Sunday, 26 October 2014

Thoughts on the Sunday...


Have you ever thought about the "social kingship of Christ" in terms of the Prisoner of the Vatican? The cult of "Christ the King" was posited during an era of increasing faithlessness, much like the feast of Joe the Worker, so one might well question its value even for this reason alone. Why look to a devotion wholly shallow and alien to Tradition when the mystery of Christ's Kingship is best seen from a Rood on Good Friday or read in the Invitatory of Paschal Mattins? But there is another, more sinister, aspect to this cult. In mediaeval times, when the popes claimed feudal lordship over all the kings of Europe, they really were, in a sense, "king of the world." With the gradual loss of their secular influence during the Reformation and Counter Reformation periods, the Napoleonic Wars and finally the Unification of Italy, the popes sought ever to claw back their waning power by whatever means necessary. Then Pius IX, a complete megalomaniac, shews up; uses the French against his own people; loses; finds that his dominion is circumscribed to a space no bigger than Hyde Park; then summons an "Œcumenical Council" to proclaim himself incapable of the possibility of error! With sour grapes and the hubris of a defeated imperialist he confines himself to the Vatican, excommunicates the entire Italian peninsula and died bitter, a vast bloated bag of a man and despised by the people of Rome. Half a century later pope Pius XI proclaims a new doctrine with the encyclical Quas Primas on the "social kingship of Christ," in which he laments:

The right which the Church has from Christ himself, to teach mankind, to make laws, to govern peoples in all that pertains to their eternal salvation, that right was denied. Then gradually the religion of Christ came to be likened to false religions and to be placed ignominiously on the same level with them. It was then put under the power of the state and tolerated more or less at the whim of princes and rulers. Some men went even further, and wished to set up in the place of God's religion a natural religion consisting in some instinctive affection of the heart. There were even some nations who thought they could dispense with God, and that their religion should consist in impiety and the neglect of God. The rebellion of individuals and states against the authority of Christ has produced deplorable consequences. (24).

Which is but to say, "my right to teach mankind, to make laws, to govern...was denied; then gradually the religion of popery came to be seen as a false religion and was rejected." As I understand the tendency of popes, they themselves are the subject. The pope, then still Prisoner of the Vatican, can hardly posit himself as the subject of this new devotion. Who would take him seriously? Why not then become the high priest of a new cult and claim the kingship of men's lives? Thus did Sauron ensnare the King of Númenor and brought about the downfall of that realm! So do not trouble to ascribe this "social kingship" to Our Lord, whose Kingdom is not of this world, but to your master, the old man in white, who bides his time, secure in his pride and exalting himself in his pagan basilica in Rome.

And years ago I just thought the feast was tacky and modern!

Edwardtide...


While others are celebrating the "social kingship of Christ" I thought I'd point out that to-day was, of old, the festival of the translation of the relicks of St Edward the Confessor. He is one of my favourites. Maybe it's some nostalgic sentiment about the flower of Anglo-Saxon England being severed at Hastings or, perhaps, the preservation of our Royal Family when continental revolutions and reformations, indeed the flowing streams of time (remember Gollum's riddle?), have destroyed others; who knows? I do attribute the royal patronage of St Edward to the preservation of the last Christian remnant of our nation, that is The Queen. All about is dark and the darkness is inexorable; soon it will engulf even this Sceptred Isle and, as the Prophets awaited the Nativity of Christ so too we must await His Coming under the shadow of death. St Edward, pray for us!

Monday, 20 October 2014

Chapter Three...


I was now eighteen and beginning to feel really uneasy about the future - openly on the grounds that I was so inadequate to earn a living, and secretly because I suspected that sexually I was quite unlike anyone else in the world. Friends were starting to ask me questions about my private life. Their intention was not unkind, but I was filled with misgiving.

"Are you keen on this girl you talk so much about?" a friend of my mother asked. "Good God, no," I replied putting on a face as though I had just stepped in something. Then I hastily embarked upon a cynical diatribe against all human sentiments. This was the kind of conversation that my mother's friend loved but I now think that I wasted a rather wonderful woman. If I could simply have told her that, to my bewilderment, I did not think that I was ever going to be able to take a sexual interest in any girl I'm sure she would have listened. This would have been at least a thin rope flung from my tiny island towards the mainland.

She would not have believed me, because in those far-off days a homosexual person was never anyone you actually knew and seldom anyone that you had met.

These are some staves from The Naked Civil Servant. They are quite apposite because I feel myself to be in a very similar situation. I am far older than eighteen but having, like Mr Crisp, failed university I would say that I am conceivably in a far worse position than even he. In 1930 people found work without a piece of embossed paper stating that they had conformed to curricula drawn up by the grand arbiters and withholders of knowledge. Nowadays a degree is a prerequisite for future stability, the guarantor of a salary above minimum wage; that is, of course, unless you are a woman and can marry well. Happily I am not a woman but unhappily I have no degree. My mother, in her characteristically condescending manner, would say, "you brought it all on yourself; you chose to pursue a degree with absolutely no use for employment and didn't even bother to finish it," and would then trail off into complaints about my having no common sense, that I am a failure, that I use the house as an hotel. I have come to believe that failure is my style. It has been a constantly occurring pattern throughout my life. From my earliest attempts at social graces to my current ineptitude in banking, failure is always there like the shadow of the real.

The chief reasons I failed at Heythrop were that I was too interested in classical literature and liturgy and not in the least bothered about work; I fell foul of the mandatory reading lists because I disdained the authors; whenever I deigned to submit a piece of coursework it was invariably late; I resented having to travel into West London everyday (itself the result of my fear of leaving the comfortable bosom of home); I was a stinking Traditionalist (which inevitably influenced my work); I was tired a lot; I spent hours in the library pursuing works irrelevant to the course, etc. They all add up. When I had my case sent to the academic board (that is to them that decided whether to keep me there or not) I remember knowing that my days were up but not really caring. I had, by then, not run out of money and I had my part-time job at Morrisons. The foundations of the world, at that time, had not yet crumbled.

The money eventually ran out and I came to rely solely upon my part-time salary, a pittance. That is when the enormity of my mistake finally rose as a reek to choke me and I foundered in the oblivion of a sea of despair. It was too late. I had no money and so I could ill afford to return to Heythrop and, in any case, I had incurred the tuition fees from last time so, even if I were inclined to return, I had no recourse to any money to pay for my place there. Chance had come and gone in the blink of an eye. So I had no degree and I was stuck with a job, now the only source of my income, that I detested and was never meant to be a part of my life for eight long years. Despairing, at last, of Morrisons and determined not to let eight years turn into a full decade I left just over a year ago and, in desperation, took a Christmass-temp job with the John Lewis Partnership. It couldn't have come at a worse time. I became depressed and irritable and it transpired that, initial rumours of company generosity notwithstanding, they kept not a single one of us on after Christmass. On 4th January I became unemployed for the first time in my working life.

I enjoyed being unemployed for the simple reason that I detest work. I could afford to be depressed for once and so I stopped shaving and took baths, as any gentleman would, as sparingly as possible. Nevertheless, cajoled perhaps by my mother but still more by the pressing need to think of my future (what a sight!), I undertook the unpleasant, boring and profoundly difficult task of looking for another job. I even "signed on," a humiliation I hope never to have to repeat in life, and went once a week to the Job Centre to be questioned about how "proactive" (a hateful, unnatural word) I had been in my search for employment. Nothing was suitable. I lost faith in the Job Centre after the second week; they were not in the least helpful or understanding and contributed nothing whatever to my search for employment. Then I recalled that a colleague from John Lewis had worked for the Bank. I had never considered banking before and, my inability to understand even the concept of money notwithstanding, I decided to fill out an application form (with no hope at all that I would be shortlisted). I was invited for an interview and shaved for the first time in two months. I was given the job.

I knew, almost as soon as I took up my training, that I was doomed. As I said hitherto, I do not understand money or interest or any of those things and I have always fostered, to the rancour of my superiors, a scarce-concealed hatred of authority, especially retail managers. I have only been with the Bank since March and have already managed to alienate the management team (but then, they are all women...) by a few choice displays of apathy, not to mention my "inadequacy to earn a living." And I am frightened. I only applied for this job because I was unemployed and despaired of the constant rejections from other, more suitable jobs. Now I am in a far worse position than I ever was at Morrisons. At least I understood my job there and took some pride in my knowledge thereto and the service to my local community that I rendered constantly (that is when I wasn't sabotaging the company). My customers now are of a different sort; ravening, greedy wolves where before they were old dears. The managers are young, of my generation, and therefore of the kind Winston Smith spoke of; to put the fear of God into men's hearts and crying with voices to rend both heart and will. My livelihood is, at present, in their keeping and I am at their mercy. I am off sick at the moment, with stress, but that time will soon run out and I will have to go back. I shall try to use my time off to look earnestly for another job but that itself is a defeating, despairing, depressing undertaking. God help me.

Now, as for being queer (going back to the rest of Mr Crisp's book), what can I say?  I've gone on long enough so perhaps this will comprise another post for another day.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

An atrophied will...


"When a third wave of poverty overwhelmed me, I knew with even greater certitude that when I had lived in Clerkenwell that the only complete solution to my problem was suicide. I never brought it off. I was afraid. A lifetime of never making positive decisions, accepting instead the least of the evils presented to me, had atrophied my will. It was not so much that I longed for death as that I didn't long for life. Emptiness, though, was not a sufficiently definite feeling to lead to a violent act. Instead of sitting in my room and balancing the relative convenience of various ways of ending it all, I ought to have been busy trying to summon up a reasonable amount of despair. Hopelessness was thinly spread like drizzle over my whole outlook. But, in an emergency, I could not find a puddle of despondency deep enough to drown in." The Naked Civil Servant.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Finding...


I have been signed off work for two weeks. Yay. This has afforded me an opportunity to try and do something positive. I need to find a publisher. Since so many of you are desperate for a published work I might at least make an effort to oblige. But about what would I write? Who would want to read it? And how would you characterise my writing style? Derivative and shorn of literary effect I would say though you are at liberty to dissent from this view.

I was thinking of approaching SPCK with some ideas for a Tolkien book. It would be in the form of short essays on some Tolkienian literary themes. I hardly think that anybody would want to read anything "psychological." I remember years ago, when I kept a diary, reading back some of the angry, recriminatory stuff back to myself and finding it deeply disturbing. Not that it's hard for people to publish nowadays. The secret to success in the published world is to write as banal and tasteless a book as can be contrived, like Fifty Shades of Grey, in order to appease modern depravity. I suppose that's one reason I am doomed to a life of penury.

Art: Ted Nasmith. It's Tol Brandir, or the Tindrock in the Westron tongue ("tind" rhymes with "find," by the way) above Rauros falls. The boat foundering is, of course, Boromir's boat taking him past the falls to the Great Sea. It has no significance for the article but contrast the great labour of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli for the honour of Boromir's body and their dirge with certain events in the film trilogy and the clear superiority of the book shines through.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

In answer...

It is not unlikely that I shall be dismissed from the bank, sooner rather than later. At Morrisons, while the senior management team grew to despise me, my one saving grace was having worked there for 9 years (so not that easily gotten rid of) and, while I deliberately sabotaged the company in such a way as to be untraceable to me, I was very good at my job. Now I am in a very vulnerable position made worse by the recent resurgence of crippling depression. I wouldn't mind but about three weeks ago, in a period of irresponsibly compulsive spending, I took out another personal loan to pay for an antique bust, a set of 18th century Jansenist missals and several evenings at Rules. I am not overdrawn yet but the prospects of losing my job and having to repay a substantial loan are hardly...you see, my vocabulary for anything positive has run out.

I don't know what it will be. Incompetence? Gross misconduct? Perhaps the management team are tired of complaints from all those rich customers, one a Brazilian diplomat? At any rate "the squid," that is the branch manager, clearly hates me. She (yes, it's another woman...) was shocked last week to learn of my attitude to customers on the basic service (and that reticently expressed) and, after dealing with yet another complaint, said, as if to herself, "jeez, it's quiet! Have you scared all the customers away or what?" As was my instinct at Morrisons when dealing with comments of this sort, especially from young ambitious sycophants with an impeccable service record, I wrote down everything verbatim; the exact time, place, what I was doing, etc. It is the only weapon I have, being a renegade whom nobody likes. Unfortunately it has occurred to me too late. The writing is on the wall; the glowing reference I had from two customers on Friday notwithstanding. If I know managers, and I do, they remember nothing good and everything bad. Managers are invariably miserable bastards of the worst kind. They don't care one bit about your welfare, your personal life or your disposition to corporate mentality. They just want the work done and human life, to them, being expendable means that they would beat you with snooker cues until you were dead for want of entertainment. This particular manager is especially dangerous. She is 29 years old and so the bank, consumed with corporate greed and disregard for human life, has taken her in at a young age and filled her with itself. "Squid" was not a name given in idle fancy! There is nothing there but the bank and the customer, and she takes as axiomatic the manner in which she treats her line manager as the manner in which she treats every customer; with fawning sycophancy and agreement. As for members of staff, what are they but pawns on a chess board? To the extent that the pawns are as like to herself they are agreeable, so long as there is no relent. But where a member of staff shews himself to be an independent mind free of the bank then she moves to sting. He is a danger, a pernicious influence and utterly beyond comprehension. Why does he roll his eyes at the language we speak? Why is he not jovial to a fault in the propagation of our products and services? Why does he not treat the fat Saudi gentleman with the bulging eyes, uncouth mannerisms and obviously ill-gotten money with supremely royal deference?

Hatred is my chief problem; absolute hatred. Ever have I had the uttermost scorn for authority, especially that wielded by the young, and scarce can I conceal it. You might think that hatred would endear me to the kind of manager I have just described but here we touch upon something very personal. While I also think that human life is largely expendable (and would gladly dispense with large chunks of humanity) I cannot stand corporate mentality and, little though this woman and I have in common, even if we did share some characteristic it would more than likely repel me than attract me to her. I learned many years ago the golden rule of my life, at least my life in the workplace. Them and Us. You do well to cultivate what friendships you may (if friendship can be found in the workplace) among your colleagues in the same rank, but never form an alliance with a manager. The day you do that, you cease to be human.

So what is "corporate mentality?" It is a trite term and little understood by those who use it. Managers, prospective managers and the young are especially susceptible to it. But what is "it?" I suppose I can put it no clearer than to repeat what O'Brian said about the exercise of absolute power:

"Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing."

Can any of you deny that this woman has sacrificed her own mind for a different mentality, not her own? The Bank is master, the Bank is reality, to further the reach and prowess of the Bank is the sole purpose of life, of all life everywhere; everything else is an hindrance. Contrast this cold woman with the bestial teenagers on the bus the other week. But this is the future. The dichotomy betwixt the remorseless, ambitious types and the plebs. There will be no other type of person...well, except me, but what of me? My kind is extinct.

And I am alone. "Go to your GP," it was said. What of him? He doesn't know my name and the few times I have seen him in the last ten years he has just sat there typing at a computer. In and out in five minutes, with scarce any question about my physical or mental well being. "Do you have a therapist?" I did until she moved to Bath and she was, moreover, a specialist in psychosis, not autism. I manipulated her replacement into thinking I was "transgendered" and then stopped turning up for appointments. Five or six years ago she wrote to me saying that she had removed my name from her portfolio and that any subsequent treatment must come from a GP referral, and why would I go to him for help? "What about friends?" They are few and most of those I have offended or repelled in some way. "What about family?" What about them? My father is oblivious and never misses a chance to say, "well, when you find a place of your own..." My mother is stern and unsympathetic. I tell her as little as possible. "What about yourself?" Sigh, I fear that there is little there except profound hatred and wells of despair. The well may flicker, at whiles, with the present but most days it is a miracle I don't ring the Samaritans. Well, no that isn't entirely true. Having recourse to that kind of help would betray my lack of faith in those sorts of people. Watchdogs of publick safety, is there any lower form of life? I hate do-gooders almost as much as I hate Tolkien fans!

I am not "courageous" enough to commit suicide. It is not fear of eternal damnation that holds me back, it's the inability to find the quickest, most painless way of disposing of myself. If Hell is a dark room where the only company you get is yourself then it is a Paradise. Then there is the added worry about my things and my money, after I am gone. I should hate to imagine them being donated to some good cause or to some charity I held in contempt in waking life (that is when I was conscious enough to feel hatred). What of the dust and the filth with which I have insulated my room? What point is there in charity? Who wants to better themselves?

Well, it's Sunday night. I am going now to lie quietly in the dark and await the onset of another hopeless week.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Are you happy?


The general thrust of to-day's morning meeting at work was: "you're all incompetent, what are you all doing about it?" After less than five minutes of listening to the operations manager rattle on about why it took so long for a certain somebody (not me, surprisingly) to do something so simple I switched off and the rest of the meeting became white noise. After the meeting I went to my desk and within minutes my line manager recalled me to the office and sat me down. Something was going on as the branch manager and the operations manager were both present too. They asked if I was, of all things, "happy." So I said, "happiness is a cant and meaningless word and, if it exists at all, is the by product of some pursuit other than work." They then said that it was their job to safeguard the "happiness" of staff. It seemed that they were all reading from a script but I kept that to myself.

Well, anyway I have been given an ultimatum of sorts. I have been told to think about whether I am in the right job over the weekend and to let them know on Monday. It seems as though my banking days are numbered.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

On the bus...


I met up with an old friend from work this afternoon for tea in Chislehurst. The Sunday bus service is out of date in these parts for this modern era where Sunday is just another day so I had to wait roughly half an hour. I got on the bus and sat down and was immediately surrounded by teenage girls. In situations like this my resolution is to remain perfectly still, look straight ahead and to ignore everything around me. There were seven of them, one of me. They were loud, uncouth and intrusive. There were two "ring-leaders," one of whom came and sat next to me and, at the goading of the others, began to do things to me. "Scyooz may," she repeated over and over. Getting no response she started tapping me on the shoulder. No response. "D'you speak English, mate?" She asked as she waved her hand in front of my face. No response. "Look at 'is hair," said one as the one (presumably behind me) started pulling at it. No response. "Oi, Harry," said one from the back. "Oi, is your name Harry?" says the one next to me. "Scyooz may, mate!" I cleared my throat. This was met with unanimous laughter. The one next to me then said, "oi, why you being rude for?" and pushed my head. "Oi, leave him alone," said one. At this point they started taking pictures on their phones, presumably to upload them to Facebook. Then the strong, unpleasant smell of deodorant (the kind favourable to teenage girls and available from Superdrug for 59p) wafted up my nose and I began to fear that they were spraying my tweed jacket with it. At this point the one next to me got up and moved to the back of the bus and I was left alone for the remainder of the journey. They started to shout and swear among themselves then and paid no more attention to me.
When I got off the bus I took off my jacket and inspected it for damage. There was none. I had tea with my friend and then went to Marks & Spencers to get some shopping (no, I don't like shopping on Sundays but I was too lazy to do any yesterday). I went to the bus stop with my shopping and (what are the odds!), the girls were back. I looked at one straight in the eyes and she looked away. Fortunately they embarked upon a different bus. If I had a gun...

Behaviour like this will only get worse as the years go by.

Men nowadays...


I first heard of Jacob Bronowski's "Arrow of Time" when I read The Naked Civil Servant. You see the arrow of time points always in the direction of diminishing difference. It works like this: first there was a difference between the classes, then there was a difference between the sexes. Now there is almost none. With the recent surge in homosexuality, in both men and women, nominally "heterosexual" men and women are not unaffected - quite the contrary. We are all sexual persons, to one degree or another, and now it seems that we are all inclined to some form of sexual perversion. Years ago a "pansy" was seldom anybody you had met; he was certainly never somebody you actually knew personally. We all of us know at least one queer these days. In the 1930's Quentin Crisp went about dumb with lipstick, blind with mascara in flamboyant clothes in order to manifest his sexual type. Nowadays most young people do it! In London I have seen men parade about with half their hair platinum blonde, the other half pink, with bright make up, jingling with amulets, chains, talismans...creating no sensation whatsoever. If they're completely loopy young men will gel their hair, contour their nose and cheekbones, wear foundation and a beard. And yet you know they are not homosexual. I work with such a young man and he seems threatened by me. Why is this? Perhaps because he has seen me and is frightened about just how effeminate he could be thought to be if anybody shifted his proclivities one way or another. Not that I would ever gel my hair. At any rate, they all practise sodomy on their girlfriends and engage in any number of base sexual appetites. Men everywhere are disgusting. Nevertheless the existence of "heterosexual" young men who take care over their appearance is proof that the distinction between the sexes has disappeared. As for lesbians, just look at Clare Balding.

Where do I come in? I find it frustrating that elsewhere on blogs people are complaining about the disintegration of friendship and they are not prepared to consult the expertise of a man who was the only living authority on the subject: Mr Crisp himself. What are you afraid of? Whenever I have mentioned Mr Crisp to any number of people they say some combination of these words: "wasn't he that gay man?" He was so much more than that. The Naked Civil Servant is just as frank and wise a look at 20th century morality and politics as Nineteen Eighty-Four. I suppose what distinguishes the works is that while they are both stories about abject failure and humiliation, Mr Crisp was less neurotic about the one way television screens than Orwell.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Stay!


God for His Mercy give Grace for I call upon the intercession of all our Royal Saints and of all English and Scottish Saints from times past to stop the disintegration of (what's left of) our Union.

St Benedict Biscop, pray for us.
St Wulfstan of Worcester, pray for us.
St Sigfrid of Sweden, pray for us.
St Oswald of York, pray for us.
St Chad of Lichfield, pray for us.
St Felix of East Anglia, pray for us.
St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, pray for us.
St Guthlac of Crowland, pray for us.
St Magnus the Martyr, pray for us.
St Alphege the Martyr, pray for us.
St Mellitus of London, pray for us.
St Erkenwald of London, pray for us.
St John of Beverley, pray for us.
St Dunstan, pray for us.
St Alcuin of York, pray for us.
St David of Scotland, pray for us.
St Bede the Venerable, pray for us.
St Adhelm of Malmesbury, pray for us.
St Augustine of Canterbury, pray for us.
St Oda of Canterbury, pray for us.
St Boniface, pray for us.
St Columba, pray for us.
St Alban the Martyr, pray for us.
St Etheldreda of Ely, pray for us.
St Mildred of Thanet, pray for us.
St Swithun of Winchester, pray for us.
St Ethelwold of Winchester, pray for us.
St Oswald the Martyr, pray for us.
St Aidan of Lindisfarne, pray for us.
St Birinus of Dorchester, pray for us.
St Ninian, pray for us.
St Theodore of Tarsus, pray for us.
St Lioba of Bischofsheim, pray for us.
St Paulinus of York, pray for us.
St Ethelburga of Barking, pray for us.
St James the Deacon, pray for us.
St Wilfrid of Ripon, pray for us.
St Edward the Confessor, pray for us.
St Frideswide of Oxford, pray for us.
Blessed Alfred the Great, pray for us.
St Cedd of Lastingham, pray for us.
St Willibrord of Utrecht, pray for us.
St Margaret of Scotland, pray for us.
St Hilda of Whitby, pray for us.
St Edmund the Martyr, pray for us.

Domine salvum fac Reginam Nostram Elizabeth. Et exaudi nos in die qua invocaverimus te.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

On the shores of the sea...


I've been asleep for most of the weekend, dreaming about such things as blowing up tube trains, smothering annoying women and walking into a ticket office attached to a moving train and winding up in a rather pleasant looking town at a time of night in my pyjamas; or just dozing in my bed half asleep and wishing I was dead. I live in squalor. In fact I've come to think that it is my natural environment. I had very nice linen bed covers but they became so torn and dirty that I threw them away. I kept the pillow case. It used to be white and clean but has, over considerable time (years), taken on the hue of jaundice. I haven't opened the curtains for many months. The carpet hasn't been vacuumed in years and is covered with "bits," mostly clumps of dust, toe clippings and various fibres. The bookcases, pictures and other surfaces are covered with a thick layer of dust, except in places where my brother wrote out "my name is Pat" with his finger. I have made a conscious effort to keep the place tidy but at various intervals I am too tired to bother so piles of washing, books, random pieces of paper and rubbish pile up. I hate washing and ironing so I try to keep that to a once-a-year routine (a two or three day affair, when my parents are on holiday). This means that my best clothes - the ones that I am too cheap or embarrassed to take to the dry cleaner - pile up in a corner while I rely, for the most part, on "dossing" clothes; mostly old cords, shrunken sweaters and short-sleeve shirts from Marks & Spencers. These I am too vain to wear outside the house so, if I am constrained to leave the house for any reason on the weekends, I usually wait until after dark to venture out - for half an hour at most - to the shop and back. I did used to go out more, with nice brogues, sumptuous cashmere cardigans, jackets from Cordings, my face and hair done up Quentin Crisp fashion, but this, after a while, became too much of an effort so I stay at home now. My mother tries her utmost to make me go out but it won't happen. My father makes light of it and calls me "the hermit of the Lonely Mountain;" but my mother said, "if you carry on like this, life will pass you by."

When I was about 10 or 11 my father and I stood on the strand near Malin Head in county Donegal (the northernmost point of Ireland), a place of outstanding natural beauty, and we were looking out to the Atlantic Ocean. It was Autumn, it was sunset, there was nobody around for miles. It really did feel like the edge of the world and before the unhappy discovery of America really was. My father pointed to the fire and water at the edge of sight and said, "that is the gateway to the West." And I thought to myself, "I'm going to go West one day."

Art: Ted Nasmith. I adore this painting. It depicts Maglor casting the Silmaril into the Great Sea a the end of the First Age. Maglor is one of many anti-heroes in Tolkien and, for me, the most admirable.