You're gorgeous, you old hag, and if I could give you just one gift ever for the rest of your life it would be this. Confidence. It would be the gift of confidence. Either that or a scented candle
Dexter, I love you so much. So, so much, and I probably always will. I just don't like you anymore. I'm sorry.
What are you going to do with your life? In one way or another it seemed that people had been asking her this forever; teachers, her parents, friends at three in the morning, but the question had never seemed this pressing and still she was no nearer an answer... Live each day as if it's your last', that was the conventional advice, but really, who had the energy for that? What if it rained or you felt a bit glandy? It just wasn't practical. Better by far to be good and courageous and bold and to make difference. Not change the world exactly, but the bit around you. Cherish your friends, stay true to your principles, live passionately and fully and well. Experience new things. Love and be loved, if you ever get the chance.
You know what I can't understand? You have all these people telling you all the time how great you are, smart and funny and talented and all that, I mean endlessly, I've been telling you for years. So why don't you believe it? why do you think people say that stuff, Em? Do you think it's a conspiracy, people secretly ganging up to be nice about you?
Call me sentimental, but there's no-one in the world that I'd like to see get dysentery more than you
This is me.’ He handed her the precious scrap of paper. ‘Call me or I’ll call you, but one of us will call, yes? What I mean is it’s not a competition. You don’t lose if you phone first.
She drinks pints of coffee and writes little observations and ideas for stories with her best fountain pen on the linen-white pages of expensive notebooks. Sometimes, when it's going badly, she wonders if what she believes to be a love of the written word is really just a fetish for stationery.
For his thirtieth birthday he had filled a whole night-club off Regent Street; people had been queuing on the pavement to get in. The SIM card of his mobile phone in his pocket was overflowing with telephone numbers of all the hundreds of people he had met in the last ten years, and yet the only person he had ever wanted to talk to in all that time was standing now in the very next room.
No, this, she felt, was real life and if she wasn’t as curious or passionate as she had once been, that was only to be expected. It would be inappropriate, undignified, at thirty-eight, to conduct friendships or love affairs with the ardour and intensity of a twenty-two-year-old. Falling in love like that? Writing poetry, crying at pop songs? Dragging people into photo-booths, taking a whole day to make a compilation tape, asking people if they wanted to share your bed, just for company? If you quoted Bob Dylan or T.S. Eliot or, God forbid, Brecht at someone these days they would smile politely and step quietly backwards, and who would blame them? Ridiculous, at thirty-eight, to expect a song or book or film to change your life. No, everything had evened out and settled down and life was lived against a general background hum of comfort, satisfaction and familiarity. There would be no more of these nerve-jangling highs and lows. The friends they had now would be the friends they had in five, ten, twenty years’ time. They expected to get neither dramatically richer or poorer; they expected to stay healthy for a little while yet. Caught in the middle; middle class, middle-aged; happy in that they were not overly happy. Finally, she loved someone and felt fairly confident that she was loved in return. If someone asked Emma, as they sometimes did at parties, how she and her husband had met, she told them:‘We grew up together.
He put one hand lightly on the back of her neck and simultaneously she placed one hand lightly on his hip, and they kissed in the street as all around them people hurried home in the summer light, and it was the sweetest kiss that either of them would ever know. This is where it all begins. Everything starts here, today. And then it was over.
What if it rained or you felt a bit glandy? It just wasn't practical. Better by far to simply try and be good and courageous and bold and to make a difference. Not change the world exactly, but the bit around you.
Sometimes, when it’s going badly, she wonders if what she believes to be a love of the written word is really just a fetish for stationery. The true writer, the born writer, will scribble words on scraps of litter, the back of a bus tickets, on the wall of a cell. Emma is lost on anything less than 120gsm.
the crucial thing about an education is the opportunity tat it brings, the doors it opens, because otherwise knowledge, in and of itself, is a blind alley
Okay, well I think the programme is like being screamed at for an hour by a drunk with a strobe-light, but like I said--
It would be inappropiate, undignified, at 38, to conduct friendships or love affairs with the ardour or intensity of a 22 year old. Falling in love like that? Writing poetry? Crying at pop songs? Dragging people into photobooths? Taking a whole day to make a compilation tape? Asking people if they wanted to share your bed, just for company? If you quoted Bob Dylan or TS Eliot or, god forbid, Brecht at someone these days they would smile politely and step quietly backwards, and who would blame them? Ridiculous, at 38, to expect a song or book or film to change your life.
A moment passed, perhaps half a second when their faces said what they felt, and then Emma was smiling, laughing, her arms around his neck.
If you're my friend I should be able to talk to you but I can't, and if I can't talk to you, well, what is the point of you? Of us?
So they were pen pals now, Emma composing long, intense letters crammed with jokes and underlining, forced banter and barely concealed longing; two-thousand-word acts of love on air-mail paper. Letters, like compilation tapes, were really vehicles for unexpressed emotions and she was clearly putting far too much time and energy into them. In return, Dexter sent her postcards with insufficient postage: ‘Amsterdam is MAD’, ‘Barcelona INSANE’, ‘Dublin ROCKS. Sick as DOG this morning.’ As a travel writer, he was no Bruce Chatwin, but still she would slip the postcards in the pocket of a heavy coat on long soulful walks on Ilkley Moor, searching for some hidden meaning in ‘VENICE COMPLETELY FLOODED!!!!
I'm just not prepared to be treated like this anymore.''Treated like what?'She sighed, and it was a moment before she spoke. 'Like you always want to be somewhere else, with someone else.
No, friends were like clothes: fine while they lasted but eventually they wore thin or you grew out of them.
Their friendship was like a wilted bunch of flowers that she insisted on topping up with water. Why not let it die instead? It was unrealistic to expect a friendship to last forever…
Dexter, I love you so much. So, so much, and I probably always will.' Her lips touched his cheek. 'I just don't like you anymore. I'm sorry.
All young people worry about things, it's a natural and inevitable part of growing up, and at the age of sixteen my greatest anxiety in life was that I'd never again achieve anything as good, or pure, or noble, or true, as my O-level results.
You start out wanting to change the world through language, and end up thinking it's enough to tell a few good jokes.
a brief history of artCave paintings. Clay then bronze statues. Then for about 1,400 years, people painted nothing except bold but rudimentary pictures of either the Virgin Mary and Child or the Crucifixion. Some bright spark realised that things in the distance looked smaller and the pictures of the Virgin Mary and the Crucifixion improved hugely. Suddenly everyone was good at hands and facial expression and now the statues were in marble. Fat cherubs started appearing, while elsewhere there was a craze for domestic interiors and women standing by windows doing needlework. Dead pheasants and bunches of grapes and lots of detail. Cherubs disappeared and instead there were fanciful, idealised landscapes, then portraits of aristocrats on horseback, then huge canvasses of battles and shipwrecks. Then it was back to women lying on sofas or getting out of the bath, murkier this time, less detailed then a great many wine bottles and apples, then ballet dancers. Paintings developed a certain splodginess - critical term - so that they barely resembled what they were meant to be. Someone signed a urinal, and it all went mad. Neat squares of primary colour were followed by great blocks of emulsion, then soup cans, then someone picked up a video camera, someone else poured concrete, and the whole thing became hopelessly fractured into a kind of confusing, anything-goes free for all.
Well I can tell you now that married life is not a plateau, not at all. There are ravines and great jagged peaks and hidden crevasses that send the both of you scrabbling into darkness. Then there are dull, parched stretches that you feel will never end, and much of the journey is in fraught silence, and sometimes you can't see the other person at all, sometimes they drift off very far away from you, quite out of sight, and the journey is hard. It is just very, very, very hard.
Our biographies involve each other so intrinsically now that we're both on nearly every page. We know the answers because we were there, and so curiosity becomes hard to maintain; replaced, I suppose, by nostalgia.
Over-familiar, the music has become a kind of audio-Valium, background music rather than something I listen to actively and attentively. A gin and tonic after a long day. A shame, I think, because while each note remains the same, I used to hear them differently. It used to sound better.
By the time Albie is my age I will be long gone, or, best-case scenario, barricaded into my living module with enough rations to see out my days. But outside, I imagine vast, unregulated factories where workers count themselves lucky to toil through eighteen-hour days for less than a living wage before pulling on their gas masks to fight their way through the unemployed masses who are bartering with the mutated chickens and old tin-cans that they use for currency, those lucky workers returning to tiny, crowded shacks in a vast megalopolis where a tree is never seen, the air is thick with police drones, where car-bomb explosions, typhoons and freak hailstorms are so commonplace as to be barely remarked upon. Meanwhile, in the literally gilded towers above the carcinogenic smog, the privileged 1 per cent of businessmen, celebrities and entrepeneurs look down through bullet-proof windows, accept coktails in strange glasses from the robot waiters hovering nearby and laugh their tinkling laughs and somewhere, down there in that hellish, stewing mess of violence, poverty and desperation, is my son, Albie Petersen, a wandering minstrel with his guitar and his keen interest in photography, still refusing to wear a decent coat.
Maybe they're in love.And is that what love looks like - all wet mouths and your skirt rucked up?Sometines it is.
I'm just not going to do it so that we can say that we've done it. And I'm not going to do it if the first thing you say afterwards is 'please don't tell anyone' or 'let's forget it ever happened'. If you have to keep something secret it's because you shouldn't be doing it in the first place!
All his words and actions would now be fit for his daughter’s ears and eyes. Life would be lived as if under [her] constant scrutiny. He would never do anything that might cause her pain or anxiety or embarrassment and there would be nothing, absolutely nothing in his life to be ashamed of anymore.
Self-pitying, self-righteous, self-important, all the selfs except self-confident, the quality that she always needed the most.