Monday, April 04, 2005

Happy Birthday George - 100 years old and still going strong

My friend’s father was 100 years old yesterday. He lives on his own with a couple of visits from care assistants a week, and every Thursday he still goes to the supermarket down the road for groceries. He is attentive to his health, visits the doctor regularly to be checked and apparently is quite wary of medications, always making sure that anything he takes has no long term side effects...

Until last year he drove around the town in his car, and he eats well, a great plateful of food. Things change though, nowadays he regularly indulges in a bit of chocolate and a bag of Murray mints because no one lives for ever.

A hundred years seems such a staggeringly long time, hardly human time at all, but a span belonging to a tortoise or something with a very slow heartbeat. I keep wondering how things seem to him, whether the memories of youth are fresher than the ones of yesterday, and how those memories are laid down so well that even after all this time they can resurface.

It seems like more of us live to find out - when I went to buy him a card there was quite a choice with ‘100 today’ on the front, and BuckinghamPalace has a department, and presumably a team of people, devoted to sending out greetings, so there must be quite a demand. My friend showed me the letter she’d received (by Royal Mail, second class) asking her to inform them if there was a ‘change in circumstances’. However there was not and an attractive card duly arrived on time with a picture of her majesty on the front - presumably first class this time, I hope.

Since this is not very literary I’ll finish with a book recommendation: THE BURNED CHILDREN OF AMERICA introduced by Zadie Smith which only seems to be available on There are some totally brilliant stories in here, my favourites are I CAN SPEAK about an extraordinary educational toy by George Saunders, TIMESHARE, a haunting story about a father by Jeffrey Eugenides, INCARNATIONS OF BURNED CHILDREN by David Foster Wallace which is incredibly stunning writing, the memorably poignant FAITH or TIPS FOR THE SUCCESSFUL YOUNG LADY by Amanda Davis and DENTAPHILIA by Julia Slavin which starts ‘I once loved a woman who grew teeth all over her body.’ Excellent.

Also been reading SECRET LIVES by one J Vandermeer which is equally good. My favourite so far is FLIGHT FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT PASSED OVER YET- the end was unexpected and quite magical.



At 11:32 AM, Anonymous Kelly S said...

Hi Clare,

I've really enjoyed your posts. So much so that, even though I've had little interest in reading your fiction thus far, primarily because it exists outside the realm of fantasy (even though it has garnered much praise from Vandermeer and other well-read writers in the fantasy community), I now intend to purchase your books. Thanks for stringing together such wonderful words in such an elegant fashion.

At 3:03 PM, Anonymous Clare said...

THANK YOU Kelly S - you've made my day!

At 7:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never know of anyone else who writes about leeches so lovingly.

Checked THE CHILDREN OF THE PAPER CRANE as I haven't seen it in my childhood. Seems it was published in 1984 in Japan. Indeed, books for children are universal. I loved Swallows and Amazons, which still defines my tastes some way.

- montmorency


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