My Dearest Debbie,
I was so glad to hear from you the other day, and you must think me unpardonable for the lateness of my reply. Unpardonable or not, I do have an excuse should you choose to accept it – though it is one of those rather sad excuses of old age: my eyes have given in, or up: my eye-glasses are no longer sufficient, and anything but the feather-lightest of feather-light reading seem to cause me terrible aches and pains. And your letter, as always, was weighed down with truth.
Alas, I spend my time in the garden, trying to keep that decay at bay at least, since I seem unable to halt the progress of time in my own case. The last time I remember feeling this crippled was back in the (horrid) days of pregnancies. A rather too carnal experience all together, but worst of all ills were the way it affected my sight. I think I read nothing but Waugh for the duration. Either way: the heavy military treading of boots across wartime Europe is NOT in any way featherish – and as you’ll have discovered, neither is the sheer bulk of Parade’s End. It’ll have to sit and simmer until that odd little man down at the optician reverses the effects of time… One does need to be clear sighted to properly appreciate a description of the end of times, no?
Instead – aptly, given the gothic crumbling of my bones – I have picked up a trifle called The Little Stranger. The Vicar – bless his memory – would have frowned most severely at it since I believe it concerns ghosts, and mental illnesses, and all sorts of things not mentioned in polite company – or the Bible. One of the ups of widowhood, however, is that I can be content to imagine his frown, or not, as I will, instead of facing it over the tea and crumpets. I fear my tastes were never –shall we call them elevated – enough for the dear man. I mean no sacrilege, though I realize elevated in connection to a dead man of the cloth might have connotations.
As it is, I sit on my lonesome – and more crumpets for me – devouring this fancy with butter running down my cuffs. You’ll find my stumbling upon it interesting: it was blurbed (again a word that brings back the indignities of motherhood) by our beloved Hilary Mantel. Whom I wish would work harder on a follow up to that damp and windblown Wolf Hall, than on…well…I won’t use the word again…endorsing the words of others. When I get through it, I shall spoil it for you by giving away the end, if I can see my way there. I do wonder, if Henry 8 had had more children, what excuse he would have found for his dreadful temper.
Speaking of which – how is yours?
With all my love,