The things we love make us. “Favorite Things with Friends” is a recurring series where friends reveal their most beloved items to reveal themselves.
Today’s (long, long, LONG overdue) Favorite Things is with VJ. I can’t remember exactly how I came across her Tumblr, but I’m sure it had something to do with Oxford. She’s incredibly kind in responding to my notes and enabling me in all things with the Ford, despite having a full social and academic calendar.
I must admit that this survey was particularly fun as I took some cruel pleasure in forcing this truly devout bibliophile to choose her favorite tomes. For that, VJ, I apologize (not). Read on after the break for her favorite things.
Favorite curse word?
I suppose I should have a well-developed bank of these crafty things -and in fact I do, alcoholically speaking- but I’m not very good at using them publicly (a lesson hard learnt after several rather embarrassing incidents, including one involving a large chicken and the Duke of Kent. Adding ‘a-doodle-do’ definitely does not make it nonchalant, as I quickly discovered). All that aside, however, a good old shit (or bugger) does it for me any day. That mellifluous roll of the tongue, the amusingly deep sense of satisfaction, and the endless flexibility (‘shittity bang bang’, ‘shite’, ‘buggeration’, ‘buggernaut’, etc.) makes me feel like the toff I am. Well, not really (promise) but, after all, swearing is not grown up. It is childish and silly. And that exactly why it is bloody, bloody hilarious.
Bach’s “Ouvertüre nach Französischer Art, BWV 831 (see Richter’s version and anything by Feinberg. Or Radiohead). Or just, you know, the unadulterated tranquility of companionable silence, which seems to be quite a rare commodity these days. A brief answer but a nice one, I think.
An utterly difficult and thoroughly blasphemous question (oh Grace. Grace Grace Grace). You couldn’t possibly make me choose favourites! I do like to read a lot and tend to go through phases (as anyone does) based on genre or topic or personal whim. Right now [Ed: “right now” refers to early March 2012 due to this editor’s inability to post things in a timely manner], for example, I am knee deep and wading merrily through medieval Islamic texts and mid-century African literature of the colonial/post-colonial sort: all very Mackintosh-Smith and Soyinka. I have many that I love across a wide spectrum -whether for sentiment or not- and even more that I have read and liked immensely (see below for a necessarily narrow glimpse of the literary rat-hole that is our study/library/etc). As such, the four I have painfully chosen (and they are by no means absolutes) are books that hold much more of a personal value, whether by association or memory or otherwise.
From left to right (above) and in no particular order:
The Iliad by Homer: In the original Greek. Being the good (?) historian and sort-of-classicist that I am, this is, of course, the ultimate set text and that gloriously epic cornerstone of western literature. Literally. The Homeric question (and general pretentiousness) aside, one of the first passages I successfully translated -oh those easier days- and truly understood was adapted from Book II of this edition. It is always hard to forget something that captures your curiosity in such a clear flash of a moment. For some it may be Kantian logic or Rousseau’s amour-propre; for others, the lucidity of Keats and Shakespeare’s mille-feuille. For me, however, it is the familiar thrill of seeing those old lines etched on the page, those stories of men and gods and honour and the burning towers of Ilium, immortalised by Marlowe and a simple testament to the wonders of antiquity. (Also, I am very very uncool). [Ed: She is most certainly not]
Once a Prince…: A personal book and indeed, a personal account written by a member of my family. All politics aside (one should try, I suppose), it is beautiful and teeming and rich with stories from an age long past and a remarkable life. I imagine many people (of a certain generation and lifestyle) may well fondly recognize the faded glories of the Raj in amongst the pages, whether they recall memories of one’s childhood or the familiar pangs of loss. Tigers and palaces and Rolls-Royces aside; this reminds me of my mother, and I suspect it always will.
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius: Not the whole of it, obviously- a small and worn pocket version has been my trusty not-so-much-a-companion for a considerable number of years. This one of those books which you never fully grasp quite why it has become so wonderfully important in your life, but it has the habit of sneaking up on you nevertheless. I suppose I could ramble on and on about its philosophies and the search for personal enlightenment (it is good), but that seems a bit self-helpish and Eat Pray Love (euch). I think it’s more likely because I’ve always been oddly comforted by -and enjoyed- the idea of a lonely man far away from home, a Roman Emperor fighting for his empire and writing about a simpler existence on colder and darker nights. i have very few moments of sanity and peace in my life, and sometimes it feels like flicking through Aurelius to find a funny sort of kinship across time and progress and moments long past is all I can really do.
Genghis Khan by Jack Weatherford: As well as being an revisionist (read: sympathetic) and interesting pop book by a sound social philanthropist (and a closer study of parts of the world one never ordinarily looks at), I can -and will- never not catch a glimpse of it and think of my father and his boundless curiosity and those hazy post-supper debates at the Club/dinner table on cold winter evenings.
Favorite dish(es) for your last meal?
Food! Exciting. I suppose I could be horribly complicated/healthy/sentimental and choose from a wide selection of culinary/cross-continental faves/memories(/debacles?), but to be honest, all I really want to do after a rubbish, rubbish day is have some claret and curl up with beans on toast and earl grey and Notting Hill on repeat. Being an entirely un-Nigella-esque domestic goddess (demi-god? hag?), I can think of no better way to feast or toast my unproductive life before certain death. Unless, of course, my friends offer to cook (which they certainly should, seeing as I’m about to snuff it).
Top 5 favorite things at the moment?
Oh, another impossible question made especially harder since spring has sprung and induced a suspicious fit of public goodwill that seems entirely out of place. I’ve never seen the BBC so cautiously optimistic since they dismissed the likelihood of rainfall in high winter (Oh England). Excluding perennial givens like family, the boy, traveling, cross-country, rowing, Oxford, the cricket, cat-spotting, satsuma-pelting, etc. etc., they are as follows:-
- My Friends: Alright, alright, this is technically part of the above category, not to mention I’ve been expressly forbidden from posting a photograph of the people I want to (goddamn it all). I don’t particularly want to dig out pictures of others without asking their permission first either, so this does, of course make me seem like an odd/slightly creepy loner. Privacy first and image second, as that fundamentally basic Internet lesson doth go (or not indeed). Nevertheless, they will always be a consistent best. I’ve been lucky enough in my short -and relatively uneventful- life to live in many places and meet many sorts of people, and it is hard to imagine getting through it all without the friends I’ve made. To find people you trust and love and know is a rare and marvellous thing, and one never appreciates it more when making those 4am calls post- a mean reds kind of day (or you know, planning your last meal). Whether from school, university, work or otherwise, they are all far better, braver people than I could ever be, and from this I will always draw selfish comfort. (How soppy it all is).
- Monet 2010: Or rather www.monet2010.com. Quite pop and usual, I know, but I am obsessed with this showcase. Obsessed. The exhibition in question at the Palais last year was impeccable (naturally), but I never visited the site in question until I stumbled upon it whilst sniffing around for Opera tickets. I won’t say too much about it (you must visit it, you must), but I will tell you all to click on ‘journey’ after it loads. It is beauty incarnate. On a similar note, if you happen to be in Paris and have tickets, do go and see Nureyev’s Bayadère at the Bastille. Dupont is en principale (good heavens), and the entire production is sublime.
- Working with my hands: This is very Tumblr of me, isn’t it? But it is the truth, I suppose. I rediscovered the delights of good old-fashioned hard work during a particularly restless few weeks and a suspiciously light lull a la winter workload. It doesn’t really matter what it is: painting, carving, woodcutting, atrociously bad pottery, ploughing a field… the feel of wood beneath one’s hands and paint on one’s fingers is substantive in providing more. I’m quite proud of what I’ve done, really: there is something tangible about an activity where one immediately sees results.
- Jil Sander (& little bit o’ Cartier): I know, I know. Materialistic/out-of-place on a more substantial list (I hope), and technically two things, but the wonders of Sander shall never cease. It maketh my life -and wardrobe- a happier, more versatile place, whether work or academics or general formality-wise. Cartier, of course, has been a personal favourite for eons. I’m not much of a jewellery person (a dubiously expensive and far more refined habit than I have patience for), but they somehow always have something right for the (occasional) occasion. Clever lot.
- The smell of the countryside: The dew on an early morning run, lavender on the breeze, damp moss and bluebells in the woods, freshly ploughed earth, manure and wood smoke, foxgloves on river banks and will-o-the-wisp, forget-me-nots along old lanes and worn paths, campions dancing in the hedges, sheep on the hill, blackberries and strawberries in the copse, the scent of roses after rainfall and grass after frost. Perhaps it’s the cold air and moody skies and all that gently rolling green, but nowhere does Countryside quite like England.