As the tips of leaves turn to brown and yellow, and walnuts drop on one’s head, the nearest star so often castigated for killing us with its burning desire becomes more benign in September here. The mornings are restoratively fresh, and the late afternoon sun ripples over one’s skin to deliver a sense of bliss, rather than an urgent need to find shade – or better still, a cool, curtained room indoors.
September and October in Aquitaine are precious to me….increasingly so as the years advance at an unfeasible speed to prove that I cannot keep bisecting the difference between today and demise forever. With every year, I value the featherweight touch of a warm breeze, a cooling shower of rain, and the friendly smile of agrarian neighbours as things to be savoured, remembered and written about rather than taken as read.
But if all that seems impossibly idyllic, then I must show you the other side of a coin that forever spins in my existence. There is infinitely more to three-dimensional human life than primary senses alone, and everyone blessed by Lady Luck with intelligence needs aspects of it like the junkie needs his fix: that is, not only the stimulation of another’s hand placed lightly on one’s skin, but also the compassion of a good person trying to understand the demons of a partner, the sexual tenderness offered in those frightening hours of darkness….and perhaps above all, the inspiration of another mind gently arguing another perspective.
When we are alone for too much of the time, there is no calming influence to dilute anger. In this the era of social media – surely they should be called anti-social media – I am daily assailed by the flag-waving virtue signals, muddled logic and ideological indolence of a vast varietal army of Ists. When I read a tweet by Baron Adonis predicting the reverse takeover of the Tory Party by Nigel Farage, there is nobody by my side to confirm softly that the man is a pompous clown of no importance. When Theresa May insists that Chequers Brexit is Sovereign Brexit, I have no twin flame to remind me that May’s twaddle will merit only a minute footnote in even the most comprehensive history of our times. And when a ridiculously privileged white woman advises her gender peers to abort the white child they’re carrying on principle, no feminine voice is available to confirm that the principal problem the sender of that message has is the lack of a straitjacket.
A partner’s job is manifold, but often it consists of pulling the other half back from the brink. I have always found intense fulfillment in that role, because it stops me from being inner directed, and leaves me with the sense of having improved a life separate from my own. The Buddhists are right when they say that, every day, one should help another person without reward. The principle of community and contentment underlying the advice is what makes the difference between an ancien régime America and Big State EU on the one hand, and the tradition of French communitarianism on the other.
I miss the micro giving and receiving desperately, and I have lost faith in any dating site’s ability to put me in touch with it: the process is as banal, demeaning and puerile as the Blind Date TV format at its worst. To receive a message saying that ‘this person is a 0% match with you because you are below her non-negotiable height requirement’ really does tell any sensible person all they need to know.
And if all this sounds like self-pity, then think again: it is the awareness of an older and wiser bloke who recognises what he has lost. As Joni Mitchell sang five decades ago:
‘Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone/ they pave paradise and put up a parking lot’