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  • Robert I. X. Jones

Promises Not Kept (and new ones to keep...)

Updated: Jul 17, 2021


Now that the big fat loser of a president, that tremendously sick, terrible, nasty, lowly, truly pathetic, reckless, sad, weak, lazy, incompetent, third-rate, clueless, not smart, dumb as a rock, all talk, wacko, zero-chance lying liar, phony, nut job, clown, fraud, con man, hypocrite, lightweight, poor loser, goofball and low-life Donald Trump is gone (pending prosecution and ignominy), we need to start repairing the neurological damage Trump has done worldwide. It's amazing how quickly an under-educated, over-promoted big-shot can make you forget there are such things as decency, decorum, honour, truth, kindness, politeness, humour, morality, intelligence, knowledge, justice, democracy, laws, a constitution and art.

Civilization, in fact.


Not my words (though I wish they were), but those of the incomparable Lucy Ellmann, whose fizzing new essay collection, Things are Against Us, is out for this American Independence weekend. Lovers of Ducks, Newburyport will relish the indignant, exasperated, self-deprecating wit on show in these coruscating pieces; those put off by the sheer size of that modern masterpiece should be encouraged to sample Ellmann on this smaller scale and get an invigorating taste of what they have been missing.

The philistinism of the Trump administration - though profound and politically inflected - was probably the least of its many iniquities. Nonetheless, it is still reassuring for us literary types to see Joe Biden (or his ghost writer) reach for the words of one of America's many great poets as title for his autobiography. Yes, the Frost reference may be hackneyed, but it suits Uncle Joe's homespun manner and is apt - he really does have promises to keep. Let's hope he makes a better job of keeping them than I have mine over the last year.

Back in the summer of 2020, when I launched Typee Valley (with a post on Ducks, Newburyport, as it happens) I promised the imminent appearance of musings on a variety of topics, from Proust to William Gibson - none of which have materialised, though most, if not all, should in time. Nor have I described any walks, or posted any recipes. These are failures for which I can only hang my head in embarrassment. Part of the problem has been fitting my blogging around my work and home commitments, (a particular challenge for someone whose writing has always flown most freely after fall of dark) but clearly it hasn't helped that my posts have tended to be far too long and intermittent.

So, in two weeks time, with the mandated return of what passes for UK "normality", I intend to submit myself to a new blogging routine, with posts appearing at least once a week. These will be shorter and more diary-like than what I have served up so far, though I will intersperse them with extended essay-like items, these last popping up about once a month. There is, of course, always the danger that this resolve might go the way of Charles Foster Kane's Statement of Principles, but the increased productivity should, I hope, get me in gear for early October, when I have been invited to keep a daily blog as participant observer in excavations at Blick Mead - the remarkable site, about two miles from Stonehenge, that is steadily changing perceptions of life in Mesolithic Britain. As part of this experience, I will also incorporate a walk along the Great Stones Way, from Swindon, via Barbury, Avebury, Silbury, Amesbury and Old Sarum, to Salisbury. Can't wait.

In the mean time, a big thank you to all who have dropped in on the Valley over the last troubled year, especially those who have left appreciative comments and offered constructive criticism. This modest enterprise was launched in a time of Trump and pestilence - the latter ironically helping to bring about the eventual unseating of the former - and was intended in small part to contribute to the repair of that "neurological damage" Lucy Ellmann correctly identifies as a particularly insidious part of the Trumpian legacy. Tonight I felt tired after a day at work and couldn't quite face up to my planned immersal in Ives' Holiday Symphony, but was able to assuage my obsession with all things US by listening to the charming, and rather distinctive, music of that nation's first internationally recognised composer, Louis Moreau Gottschalk - a man who was no angel in his private life (in fact, the Roman Polanski of his day), but an impassioned Southern opponent of slavery and promoter of pan-American unity. I shall read another essay from Things Are Against Us before lights out and no doubt fall asleep smiling....


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