Yes, a good night last night in an extremely crowded Ale Wagon drinking hob with Jan and thinking about drinking and thinking, inter alia. There was a group of people opposite us with plates of cakes which they subsequently came round selling for Red Nose day – I bought one and very delicious it was too, though not particularly funny… and, whether it was that we were discussing philosophy and whether I shall go to Bettina’s class next term where the theme is ‘consciousness’, I don’t know, but this morning I found myself – as you do – comparing Proust to Caesar’s Gallic Wars.
Here’s why: Caesar, as you know, starts off saying something like, ‘Having done so-and-so and sent out the centurions to such a place to do whatever, and having parleyed with so-and-so who had travelled from somewhere else and having ordered the thingy to do the wotsit – THEN I finally got to the main verb so everyone could see what I actually DID! Here’s a bit from Book Five, through which I laboured when at school:
These matters being settled, Caesar went to port Itius with the legions. There he discovers that forty ships, which had been built in the country of the Meldi, having been driven back by a storm, had been unable to maintain their course, and had returned to the same port from which they had set out; he finds the rest ready for sailing, and furnished with every thing. In the same place, the cavalry of the whole of Gaul, in number 4,000, assembles, and [also] the chief persons of all the states; he had determined to leave in Gaul a very few of them, whose fidelity toward him he had clearly discerned, and take the rest with him as hostages; because he feared a commotion in Gaul when he should be absent.
That looks a whole lot more simple than I remember it, but don’t forget I was attempting to translate from the Latin!
Compare and contrast with Proust, who writes thus: ‘When I woke in the morning I saw the light coming in through the window which so-and-so had commanded to be arranged in such a way after her relationship with so-and-so which caused her to behave in such a way, a thing which my mother, who had been through such an experience and thought in such a way, did not at all like, and so I ramble on for about a page before finally GETTING TO THE MAIN VERB!!!
I mean, what? Did he go through all that just to lie under a slab? Yes, according to yesterday’s Mercury, the Cathedral in its infinite wisdom is planning to lay Richard under a slab, even though the Richard III society has already paid for a tomb. Oh no – that woman’s going to be so upset… what’s her name? Oh yes, Phillippa Langley. Apparently the tomb cost £30,000 and has already been paid for – though why they went ahead and did that without knowing it would be used, I’m not sure. To be fair, I can see the cathedral‘s point – it is after all a place of worship and not a tourist destination – however realistically a lot of people are going to want to come and see Richard and it does seem a shame that the claims of religion and those of tourism can’t be reconciled as they are in other places: after all a lot of cathedrals are also tourist destinations. Including – ahem! – York Minster.
Oh, no! My lines have gone all narrow. I don’t know what’s happening. Help! I’m getting squeezed and I don’t know what to do about it. Anyway, according to the Mercury’s poll 91% of respondents wanted the tomb rather than the slab: what is certain, though, is that York don’t have a leg to stand on as the university, having undertaken the excavation – and let’s not forget that when they started they didn’t think they were going to find anything – that they have the power to decide where the body will be buried and have already signed an agreement with the cathedral. So there!