The Oldie Does Auberon

The Oldie has been running on its weblog a series of excerpts of Auberon Waugh’s Rage columns from its early issues. The latest posting from 1995 deals with aging and is one of the better ones to surface. He begins by explaining how French villagers deal much more humanely with treatment of the mentally handicapped (which he described a bit more colorfully as “village idiots”) and the senile than do the British, simply by leaving them alone:

The point about senility is that it is only distressing if people are prepared to be distressed by it. In the small villages of the Aude, in southern France, they simply weren’t prepared to treat it as anything except a fact of life, to be regretted, sworn at or joked about as the spirit moved them. In England, it seems to me that we treat senility as something between a disgrace and an infectious disease, possibly brought on by masturbation in youth. Not only are oldies who begin to show the symptoms whisked away into a home, even if it means ruining the family in the process; once they are in a home, they become a non-person, visited grudgingly and with increasing embarrassment on both sides.

He then segues into a consideration of how Harold Wilson dealt with his own aging by simply disappearing:

When distinguished oldies become senile, they are immediately withdrawn from view, not left babbling in the sun. Harold Wilson was scarcely seen in his last five years, while he was suffering from Alzheimer’s. It seems especially craven to lock a former Prime Minister away in this fashion when we have a national institution called the House of Lords, specially designed for them to exhibit themselves. This is one of the most humane political initiatives in the world.

The Oldie also posts the reprint of an article by Jeffrey Bernard about his favorite topic –drinking. He refers with some disdain to efforts being made to cure alcoholics and comments on their results as applied to him:

[…] the fact is that when I am not drinking I bore myself. I feel non-functional – a tea bag without hot water, bacon without an egg. But it has never been my intention to get drunk. That has always been the inevitable accident at the end of the day. Most drugs either have side effects or they don’t work efficiently. I used to start drinking at 11 am, pub opening time, and reach my peak of well being at lunch time. Unfortunately that peak only lasts for up to two hours and then the wheels fall off, the memory evaporates, repetitiveness sets in alongside aggression or melancholy or both.

Other side effects of withdrawal are also noted. One of the proponents of a cure

in a chart mapping the downhill progress of the alcoholic […] marks one station of the descent as ‘Starts drinking with social inferiors’. People like Auberon Waugh do that every time they walk into a pub. But in spite of the fact that drunks may number among the most boring people in the world, one does meet some extraordinarily interesting people during the downhill struggle.

The Oldie’s editor Harry Mount also offers comments on Auberon in a review of the collection of his writings in the newly published A Scribbler in Soho. This appears in the Catholic Herald:

Bron, who would have been 80 this November, wasn’t just extremely funny – a rare enough gift. He was also completely fearless. And he was a prose stylist as accomplished as his father – the greatest novelist of the 20th century. (I must confess that I knew Bron – a great friend of my parents and very kind to me as a child; always a good sign.) To possess one of these attributes is impressive enough – to have all of them is unique.

The collection, as has been noted in earlier posts, is edited by Naim Attallah and consists to a large extent of reprints of articles from Literary Review when Auberon was editor and Attallah publisher. Mount offers this comment on the collection:

What a joy to read an anthology of the best of Bron’s writing. But this isn’t it – you’re better off with William Cook’s tremendous collection, Kiss Me, Chudleigh: The World According to Auberon Waugh. This book is more The World According to Naim Attallah, who owned the Literary Review, edited by Bron. […] Space that could have been taken up by more of Bron’s sublime prose is given over to these paeans of praise to Attallah.

Finally, back in The Oldie, they have posted an article about another complication that has arisen for the Brexit process. According to a Swedish report, this is caused by the geology of the tectonic plate under the North Sea bed which is rising much faster than the level of sea water. Ultimately, this will cause Britain to become reconnected to the continent by a land mass known as Doggerland. This process will require more than 1000 years to complete but, according to Dr Üre Haavinkürlaaf of the Üvebinhadt Institute of Tectonics in Stockholm :

“[…] at a conservative estimate, the change is so dramatic that if I live to be 88 [in 50 years’ time] and I’m fit enough, I’m confident I will be able to walk across the Channel and the water won’t rise above my waders.” The emerging land bridge to Continental Europe has no formal effect on Brexit negotiations. But becoming a physical part of Europe is bound to influence attitudes of the public in any second referendum.

The article was posted by Glaub Mirnicht on 1 April 2019.

All of The Oldie articles are posted on its weblog and the review is available on the Catholic Herald website at the links provided above.


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