I was just reading a bit of snobby nonsense in the Telegraph by what looks like a twelve year old who goes to Cambridge University and clearly thinks Young Fogeys who don't go to Oxford or Cambridge--even the ones who go to St Andrews--are clearly envious of him. As a matter of fact, I am envious of him because he has got a blog in the online Telegraph. Why don't I have a blog in the online Telegraph? Does one have to throw oneself on the pavement before Damian Thompson, or is there a more dignified way to do it?
I am not envious of what appears to be Cambridge night life, which is apparently limited to going to some dive and drinking alcopop. Frankly, night life at the University of Toronto was better than that: on a Friday night the young Seraphic would put on her goth togs to go to candlelit cellars to drink terribly cheap wine, dance to Ministry and write horrible poetry by candlelight. Possibly some sneering junior hack will now accuse me of seething resentment for not having gone to the Sorbonne, but that is a risk I am willing to take.
It is odd that the nice young Englishman today cannot don a tweed jacket without someone shrieking about Brideshead Revisited, Charles, Sebastian and Oxford University. Tweed is a lovely fabric; we think quite highly of it in Scotland. Wool pullovers are also quite nice; we think quite highly of them in Scotland, too. Corduroy trousers in startling colours are a matter of taste, but one must admit that they are a nice change from the drear of grey or black denim one sees everywhere.
And it must be great fun to find socks and ties to go with them. There is a bit of a Sock War between the Young Fogeys of my parish, and I amuse myself on Sundays by comparing the day's contenders for the Sock Title. (In olden days a glimpse of sock was looked upon as quite a shock, but today--heaven knows--anything goes.) As a woman, I find it refreshing when men ponder their appearance with even a sliver of the attention women pay to our own. It shows appropriate humility and recognition that it takes something more than a shell suit to get the attention of today's young woman around town, unless she is one's lawyer.
It is also sad that anyone should find it laughable or evidence of Oxbridge envy if young people in the UK have dinner parties, especially if such parties end with port and cigars, and an example of pretentious excess if the women leave the table when these break out. But in my own house I leave the table when the port comes out, so that I can have a cozy chat with my women guests, undeterred by the presence of men from indulging in such subjects naturally of no interest to them, e.g. Lonergan's cognitional theory in the light of contemporary neuroscience.
Dinner parties are quite an enjoyable way of spending time, as are partner dancing, the opera, the concert hall, singing around the piano and, in fact, anything that people with any money at all enjoyed before the Second World War. I do not think Young Fogeys should be faulted for finding value in those things that are beautiful or tasty and take effort. Nor should they be mocked for choosing them over such contemporary horrors as alcopop--grain alcohol with sugar and artificial fruit flavouring--and grinding, if grinding occurs in UK clubs. The one and only reason for drinking alcopop is to get drunk as soon as possible, perhaps so as not to notice how very boring the club scene can be. As for grinding, it may happen in Edinburgh's notorious Espionage, but nobody will escort me there, so I can't tell you for sure.
The traitor in the latest film version of John Le Carre's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy justifies his treason by saying that Britain had become "so ugly." The sad fact of modern life in the West is that much of convention has become ugly. The conventional clothes have become ugly. The conventional language is ugly. The conventional manners are often ugly. The conventional music is often ugly. The conventional courtship is ugly. The Telegraph column I read was ugly, perhaps deliberately so as to provoke an angry, and therefore voluminous, response. If ugliness is now conventional, then it is better to be unconventional. If that is to be a traitor to the modern world, then a happy traitor I shall be and assist the Young Fogeys in their treason by applauding their pursuits and admiring their socks.
And with that thought, I will wish you a merry Christmas and say good-bye for now. I have many things to do to ensure a merry Christmas for B.A. and our guests and me. I very much hope that your Christmas is a celebration of all that you have and not at all a reminder of what you lack. No matter who is not with us, God is with us.