Don’t Ever Wipe Tears without Gloves

tearsglovesSome of us watched this (Swedish: Torka aldrig tårar utan handskar) award-winning 2012 three-part Swedish TV drama about the impact of AIDS on the gay community in the early 1980s. It is based on the Swedish novelist Jonas Gardell’s trilogy with the same name, with each episode covering one of the three novels that are subtitled The Love, The Disease and The Death

 The main character is 19-year-old Benjamin, a Jehovah’s Witness who is beginning to come out as he moved to uni in a big city. He meets and befriends Paul and at a Christmas dinner party in Paul’s apartment he eventually meets Rasmus and they start a relationship. The gay club is like something out of thre ark but very true to its times – you ring a bell, they check you out through a spy hjole beforer letting you in. lots of old men chasing chickens.

We see a hospital scene where one nurse wipes a tear from the eye of an AIDS patient, which leads to the second nurse rebuking her afterwards with the sentence that is the title of the series

The second programme focuses on the relationship between Rasmus and Benjamin after they have moved in together. AIDS has started to spread among their friends, end eventually it also reaches them. When Rasmus is found HIV-positive, Benjamin finally decides to tell his parents and church elders that he is homosexual, in order to fully support Rasmus. This leads him to being shunned by the church, and forces his parents to stop all contact if they want to remain in the congregation.

The most poignant scene for me was when an up and coming actor was given his HIV diagnosis and promply went home and hanged himself as his car purred and tried to make sense of what was happening.

In the third programme, Paul’s funeral is like an opera, just like his life, Rasmus’ parents refuse to accept Benjamin’s request concerning Rasmus’s funeral, although they had been deeply in love and Benjamin had remained by Rasmus’ side throughout. This episode also includes some reflections by the surviving Benjamin over 20 years later.

I finished the last episode – tearfully.  It is very true to the period – a friend of mine was cremated in a black bin bag at the age of 25. If hospital staff knew you were gay they isolated you and approached you in masks and gloves etc. Many partners were denied their wishes for the funeral of their loved one – overridden by parents. Some weren’t even allowed to attend, let alone be the chief mourner. Anything to hide homosexuality or AIDs. Even church ministers colluded with talk of ‘cancer’ and ‘girlfriend.’

return to the home page

David Fuller

David was the second longest-standing, regular member of our group, having joined in 2006. He had moved from London, where he had worked as a designed but found difficulty in getting relevant work here because automated online application forms require a degree before one can complete ad David’s good reputation was based on his portfolio.

We used to meet in a pub on the centre but, when this closed, he offered us the use of his beautiful flat nearby. For the next six years, that was our home.

The book group was very important to him, especially since his job wasn’t very fulfilling. “It pays the bills.” He said. He spent his lunchtimes reading the books we were to discuss.

He was a gracious host. I once spilt red wine on his white sofa. Whatever he felt inwardly, he told me not to worry – houses were meant to be lived in.

David designed our poster and book marks. David used to turn up at Pride and other events to disseminate the bookmarks whilst covered in a sandwich-board displaying the poster, front and back.

David was a perfectionist. Although it was ‘no trouble to host our meetings, I am pretty sure he spent a lot of time preparing for us… When numbers grew and I suggested that people should RSVP on a first-reply-first-seat basis, he said that he didn’t want to turn anyone away and that he could squeeze ever more people in. When likely top be late, he trekked across town to give me his spare key so that I could let people in. When visiting somewhere new, he tended to check out the journey by bus the day before so as not to be late.

David Fuller He has fond memories of his family’s Baptist Church in Balham where he’d been a member of the Boys Brigade and enjoyed ‘camping and dressing up.’  Not so happy were his school days. Instead of going to the local Grammar School with his friends, he was sent to the prestigious Alleyn’s School. His unhappiness there might account for his leaving at age 15 and not going to uni., something that dogged him later in life. He fell on his feet through a string of coincidences, being in the right place at the right time and getting to do the design job that he loved.

A few months before his death, David retired and moved to a delightful flat in Cliftonwood overlooking South Bristol as far as Dundry; a view which sustained him during his last days.

Our group was very good at visiting him, right up to the evening before he died. We were very impressed with the care given by St. Peter’s Hospice.

Members of our group commented thus on David: “always enjoyed his company.”

He provided “a ‘Friendly’ safe space”, “a lovely home and [was] an attentive host”

“I have much enjoyed his contribution, his humour and his insight.”

“David usually had a strong opinion on the book”

“his energy, his enthusiasm, his knowledge and his warmth and friendship…..The thing that I will remember most is his ability to always have something interesting and constructive to say about a book, even when criticizing it. If discussion flagged on a particular book, we could rely on David to always have something incisive to say, which stimulated more discussion. He leaves a big gap in our Group.”

return to the home page

The Cross in the Closet – T. Kurek

TCATC(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

Once a self-described homophobic Christian, Timothy Kurek spent a year posing as a gay man and learned empathy and acceptance. It was triggered by one of his friends being thrown out by her family when she told them that she was a lesbian. Also, he ‘wanted to know what it would be like to be on the receiving end of my own theology and attitudes about homosexuality. And two, because I needed to feel the fear, the tangible terror of the “what ifs”. This book records the experience. He spent time in Nashville’s “gayborhood,” mingling with the LGBT community at bars, coffee shops and bookstores.

The quotation by Anais Nin at the beginning sums up the content: We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.

Also: “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do. Anne Lamott

Gay hatred is taught to fundamentalists at a very early age. The author encountered the Sodom and Gomorrah story in Sunday School, illustrated with fuzzy-felt. They still use that stuff?

The homophobia is distinctly of the American fundamentalist kind: the assumption that it’s a ‘lifestyle’and that it’s chosen that it’s only about sex, not love.

The argument of the book is based on experience rather than bandying biblical proof-teats around. Only the latter, though, is likely to convince the bible bashers. Then again, I haven’t seen any reviews from their ilk. Will they ever read this book? And take heed?

The author of the forward can’t punctuate. Indeed, the whole book would have benefitted from better proof-reading.

I had to look up ‘Ramen’ = Japanese noodle soup and ‘clove’ = cigarettes, also called kreteks, illegal in the USA

I wish the writer wouldn’t use the word ‘pharisee’ to denote hypocrisy. Now that he has got his homophobia sorted out, he needs to look at anti-Semitism. Also, I don’t think he was fully aware of the story of how David managed to cut off part of King Saul’s cloak.

Good quotations:

“This book is about the label of gay and how the consequences of that label shaped and changed my life. What this book is really about is prejudice: specifically, my prejudice.”

“We were taught that if you didn’t live up to a certain set of guidelines and standards, that God was out to get you. That He hated you, and His vengeance would be swift.”

“I had never believed coming out was an act of courage. Until today, coming out as gay has always represented cowardice and a sense of giving up. I believed it was an easy out for people who didn’t want to overcome the perversion and sin in their lives. But if today has shown me anything, it is that the act of coming out itself and risking the life you have always known is a courageous thing, an act worthy of respect.”

When called a ‘faggot’: “That was the first time since coming out that I heard that word and understood what it actually meant. It means that you are a lesser, a second-class citizen, and an anathema. It means that your life is relegated to a single word, and the details of that life don’t matter. It means that your thoughts, experiences, loves, and struggles should be painted over because you aren’t an equal, that yours isn’t as valuable as other live. It means you are hated.”

About what he thought was his conscience and which he regards as an inner Pharisee: “…what voice was it? Whatever it was speaking to me, I knew it wasn’t guiding me in love, and that could only mean one thing. The voice had to die.”

“But what if the fundamentalists are right, and being gay is a sin?”….”Tim, if God knows my heart, then He knows how much I love Him and want to serve Him with my life. If being gay is a sin, then I’ll just have to trust that when He said that His love covers a multitude of sins, He was telling the truth.”

“I know this much is true, it takes longer for individuals who have been inundated with conservative religion to “come around” than others that have not been taught about the `unnatural and abominable’ gay lifestyle or `evil gay agenda.’ Lord knows I cannot judge. It has taken a great deal for me to question and realize that things aren’t as I was taught they are, too…..Life is too short to live out two-thousand-year-old prejudices from Leviticus…”

On realising that there is more love and fellowship in the gay ‘community’ than in his church: “I…drive home in silence, stunned by the gaping holes in my assumptions. I do not just feel ingnorant; I feel cheated, like I have been held back from people that could have spoken hope to me all my life, but I was not allowed to listen just because of their orientation. Tonight, I found friendship. I found comaraderie and kinship. Tonight I found fellowship. Tonight, I found pain and loneliness, but also hope. Tonight, I found a part of myself in a gay bar on Church Street.”

“I just try to put myself in her shoes. If I believed what my mother believes, and I had a son come out as gay, I would be mortified because that would mean my blood, my offspring that I love unconditionally, was going to Hell……………Our families are captive to a more conservative way of thinking about things. That’s the unfortunate part of this whole thing. We really are slaves to an idea that hurts us.”

About a mega-church: “the band play(ing) their cheesy music, and with every strum of the guitar or head-dip from the drummer `getting into the spirit,’ I snicker and sneer and wonder how many of them are living in the closet. I laugh at the keyboard player as he plays the same three ambient notes while the praise leader gives us fortune-cookie thoughts for worship. I smile as he reads scripture passages from his iPhone and drinks his coffee– a true hipster wannabe. I laugh at the lighting and the décor. Why are all of these churches decorated in the same cookie-cutter way?”

“This new inability to tolerate Christians suggests that I may have strayed into yet another unhealthy extreme. I am still a bigot, just a different kind this time.”

“I wonder what would happen if–instead of preaching from soap-boxes and shouting through megaphones, or spending millions on political campaigns meant to hinder the rights of the gay and lesbian community–what would happen if we … shut our mouths and simply served the people in our neighborhoods and cities, without an agenda? Would the message of Jesus survive? … I think so.

“For the first time in a long time, I feel whole. Not because my eyes have been opened to a ‘new way of life,’ because there is nothing new about this. Love is the original way.”

return to the home page

Diary Of A Gay Priest: – The Tightrope Walker – M. Johnson

TDOAGP(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

I read this in virtually one sitting at Christmas whilst my houseguests had to amuse themselves. I rarely say that I ‘couldn’t put this book down.’ It’s partly because I lived through roughly the same period as the author and partly because he is deliciously indiscreet and I know several of the people who were in his circle such as Jeremy Younger, my former vicar, Victor Stock, Nerrissa Jones and others in the early days of Affirming Catholicism.. (Though he misjudges one priest who is supposedly straight. I had a highly unpleasant experience of being chatted up by said priest in one of London’s Anglo-Catholic shrines. I found it difficult to get away from him.)

The author carried out his controversial ministry during a time of great change. He tried to follow George Macleod’s advice: unpopularity is OK, providing you don’t inhale.

Despite liberal attitudes gaining ground in secular society, the Church of England seems to have gone backward on ‘the gay issue’ and he, like many other priests, inside and out of the closet, have suffered depression and committed suicide. But the author’s ministry has been outstanding, not just to homosexuals but to the homeless. As a spiritual director, he has had as many as fifty people on his books at any one time.

Even a well-meaning liberal like Chad Varah, founder of The Samaritans, suggests that all he needs of a good woman. There was also a dose of psychotherapy, designed to turn him straight. A disastrous marriage lasted only for a year.

His early experience of Anglicanism seems to have been of the low church type: There was no incense, but another fragrance filled the air from fur coats, hence I later called the service ‘Mothball Matins’. We would emerge from this dismal service looking as though we had been at a memorial service for God.

His use of rent boys and his suggestion that a little infidelity is necessary for people in gay relationships annoyed me, though I am no prude. Maybe gay men reacted so strongly to having been repressed that they ‘went too far the other way’ and I suspect that young gay men who have grown up in a less repressive climate see things differently now.

One forgets how liberal the C of E had been compared to now. The Bishop of London, Robert Stopford, sought advice about the needs of gays and sought to fund the author by giving him light parish duties so that he could carry out a ministry towards them. This was the 1970s.

One feels that nothing has moved on when reading the recent Pilling Report and then comparing it to this: 1979. A Report on homosexuality is published today. Three of the members of the commission who wrote it are gay including the Revd Michael Day, but they have obviously had no influence on their confreres. The Report is an insult as it says that gay loving is ‘morally and socially’ not equivalent to heterosexual marriage. So we are second class and will behave accordingly. It says that gay clergy if they are open about their sexuality should resign. There is no mention whatsoever of civil rights, and the Daily Telegraph somewhat surprisingly says that young people will ignore it.

Despite the Church’s public face, the author enjoyed all the perks of establishment and I am astonished that many bishops happily came to dinner with him and his partner. Also that priests and partners were tolerated, despite the official line. This angers me because I think of many gifted people who would have made good priests but who never even thought of applying because they believed that they wouldn’t be accepted if they were honest. Why are we laypeople kept in the dark as to what is really happening?

The hypocrisy of the outward stance is show in: Michael Turnbull, Bishop Designate of Durham, is on the front page of the News of the World because in 1968 he was arrested and found guilty of having sex in a lavatory with a farmer. Three archbishops, Coggan, Carey and Runcie, say that he is forgiven so it must be so. They all knew about it. So our Church condemns gay clergy with loving partners and forgives blowjobs in lavatories. It is ironic because Michael, whom I have known since university, took a very hard line on homosexuality when I asked him to lunch at the Athenaeum.

The secrecy is sad, as in: sister, an evangelical Christian, is distraught not only at his death but at finding some explicit porn in his flat (sorting out the belongings of her brother after his death.)

There’s a delightful story of how a divisive issue was sorted out: A seated statue of the Virgin Mary was brought back from Walsingham earlier this year by the parish pilgrims led by David Randall. Half the congregation hated it and half loved it – Monica Rejman, a tiny dumpy Polish lady who lives at the local Salvation Army hostel and always comes to church in national costume with lace cap, decided she would ‘knit Mother some dresses.’ Trudie Eulenburg, our parish worker, calls the statue `ze doll on ze shelf,’ because as I didn’t know where to put it I placed it on a window sill. Today one of our crypt men threw it on to the floor breaking it into smithereens. Half cheered, half cried.

One prophecy has not come true, sadly in my opinion. Quite the reverse: 22 October 1977. A big shock as despite all my demands two girls turn up for a Service of Blessing, one wearing a suit and one a bridal gown attended by five bridesmaids. Their parents were also present. I rushed through the service which was just as well as a News of the World reporter arrived soon after they left asking if a wedding had taken place. Quite truthfully I said no and closed the door. I have about three of these services each month, so will make sure this never happens again. One day perhaps it won’t matter if some, probably only a few, gays and lesbians want to ape heterosexual marriage.

I always found Archbishop Donald Coggan to have been as dull as ditchwater so I was surprised to learn of the author’s liking of him.

There is a delightful story of the Queen holding a conversation with a tramp.

Archbishop Richard Holloway comes out with one of his typically risqué phrases during an HIV/AIDS awareness session: who at the end of the day said that his vocabulary had been widened — ‘until now I thought that rimming and frottage were West Country solicitors.’

David Hope comes across as the nice person I always thought he was and, as other commentators have said, he didn’t deserve the Peter Tatchell treatment (though the other bishops almost certainly did.)

he person who comes out worse in this book is the odious George Cassidy, now a retired bishop in this diocese. One of my friends tells me that he is a ‘lovely bloke’ but I have seen no evidence that he has ever changed his inability or unwillingness to listen to anyone with a point of view different from his own.

There is an interesting contrast in: There is an obituary in The Times today of Cardinal Alfonso Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family. For two decades this man has pedalled his conserv­ative views against divorce, abortion, contraception and homosexuality. Amongst his horrific views was that condoms couldn’t prevent AIDS because the virus was small enough to pass through them, and he reckoned that same-sex couples who adopt are jeopardising the child’s future, and that this amounted to an act of moral violence against the child. Good riddance to Trujillo. On the same page as his obit was one for Pushpa Anand, a Hindu guru, whose whole life was devoted to alleviating suffering of families in India. What a contrast.

I enjoyed Jane McCulloch’s: ‘The observance of the Church concerning feasts and fasts are tolerably well kept; the rich keep the feasts and the poor keep the fasts’; ‘There are three sexes, men, women and clergy’; ‘Marriage resembles a pair of shears, so joined that they cannot be separated, often moving in different directions, yet always punishing anyone who comes between them’.

I also enjoyed: The Queen Mum as Patron comes on a private visit at 5pm to St Katharine’s with only the staff and governors present. I had phoned Clarence House to ask what tea she prefers, and there was a long silence then, ‘Is there anything stronger on offer?’ Three parts of gin to one of martini is the royal tipple, so I mix it in a rather large glass and hold it for her.

And: I went to Desmond Tutu’s book launch today, and he said that when he reaches the Pearly Gates he will be sent to Hell, but two weeks later the Devil will be at the Pearly Gates asking St Peter for sanctuary.

 Also: Ian Hislop came to interview me today for a TV programme I was a bit low. He asked me about the C of E, and I said that it is like an elderly maiden aunt whom you would like to strangle for most of the time, but comes up trumps at Christmas and Easter. She lives in a large house too big for her and beyond her means, and dislikes talking about sex or politics. ‘Or God,’ said Hislop.

And: Runcie on the Church Times – ‘It’s a duty to read it and a sin to enjoy it.’

I always thought that the Bishop of London is more than just a Tory: Richard seems able to deliver the smuttiest of innuendos with apparent innocence, keeping the humour rude but rarely offensive. Often I have wondered if he realises what he is saying, and yes, he does. At his first huge gathering in the Stepney Area he referred from the pulpit to his predecessor, Jim Thompson. ‘You called him Big Jim so I hope you will not know me as Big Dick.’ At the Induction of Katharine Rumens, the first woman incumbent in the City, at St Giles, Cripplegate, a large number of women priests were robed and in the sanctuary. Richard, looking at the effigies around the walls of famous parishioners like John Milton and John Speed the mapmaker, climbed into the pulpit and said, ‘There are some substantial busts in church tonight.’

Insightful: Lunch at the Garrick with Bruce Kinsey, chaplain of Downing College, Cambridge, who makes the point that people with a very low self-esteem get ordained because they think that they will get status and affirmation. Then they find that they belong to an institution which specialises in making them feel guilty and worthless.

My view was confirmed in: I was in Great Yarmouth… which sits like a boil on England’s eastern cheek. It plays host to the poorest and least sophisticated of Britain’s stay-at-home holidaymakers. It gives them food to feed a pig on and a wind from the Urals.

I don’t think this is right: Professor of the History of the Church at the University of Oxford since 1997, and Fellow (formerly Senior Tutor) of St Cross College, Oxford (since 1995). Though ordained as a deacon in the Church of England, he declined ordination to the priesthood for political reasons. (My understanding is that Bishop Rogerson refused to ordain him priest because he wouldn’t toe the line post Higton.

The author is a freemason. I need to learn some tolerance too as I don’t give these folk the time of day with their silly rituals.

I had to Google ‘Leander Pink’ (‘Cerise….. a deep, vivid pinkish-red” and therefore a colour in its own right.’)

return to the home page

Michael Williams

MWmsOne of our regular members died, at the age of 79, on Monday 4th November 2013 of a heart attack (his third).

I have known Michael for thirty-five years. I was new to Bristol, knew hardly anybody, and his partner, Lionel, invited me for a meal. Hospitality was a major part of their life together.  On Christmas Day, over an hundred neighbours would pass through their doors, (I often washed up the glasses afterwards!) a custom that went back to the days when being gay wasn’t fashionable and often not acceptable. Christmas dinner in the evening was a delightful event. It was a fairly small gathering of those gay men who were on their own and who chose not to go home to their families, for various reasons. They say you can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends. I always felt that to be true – we set up an alternative community based on choice and like-mindedness. Boxing Day (Boxmas, Mike always called it) saw a bigger crowd, couples who’d had enough of other by then and were desperate to get out; people who’d been with their families the day before and felt the same.

Mike and Lionel’s home had been a hub for many gay men back in the day when the only meeting places tended to be cottages or seedy pubs. By contrast, here people could meet for food, chat and friendship. It was also a refuge. I stayed there for a few days when I was going through a very rough patch in my life. Their company and care is something I have always treasured.

His rebellious streak showed up early when he refused to stand up for a teacher who he didn’t respect.   Mike was a conscientious objector to National Service and worked as a porter at Southmead Hospital  instead. He trained to teach science at King Alfred’s College, Winchester, and taught at a secondary modern school and, later, as an FE college teacher and librarian. Education and pacifism were two of our many shared concerns.

He loved Italy, architecture, opera and music and directed plays. He played violin and piano and his house was full of books and CDs – if you picked up something you liked, he’d most usually give it to you. He was a volunteer at the Aled Richards (now Terence Higgins) Trust and, because he was also interested in local history served as secretary to the Brunel Society for twenty-one years. Here is a review of one of his books.

Mike had been adopted and bought up by Jehovah’s Witnesses, which gave him a sceptical but tolerant view of religion. He was in great demand, after his retirement as a Humanist officiant. As one who conducts funerals myself, I know how much time goes into preparing them. His preparation was thorough and meticulous. I also shared many of his humanist values, having more in common with him that with many of my co-religionists.

He was part of OutStories oral history project and can be heard describing how he met his life partner.

He attended our group regularly, from 2008 onwards. He welcomed one of our new members to the city. Other members member said, ‘My first visit to the Book Club was to a Christmas meal at Michael’s. I shall remember him with great affection. He was an amazing man, with such warmth and compassion towards those around him. I am sure that he will be greatly missed by a great many people.’  ‘I enjoyed meeting him and having him tell me what a ‘nice young man’ I was.’ ‘He always struck me as a very warm and kind person, and when he used to have something to say about the book it was always to look for the positives in it.’ ‘Very smartly dressed but didn’t seem very orientated as to what we were talking about, but did say on leaving that he had had a very nice and convivial evening. RIP.’ ‘Even in the brief period that I knew him he showed himself to be a kind, gentle loving man.’

We began to worry two years ago when we were on a bus into town for a book group meeting and he told me that one of our members was in an am dram production. Two stops later, he told me the same thing again. On another occasion, he asked me why I wasn’t using my bus pass. I explained that I wasn’t yet old enough to possess one. Then, a little later, ‘Why aren’t you using your bus pass?’ Towards the end he forgot the book we were discussing. He seems to have enjoyed our company and said that he loved this group – it was a safe space where he didn’t feel scared. He also attended two other book groups, one of which was for ‘straight’ men but he dropped those groups while keeping ours on.

Dementia seems very cruel to many of us. However, Mike used to say that problem with getting old is that ‘bits start dropping off’. Having led a very active life and having kept healthy by daily exercise until prevented by diabetes perhaps he has been spared further illness and dependency.

Mike’s funeral was standing room only at the crem. I reckon there were about 150 people. He had so many friends – yet whenever I saw him it felt as if I was particularly special – as did all the others, I expect.

From The Guardian – Announcements: WILLIAMS, Michael, died 4th November in his 80th year. A dedicated teacher, librarian, socialist and humanist. He loved life and the arts, especially music. He was a loyal and generous friend who gave great support to many organisations including the THT. He remains in the heart of all who knew him. He is survived by Lionel Reeves, his partner of 48 years. Funeral at Canford Crematorium, Bristol, 2:30pm 22nd November. No flowers, donations to the British Heart Foundation.

return to the home page

The Line of Beauty – Alan Hollinghurst

line of beautyThis novel works as a satire on the 1980s but we wonder why Hollinghurst is obsessed with wealth whether it be old money like the old man in his ‘The Swimming Pool Library’ or by the new money of those who made good under Thatcher. Money talks more than establishment: Bishops don’t earn much.

This book is full of unpleasant people and tories (are they synonymous?) so it comes no surprise that: Catherine said Gerald despised his constituents. `If only you didn’t have to be MP for somewhere,’ she said, `Gerald would be completely happy. You know he loathes Barwick, don’t you.’ Nick had laughed at this, but wondered if his ‘dear ma and pa were in fact exempt from the loathing.

Not that tory MPs are out of touch: The sport of welly-whanging was unknown in the Surrey of Gerald’s youth, as it was of course in contemporary Notting Hill; the only wellies he ever touched in middle life were the green ones unhoused from the basement passage for winter weekends with country friends.

Nick embodies a cold age, an age of the calculating outsider, where everybody uses everybody else. He comes from a prosperous but not cultured background, like many of the parvenus of the period. Does this background make him paranoid or is that because he’s done so much drugs? His relationship with the mad daughter Catherine redeems him. His surname is ‘Guest’. He is not treated very well as a guest, particularly when he is no longer ‘useful’ to the tory family. Then again, he does outstay his welcome, somewhat.

The nastiness becomes ever more obvious towards the end: He was warm with indignation, and a new combative in excitement. Barry Groom had no idea of the life they n this house. ‘I suppose I’d have to say,’ said Gerald, ‘that it was an error of judgement. Untypical — I’m a pretty sharp judge of character as a rule. But yes . . . an error.’

`It’s an error you’ve paid a very high price for,’ said Barry Groom unrelentingly.

`He was a friend of the children, you know. We’ve always had an open-door policy towards the children’s friends.’

Hmm,’ said Barry, who had publicly disinherited his son Quentin ‘on principle’, to make him learn about money from scratch. ‘Well, I never trusted him. I can tell you that, unequivocally. I know the type. Never says anything — always nursing his little criticisms. I remember sitting next to him after dinner here, years ago, and thinking, you don’t fit in here, do you, you little cocksucker, you’re out of your depth. And I’ll tell you something else: he knew that. I could see he wished he was upstairs with the women.’

`Oh . . .’ said Gerald, in wan protest. ‘We always got along all right, you know.’

`So fucking superior.’ Barry Groom swore harshly and humourlessly, as if swearing were the guarantee of any unpalat­able truth. It was just what he’d done that night, after dinner, with an effect Nick could still remember, of having absolutely no style. ‘They hate us, you know, they can’t breed themselves, they’re parasites on generous fools who can. Crawling to you, crawling to the fucking Ouradis. I’m not remotely surprised he led your poor lovely daughter astray like this, exploited her, there’s no other word for it. A typical homo trick, of course.’ Gerald murmured something, with an effect of grumpy submission. Nick stood clenched by the door, leaning forward slightly, as if about to knock, in a novel confusion of feelings, anger at Gerald’s failure to support him, and a strange delighted hatred of Barry Groom. Barry was a multiple adul­terer and ex-bankrupt — to be hated by him was surely a mark of probity. But Gerald . . . well, Gerald, for all his failings, was a friend.

The vocabulary is somewhat pretentious. What is ‘matutinal steel’? (Clue: Matins) It’s a morning shave. And a stockbroker deal is ‘solemnised’.

There is some good observation: The pub itself was shut, bleared light came out through plastic sheeting as work went on after hours, a new brewery had bought it, they were knocking the little old bars into one big room to make it more spacious and unwelcoming.

Four months after discussing the book, we saw the film version – our review is here.

return to the home page