While we were travelling in Peru, I happened upon a discarded copy of The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Years ago I had seen the movie with Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins, but I had never read the book. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend doing so.
The story is set between the wars in an English manor house. It is more downstairs than an Upstairs/Downstairs story. The plot is thin, but the characterizations are strong and revolve around a professional butler who is intent on upholding the standards of a bye-gone era.
Drama isn’t necessarily death, guns and a car chase; drama can be quiet emotional tension. In Remains of the Day, the tension is between the emotionally repressed butler and the housekeeper who longs for a more personal relationship.
Throughout the novel, I was mentally shouting out to the butler, “Touch her!”
- Brainstorm a number of ways in which one person can touch another. Don’t limit yourself to physical touching.
- Write a piece in which touch (touching or not touching) is key.
I’ve been back in London a couple of days now and have not only caught up on my sleep, but have fallen into a routine. As it is Friday, I went to St. James on Piccadilly for the 1:10 lunchtime concert followed by Costa coffee and a lemon poppy-seed muffin at Waterstone’s.
Warm apple crumble. Lovely, not with ice cream but with full-fat Devon cream puddled in the bottom of the bowl. It is strawberry season here. Some eat their strawberries with cream. I’ll save the cream for the crumble. The strawberries can stand on their own.
As for the lunchtime concerts, I typically choose St. James over St. Martin’s in Trafalgar Square because those who show up at St. James are there for the music. Those who take in the concerts at St. Martin’s are more often tired tourists who are just looking for an opportunity to rest their museum-weary feet.
Today’s artist at St. James’s was David Malusa, a pianist who played Beethoven and Schumann. His playing was excellent. I sat in the second pew. Five men sat in front of me. I found it curious to see five men sitting together.
And then I flashed to remembering two women whom I saw in Kensington Gardens yesterday. I was reading and taking the sun on a bench when two women, their arms entwined, walked by. And at the time I thought how lovely it was that women can do that, and yet… if two men walked by in a similar fashion, I would have wondered about their relationship.
It didn’t seem fair – this acceptance of women touching and the questioning of men doing so. I do a lot of touching and I find that touching and being touched to be very comforting. How sad that men are deprived. If men don’t play sport, they are out of luck.
Of the five men, my attention was drawn to the two men on the far left when the balding guy with the close-cropped hair and beard, wearing a short-sleeved, checked shirt, leaned over to the swarthy Middle Eastern man and said, “I’ve brought six strawberries covered with chocolate. Three for you and three for me.”
I could not hear the second man’s reply, but I was waiting for, almost yearning for, the man with the strawberries to touch the second man.
The guy with the strawberries had his right upper arm and forearm resting on the top of the pew. His hand hung loose. It was about three inches from the intended recipient of the strawberries. Beethoven was on his own. I was watching the hand. Would it move closer?
The man with the strawberries moved his hand to scratch is face. When he repositioned his hand, it was maybe one-and-a-half inches closer to his friend’s shoulder. I had a hopeful feeling.
But the intended recipient of the strawberries scooted to his right and the distance between them increased.
The touching was not going to happen.