Uit: Auberon Waugh’s hilarious memories of the family mansion now for sale
“Returning to my home in Wiltshire after lunch with friends on Easter Day 1966, I found a policeman waiting outside the door with a long face.
Was I Auberon Alexander Waugh of this address?
For a terrible moment, I thought that something had happened to the children, left behind with our help Lolita who spoke no English.
It came as a relief when he said that my father, then 62, had died suddenly at Combe Florey House, the Waugh family home in Somerset.
It transpired that after a Latin mass in the parish church at nearby Wiveliscombe, he had failed to turn up at lunch and been found dead of a heart attack in the downstairs lavatory.
When I arrived at Combe Florey towards midnight, the house still smelled strongly of paraldehyde, the foul substance he took as a sleeping draught. In the heightened awareness of the moment, that familiar, revolting smell seemed to have the odour of sanctity.
That night there was a fire in the house. Somebody had left a door of the Aga in the kitchen open and it became hot, setting various things alight.
Firemen tramped through Combe Florey, squirting things, before being given glasses of Guinness and sent away. My mother Laura, the widow Waugh as she became from that moment, remained in her bedroom and did not emerge through all the night’s alarms and excursions.
In the days that followed, my father’s body lay in the library, boxed up in a coffin to await burial and attended in shifts by members of the family.
My feeling of relief on hearing of his death remained an ingredient in the mixture of emotions.
In his last year at Combe Florey, he had many of his teeth drawn, choosing to have it done without anaesthetic, for some impenetrable reason of his own (the vulgar new school of literary biographer attributed it to some strain of sexual masochism, but I am not persuaded by this).
In the event, his teeth seem to have been drawn not only physically but also metaphorically. Where before he had been gloomy, bad tempered and on occasions aggressive, he became benign and affectionate, but still his death lifted a great brooding awareness not only from Combe Florey but from the whole of existence.”
Auberon Waugh (17 november 1939 -16 januari 2001)
So what did I manage to do?
Me – for years I did nothing.
Just looked out the window.
Raindrops soaked into the lawn,
year in, year out.
That lawn was soft grass, high class.
Blackbirds strolled across it.
Later, tiny flowers blossomed, fine strings of beads,
most likely in spring.
Me – I didn’t do a thing.
Winter and simmer revolved among blades of grass.
I slept as much as possible.
That window was as big as it needed to be.
Whatever was needed
I saw in that window.
FROM DAY TO NIGHT
Every day I rise from sleep again
as if for the last time.
I don’t know what awaits me,
perhaps it follows logically, then,
that nothing awaits me.
The spring on its way
is like the spring gone by.
I know about the month of May
but pay it no mind.
For me there’s no border between night and day,
just that night is colder
though silence is equal to them both.
At dawn I hear the voices of birds.
I fall asleep easily
out of affection for them.
The one who is dear to me is not here,
perhaps he simply is not.
I cross over from day to night
from day to day
like a feather
the bird doesn’t feel as it falls away.
Dahlia Ravikovitch (17 november 1936 – 21 augustus 2005)
Uit: Baby Love
I just got off the phone with the nurse from Dr. Lowen’s office. I picked up the old brown Trimline phone that’s been in this retreat cabin of my mother’s forever, and a woman’s voice asked for me and I said, This is she, and the voice said, It’s Becky from Dr. Lowen’s office. And I said, Uh-huh. Then Becky said, The result from the latest test was positive, and I said, Positive? And she said, Yes, you are no longer borderline pregnant.
No longer borderline pregnant? I thought I might fall over. I looked out the window at the leaves of the poplar trees shimmering in the breeze. My eyes settled on a vulture falling from the sky in a perfect spiral. He was flapping then gliding, flapping then gliding as he descended, and I thought to myself: I will remember this moment and that vulture for the rest of my life. I thought to myself: That vulture is a sign. A part of me is dying.
And then the nurse said, Hello? And I said, Yes, I am here. Are you sure I am pregnant? And she said, Yes. And I said, Really? Areyou sure? You’re not going call me back in two hours and say you made a mistake? She said, No. And I said, Well, how do you know? She sighed. It was a ridiculous question, but since she had been telling me for a week that after three blood draws they still couldn’t tell if I was really pregnant, I felt justified. So I pushed. Well, what do you know today that you didn’t yesterday? And she said, The HCG levels are definitely going up. HCG levels? Yes, in the last twenty-four hours the pregnancy hormone count has risen from 700 to over 2,300, and that usually means a healthy, robust beginning.”
Rebecca Walker (Jackson, 17 november 1969)
Zie voor nog meer schrijvers van de 17e november ook mijn vorige blog van vandaag.