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Reading Aloud

Aldous

It bores me a little writing about Aldous so often. He doesn’t change at all. He told me he had observed a change in me. He, his wife and my husband were discussing all sorts of hypothetical things they knew nothing about. It bored me terribly. What is the point of speculating?

I told him I had lost interest in the “occult” and related subjects, and he said he had indeed noticed a change in me. I had a little heart beating, a feeling of exposure, I suppose, and asked him to explain. He had observed, he said, a tendency away from “exposed views”. I told him my everyday life held all my attention and kept me busy, I had no time left for anything else. That was his impression, he said. What with my family and responsibilities as a mother and wife, I had probably become more…earthbound! I don’t know what he meant by that, but said the opposite might be true. He was quite willing to grant me that, too!

I know what he has observed: I’ve stopped talking about food, alternative medicine, dangerous chemicals, etc. In fact he finds it difficult these days to have an argument with me. Perhaps he misses that. He said recently that a lot of what I had said in former years was quite right! Pity he didn’t acknowledge that at the time. I’ve grown out of it now. He’s just a bit behind.

He talked about their own mushrooms, how good they were, how exquisitely flavoured, grown in the field on natural cow-manure. Did we know what terrible chemical treatment mass-produced mushrooms get? He and his wife raised their eyebrows at the thought of it and I shuddered duly. They don’t grow their own cabbage and therefore don’t talk about the chemicals mass-produced cabbage is getting…Pointless putting oneself off…

They then had us spellbound by discussing the new terrible disease which was able to spread due to “immoral” behaviour. Fancy the Church not speaking up and showing people the right way! Keeping up the practice of communal chalice as well! They were indignant and I bored. I yawned, and he must have thought I was exhausted and maybe Zn deficient after all…My husband says he’ s very perceptive…
After that they told us about a TV programme: a murderer who had two different personalities; a woman with even six or seven different ones – reduced to three for the purposes of a film that had been made about her, etc., etc.

My husband said, was it time to make tea – a ritual meaning that the end of the evening is near. I brought in the tea and the conversation became more lively.
Aldous complained about the sloppy use of language, people using words without being aware of their meaning, using meaningless words in fact. Like “anticipate”. The meaning it has and the meaning American usage has imposed on it. A degradation of the language. Not being a native speaker, I could only say that the supposedly American usage was the only one I knew which means it must have been around for quite a few years.

Accusing people of sloppy use of language, on the other hand, using meaningless words, using words lightly without meaning them— what about him saying with a laugh: “If such and such an ‘evil force’ offered me to make me younger by twenty years, I wouldn’t want it.” Why mention ‘evil force’? Aldous turned this way and that, looking for a way out with a joke, offering far-fetched explanations, questioning other people’s intelligence, becoming entangled with the grammatical structure of conditional clauses – all the time valiantly supported by his wife, like an echo – until in the end he was pinned down mercilessly, much to my husband’s delight who declared relief at seeing “somebody else at the receiving end”. Aldous answered: “You have it all the time, do you?” Anyway, all Aldous had wanted to say, I understood, was “If he could have twenty years of his life back…”. He thought this was rather a dry way of putting it, therefore he had chosen a more “flowery” expression.

I asked him about the meaning of “In the beginning was the word…” I shouldn’t have done, because he said “word” means “purpose” and then indulged himself for the umpteenth time in a talk on his favourite idea: the universe being governed by purpose. I yawned again. It was nearly midnight. They left us thanking us for a lovely evening.

Aldous was due to see his doctor next day to have his ears syringed. Full of wax, his wife explained, he could hardly hear…