Sunday, 5 June 2011


Yesterday at a lunch which, following a pattern familiar in this part of the world, soon declined into a speech-making competition (what is it about Central Europeans and their passion for speeches?), my mind drifted (not an unusual occurrence even when speeches are absent). Perhaps inspired by David Eagleman's musings on the after-life, I began to wonder what I would like to find in heaven.

I'm sure I could think of more things, if I put my mind to it, but, just off the top of my head, here is what I came up with, as my companions yattered earnestly on:

The most comfortable shoes will not always be the ugliest.

Smoking will be quite good for you, and gin will make you both happy and wise.

Chocolate, cheese and cream will keep you slim and healthy - although too much of any of them will make you dangerously thin.

Red wine will retain its health-giving properties but lose its tendency to create a headache the day after use.

Films will always be slightly better than you expected.

Washing up will do itself - especially after Christmas lunch (and including putting itself away).

The kitchen will never need cleaning and nor will the bathroom, but ironing will remain an occasional - but not pressing (oh, the wit) - task.

All novels will be gripping, moving and full of insight, and everyone else will enjoy discussing them, but not in the stupid way the women do on First Tuesday Book Club, who say things like "I don't like The Man who Loved Children any more, because I'm a mum"  (this makes me quite extraordinarily annoyed).

When you learn a poem off by heart, you won't find you've almost completely forgotten it three weeks later.

There will be no groin or hamstring injuries - or, at least, no one on the radio will tell you about them over breakfast.

Tattoos will hurt as much as they do now to apply but will vanish within a fortnight from the skin.

The taste of coffee will equal the wonderful smell that rises from the newly ground beans.

No-one will make the currently fashionable claim that, if you are not educated in science, you are not educated.

You will be able to read for many, many hours, never losing concentration, absorbing every word.

You will be able to wake and hear the cry of an Australian magpie and look through the window at blue sky and gum leaves in bright Antipodean sunlight and also be in the Globe Theatre after a two-hour train ride.

There will be enough time to do everything you enjoy and there will be nothing that you don't enjoy to do.

That's all I've got so far. I may think of more, in which case I'll come back with an update. What strikes me about the list so far is a) how greedy I am and b) how unambitious my dreams are - it appears I rather like life; just a few small changes is all that I require.


  1. If Heaven is indeed like this - and I don't see why it shouldn't be - then there would be many more people like me striving eagerly to attain it. My horror of Heaven comes from the (obviously flawed) impression that it's basically interminable hymns of praise except for sleeping on clouds. I confess to being much more attracted to the Hades of the Third Act of Orpheus in the Underworld. Your list is just about right. One shouldn't ask for too much, and I'm sure a magpie's call in the early morning (with the trimmings you suggest) can't be too much for an omnipotent deity to provide.

  2. Denis: I'm hoping a) I'll be allowed in (that's my major concern) and b) that Auden was right and its the Wooster-Jeeves relationship that we're dealing with, in which case the only things troubling the horizon will be the odd contretemps about purple socks or brightly coloured cummerbunds.

  3. Sounds like a good dream to me.

  4. In my heaven, I'm hoping for a radio station just like BBC radio 4, except with no plays and no unfunny comedy shows, and after 9pm they just loop an endless shipping forecast, mixed with the sound of distant seagulls and the quiet clinking of yacht halyards

  5. I didn't know about that currently fashionable claim

  6. About 30 years ago, Harpers had an issue with the proposals of the editors of various other magazines, of which I remember now only Salmagundi, National Lampoon and a bowling magazine. I thought the last's best, partly because it mentioned Point Special, a beer I was partial to.

    I suspect Harpers took its inspiration from a recent essay by Paul Fussell, who in turn was probably thinking of an essay of W.H. Auden's.

  7. Re tattoos, I suspect that the opposite adjustment might be preferable, i.e. they don't hurt at all and yet still stay on the body forever, thereby giving (folk like me at least) two reasons to say 'so what?' and 'well, isn't that silly'.

  8. 'they just loop an endless shipping forecast, mixed with the sound of distant seagulls and the quiet clinking of yacht halyards' - that's poetry, right there, Worm (when's your baby due, by the way? Wonderful news and I hope your wife is feeling well)
    I heard them talking about it on that radio they have nowadays, Nurse
    Do you remember what Auden's essay was called, George?
    I still like the idea of them vanishing, Gadjo, so that, should people still choose to put them on, I won't have to look at them. I read somewhere the other day that the spread of tattoos is a sign of the increasing barbarity of our society. Of course, thre are those who say they are art. Hah, I say.

  9. Yes, I was never convinced by the 'art' thing either. I'm OK with people tattooing themselves if they want to, but if I suppose if I had one done I wouldn't have it done e.g. on my left leg and then only ever wear trousers with the left leg rolled up for the rest of my life, as seems to be the tattoed way of thinking, I'd have it in a hidden place where only those allowed to see my nakedness would ever see it. 'Keep your mystery', as Dame Edna used to say.

  10. baby due on oct 4th! thanks for asking Z - everything is going dandy!!

  11. Z: Auden's essay is called "Eden", a subchapter of "Reading" in Part I, Prologue, of The Dyer's Hand.

  12. Very auspicious - my younger daughter was born on 6th October, and she's great

  13. I am going to get that George. I admire Auden more and more. I'm almost at the point of worship, in fact.

  14. Dame Edna is my personal guide through life, Gadjo, along with WH Auden

  15. I prefer Auden as essayist and critic to Auden as poet. I did my best, under the influence of Randall Jarrell's very persuasive essays, to see what there was in Auden's poems, but never quite did.

    And really there are critics I much prefer to Auden.

  16. Am I appalled or disgusted? I am both.