Saturday, January 17, 2009

She Makes the Living. I Make the Living Worthwhile.

<span class=Rumpole à la Carte" Image by jovike via FlickrMiss Baby landed at SFO late last night and is now home safe. I, of course, spent yesterday afternoon making myself beautiful for her.

This somehow makes me think of John Mortimer who died earlier this week and who over the last half of the last century wrote books, plays and teleplays in what I call the "British popular" style, by which I mean the strokes were broad and the characters vivid, even Dickensian, but it was all just a little smarter, more literate and more thoughtful than most of the American stuff of the same period.

His great creation was Rumpole of the Old Bailey, an English barrister with a weakness for cheap wine and lost causes -- which he usually managed to turn into victories of one kind or another, some moral and some legal. But all of it was humane and rueful.

I interviewed Mortimer 20-plus years ago, and I recall how baggy and rumpled -- Rumpole; get it? -- he was, a little vague, even donnish, though I concluded that was just a bit of Brit affect, like those silly little wigs that the judges and lawyers in the Rumpole stories wore. He declined to exert even the slightest bit of effort to impress me, though he was perfectly civil. I wasn't sure if I should be flattered or offended.

But now we get to the point. As I said at the time I thought Mortimer was somewhat dilapidated. I recall that his second wife was decades younger than he. She was quoted in a piece written about the same time as mine that some of her friends were still giving her grief about the age gap and the state of their relationship.

Her reply? "I stay with him for the sex."

All those years ago, I saw this comment as sad, brave, deeply ironic, wickedly witty and, of course, too delicate to mention in my story.

Fast forward: How old was Mortimer when he died? 85. How old was he when I interviewed him? My age *right now*?

What did I say earlier? I spent yesterday afternoon making myself beautiful for my wife, and I like to think that last night she found me very beautiful indeed.
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