Died January 20th 2009
And, as I was saying, the whole mansion, it’s just up from the Rodin, is full of Maillol’s work, though with a space I seem to recall for a temporary show on the ground floor. Everything he did was in dark bronze. Room after room of hunky females sprawled in their contented undress and each one set like frozen Marmite. Who can resist stroking them? Caroline says they beg to be stroked the way women want to be stroked — I think she means, why don’t you stroke me like that? — but they’re larger than lifesize, cold to the touch and, of course, purely Platonic solids. Maillol did commissions, often for ‘memorials and the like’ — in fact, that phrase is a verbatim translation from his ad in the pages jaunes — and this would involve the usual toing and froing, the usual formal correspondence about money and schedules. In the end, the mayor of some backwater commune with a windfall would come to the point and ask, ‘M. Maillol, what form do you think our memorial might take?’ You can hear the tactful trepidation in his pen. And M. Maillol, a dyed-in-the-wool Catalan, by the way, would clear his throat as he dipped his nib and reply, ‘I was thinking of a large reclining female nude.’
On Channel 103 it’s Ghana Germany playing each other to a standstill. Black men white shirts black shirts white men Black socks white shorts black shorts white socks Sweet Gene Vincent. On Channel 120 it’s Australia Serbia playing each other to a standstill. Nil nil after an hour. On Channel 102 it’s the World’s Longest Tennis Match and the last set stands at 56 all with no sign of cracking. A small boy has shouted out, “What is the point?” which made everyone feel uncomfortable including Tim the Henman who’s adopted a celebrity pose on the upper level. We expect the players to begin relationships with the ball-girls during banana time and to marry them in due course during an on-court wedding service. Ace. Already, the players have changed racquets twice as technology has caught them up and overtaken. 68 minutes and Germany have scored and Australia equalised, breaking Isner’s serve at long, long last. The permutations are complex and Stan & Stats have come on to explain. Stats asks, How does it, Stan? And Stan says, Goals scored goal difference. Game goes with serve. On channel AV2, we have a video recording of the children playing football on the field circa 1991 with the lads up Ocker Hill, the posh boys from the big houses and a family on holiday at The Bourne. It’s 13-12 and it’s time for tea which will spoil if it’s kept in the oven any longer but nobody cares, playing on in shirts of sweaty endeavour. Next goal wins until it’s 13 all and then next goal wins again. They’re dead on their feet. Isner’s made it two nil with a great strike against Serbia and the 117th game has gone to serve. Things, says the man, could get rather intriguing. On teletext Gloucestershire have been stuffed by Essex in the Twenty20, like they were a gaudy cushion cover and Essex were some cheap kapok from Romford Market. 118 all out. Another goal from Germany would certainly set up some kind of finale. But wait.
This is the black coat in which you said farewell. I imagine you chose it carefully. I notice a small metal button missing now from the left cuff. I imagine you said to yourself, somewhere in your beautiful black heart, This is the coat, this is the black coat in which to say farewell. Now mine. Found on eBay when the black demons possessed my browser. I stroke it like a crap Aladdin. I no longer need encouragement or opportunity. They led me there, straight there. Well, you didn’t know, but I’d had you as a favourite seller ever since I’d used an online auction to replace what once had been one of my most valued LPs. Only to get my own back in the post, all these years later, for £8.49 plus postage. With the guitarist’s autograph exactly where I remembered it, and the tiny hiccup on side two track three just as I recalled. So thanks for that.
Isn’t it lovely to meet someone with extraordinary powers of observation? I’m thinking chiefly here of what teachers used to call ‘nature walks’ where someone who is confident with the identification of raptors or who knows where to look for fungi or the spoor of invisible mammals can be hugely interesting. Similarly, someone in the back seat who can turn a motorway journey into a festival of fact simply through a faultless knowledge of every make of European car. Or maybe the man on the long-distance bus fresh from some extra-mural course and full of rural history and anecdote. Or the girl I told you about before who knows the names of every faint star, every delicate constellation. Of course, I aspire to be just such a person and I want you to let me guide you on one of my favourite walks e.g. through the Slad woods or around the Standish circuit we love so much. I want you to be as impressed as I am by someone like me.
The trees know what they’re doing. They’re as rehearsed as a Busby Berkeley orgasm or the final tableau at the Moulin Rouge. One blink, and the whole scene reconvenes into a Modigliani nude, her thighs tattooed with autumn and cadmium sunshine. Meanwhile, the couple checking in are dressed in glamorous shades of black. They speak the unmediated language of a phrase book to confirm the arrangements for swimming and for the beauty treatments in the spa and they cannot take their eyes off each other as if they’ve taken off already those expensive clothes and folded them neatly over period chairs. In the morning they will be out on the lawn where heavy dew will bruise their modish boots, where they will hold their pose just so, to complete the picture with some classical allusion or other.
Philip Rush’s first full collection, Big Purple Garden Paintings, was short-listed for the prestigious Aldeburgh First Collection Prize in England, but didn’t win. Rush lives in Stroud in Gloucestershire where he plays the electric violin for fun. He has recently been involved in organising a ‘Lorca in England’ festival which included an international translation competition judged by Mark Statman and Pablo Medina.