1. i’m sometimes greatly disillusioned and disgusted by my job, so little good does it seem to do, but tell myself that i often seem to cheer people up or at least poke them like a frotteur on a crowded Tokyo train, and the stories and experiences i absorb perhaps make me a rounder person (as i am slowly losing the 1.5 stone of fat i put on a couple of years ago) and may help with my fictions. Some students i have at the moment, who surprise me:
1.1. The Wolf. Ex-head of Communications for a large engineering company, he left when a new CEO took over and is now improving his rusty English and idly looking around for jobs. He was, as is German, standoffish and alarmed at first, but by the second lesson we discovered an affinity for films and TV and literature, and in the last lesson we talked about Apocalypse Now, Chinatown, Patton, and True Detective. i was surprised to find he’d studied German and English Literature at university, and got a job in Communications without any specialist training, and as he calmly told me, after a decade in his last job, he won’t have any problems finding a new job. He’s early 50s and i guess in that generation it wasn’t necessary to have a MA or PhD in just exactly what you want to do – i think this changed in the late 90s, when i was at Durham, so it wasn’t even possible to work in a library because i only had a BA and MA in English Lit, and apparently required a MA in Librarianship to do a job that, i guess, most people learn “by doing”.
i recited dialogue from True Detective in Rust Cohle’s voice, with his manner; the Wolf said, amused,”You should work in theatre”, something i’ve heard from several students now, as i inadvertently slip into the posture & voice of my “character” when i relate an anecdote or act out a scene from TV or film. i don’t feel i could act professionally – for one thing i’m sure i’m now too old & haggard to begin, and i guess it’s the same as in publishing, that if you don’t suck the right cock you don’t stand a chance. Germans are hopeless at impersonation so they tend to see my fairly normal English ability as astonishing, but i think it’s more an adjunct to teaching for me, not something i could live off.
1.2 Martin. i guess about 50, well-dressed, pleasant, serious, focussed, a project manager for the company the Wolf left earlier this year. He’s an engineer who supervises engineering projects, and has a blue collar hands-on, pragmatic approach. He told me how he once slipped down a mountain while climbing, broke part of his spine, and then managed to walk back to his car and drive home in agony, but then couldn’t get out of the seat so just sat in his car, on his drive, till his wife appeared and asked him, Are you drunk? He didn’t think there was anything exceptional about his behaviour, and when i asked why he hadn’t called a doctor or mountain rescue, he shrugged and said it wasn’t so bad, only a broken bit of bone in his spine after all. When not working he seems to spend a lot of his time skiing on black slopes, and likes “speed hiking” in the mountains at dawn. He recently went on a manly skiing weekend with manly friends; when i asked “does your wife let you just disappear with your friends?” he said, nonplussed, “I am married, not in prison”. Which struck me as amusing, given that my ghetto boxer friend Bonehead could only meet his friends when his power woman girlfriend was working on Saturdays, and often had to lie to her and pretend to be cleaning the flat etc., when he was in fact meeting me in Leeds for people-watching and cranberry juice.
1.3 Miss Threadgold, my 24-year-old fashion sales assistant student. Today, as she stood close to me and measured my head against hers, then said, “I’m taller than you!”, i reflected that she’s the kind of girl i would have fallen in love with, 15 years ago. We have an odd kind of pedagogical relationship, as we talk fairly openly about relationships, tits, Moomins, etc., and last week she told me she’d broken up with her most recent boyfriend. Now that i’m nearly 40 i feel she comes from a different, younger world, and i remarked amiably, “you’re young enough to be my daughter”. Today, i told her “I dislike women” and when she made ungermanly flabbergasted noises of outrage, i added airily, “you’re okay, you’re special“. She said that several men have made exactly the same comment and often say she’s more like a man (she is, in one sense, feminine, but is very untypical, with, for example, an impressive knowledge of action films; she’s also one of the few pretty girls i’ve met who reads real books). i explained that she doesn’t seem masculine to me, but she’s not a standard factory-produced female. For example, she said a friend of hers works in Insurance and groaned “How boring!”, i cavilled “well, some great writers worked in Insurance” and she immediately said “Kafka”. Good girl, i thought, and added, “and Wallace Stevens” and she asked how to spell the name and noted it down, and i will brutally give her Notes towards a Supreme Fiction for homework next week, and demand a lengthy commentary:
The death of one god is the death of all.
Let purple Phoebus lie in umber harvest,
Let Phoebus slumber and die in autumn umber,
Phoebus is dead, ephebe. But Phoebus was
A name for something that never could be named.
There was a project for the sun and is.
There is a project for the sun. The sun
Must bear no name, gold flourisher, but be
In the difficulty of what it is to be.
With Miss Threadgold, as i think with the Wolf, education and a love of supreme fictions has provided insulation from 21st century so-called culture. So the Wolf left his last job because he didn’t agree with the new CEO’s approach or character, and Miss Threadgold has an iron integrity under all that femininity and luxuriant brown hair and mirth. She doesn’t have a smartphone or Facebook account, and say she still writes letters by hand to friends. For a 24-year-old, this is unusual.
2. i don’t watch Top Gear but am saddened that Jeremy Clarkson looks set to be booted from the show. For non-Brits, it’s a manly car show where the 50-something Clarkson drives cars and makes manly comments. Here’s a typical episode, where he tests the awful BMW X6:
It’s probably one of the BBC’s most profitable shows, and i guess most of this is down to Clarkson’s bloke-charisma. He will be about the same age as the Wolf, and comes from a time when i think it was easier to get a decent job without playing the HR cookie-cutter game, of being a team-playing problem-solver and blue-sky thinker with all the right progressive opinions. He apparently bitch slapped some BBC apparatchik who calls himself Oisin, and the BBC are using this as a pretext for a purge. As the Viking once commented, the BBC/Guardianista socialists who call anyone right of Mao “a Nazi” would have been appalled by the opinions of the men (and women) who actually had the cojones and guts to fight and defeat the Nazis.
3. Clarkson is popular because, for all his flamboyant public persona, he doesn’t seem to be pushing a political agenda or carefully tailoring his utterances to score brownie points. In a world of pervasive Public Relations and doublethink, this is exceptional. So, the reason he’s popular is also the reason the BBC are determined to get rid of him – because he’s basically just a real human being who doesn’t censor himself, doesn’t carefully play the right angles, doesn’t consult a PR agency before opening his mouth. He is a younger Prince Philip, a relic from an age where human beings were somehow larger, did not instinctively muffle or mutilate themselves to fit into progressive agendas. Today, it’s shocking to find a real human being, warts and all, who has any kind of public authority, but in the fairly recent past this was actually just how people were.
In our last class, the Wolf told me that the media now prefers to treat everything in terms of character, and the potential for scandal is everywhere to be considered. The result, i think, is a race of insincere, pandering, apple polishing human beings, who automatically have all the right opinions and mouth all the received orthodoxies, a Pravda culture. It’s not that ordinary people have changed so much, as that the very thin stratum of media folk have decided what is acceptable and what is abhorrent. Media people tend to be inveterate polishers and cocksuckers, people without any substantial, private humanity – they are surface creatures, who live only in order to attend nice little cocktail parties where they reinforce each other’s received worldview.
4. In the Pravda culture, a real private human being, unadorned and unpolished, and really unpolishable, is inevitably taken to be an affront to all right-thinking polishers. The real human being is no longer admissible to the precincts of power. Of course, all human beings are human beings, but i think we are highly malleable creatures and a privacy of thought is essential to our full nature; and this is no longer permissible. Clarkson is not remarkable – or wouldn’t be, except that to be an ordinary untrammeled human being is now publicly unacceptable. Like Stallone’s Demolition Man, Clarkson is how human beings once were, and in our time he seems extraordinary, unspeakable, dangerous. Perhaps he should be cryogenically frozen and thawed out to deal with the chav spawn in a generation. That would be, frankly, an awesome film.