A bit of Larkin for a cold January night.
I went to see the new film of Alan Bennett’s The Lady in the Van at the Watershed Cinema in Bristol over Christmas. It was thoroughly enjoyable, and more moving than I had anticipated. I loved how personal it felt: like so much of Bennett’s work, it felt as though I’d spent a couple of hours in his own company, rather than in a cinema watching a projection on a screen.
So I came home and felt like I wanted to spend a bit more time with Alan (I hope he won’t mind if I call him Alan), and the first thing I managed to put my hands on was my audiobook CD of Alan’s Six Poets anthology, which is worth getting in audiobook format simply to listen to his voice.
One of the six poets is Philip Larkin, and Alan expresses his delight (or at least, a quiet note of admiration) at Larkin’s ability to turn the most mundane non-experiences into poetry, and talks about how this inspired and encouraged his own work.
So actually I have ended up reading Larkin, and enjoying the meticulously detailed, beautifully described mundanity of everyday life. I think one of my favourites is Dockery and Son, in which Larkin reflects quite profoundly on life and death during the course of a train journey. And so part way through you get the lines ‘...Yawning, I suppose / I fell asleep, waking at the fumes / And furnace-glares of Sheffield, where I changed, / And ate an awful pie, and walked along / The platform to its end to see the ranged / Joining and parting lines reflect a strong / Unhindered moon.’
Something, be it life, death, or simply an awful pie in Sheffield, happens anywhere.