Monday, 19 January 2009

A Voyage Round John Mortimer

So, now I've never met John Mortimer either. Having watched 'Voyage Round my Father' at the age of 11 or 12 and had his book Clinging to the Wreckage as my thirteenth birthday present (what other newly-minted teenager would have done that?) and loved them both, not only did I not become a barrister (though people told me that I should) but neither did I do something so great I might have been on the same guest list as him, and might have at the very least been in the self-same room as him. Of course, the old toad has his faults - the women, the champagne breakfasts. (Actually, they're not faults at all, come to think of it.) But now another great figure from my lifetime lives no more.

Its been the same all along. I was at Hull University when Philip Larkin died. I could have talked to him, too, many times. I remember walking past him on the so-called 'Great White Way' (oh, lore!) looking into those mischievous eyes and thinking to myself - perhaps I ought to stop and tell him how much I enjoyed The Whitsun Weddings? The old curmudgeon would have either smiled and tottered on his way to the staff bar thinking 'what a tit' or else berate me for being so presumptuous as to breathe the same air he did. And so ignoring him was all that I could do, my only option. And I've ignored celebrities ever since. Not that either Sir John Mortimer or the nearly-poet laureate were what you'd call celebrities, in the Channel Four sense. They'd never have had them on Big Brother! If they had (notwithstanding practical difficulties such as reincarnation) I might have watched it. Now it's too late. Never mind. I hope God's ready for an argument or two.

11 comments:

Eryl Shields said...

I was just going to lurk for a while without commenting but, you're university librarian was Philip Larkin! How could I not comment on that?

Also, I actually began a law degree (many years ago, hated it) because I wanted to be Rumpole.

Jennyta said...

Coincidentally, I have just finished reading his novel 'Paradise Postponed.' Oh, and I went to college in Hull too!

The Dotterel said...

Well, he was for two out of the three years I was there Eryl. Maybe I finished him off? Seriously, he was rather a shambling figure, I'm afraid - stammering through the Librarian's talk to undergrads and sleeping through the graduation ceremonies. Still, a legend.

I haven't read PP yet Jenny - but will be doing soon. Were you at Hull at the same time as Larkin?

Gadjo Dilo said...

Dot, I remember when Larkin died; I actually phoned Hull University library and asked if there was some ceremony that I could attend and pay my respects! I was told "yes, if you really want to you can come and gaze upon his Parker pen and his India rubber" or some such thing. The Whitsun Weddings was a great poem but, looking back on his oeuvre, he was a miserable git.

Jennyta said...

Sadly no - 1967-1970. I am quite old, you know. ;)

The Dotterel said...

Outrageous, Gadj. Didn't they tell you about the memorial service at St Mary's?

Even better, Jenny - that was Larkin's heyday at the library, wasn't it?

Gadjo Dilo said...

I think the invitation must have got lost in the post, Dot. I would have gone though - Britain needs to honour her great poets, whether miserable or otherwise.

Steerforth said...

John Mortimer's a role model for anyone who aspires to be a bon viveur. He should have died years ago - he was a physical wreck - but carried on writing, wining, dining and touring right up until the end.

Old age certainly didn't wither his acerbic wit either.

As for Larkin - if only they hadn't burned the diaries!

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Yes I never know how to act in the presence of greatness without a valid introduction either and made a complete t*t of myself in front of Nathanial Parker (aka Inspector Lynley) not once but twice - on two SEPARATE occasions by turning into Blunderwoman!

To be fair to you, Larkin's head was probably big enough already and he probably had several people's quota of self-esteem.

Red Rum said...

If people like PL and JM were on BB, I'd watch it in a heartbeat - was brilliant when Ken Russell was on albeit v briefly

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