Always the people

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‘To tell you the truth, it’s been shattering. But kind of amazing, as well.’

‘You never said. You never said. You should have said something.’

‘I don’t need to tell you everything. Not everything is up for grabs. Some things you just can’t…people are involved.’

The book stares at me for a long moment. ‘Can you do one anyway? Just for me. Where did we leave off?’

‘I didn’t know we had started.’

‘You know you want to.’

‘I don’t want to. The whole review thing makes it look as though I live my life like some kind of uber-curatorial version of Melvyn Bragg, purely mentioning tidbits of information for the vicarious delectation of others whom I have never met and who are not woven into the fabric of how I actually live.’

‘Shall I take that as a yes?’

‘I hate you sometimes,’ I say.

‘Hate you more,’ the book says, a grin inching round its chin.

There is a silence. I sigh. I look at my watch. ‘Ten minutes,’ I say.

‘More than enough,’ the book says.

‘I heard and met Josephine for the first time.’

‘Wait, I haven’t switched this thing on yet.’

‘And Stephen and Michael. They all read beautifully. Their poems are breathtaking. And they are lovely people, as I knew they would be. I read some books, and I re-read some others. James Schuyler. Gosh, I love Schuyler. And Laskey. I re-read him. I couldn’t be with him and wanted to, so re-read him instead. Peter’s new book was lovely. And profound. I think it’s his best. Orbiting the Giant Hairball. Now there’s a book. The Courage to Create. It reminded me of Bird by Bird. It’s written entirely in quotes you want to copy out. Beautiful. Thomas Merton’s When the Trees Say Nothing. That blew me away. And I got to hang out with Peter and Catherine. What amazing people. Myra sent me her book. Damian gave me his. Dean’s début; Jo’s Kith. I think that’s it. In terms of the vicarious-review thing. But when I really look back it will be about the people. And the chatter. And the just sitting. Being, you know. And the laughter. The people. Always.’

‘Eight minutes and 23 seconds,’ the book says.

‘It’s all you’re getting,’ I say.

‘What about next year?’ the book says.

‘What about it?’

Your big anniversary.’

‘I don’t want to talk about it.’

‘But you have to.’

‘No I don’t.’

‘You know you do,’ the book says, looking at me.

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