After tea and sandwiches on the verandah, the guests left, to be followed soon after by Patrick and Maureen. Neither had spoken a word to me all day. I was waiting to close the gate behind them when Patrick stopped the car, wound down his window and snarled, ‘You are going to regret this for the rest of your miserable, disgusting, perverted life, you filthy pederast.’ He gunned the motor, spraying me with dust and stones and sped away.
‘I’m not, never have been and never will be a pederast,’ I whispered as I closed the gate and retraced my steps down the drive, slipping unconsciously into the adolescent mantra I used to chant endlessly to keep myself sane. ‘I am a normal human being. I have no power to change the way I was born. I am as worthy as the next person. I do no harm to anyone. I am not evil. I am not perverted. I will not burn forever on the fires of hell. These are the lies of bigots who seek to control others through fear. My worth does not reside in my sexual orientation, but in my thoughts and actions. I will not permit anyone to destroy my self-esteem.’
The rest of the day was like old times. A burden had been lifted, guilt was gone, and we relaxed in our friendship. Hank was interested in my plans for the gallery and they were both thrilled that Max’s vision was to be continued, at least for a time. I shared their excitement about a proposed summer cruise around the Pacific Islands. We laughed at memories of house building, of the arguments and disagreements that had to be sorted before any decision could be taken, and marvelled at how excellently the house had turned out. They were still very happy with it.
‘Don’t you miss your legal practice?’ I asked…
‘Having few personal problems doesn’t mean we are free of concerns,’ added Hank. ‘A glance through a newspaper or five minutes of television news provides anyone with a conscience with enough anxiety to keep them from complacency or boredom. The beauty of those worries is there’s nothing one can do about them, whereas the day to day problems of one’s workplace can destroy happiness. You feel they have to be solved, yet failure to do so is demoralising. Without shame, I confess I am happy to have few demands placed on me.’
‘As Sartre said, Hell is other people. Hank is a much more contented man now he no longer has to deal with the public.’
Her husband grimaced. ‘Every morning as I drove to work I used to recite that advice of Marcus Aurelius. “Begin the morning by saying to thyself, I shall meet with the busybody, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial….” But, it’s not only that, something happens to your body from around sixty onwards. The same activities you have always done without thinking leave you tired. You can’t build up muscles any more, they seem to disappear between each job. Other people cease to be so interesting.
Conversation becomes reminiscence, and that’s only fun for a while. Most people’s heads are full of incredible junk. Everyone wants to talk and interruptions abound. Serious thinking only occurs when reading, writing, or walking alone. I love writing letters, but at seventy-two I’ve few people left to write to. None of them like writing anyway. Letter-writers have time to consider what they want to say, and the reader has time to think about it before replying. That’s why I avoid telephones. I resent being expected to respond intelligently without sufficient time to think.’
‘Do you watch TV?’
‘The trouble with television is they have to appeal to such a wide variety of tastes, intellects and ages. Either I have heard or thought it all before, or it is so superficial that I simply get annoyed and fall asleep.’
As you can see, Rigby Taylor is a good vigorous writer, but it may also be said he does rather preach at times, having very strong views, some of them close to my own, some not. He is not fond of feminists, that’s for sure. On the other hand he does a great job confounding stereotypes, as even the passage quoted demonstrates. So yes, I do enjoy his work even if it goes over the top sometimes.
That’s Dome of Death at the top of my Kobo’s “I’m Reading” page.