Humiliation

Although it’s been a mere three weeks since last I posted, this is long enough for a man my age, 118. The chances of my dying suddenly are, after all, much greater than if I were a young whippersnapper of, say, seventy. So I can understand if you and others of my readers become worried if too much time passes before you see a new posting on this site.

If you do in fact become worried I find this touching because you’re the only ones who would worry. No-one else would, because I have no longer Friends nor Family – well, as far as I know. The last friends I had were my men, Mikey Squeaky and Freddy, who I left behind in Mexico because I could no longer abide them. They could now be in jail or even dead. Even should they not be dead and they heard that I was, I doubt if they’d shed a tear, for I think they could no more abide me than I them.

The thing was, they felt it humiliating have as a leader a man (me) who was so much older than them, a man seventy years older – a man they couldn’t defeat in a bout of fisticuffs, although they tried many times in order to displace me.

Looking at it now from their point of view, I can see how humiliated they must have felt. Perhaps you may see this too. If not, and if you’re a fifty year old man, and you have as a next door neighbour a man of over 100 whose dog keeps digging up your flower beds, and you go over to complain to him, and he takes umbrage and beats you up, would you not feel humiliated, especially if your wife were watching? You would ever after be sleeping alone at nights on your living-room couch, I’ll bet.

As for Family, most men, if they’re over 100 as I am, have lots of descendents to mourn them by the time they Cross Over. I, on the other hand, had only one child – a son, Albert – who was attracted not to young women but to young men, so he left behind no progeny. And I had a wife, Gladys, who was attracted more to other women than to me. So my opportunities to father more than one child with her were almost miniscule.

Seeing as I’ve slept with many women over my very long life, it’s entirely possible I do have progeny somewhere. However, it’s as though I don’t because I don’t know who they are and they, if they exist, don’t know who I am. So they won’t be weeping when my time comes to Cross Over. And Gladys and Albert won’t be weeping either because they Crossed Over long ago.

As long as I’m alive it’s always possible I could make new friends here on the Pacific Rain Coast where I’ve found refuge from policemen who may still be looking for me. However, I must always be wary of making new friends because they could be undercover policemen or policewomen. This aside, the older I get the less I seem to have in common with anyone. The “Generation Gap” may be why.

It seems, then, I’m destined to have no-one weeping for me when I Cross Over. However, I’ve not entirely lost hope it’ll be otherwise.

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Mountains

I’m settling down well in my new home on the Pacific rain coast. The cold and wet weather and the green and lush topography remind me much of my beloved England – the England I’ll probably never see again.

I wonder what became of my old home there? Are its walls crumbling, and its windows broken? Are homeless hippies illegally squatting in it, and the house reeks with the marijuana they smoke? Or does it now belong to a modern young professional couple – he an investment banker, she a lawyer – who have done the house over so completely, I wouldn’t recognise it if I saw it?

The Pacific rain coast does have more of something that England has less of, which is mountains. There are lots of mountains here for me to hike up and down on. I need to do this, so to keep myself in top physical shape, which is important because I’m 118. Any let-up, and I know I would soon be a shrivelled bag of bones in a wheelchair, which would make me indistinguishable from most men of over 100.

Mountain-hiking, while exhausting, does have its pleasures, for I meet many desirable young women on the trails. Most of them smile at me and say “Hi”. I smile and say “Hi” back. I haven’t yet asked any back to my little house for an afternoon of love because, somehow, I’m not presently in the mood for love. This particular time of year – the approach to Christmas – may have something to do with it, for I get sad. I think of the Christmases at my old home in England with my wife *Gladys* and son *Albert*, both long dead. I suspect I made their lives unhappy, which led them to die earlier than I expected.

I could easily have married again after Gladys passed away, for I’ve always been a magnet for the ladies. But I soon became accustomed again to the single life. Also, any woman I might have married after Gladys, might well have wanted children. Having to go again through fatherhood was the last thing I wanted.

Truth to tell, I never did have the parental instinct so normal with manly men like me. And, truth to tell, I never did really love Gladys. I was somewhat fond of her, of course, but we had almost nothing in common. I found her – not to put too fine a point on it – boring, and she just may have found me boring. However, I married her because getting married was essential to moving up the ranks in the Army. I never would have become a General if I didn’t have a wife.

I’ve always liked being alone and have always wondered why. Quite recently I happened upon *this questionnaire* which purports to tell you if you’re Autistic. I have to say, I laughed when I saw this questionnaire, for I’ve always considered psychology merely a prop for the weak-kneed. But, just as a joke, I did the test, and the results showed I was mildly autistic. I laughed again, but nonetheless did the test again, and it again showed I was slightly autistic.

If indeed I’m slightly autistic, I would always have been so. It would explain much about me – that I’ve never felt close to anyone, that I like to be alone, and find any human company emotionally draining after just a short time, so that I have to get away and be by myself in order to feel truly myself again. I now realise I can only be truly myself when I’m alone.

But, throughout my long life – from when I was a boy at boarding school, to when I was a General in the Army who had the power of life and death in war over many thousands of men, and was on a first-name basis with many of the powerful men who have shaped the world over the last seventy years – I’ve presented myself to the world as a gregarious back-slapping devil-may-care man’s man, and believed I was really so.

Could it be, then, that this was just a role I played? If so, has my life been a sham?

Gladys

John_Bull

I feel again sufficiently well to continue speaking of *what I spoke of last time*, about my late son, Albert, and how utterly he had failed me. Albert couldn’t have been more unlike the sort of son which an Englishman proud and true, such as I, would want. Naturally, I wasn’t wholly to blame for Albert’s cowardice in refusing to take up arms for England in its war against the Germans; his pathetic attempts to play rugger and cricket; his lack of interest in girls; and his developing for another man, the love which dare not speak its name, for, due to my long absences away from England to help maintain the Empire, it was Gladys, more than I, who shaped Albert’s character.

While Gladys was, ostensibly, the model wife and mother, she wasn’t, in reality, quite so. I have before written of the two occasions when I caught her in flagrante delicto – once with *one of my fellow army officers*; and once with *a woman friend of hers*. And, in the matter of Gladys’s conjugal obligations to me, while she complied with my demands, she merely did what was minimally necessary for me to complete the act. Gladys’s lack of passion was why I sought out other women throughout our marriage.

I later on forgave Gladys the two dalliances I’d caught her out in. I regarded them as mere lapses, for who of us is perfect? Thus I gave permission for her to live alone with Albert in our home in England while I was away those long periods in the tropics. But, considering how Albert turned out, I erred in giving this permission, for it later became clear that Gladys was why Albert turned out the way he did.

1800-John-Vanderlyn-mother-and-son

For one thing, Gladys was always very demonstrative in her affection for Albert. When watching them together I felt ragingly jealous. Had Gladys hugged and kissed me as she did Albert, I would never have needed to find love in the arms of other women, for her affections with me, as displayed with Albert, would have made me afire with lifelong passion for her. So I sometimes wondered whether Albert, while being kissed and hugged by Gladys, may have experienced feelings towards her of an unwholesome nature, for Gladys was, throughout her life, a good-looker who always attracted the lascivious gazes of men.

I wondered thus, even before I’d heard about Freud’s Oedipus Complex theory. I also wondered whether Gladys experienced feelings towards Albert of a similarly unwholesome nature as he may have had for her. If the Oedipus Complex theory was being played out between the two of them, this may have explained Albert’s disinterest in girls, and the love-which-dare-not-speak-its-name which he had for men – for I later learned that a mother-complex was often the genesis of these unnatural and unwholesome feelings in young men such as Albert.

It wasn’t until after Gladys had passed over to the Other Side some twenty-five years ago, that I learned things about her of which I was unaware. While going through her papers, I came across photos showing her together with a number of other women, all with no clothes on. Some photos showed them sunbathing on rocks overlooking water; others showed them cavorting in the hedge-surrounded back garden of our house in England, presumably while I was overseas on my many extended tours of duty.

In_Flagrante_Delicto

Image From DeviantART

Gladys’s papers included letters between her and the woman I had found her in flagrante delicto with in the Straits Settlements in Malaya. Obviously the romance hadn’t then ended, for the letters showed it had continued, and with even more passion after this other woman finally went back to England to live. The letters showed also that Gladys and this woman had spent many nights together in our marriage bed in our home in England.

Since Albert was living there too, he must have known what was going on. Thus was created in his mind the belief that such unwholesome carryings-on were entirely natural. Little wonder, then, that he became what he became.

Whatever anger I may have felt on seeing these photographs and letters, was ameliorated by my finally understanding that Gladys’s lack of passion for me in our marriage bed, had come not because she found me repellent, but because she had an unwholesome attraction towards her fellow women – an attraction  over which she had no control.

Albert

Neville Chamberlain
It was seventy years ago this month, September, when the Second World War began. I would therefore have expected that – since I commanded many thousands of men in this war, thus giving a shot in the arm to my military career which had been flagging in peacetime – I would have been thinking much about Hitler, Poland, Chamberlain, and all of that.

Not so, for I’ve been thinking instead of my late son, Albert, of whom I had spoken in a posting of a few months ago, and who, when war was declared, became a conscientious objector to fighting in it. You will therefore understand how humiliating to me – the consummate military man – Albert’s actions were.

Since most conscientious objectors, being mere cowards, were thrown into prison, what Albert did, threatened my career in the British Army, for no army can afford have men leading it, whose sons are in prison for being cowards. Fortunately, belonging to what now would be called the “old boy network”, I was able to keep Albert out of prison by getting him a job as a firefighter, who would help put out fires caused by bombs dropped on London by the German Luftwaffe, and help rescue people from under bomb-caused rubble.

St-Pauls-Cathedral-During-London-Blitz-1940To give Albert his due, he did – according to his mother (my wife Gladys), and according to others who helped pull the strings to get Albert into London’s fire-fighting brigade – perform heroically during the London Blitz. This was obviously the residue of whatever influence I had on Albert when he grew up – an influence far overshadowed by Gladys’s, for I was away for long periods during Albert’s boyhood.

No, had I not been away so much, Albert would, when at Eton, have been outstanding at rugger and cricket, and, after Eton, would have become a career soldier in the British Army, and, during the war, would have become a decorated hero through killing many enemy soldiers on the battlefield, and later, after the war, would eventually have attained, like me, the rank of General.

Also, Albert would have married a fine upstanding girl, and have furnished me with many grandchildren on whom I could have doted in my old age. Albert did none of this. He was an abject failure on the rugger and cricket fields, was a pacifist, and never did find a fine upstanding girl to marry and provide me with adoring grandchildren.

In fact, Albert, far from finding a suitable girl to marry, seemed never interested in girls at all. Those friends he did have when growing up, were only boys his age, with his same interests – art, literature, poetry, drama, violin, piano and all of that. After Albert left Eton to study at the Royal College of Music – where he might have had more opportunity to meet girls, since they studied there too – he continued to have only young men as his friends.

Royal-College-of-Music-London

I did meet two or three of them, and……well………I’ll say no more than that they were the very opposite of the sort of rugger-playing outdoorsy fellows I would have liked Albert to be friends with. Of his friends, it was Antoine who Albert seemed particularly to like, and with whom Albert went on occasional short holidays, mostly to France, as I recall.

When war broke out, I hoped this would be the end of Albert’s friendship with Antoine – given that war changes radically the circumstances of all who are sucked into it – and that Albert would now make friends with rugger-playing outdoorsy fellows who would introduce him to the sorts of fine upstanding girls from whom he might find a wife to produce the grandchildren I so wanted. However, Albert’s friendship with Antoine not only survived the war, but became closer, for, when peace came six years later, they moved to Algiers, where they set up a home together.

When I learned this, I felt I could not be more disgraced, for, not only did I have a son who had refused to take up arms in the war, but a son who – it was obvious now even to me – had for another man the love which dare not speak its name. All this, in addition to Albert’s changing his name, so he’d never again be seen to be associated with me, the father who had given him life.

I’ll break off now and will try to resume it next time, since my talking of all this has dredged up emotions so intense, I may have a heart attack…………

The Outsider

I’ve just noticed that it’s almost four months since my last posting. It seems like only last week. However, you must understand that at my age, 114, time flies ever more quickly. This might be the same for you, dear reader, even though you might only be a forty-something, for I’ve heard forty-somethings – who to me are mere children – say they don’t know where the time goes, and how old they’re getting.

You who are my faithful readers may be puzzled at my stating that my age is 114, since, in my previous postings, I referred to myself as a 113 year-old. Well, since my last posting I had another birthday, my 114th. My men, Mikey Squeaky and Freddy, gave me a surprise party with a birthday cake. Instead of 114 candles, the cake just had one, for 114 candles is too much to put on one cake, unless it’s a giant cake for twenty men.


So, given that it’s de rigueur for a birthday cake to have candles, and that 114 candles is too many candles to put on a cake for just four men, Mikey Freddie and Squeaky were faced with the conundrum of how many candles to put on the cake. What number would be the most neutral? They decided it would be one; so one candle it became.

There were other alternatives, such as having a cake large enough for twenty or so, and with 114 candles. That portion of the cake we couldn’t eat, we could give to the needy. But the needy may have become suspicious, for neither I nor Mikey Freddie and Squeaky, look the sort of men who would give portions of birthday cake to the needy, who, anyway, may have been aware that four men looking like us are wanted by the police, and have turned us in for the money which the police are surely offering.

Another alternative might have been to have the cake for twenty, with the 114 candles, and the four of us to just eat the cake over the next few days. I was so glad that Mikey Squeaky and Freddy didn’t suggest this, since (secretly) I abhor birthday cake, and any other kind of cake. I’ve never understood our society’s liking of cake. Along with hamburgers and fries, cake is the antithesis of a healthy food.

However, as an English gentleman of the old school, I don’t refuse food, however nauseating or unhealthy, when I’m a guest in someone’s home, or when food is presented to me in my honour, as my birthday cake was.

I wish today, though, to speak of something quite different, namely Albert Camus’ novel “The Outsider” which I’ve recently re-read. Let me say as an aside, that although the theme of this blog is books I’ve read, and films I’ve seen (well, apart from my telling of my being on the run, and the events leading to it), I read nowadays only books, since the films on offer at film houses within driving distance from where I’m hiding out, are, based on their descriptions, so ghastly, that were I to watch them, I would feel as nauseous as I would from eating only hamburgers and fries, and cake, unceasingly over many days.

Now, to The Outsider. I had read it once before, in 1946 – when first published in English – but, after sixty-four years, I didn’t remember much about it. However, even had I read The Outsider for the first time, say, two years ago, and remembered it, I still would have wanted to re-read it, since, to get the full value from a worthwhile book, one should read it at least twice.

The Outsider’s first line is the famous: Mother died today. Or maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure. This bespeaks that the narrator, Meursault, a young man of French descent, but Algerian-born, and who lives in Algiers, is by nature insouciant. He takes life as it comes. Each event has its own significance. Nothing is more important than any other.

Here’s a passage which spoke to me. It concerns Meursault and his girlfriend, Marie:

Marie came that evening and asked me if I’d marry her. I said I didn’t mind; if she was keen on it, we’d get married.

‘All right,’ I answered. ‘We’ll get married whenever you like.’ I then mentioned the proposal made by my employer, and Marie said she’d love to go to Paris.

Then she asked me again if I loved her. I replied, much as before, that her question meant nothing or next to nothing – but I supposed I didn’t.

‘If that’s how you feel,’ she said, ‘why marry me?’

I explained that it had no importance really, but, if it would give her pleasure, we could get married right away. I pointed out that, anyhow, the suggestion came from her; as for me, I’d merely said ‘Yes.’

Then she remarked that marriage was a serious matter.

To which I answered: ‘No.’

She kept silent after that, staring at me in a curious way. Then she asked:

‘Suppose another girl had asked you to marry he – I mean, a girl you liked in the same way as you like me – would you have said “Yes” to her, too’?

‘Naturally.’

Then she said she wondered if she really loved me or not. I, of course, couldn’t enlighten her as to that. And, after another silence, she murmured something about my being ‘a queer fellow’. ‘And I daresay that’s why I love you,’ she added. ‘But maybe that’s why one day I’ll come to hate you.’

To which I had nothing to say, so I said nothing.

She thought for a bit, then started smiling and, taking my arm, repeated that she was in earnest; she really wanted to marry me.

Meursault, in his disinterestedness, acted as I might have, had my own wife Gladys (now long dead) asked me to marry her, rather than I her. Not that Gladys would have asked, because the young women of her day just didn’t do that. No, it was always the man who, on bended knee, asked for the lady’s hand, usually after asking her father’s permission. The father would want to take stock of the young man, would want to know, for instance, whether he had the means to support his daughter in the manner to which she was accustomed.

If I was as indifferent about Gladys as Meursault was about Marie, why did I ask for Gladys’s hand in marriage? Well, because marriage was expected of men, particularly of a career army officer as I was. And the most dependable wives were of the nice girl-next-door sort, as Gladys was, who would behave always in a manner befitting the military social circles in which I moved.

But I was never passionate about Gladys, for, in my bachelor days I’d had passionate affairs with exotic foreign women, after whom an English girl-next-door, like Gladys, would inevitably be a romantic disappointment. To begin with, Gladys, before our wedding night, had never known a man in the Biblical sense, so I was her first. Gladys was never passionate about me either, although she always performed her conjugal duties towards me whenever I requested them.

Back to The Outsider. Mearsault had been languishing in jail for some weeks, and so

…….was plagued by the desire for a woman—which was natural enough, considering my age. I never thought of Marie especially. I was obsessed by thoughts of this woman or that, of all the ones I’d had, all the circumstances under which I’d loved them; so much so that the cell grew crowded with their faces, ghosts of my old passions. That unsettled me, no doubt; but, at least, it served to kill time……..

This so echoes my inner feelings as a now womanless man myself. When last I made love to a woman, it was in April of this year (2009). In the four months since, my old loves have more and more crowded the space around my bed at night, and some share my pillow. Despite that most would now have died of old age, or, if alive, would be little more than a bag of bones in an old-age home, they look, when they visit me in the night, as young and beautiful as they did when I loved them as a young, and as a middle-aged, man.

I confess, dear reader, that I wasn’t faithful to Gladys. But I ask you to understand my position. While Gladys did always comply with my conjugal requests, she did little more than lie inertly on her back and allow me to enter. I found this unsatisfactory, so what else could I do but find comfort in the arms of other women?

Despite that I was born in Queen Victoria’s time, when psycho-analysis and psychology were in their infancy and otherwise almost unheard of, I know enough psychology to suspect that my choosing to re-read The Outsider right now, is because I, as an outlaw wanted by the police, am, like Meursault, an Outsider. Also, Meursault has killed a man, as have I, and he’s in jail where he awaits his execution. So, this is of great interest to me, since the police could find me at any time, and put me in jail, where I could well be executed if found guilty of murder.

How might it feel at the moment the judge finds me guilty? I got an inkling when I read this passage:

When the bell rang again and I stepped back into the dock, the silence of the courtroom closed in around me……..I didn’t look in Marie’s direction. In fact, I had no time to look as the presiding judge had already started pronouncing a rigmarole to the effect that ‘in the name of the French people’ I was to be decapitated in some public place.

These words turned my stomach to jelly, for I can think of no more awful a way of killing a man than by chopping his head off. Far better the lethal injection, which may be my fate. It’s so much more civilised.


Meaursault, indignant that the judge and executioner have it all their own way once sentence is passed, feels the condemned man should have a sporting chance of escaping his fate. Meaursault concludes that

……what was wrong about the guillotine was that the condemned man had no chance at all, absolutely none. In fact, the patient’s death had been ordained irrevocably. It was a foregone conclusion. If by some fluke the knife didn’t do its job, they started again. So it came to this, that – against the grain, no doubt – the condemned man had to hope the apparatus was in good working order! This, I thought, was a flaw in the system; and, on the face of it, my view was sound enough. On the other hand, I had to admit it proved the efficiency of the system. It came to this: the man under sentence was obliged to collaborate mentally, it was in his interest that all should go off without a hitch…..

While Meaursault’s analysis of the judicial killing system is acute, he doesn’t consider that to execute a man for having killed another, isn’t just an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; but three eyes, or more, for an eye; and three teeth, or more, for a tooth. In most cases, the man killed has hardly any time to contemplate before he is killed – perhaps a few seconds, or even a few minutes, but seldom more. But the killer may languish in jail for weeks, months, years, before the morning when he’s taken to the scaffold. He thus suffers infinitely more mental torture than the man he killed. Before his head is cut off, or he is hanged, he has already, in his mind, died a thousand deaths and more. Is this cricket?

The killer may have killed his victim in a fit of anger or passion. His judicial killers, on the other hand, kill him premeditatively, deliberately, coldly. But, while you regard the killer as a bad fellow who got his just desserts; you look up to his judicial killers – that is the judge, jury, hangman, guillotine operator – as fine fellows, who you might want to drink a beer with. But, you dear reader, will surely agree that what the judicial killers do to the killer, is far more monstrous than what the killer ever did to his victim.


Why do nice respectable people like judges, and those on juries, and hangmen, and guillotine operators – who pay their taxes, attend PTA meetings, go to church and all of that – act so barbarously? Well, it’s because each is only a bit player in the process. The jurors decide only whether or not the killer is guilty; the judge decides only what the sentence is; and the hangman or guillotine operator only pulls the lever. But, would jurors be so quick to find the killer guilty; and the judge so quick to pass a sentence of death, were they also required to pull the lever at the scaffold and witness the execution?

As to at what stage in life we die, Meursault waxes philosophic, saying

……it makes little difference whether one dies at the age of thirty or three-score and ten – since, in either case, other men and women will continue living, the world will go on as before. Also, whether I died now or forty years hence, this business of dying had to be got through, inevitably…….

Despite Meursault, should I be caught, and be condemned by a judge to death by lethal injection, I can take more comfort that it’ll be when I’m 114 or older, than were I only thirty-three, for, at thirty-three, one has so many more potential years to live.

If, as Meursault says, this business of dying has to be got through inevitably, why do I not immediately give myself up? Perhaps because this would imperil my men, Mikey Freddy and Squeaky, who, at forty or so, still have much living to do. Nonetheless, I’ll ask them what they think.

The Reader (2)

When I ended my last posting,  I felt so exhausted I thought my final moments on earth were upon me. I expected, then, that I would never write again, never see another film, never read another book, well, at least not in this earthly realm.

You may think me excessively maudlin, but I’ll explain that I’m 113, being born in 1895. There aren’t many my age and still living. I may arguably be the oldest of us bloggers, for I sense from the content of what you, my fellow bloggers, write that most of you are under thirty, although I’ve come across in the blogosphere a couple of you sixty and seventy year-olds, but certainly no older. Now you may understand how much the anomaly I feel when I post my pieces.

Being 113 I feel grateful each morning I wake up alive. I live in the moment. I’m the quintessential existentialist. I feel the warmth of the sun’s rays, luxuriate in them. When a bird sings I stop everything and listen. When I eat I savour slowly each mouthful. When I see a film I become so a part of it I forget where I am, who I am. When I read a novel I see the characters, hear their voices, see what they see, hear what they hear, think what they think, feel what they feel.

Thus, as I watched the film, “The Reader”, and its scenes of Hannah (Kate Winslet) in the bath with the young man, Michael, it was I, not Michael, who was in the bath with her. It was I, not Michael, who read aloud to Hannah as she sat opposite me in the tub. It was I, not Michael, whom she soaped down. It was I, not Michael, who soaped down Hannah. It was I, not Michael, who lay entwined with Hannah in her bed afterwards in post-coital bliss.

And as I watched “The Reader”, I thought how I would have loved it had I had a thirty five year-old woman as a lover when I was fifteen, when it was older mature women, the thirty five year-olds, whom I lusted after, not the fifteen and sixteen year-olds whom I was supposed to lust after. And these most desirable thirty five year-old women were made even more desirable because their bodies and limbs were fully covered. Remember, this was circa 1910 when the mini-skirt, the plunging decolletage, and the thonged bikini, were as unimaginable as the silicon chip. There was almost no bare womanly flesh to be seen, so my nightly erotic dreams of these most desirable older women were all the more vivid, all the more Bacchanalian.

On the other hand, had I, when fifteen, had a thirty five year-old lover like Hannah, my memories of her may have spoiled my subsequent love-affairs, as Michael’s memories of Hannah did actually spoil his subsequent love affairs, since he always compared the women he had love affairs with, with Hannah, and always found them woefully wanting. Thus his good fortune, his triumph, as a fifteen year old, contained the seeds of his later romantic disappointments, including his marriage which ended unhappily.

While my wife, Gladys, was a great disappointment to me in the conjugal sense (although she was, apart from a couple of lapses, a good and dutiful woman), I did have several love affairs with other women, some of whom I’ll never forget for the unutterable pleasure they gave me. Paradoxically they helped my marriage, since I didn’t demand of Gladys my conjugal rights nearly as often as I would have, absent these other women.

You who are reading this, may think I speak of romance exclusively in the past tense, since I’m 113, and cannot be expected ever again to have a love affair. This just isn’t true because the older I get the better lover I become. I will admit to having failed as a lover when much younger, particularly before the 1960s. But, as I said in my previous posting, I embraced the spirit of the 1960s, and this enriched my love affairs. I felt less the need always to be masterful, less the need always to act the cave-man, to admit to being vulnerable. For this, I became a better, a more sensitive, a more polymorphous lover.

Thus I expect to have future love affairs. Now, I do realize my 113 year-old body isn’t as aesthetically pleasing to the womanly eye as it was when I was twenty-five or so. But my 113 year-old body isn’t just any old 113 year-old body, for I continue to work out regularly in the gym, as I’ve done all my life. Thus my body can pass for that of a fifty or sixty year-old Baby Boomer, and Baby Boomers of this age still have love affairs. The older I become, the more women are available to me, for, as a 113 year-old, I can find women as old as seventy or eighty to be attractive.

Don’t misunderstand me. I do find thirty five year old women beautiful and desirable, as I find also their twenty-five year-old sisters beautiful and desirable. But I regard their physical beauty as I would a beautiful painting or sculpture. I drink in their beauty dispassionately. When I see a young man with a beautiful young woman, with whom he is in love, I think “good for him” and hope he and she will make beautiful and passionate love together. But I, myself, wouldn’t wish to make love with the young woman because it just wouldn’t feel right. Our enormous age difference, and that we are at totally different stages of our lives, would preclude a spiritual and intellectual communion between us – something essential for me in a love affair.

I love women more for their minds, intelligence, and emotional maturity, than for their physical beauty. I’ve known women who were quite plain-looking, but who had a warmth and intelligence which made them, for me, unutterably beautiful and desirable. This inner beauty is ageless. She who has it, and who doesn’t let it atrophy through dissipation, will always be beautiful and desirable to me, no matter her age.

The Reader

Just because I’m on the run from the American police for having killed many men, and am therefore forced to live underground in a basement of a demolished house in Texas, on the outskirts of a city I cannot for my own safety disclose, doesn’t mean I don’t still read books and watch films.


I’ve read voluminously throughout the last eighteen months I’ve been an outlaw, since reading is a wonderful way to pass the long hours of the day when I must keep out of the public gaze.

And, while reading, I’m not worrying about being caught by the police, being tried for murder, found guilty, then killed through lethal injection, because, whilst reading, I’m concentrating solely on the words on the page or computer screen (reading off a computer is as valid a form of reading as from the printed page). Thus I worry less than if I don’t read. Thanks to the internet, as well as to my circumstances, I read more than ever. So I’m ingesting more information than ever. Despite my 113 years, and being born in the nineteenth century, I’m a twenty-first century man, with my fingers pressed firmly on the Zeitgeist.

This is a perfect lead-in to the latest film I’ve seen, “The Reader”. The beginning of the story is set in West Germany in 1958. A fifteen year-old boy, Michael, becomes ill on the street, and begins vomiting. A thirty five year-old woman, Hannah, sees him, and takes him to her flat where she bathes him, then sends him home. Michael’s mother is grateful to Hannah for helping her boy, and she sends him back to Hannah with flowers as a thank-you gift.

Had Michael’s mother been clairvoyant she might not have sent Michael back, because, when again at Hannah’s, he gazed at her with desire, and she him. Thus they embarked on a love affair. But it wasn’t your normal love-affair because with normal love-affairs, you, if the man, don’t have to read aloud from books for many hours to your woman before making love. Reading to her is what Hannah made Michael do, for she hungered after knowledge, since she was, for all intents and purposes, uneducated.


So Michael read book after book – Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, The Magic Mountain, you name it – to Hannah while with her in the bath and lying in bed. Sitting in the bath together is what Michael and Hannah seemed to do lots of. Watching these bath scenes, I felt strong pangs of desire coursing through my body, because having a bath with a beloved is, for me, extremely erotic. In “The Reader”, the woman in the bath, Hannah, was in reality Kate Winslet, and what red-blooded man wouldn’t want to bath with Kate Winslet?

In the second half of my life, I’ve tried to make bathing with the beloved an integral part of my lovemaking. I like particularly the candle-lit bath. If only my wife, Gladys, had liked taking candle-lit baths with me, our love-making would have been other than a dreaded conjugal obligation. I was at least partly responsible, since, for the first forty years of our marriage, my approach to love-making with Gladys had been utilitarian, mechanical, obligatory.

It was only in the 1960s that I began to change my approach to love-making, when I imagined myself as a woman submitting to the sexual demands of men like me.

I went through this mental exercise not because of altruism, but because women were wanting nothing further to do with me after only one night of love. I had sufficient humility to see that the fault was mainly mine, that I hadn’t paid attention to the spirit of the 1960s, particularly the new feminism, when women were no longer content to be men’s doormats. Thus I had to change, or I would be ever after sexless – well, apart from sex with Gladys, my wife.


So, in my lovemaking with women other than Gladys, I became more sensitive to what they wanted, and this included erotic candle-lit baths. As a newly sensitive man I asked Gladys to take candle-lit baths with me too, on those occasions when we made love. But Gladys, who I knew had abhorred my decades of conjugal demands on her, just wasn’t enthusiastic. She continued to want me to complete quickly the love-making, while she lay back, and, no doubt, thought of England.

I feel suddenly overwhelmed with fatigue. I hope it isn’t my heart. I’m unable to write more today. If still alive, I’ll continue talking about “The Reader” next time.