Someone I hardly know asked me what I like to do with my spare time. I thought that there was no short answer to that. I took ‘spare time’ to mean ‘alone time’. It’s a personal question. How much do I want to admit to? I didn’t want to tell this person about my spare time. Why would I tell him that I play with paint? It’s my stuff in my time. I didn’t think it a good question, so I limited my answer to the easy passive stuff such as books, movies and TV. I must have sounded very mundane.
“What’s your favourite book?” He asked.
“The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint Exupery,” I responded. I don’t know why I said that, because it’s not true. Although it would be a worthy favourite. It’s true that the book is one that I love, so it wasn’t a lie. I’d quoted from it that day, so it was fresh on my mind. “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye”. I guess asking this kind of question makes for conversation when there really is none between two complete strangers sitting together at a dinner party where they cannot ignore each other. I find it a strange place to begin an acquaintance, but then again, the acquaintance was going to be limited to that evening and we had to talk about something.
Actually, it could have been a lovely conversation, but the person asking was obviously not that interested. He said, when I asked the question back, that he didn’t have time to read. He’s never heard of The Little Prince. “What do you do with your spare time?” I asked. “Nothing really”, was the response. That’s impossible, isn’t it? Does he play golf? He doesn’t. He was a boring bloke and he didn’t understand my humour. He had no humour. He said he was a consultant. I didn’t ask in what.
I love to read. I don’t read as many books as I used to. I should read more. I would read more if I wasn’t so constantly distracted by the rigours and stresses of life. I like beautiful books. I like poetic books. I like the way Ben Okri and Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Laura Esquivel arrange words. I love the words they choose, how they juxtapose words and the worlds they create. These are a few of my favourites. I haven’t read one of any of their books in a couple of years, though I love them. I don’t have one favourite. What’s your favourite book, colour, song, place? I don’t have one favourite. Why would I limit myself to one? I now have a book that describes itself as ‘A true story of impossible love in the eighteenth century’. Yum! I’m about to get started.
The last book I read was “The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort” which I discovered, on my last trip to the flicks, had been made into a movie. So I can now be one of those irritating people who see the movie, then say with superior intent, “Have you not read the book? The book is much better”. I won’t be that person, though. It’s one thing to be irritating to others, but I balk at being an irritation to myself. Besides, the book won’t be better. It’s a difficult book to read. It’s not poetic. It was the only thing to read where I was at the time, and I felt the need to read something so I read that. It was entertaining enough. It was too long and repetitive. I have a feeling the movie will be better.
I love movies too. An unforgiveable on my part is that I’ve not read F Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby. I saw the 1974 movie with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. I was twelve years old. It was my age of aspiration to beauty and I thought Mia Farrow’s beauty was positively ethereal. I saw the 2013 version just the other day and I loved it. Who is more extravagant, ostentatious, and opulent a director than Baz Lurman. But movie directors take poetic licence. Perhaps it’s time I read the original story as told and intended by the original author.
I was educated in England. Shakespeare is the backbone of English literary education. I’ve read many of Shakespeare’s plays. I had to. Romeo and Juliette is what most of us are started on. Baz Lurman made a sumptuous feast of that story. The Scottish play is an ‘of course’. Hamlet is another. Does anyone remember ‘Shakespeare’s Hamlet by Kenneth Branagh?’ Talk about taking licence. Is anything more OTT than act iv scene iv as the camera pulls back, so slowly, on Kenneth as Hamlet standing in acres of snow performing a Mannheim Rocket of a soliloquy? I loved this Hamlet. Remember those fencing scenes with the guys in white, six-pack fencing suits, and the fantastic gold framed mirrors into which Hamlet delivers his “to be or not…” – opulent in the extreme. Ophelia looked as if she’d stepped out of a John William Waterhouse painting. It’s all so beautifully camp. I love a bit of camp. Other Hamlets seem quite drab in comparison to this one.
These are two of my favourite of movies. But I have many favourite movies. I also love romantic comedy. Who doesn’t love a romantic comedy? They’re amusing and benign. They go well with chocolate and red wine or chocolate and white wine, or just chocolate. They bring a tear of empathy to the eye. I remember the day I watched my very last Tarantino. It was Reservoir Dogs. I can’t take the nonchalant violence. I walked out. My capacity for watching people being beaten to a pulp and maimed and stabbed and shot has all been used up. I’m all out of capacity. I can’t any more.
Those TV shows like CSI New York and Special Victims Unit and the like I refuse to watch. The victims, nine times out of ten, are women and there’s enough violence against women in the news. Why is all that violence against women entertainment? I’m not entertained by it. I like general knowledge quiz shows. I find I often know the answers and that surprises and thrills me. Among my favourites are Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, QI and Money Drop. I like comedy. I love Big Bang Theory.
I read a lot of articles. I read them mostly online, and when I have done with the serious important news of corruption, murder, countries at war, people in devastation, the tedium of politics and other mainsprings of nausea and agitation I indulge a guilty pleasure. I peruse the British tabloids. The British tabloids are amusing news. The Brits have a delicious pithy irreverence and a penchant for satisfying my fascination for the irrelevant. Nigella Lawsons’s new svelte body after hypnosis; The armoured tank Kanye West bought for Kim Kardashian and their humorously named plus one, North West, and what Matt Damon wore when he arrived at Sidney Airport on his way to some or other premiere are subjects of absolutely no consequence. Lovely!
I guess the real answer to the question is: In my spare time I indulge in my pleasures. Next time I’m asked the question I shall say that.