Summer is the land of tradition and regrettably I’m no different. Making the morning cup of coffee before heading to the writing room and getting stuck into it is one, as is marinating in a glass of wine at 6pm to celebrate the end of the day.
All things considered, however, these are relatively recent traditions, one befitting of a man who’s slipping disastrously into middle-age. If there’s something I’ve done for a very long time, from when I shared a home with parents and brothers, it’s this: to celebrate the completion of some writing, a novella say, I play the soundtrack to the BBC’s serialisation of Brideshead Revisited.
My family, avid ABC viewers the lot of us, had the Brideshead soundtrack on vinyl record, but these days I have it on CD. It’s dated 1981, so perhaps the series aired in Australia that year, or the one after. I would have been thirteen or fourteen years old. With the music playing I’d spend whole days on the couch under a blanket, a pad in my lap, pen in hand, and make up a story – a school assignment. I can remember the plot of one of them: two country-town boys who aren’t old enough to go to war are forced to stay home and do the hard work of grown men. Where on Earth I got that from I don’t no.
I simply wanted to listen to Brideshead Revisited and write and wish that I didn’t live on Sydney’s North Shore but in a humble abode called Brideshead Castle and be a Marchmain or a Flyte (but not Sebastian – he was too uptight, even for me); perhaps I could be Charles Ryder and waft here and there and fall in love with this and that and do a watercolour painting whenever the mood had me.
It’s odd, because I’m not fond of classical music, and my music knowledge isn’t sufficiently refined to know how to describe the Brideshead score – contemporary chamber music? All I know is that, just like Eveyln Waugh’s famously fading English family with their own twisted traditions, I still like to play the soundtrack to Brideshead Revisited whenever it feels as though a piece of writing is on the home stretch. Perhaps it reminds me of being under that blanket on that couch, crafting a story without a clue as to what I was doing. How comforting.
(First published in Panorama, The Canberra Times, 25 January 2014.)