Wednesday 19 August 2009


I'm not one for memes. I am really quite a tiresome person, so the idea of a questionnaire in which I let you know even more dreary drivel about myself than I already write here fills me with dread.
However, what are rules if there are no exceptions? And so, when one of my all time favourite bloggers, Mothership, tagged me in a meme, it felt only courteous to follow her request.

As if to add insult to injury, I've taken terrible liberties with the original meme. I hope that Motherhood the Final Frontier will forgive me for having bent the rules. It's probably an enormous sin in the blogosphere and I'll have to go to confession. But not this one, I hope.

Anyway, here's the meme. Or, ahem, my version of the meme....

What's your favourite piece of writing?
I'm afraid you'd get a different answer to this question every time it was asked. Writing is a little like clothes, so much depends on your mood. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford made a great impression on me when I first read it at eighteen, and I must have read it at least every decade since, possibly because it has one of the boldest opening lines of any book - if you start your first chapter 'This is the saddest story I have ever heard', you're setting the bar very high.
But there's a passage within it that struck a chord with me then, and it still resonates, for reasons I'm not prepared to go into, not being a confessional blogger.

We are all so afraid, we are all so alone, we all so need from the outside the assurance of our own worthiness to exist.
So, for a time, if such a passion comes to fruition, the man will get what he wants. He will get the moral support, the encouragement, the relief from the sense of loneliness, the assurance of his own worth. But these things pass away; inevitably they pass away as the shadows across sun-dials. It is sad, but it is so. The pages of the book will have become familiar; the beautiful corner of the road will have been turned to many times. Well, this is the saddest story.

What's the favourite thing you've ever written?
Ha. I can hardly go from Ford Madox Ford into hopelessly amateur Mrs Trefusis, can I? Worryingly,I am still quite pleased by 'THE DUST ON A BOWL OF ROSELEAVES', though it's horribly pretentious. But the four part love story, in which I meet Mr Trefusis is rather better and infinitely more readable. It begins with LOVE IN THE TIME OF INTERWEB, but continues into Espresso Bongo, Love's Labour's Lust, and finally, Love in a Foreign Language.
What blog post do you wish you'd written?
Just about anything by Belgian Waffling, but particularly this gorgeously dark Stella Gibbonsesque post from earlier this week. The Waffle is a genius and can turn 200 words about house dust into something compelling and meaningful.

Choose a favourite quotation
'I like people better than principles, and people without principles best of all'

Oscar Wilde. It always is, isn't it.

Three favourite words
Lambent, idiosyncratic, tenebrous.

Just like the way they sound. But I also like velleity, a word I hadn't heard until yesterday, when Sarah Churchwell mentioned it on twitter. It means 'a mere wish, unaccompanied by an effort to obtain it.' I think I suffer from velleity more often than I'd like.

Do you have a writing mentor, role model, influence or inspiration
Hmm, I'd like to say it's someone very grand, like George Eliot, but it's not. I'm ready to confess that my greatest influences are probably Nancy Mitford and Jilly Cooper. The highbrow stuff is mostly me showing how unbearably affected I am.

What's your writing ambition?
To avoid very obvious spelling mistakes, and to always use the apostrophe in an appropriate manner.

And now I'm supposed to send it onto three people.

I choose Joad Raymond, who writes a very good blog called Miles to Go Before I Sleep , but now he's unable to run, he needs something new to write about, and it may as well be this since he's one of the best read people I know.

And The Age of Uncertainty. This blog, mostly about antiquarian books and the stories they unconsciously tell, gives me such enormous pleasure: I urge you to seek it out so you can discover its delights for yourself.

And last but not least, Helena Halme, an ex-pat Finn whose wonderful story about her English sailor is serialised on her blog. Start at the beginning and I'm sure that like me, you'll be hooked, and desperate to follow it to its conclusion.


Wombat said...

An entertaining read, as ever, and thank you for introducing me to "velleity". Such a fine word.

~Tessa~Scoffs said...

Love your answers! Can't wait to read Helene's.

nappy valley girl said...

Velleity is also new to me - I shall try to drop it into conversation over the next few weeks!

I am a huge Jilly Cooper fan. She's up there with the greats. I wonder what FR Leavis would have made of her...

Waffle said...

Too kind, angel, too kind.

Your Dust on a Bowl of Roseleaves post is beautiful.


Steerforth said...

I've been waiting to be memed for years and was both flattered and delighted to be chosen.

Last night I sat down and started to prepare my answers, but to my horror I quickly realised that I had nothing to say.

I don't have a favourite blog post and don't harbour any writing ambitions. As for favouite words and role models, I like 'atrium' and George Orwell, but they aren't very exciting answers.

Memes are much harder than they look. I'm very impressed that you managed to come up with such interesting and amusing responses.

Babycakes said...

I really admire your discretion, in not wanting to talk about personal matters and the fact that you want to talk literature instead.

Jilly Cooper books are great!
I once accosted JC at the Cheltenham Lit Festival and interviewed her for our college magazine and she was very sweet.

oneof365 said...

Ahh Mrs. T. Always a pleasure to get more information about the elusive you. I loved the Ford M. Ford quote--you're right, it's a helluva an opening line. I do enjoy your blog so much and think it is really intelligent, and what you've written about yourself is very intelligent. It reflects who you are extremely well. I'm looking forward to the blogs you recommended, though I am already a huge fan of Ms. Halme who does indeed have a wonderful site. Your words of choice are interesting. That's what I love about you---you need a thesaurus to read your blog often. Very educational indeed! Please post more--it is always such a joy. xoxoxo-one of 365

Joad said...

You are much too kind. Hope everyone appreciated the self-conscious irony of the apostrophe in that first sentence.

The Spicers said...