Swear Not By the Fickle Moon

Darling,

A New Year’s Resolution, you suggest, with the spirit of (may I suggest) a woman half your age. A New Year’s resolution – as though it might be kept. A New Year’s Resolution – as though there was a chance. A New Year’s Resolution – as though there hadn’t been enough New Years, in our pasts, to promise heaven and earth…

Or to put it bluntly: I have never in my life kept to a New Year’s Resolution. Other Resolutions, for sure: daily Resolutions, even. But the Resolution made at the stroke of midnight belongs neither to the past (I did promise) or the future (I shall try). It exists only in a bubble of champagne, and is lost as quickly.

Speaking of which: have you ever read a better tale of the New Year than The Nine Tailors by our esteemed Ms. Sayers? It is jam-packed with snow-drifts, morals, and tolling bells. And there is a Vicar in it to be sure. If only live Vicars were half as pleasant as the Vicars of fiction, we’d still have a good chance of winning people over to the faith. You yourself are lapsed – but if I might ask a personal question: would you still be as lapsed if your local Vicar were a bibliophile, a keen gardener or had white tufts of hair blowing in the Fenland wind? Vicars should be old and lean and bent, they should look over their glasses, and be quietly moral.

The reason I rant is that my dear departed has been replaced. By a young man, who seems to have all sorts of ideas about people’s souls. He doesn’t understand that if he meddled less with those, and took a more serious interest in the Vicarage gardens, people would flock to him much more easily. There is nothing so off-putting as having someone peer at your intestines through a looking glass, be they spiritual or physical intestines.

On a strangely related note: I am also trying to push through Remarkable Creatures: a novel about historical women looking for fossil. It has one cardinal fault: the women are depicted as Women, you know, with their spiritual lives written out in bold so as no one should miss that they are multi-dimensional characters, even though they lived in times gone by. (The fossil are, blessedly, fossil).

I abhor that practice in novelists, same as in Vicars, of adding quirks or incongruence to personalities, just so as to be able to duck the criticism of banality. You know the type: they set their stories at the circus and then they point to the bearded lady and the clown and the elephant eating pop-corn and proclaim: hah! I have imagination! I am outside the realm of the mundane.

I believe the bearded lady must wash her socks same as everyone else, and would much rather read of that than of her fantastic adventures.

Then again, those who go to the other extreme are just as bad. The hyper realists who believe nothing is properly plausible unless it is coated in three day’s worth of grease from the fish and chip shop. This is the kind of Vicar who would go jogging.

No, give me a good and proper story of middle class behavior, preferably written between the lines rather than on my nose, and I am content. On this note, I will return to Fenchurch St Paul and help Mrs Venables with her daffs.

With much love,

R

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