There's something rather wonderful about the fact that Oxford is a very small city that contains most of the cultural and metropolitan facilities you could want, in terms of bookshops, theatre, cinema, conversation. But it's near enough to London to get here in an hour, and it's near enough to huge open spaces without which I would go insane.
At teenage parties he was always wandering into the garden, sitting on a bench in the dark . . . staring up at the constellations and pondering all those big questions about the existence of God and the nature of evil and the mystery of death, questions which seemed more important than anything else in the would until a few years passed and some real questions had been dumped into your lap, like how to earn a living, and why people fell in and out of love, and how long you could carry on smoking and then give up without getting lung cancer.
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people who believe in God think God has put human beings on earth because they think human beings are the best animal, but human beings are just an animal and they will evolve into another animal, and that animal will be cleverer and it will put human beings into a zoo, like we put chimpanzees and gorillas into a zoo. Or human beings will all catch a disease and die out or they will make too much pollution and kill themselves, and then there will only be insects in the world and they will be the best animal.
And when you look at the sky you know you are looking at stars which are hundreds and thousands of light-years away from you. And some of the stars don't even exist anymore because their light has taken so long to get to us that they are already dead, or they have exploded and collapsed into red dwarfs. And that makes you seem very small, and if you have difficult things in you life it is nice to think that they are what is called negligible, which means they are so small you don't have to take them into account when you are calculating something.
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Miaow Consider me. I sit here like Tiberius, inscrutable and grand. I will let "I dare not" wait upon "I would" and bear the twangling of your small guitar because you are my owl and foster me with milk. Why wet my paw? Just keep me in a bag and no one knows the truth. I am familiar with witches and stand a better chance in hell than you for I can dance on hot bricks, leap your height and land on all fours. I am the servant of the Living God. I worship in my way. Look into these slit green stones and follow your reflected lights into the dark. Michel, Duc de Montaigne, knew. You don't play with me. I play with you.
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A Rough Guide Be polite at the reception desk. Not all the knives are in the museum. The waitresses know that a nice boy is formed in the same way as a deckchair. Pay for the beer and send flowers. Introduce yourself as Richard. Do not refer to what somebody did at a particular time in the past. Remember, every Friday we used to go for a walk. I walked. You walked. Everything in the past is irregular. This steak is very good. Sit down. There is no wine, but there is ice cream. Eat slowly. I have many matches.
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What actually happens when you die is that your brain stops working and your body rots, like Rabbit did when he died and we buried him in the earth at the bottom of the garden. And all his molecules were broken down into other molecules and they went into the earth and were eaten by worms and went into the plants and if we go dig in the same place in 10 years there will be nothing except his skeleton left. And in 1,000 years even his skeleton will be gone. But that is all right because he is part of the flowers and the apple tree and the hawthorn bush now. When people die they are sometimes put into coffins which means that they don't mix with the earth for a very long time until the wood of the coffin rots. But Mother was cremated. This means that she was put into a coffin and burnt and ground up and turned into ash and smoke. I do not know what happens to the ash and I couldn't ask at the crematorium because I didn't go to the funeral. But the smoke goes out of the chimney and into the air and sometimes I look up into the sky and I think that there are molecules of Mother up there, or in clouds over Africa or the Antartic, or coming down as rain in rainforests in Brazil, or in snow somewhere.
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Appalling things can happen to children. And even a happy childhood is filled with sadnesses. Is there any other period in your life when you hate your best friend on Monday and love them again on Tuesday? But at eight, 10, 12, you don't realise you're going to die. There is always the possibility of escape. There is always somewhere else and far away, a fact I had never really appreciated until I read Gitta Sereny's profoundly unsettling Cries Unheard about child-killer Mary Bell. At 20, 25, 30, we begin to realise that the possibilities of escape are getting fewer. We begin to picture a time when there will no longer be somewhere else and far away. We have jobs, children, partners, debts, responsibilities. And if many of these things enrich our lives immeasurably, those shrinking limits are something we all have to come to terms with. This, I think, is the part of us to which literary fiction speaks.
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And Siobhan says people go on holidays to see new things and relax, but it wouldn't make me relaxed and you can see new things by looking at earth under a microscope or drawing the shape of the solid made when 3 circular rods of equal thickness intersect at right angles. And I think that there are so many things just in one house that it would take years to think about all of them properly. And also, a thing is interesting because of thinking about it and not because of it being new.
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And when I am in a new place, because I see everything, it is like when a computer is doing too many things at the same time and the central processor unit is blocked up and there isn't any space left to think about other things. And when I am in a new place and there are lots of people there it is even harder because people are not like cows and flowers and grass and they can talk to you and do things that you don't expect, so you have to notice everything that is in the place, and also you have to notice things that might happen as well. And sometimes when I am in a new place and there are lots of people there it is like a computer crashing and I have to close my eyes and put my hands over my ears and groan, which is like pressing CTRL + ALT + DEL and shutting down programs and turning the computer off and rebooting so that I can remember what I am doing and where I am meant to be going.
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Then, when I've got a degree in maths, or physics, or maths and physics, I will be able to get a job and earn lots of money and I will be able to pay someone who can look after me and cook my meals and wash my clothes, or I will get a lady to marry me and be my wife and she can look after me so I can have company and not be on my own.
Siobhan said that when you are writing a book you have to include some descriptions of things. I said that I could take photographs and put them in the book. But she said the idea of a book was to describe things using words so that people could read them and make a picture in their own head.