Confession

When Auden and Isherwood left Britain for America in 1939 they attracted much opprobrium and many brickbats. Evelyn Waugh portrayed them as Parsnip and Pimpernel, lily-livered pansy traitors who left their country in its hour of greatest need (though how exactly Great Britain needed two literary types like Wystan and Christopher he didn’t quite explain) and many red-blooded patriots to this day still shake their heads at the mere mention of their names.

So now I have a monstrous confession to make. I am quite as much a cowardly wuss as any who has ever abandoned his homeland in times of trial and tension. As I write this I am 38,000 feet above sea level, hurtling towards New York City at 533 statute miles per calendar hour. Happily Alan, the captain of the plane, has personally popped down to tell me the current cricket score – my chosen career and its attendant baggage of fame have their advantages (carry-on baggage of fame, I suppose one should term it). The flight deck had tuned in to the BBC’s 198 longwave transmissions of TMS to receive the news that England were 100 for 3. No loss of wickets yet. But at this moment we’re too far over the Atlantic for broadcast radio reception and are now relying on Shannon’s ATC tower for updates, which are achingly slow in coming. For all I know we’re ten wickets down at lunch and Australia have launched a devastating counterattack.

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Glory Be

There is a quality in human affairs, so rare, so fleeting and so intense that to invoke its name in any context risks derision. To invoke its name in the context of sport must seem especially perverse, pretentious, preposterous and pathetic. I have always flirted with those four mockable Ps and nothing can stop me now. Even a reasonable night’s sleep hasn’t diminished the euphoria that sees me now unleashing a peal of eulogistic superlatives and hyperbolic encomia that can only bring me taunts, yawns and snorts.

What is this quality, so rarified, so prized? It is Glory. Glory is a golden word to be used, like saffron, in sparing pinches. Religion has always loved it, and tried to deny it to the sublunary sphere. Gloria, gloria; Gloria in excelsis Deo. Glory be to the Father. Solomon in all his glory. Our glorious dead. It has often been observed of war that while it is rightly hated and feared for bringing out the worst in humankind, it cannot be denied that it can sometimes bring out the best too. It is one of the few human arenas that can produce true glory.

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The test

No, not the 5th and Final Test. Although I am on my way there as I type this. I am thinking about the tests undergone by today’s A level students.

I’m not saying I wasn’t nervous about my A level results way back when. I was. Very. I had been in prison, was less than half way through my probation and could only be keenly aware that A levels and University were the last best hope for Our Hero.

My generation (I am going back 32 years to the summer of 77) had certain advantages of course. Neither we (nor our parents) were expected to pay tuition fees or take out crippling loans. A generous enough grant was a matter of course, regardless of parental means. To fast forward for a moment, the Dean of my college addressed my freshers year thus: “Gentlemen” (it was an all male institution in those days), “there is an increasing tendency for undergraduates to seek employment in the vacations. We really deprecate this and urgently recommend you use your vacations to read. Read generally, not specifically to your degree. A walking tour of the Alps in summer is always agreeable.” Can you imagine the gales of derisive laughter that would follow such a pronouncement today? Never mind the vacs, students have to work in term time these days.

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Pointless babble

The clue’s in the name of the service: Twitter. It’s not called Roar, Assert, Debate or Reason, it’s called Twitter. As in the chirruping of birds. Apparently, according to Pears (the soapmakers presumably – certainly their “study” is froth and bubble) 40% of Twitter is “pointless babble”, (http://is.gd/2mKSg) which means of course that a full 60% of Twitter discourse is NOT pointless babble, which is disappointing. Very disappointing. I would have hoped 100% of Twitter was fully free of earnestness, usefulness and commercial intent. Why do these asinine reports jump onto a bandwagon they don’t understand and why do those reporting on them relate with such glee that a service that was never supposed in the first place to be more than gossipy tittle-tattle and proudly banal verbal doodling is “failing to deliver meaningful commercial or political content”. Bollocky bollocks to the lot of them. They can found their own “enterprise oriented” earnest microblogging service. Remind me to avoid it.

stephen

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Not too big, not too small…

God’s biscuits, but I’m knackered. My gym has taken a two week holiday and I’ve found myself the guest of a neighbouring health and fitness centre. They have unfamiliar machines. One styles itself The Adductor, which sounds rather He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. I have been stretched, strangled and constricted and pulled, pinched and pinioned like a medieval heretic. The strange, the obscene, the perverted and the peculiar thing about it all is that I seem to enjoy it. To need it. My younger self – a younger self I need go back no further than nine months to find – would be incredulous, contemptuous and horrified. I sometimes think I’m a visitor to my own self. I am simply agog to discover what I’ll be up to next.

By the way, WordPress, the Open Source blog and web publishing system we favour here at stephenfry.com has a new iPhone app, through which I’m posting this miniblog. I tap away at my phone and publish to the website in the simplest way imaginable. The new mobile version of stephenfry.com which works well for Android and iPhone users, even has a Twitter button to enable me (or you) to tweet the URL of any post. Twitter, as you know, is a Microblog. From time to time I am guilty of publishing Maxiblogs which test the patience of even the most word-hungry, but this new system tends to favour a Goldilocks Miniblog. I hope to produce more on a regular basis.

stephen

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