

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