We headed off to walk to Greenwich in the rain yesterday, but by the time we got there the sun was out which made us feel rather smug. We picked up a few books in the market, including a copy of Goodbye to All That, which I’m sure I own already, but I haven’t seen my copy for a while so it seemed reasonable to spend a couple of quid on it, then we settled in at the Trafalger to read over a pint and a plate of whitebait.
When Ned was small his parents made friends with a family who had children of his age, and the grandmother became a sort of adoptive grandmother to Ned; they spent a lot of time together. That was Rosaleen Graves Cooper, Robert Grave’s sister. Ned had told me about Roz before, and we are good friends with her grandson but it was the first time I’d re-read GTAT since hearing the stories. She thought Ned should be a writer, (I agree,) and he often tells of going to see her when he was about 13 and her first question being ‘Ah, Ned! So have you published anything yet?’ I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet her.
Anyway, very early in the book and among stories of his family including Roz, Graves talks about being kissed as a child by Algernon Swinburne, who in turn was blessed by Walter Savage Landor, who had been patted on the head as a child by Samuel Johnson. So now I feel I can claim a touch lineage with Johnson. A touch tenuous? Probably, but also it gave me one of those moments when the past feels very present not just in the bricks of London, the mudlarks of Greenwich or the portraits of Nelson surrounding us in the pub, but that communication through touch that joins us all to generations past. They stretch out in a great web, just think where it might lead if you’ve shaken hand with the Queen. That’s a single step to just about every president and prime minister of the 20th century for starters. Actually both my father and Ned’s have shaken hands withe the Queen, that gives me a touch line up to Queen Anne and Johnson as a child was touched by her for scrofula…
Though of course these visionary insights might be due to the fact they serve very nice cider at The Trafalger.