It is funny, but it strikes me that a person without anecdotes that they nurse while they live, and that survive them, are more likely to be utterly lost not only to history but the family following them. Of course this is the fate of most souls, reducing entire lives, no matter how vivid and wonderful, to those sad black names on withering family trees, with half a date dangling after and a question mark.
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I wanted to listen to him, but I did not want to answer now. That strange responsibility we feel towards others when they speak, to offer them the solace of any answer. Poor humans! And anyway he had not asked a question. He was merely floating there in the room, insubstantial, a living man in the midst of life, dying imperceptibly on his feet, like all of us.
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For myself, hand on heart, those things never bothered me. It is one of the graces of married life that for some magical reason we always look the same to each other. Even our friends never seem to grow old. What a boon that is, and never suspected by me when I was young. But I suppose, otherwise, what would we do? There has never been a person in an old people's home that hasn't looked around dubiously at the other inhabitants. They are the old ones, they are the club that no one wants to join. But we are never old to ourselves. That is because at close of day the ship we sail in is the soul, not the body.
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And be thinking, remembering. Trying to. All difficult dark stuff, stories stuffed away, like old socks into old pillowcases. Not quite knowing the weight of truth in them much more. And things that I have let be a long time in the interests of happiness, or at least that daily contentment that I was once I do believe mistress of
In this makeshift place Willie Dunne discovered a peace of sorts. Yes the wild guns struck their great notes in the distance like the bells of a horrific city. Hearts asleep in the shires of England close upon the sea must heard them too. But he fell down between the boards of memory and sleep like a penny in an old floor. But he fell down between the boards of memory and sleep like a penny in an old floor. He lay there in the dust of nowhere, sunken and alone.
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It is not history. But I am beginning to wonder strongly what is the nature of history. Is it only memory in decent sentences, and if so, how reliable is it? I would suggest, not very. And that therefore most truth and fact offered by these syntactical means is treacherous and unreliable. And yet I recognise that we live our lives, and even keep our sanity, by the lights of this treachery and this unreliability, just as we build our love of country on these paper worlds of misapprehension and untruth. Perhaps this is our nature, and perhaps unaccountably it is part of our glory as a creature, that we can build our best and most permanent buildings on foundations of utter dust.
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I was well aware how famously or infamously secretive these old institutions can be, no more than ourselves, a mixture of worry, lost power, perhaps even concern. That the truth may not always be desirable, that one thing leads to another thing, that facts not only lead forward to resolution, but backwards into the shadows, and sometimes into the various little hells we make for each other.
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And what else could we have come here for, except to sense these tiny victories? Not the big victories that crush and kill the victor. Not the wars and civil ructions, but the saving grace of a Hollandaise sauce that has escaped all the possibilities of culinary disaster and is being spread like a yellow prayer on a plump cod steak - victoriously.
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The world is not full of betrayers, it is full of people with decent motives and a full desire to do right by those who know them and love them. This is a little-known truth, but I think it is a truth nonetheless. Empirically, from all the years of my work, I would attest to that. I know it is a miraculous conclusion, but there it is. We like to make strangers of everyone. We are not wolves, but lambs astonished in the margins of the fields by sunlight and summer.
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He loved telling stories. He had been everywhere in the world. The northwest frontier, the landscape of the Hindu Kush, was one of the great landscapes of my childhood because he used to evoke it with his stories. He taught me the sequence of ranks in the British army when I was about eight. I was in the bed with him while he told me everything about his life - except, probably, the real things, because of course you couldn't go there.
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Fred Astaire. Not a handsome man. He said himself he couldn't sing. He was balding his whole life. He danced like a cheetah runs with the grace of the first creation. I mean, that first week. On one of those days God created Fred Astaire. Saturday maybe, since that was the day for the pictures. When you s Fred you felt better about everything. He was a cure. He was bottled in the films and all around the earth, from Castlebar to Cairo, he healed the halt and the blind. That's the gospel truth. St. Fred. Fred the Redeemer.
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