Plodding on

Tuesday, 10 November

At the third attempt, I managed to download a version of Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Towers, the second novel in the six-volume Chronicles of Barsetshire. This was labelled as the classic text, the first two downloads being badly mangled rewrites. I’ve always been rather sniffy about Trollope, put off by him being a favourite of various establishment figures. But I didn’t dislike The Warden, the first volume of the Chronicles. It was very much a Victorian novel with values that I don’t share but not unpleasant. As part of my efforts to defend and develop my Englishness despite being an ex-pat, I read English authors that I’ve passed by on my wandering through life from English literature A level student to Swenglish pensioner. Hence Trollope.

Writing about the fictive cathedral city of Barchester, he takes up the mid-nineteenth century religious struggle between the evangelists and the high church Anglicans. This might be useful for my work on Dorset churches as the nineteenth Gothic revival is one of the areas I’ve identified that is less well covered. This conflict should reasonably have played a part in discussions on church refurbishment.

I’m longing to move on from churches to other aspects of Dorset, perhaps the architecture of large country houses, although I’m rather tempted by the geology of the county. But I find it difficult to let churches go until I’ve penetrated the subject sufficiently. My driving interest is not religious but an effort to learn not to switch my mind off when a phenomenon becomes familiar; churches have dense and rich architectural and historical associations and are rewarding to defamilarise.

But as I’m very much a materialist, it can at times feel distinctly overgoded. Looking at my bookshelves today, I felt that I had to expand the secular sphere and moved the religious section to the kitchen (visitors innocently opening a kitchen cupboard door may be puzzled to find texts on Kaballah but I’ll deal with that problem later).

My bookshelf is occupying a lot of my time as I’ve started to make a catalogue of my library to more easily be able to find what I have and avoid buying duplicate copies. But I have to discipline myself to doing a shelf a day and not more. I did three yesterday, my collection of books on London and it took up a substantial chunk of the day. So my do-it-yourself mini biblio-Domesday book has to be reined in.

I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made with Bengali. I can now recognise quite a few letters and am no longer phased about the Bengali habit of moving vowels before the consonant while being pronounced after. But the compound letters still lie ahead so I’m not over the hill yet (not over the mountain, I suspect). But it’s enjoyable to try.

And I’m satisfied with my project to learn more about the City of London where I understand the City’s conduct during the Brexit referendum and its aftermath much better. At least I was satisfied until today when I tackled John Grahl’s article on Dollarizing Europe in a recent New Left Review, which rapidly brought home to me how little I understand about some aspects of finance capitalism.

But I don’t get so downhearted as I once would have done about feeling lost in the mist. I’ve done it so often and eventually found my way out and try to remember that feeling confused means that you’re getting close to your threshold, beyond which lies the possibility of development.

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