Monday, May 21, 2012


    “Where would you like to have lunch?” Mr Pym asked suddenly.  “It’s your last day, so choose anywhere you’d like.”

     “I should like to go to the Ritz Hotel; I’ve never been there,” said Orvil sharply.  He tried to concentrate his whole mind on having lunch at the Ritz.  He thought that he might bear the day a little better if he shut his mind to everything else.

               Ben, who had been to the Ritz, would like to have gone somewhere a little more adventurous and experimental, but he saw how determined Orvil was and gave in to him willingly.  He never minded falling in with other people’s plans.

              They stopped outside the Piccadilly entrance, and after Mr Pym had taken them up to the cloakroom to wash, he ordered them both dry martini cocktails, instead of plain orange or tomato juice.  Orvil ate three black olives and put salted almonds one after another into his mouth.

         In spite of all these efforts, he could not stop thinking about school:  the iron beds like black enameled skeletons, the meat-red horse blankets in the Sanatorium, the masters with a snow of scurf on the shoulders of their ancient gowns, the rather grotesque beauty of the mid-Victorian stained glass in the great hall.

         Everything had a demonish quality of unreality, a sort of paste-board attempt at horror.  

        He tried to think of sober things:  the mealy boiled potatoes at lunch, the one surviving arch of the ruined priory gatehouse, the empty swimming bath in winter where the dead leaves chased each other.  

      But the bizarre things won;  they trampled the others under foot and seemed to grow in extravagance.  

      Across the valley, Orvil heard the trains shunting.  It was midnight; he was lying in his bed at school.  The whistles blew faintly.  He heard the clash of the couplings.

NOTE:  This passage from Denton Welch's 1944 novel "In Youth Is Pleasure" reminds me of a great many things, including my own experiences and feelings about life while attending a traditional boarding school in New England, being filled with stirred-up daily and deep-into-the-night thoughts, and lying on those awful metal beds.   

And for some reason -- perhaps because her teenagers are currently at boarding school; perhaps because the news accounts make me wonder how she must have felt growing up and finding youthful aspirations turning into dark adult reality -- it makes me think about the tragic death of Mary Richardson Kennedy last week.  

Jane often says to me jokingly, as if she's interviewing me:  

"So Dad, tell me about your hopes and dreams."  

I never get past being on the verge of an answer I never speak.


  1. I was affected by the tragic news of Mary Richardson Kennedy also, in a different way, but I was touched to read about your associations and reaction. I hope you'll find words for Jane.

  2. The Mary Richardson Kennedy story is so awful in ways I perceive now and others, I expect, that will unfold in the future. If you've never read Denton Welch's writing, I think you would enjoy it. Best to begin (as he did) with Maiden Voyage, proceed to his last unfinished (and posthumously published) novel A Voice Through A Cloud, and make sure to read his Journals. He was also a gifted painter and printmaker. Curtis

  3. A very unsettling post. Somehow I noticed the background color of your blog even more than usual. Everything is coming out of, and returning to, some kind of night.

  4. Well, I thought of you when I wrote it, i.e., I thought it might "reach" you. It did me and quite strongly and unexpectedly. Curtis