Hedengren’s bookshop at Stureplan had just opened and was almost empty. I couldn’t resist sneaking in to check what they were selling off before their move. Mostly to my relief, I couldn’t find anything I wanted so there’s hope for Hedengrens yet.. Sales where shelfwarmers are purged are rather sad as you suspect that the flogged off diamonds will be replaced by an ocean of froth. I was the ideal customer at Hedengrens – attracted by the sale, I bought one of the other books at the regular price, Robert Philip’s The Classical Music Lovers Companion to Orchestral Music (a Financial Times best book of the year!). Improving my knowledge of classical music has been on my wish list for a long time and this looks as if it could help. So after my day’s ration of 20 pages translation, I settle down to fathom the mysteries of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto (my ear is not naturally sensitive which my record as a serial abuser of foreign languages bears witness to, so I need help to appreciate)..
It’s an intensive period for translators just now- the Annual Report season. And I have ten days to get through 140 pages, 20 pages a day with some time in reserve if the going gets tricky with a lot of new material), So far so good anyway. I’m up to page 90 but there’s not much time for anything else.
My new routine of starting the day with four or five hours of commercial work and then moving on to less concentrated pursuits has been a Circadian triumph. I am sleeping better and at the “right time”. My problem is that after four or five hours of translation, the old man in me gets militant and I don’t get much else done. I am frustrated about my slow progress with my other projects, learning about Bengal and Bengali, Dorset churches, Provencal, learning about Lyon in France, brushing up my Latin and German, developing my collection of photos of St Jerome, studying the state of the UK and not so few other things which I draw a veil of discretion over. Once I have got this annual report off the agenda, I think I shall give priority to commercial work every other day instead of every day.
I am starting to feel that it might be pleasant not to live in a world of perpetual deadlines but I’m not attracted by the reduced income of living only on a pension. My existence minimum includes rather a lot of travel, a subscription to the Financial Times, and working on my project of having a bigger library than the Library of Congress by my 150th birthday).
I don’t want to kill the golden goose prematurely but I need to find a way a making a half golden goose a viable concept.
I have at least managed to select one notebook to jot things down. I have a horrendous number of used, semi-used and unused notebooks that have attracted me for various reasons, aesthetic, practical and nostalgic. Attempts to put them in order by designating different notebooks for different purposes failed dismally as my clutter of notebooks is now accompanied by half-remembered remnants of numerous overcomplicated systems. But now I have started from the other end, consigned the clutter to a box where the density is approaching a critical threshold. I have just one book that accompanies me everywhere where I have noted various odds and ends that have attracted my attention as clues to worlds yet unexplored, the first entry “gallimaufry”, a medley of things, a rather upmarket alternative to bits and bobs from an archaic French word galimafree meaning unappetising dish. And I had a friend who referred to a letter I’d written as a homily. And that had to be noted too as my idea of homily was vague – something that a friendly quirky character might produce, which didn’t feel too alien. But on looking it up I discover that homily is defined as a religious discourse, a tedious moralizing lecture, which was odd seeing that I’d written about the Edinburgh police calling their campaign against vandalism on the buses “Operation Proust”: Either the dictionary is wrong or my friend shares my vague idea of what a homily is about (or I am becoming the sort of person who writes letters to the Daily Telegraph but that seems intrinsically unreasonable…).
And while searching for “homily” I find the lovely word “hominivorous” meaning (a creature) that feeds on human beings. I fantasise about smacking a Bengal tiger firmly on the nose and telling it in no uncertain terms to cease instantly its outrageous hominivorous behaviour, whereupon the tiger shamefacedly slinks away into the bushes (since they prefer to attack from behind and there are anyway no tigers within 40 km of places where I hang out in Bengal, this fantasy will probably not be realised).
The same friend mentioned another feline – Schrödingers cat, one of the many paradoxical examples of quantum theory. Wanting to do something about my abysmal low level of education on scientific topics, I start to read about quantum theory while breakfasting but quickly realise that getting to the bottom of quantum theory and translating 20 pages is an unrealistic combination for the same day,,,I also learn a new Swedish word “tryfferad” which I believe means “decorated with truffles” and read an interesting article in Dagens Nyheter about the nineteenth-century author Carl Jonas Love Almquist. I’d stopped subscribing to DN as it had become so magazine-like and timeless but have started again during the pandemic as the recognition of my existence by the outside world in the form of a newspaper arriving felt rather pleasant (I felt that I and the outside world were growing apart and wanted to do something to support our relationship).
I am anyway not likely to become bored even if I do manage to reduce golden goosery to manageable proportions,