The sun had brought out all the Suttonfordians, and Brassie and I
were included in that grouping. We were sitting outside
Costamuchamoulah must-seen cafe, watching le monde entier, or,
at least, what could be termed its microcosm. It was interesting to
lay bets on who would acknowledge us in the course of the
passeggiata, and who would walk on by like a selfish Levite,
avoiding a mugging victim.
Isn’t it amazing..? I commented, sipping my lime tea, but eschewing
an accompanying Madeleine, as sugar is the new fat.
What? enquired Brassie.
Amazing that people can be read so.. well, readily. Psyches haven’t
developed significantly since Proust exposed them in all their
ambivalence of motivation.
How so? Brassie was looking around brightly and frankly. In other
words, she was simply asking to be snubbed.
Well, I am reading Chapter Two of The Guermantes way at present..
Is that by Proust?
Yes, I sighed. Proust masterfully expands on how some people look at
you in a certain way which is intended to let you know that they have
seen you, but that they have also not seen you.
He would have had a whale of a time sitting here, Brassie laughed.
No, seriously, he said that they pretend to be embroiled in a deeply
important conversation with a companion so that they do not have
to acknowledge you.
You don’t have to have a Nobel Prize for Psychology to work that
out, Brassie remarked.
No, but the thing about Proust is that he always presents the
converse too. He says some of those types actually go over the top
and greet you with excessive fervour when you hardly recognise them,
but, the instant they see someone they know observing their
behaviour, they ‘cut’ you.
I can’t stand artifice, Brassie agreed.
Proust announced that he eventually grew beyond the desire for a
relationship with Mme Guermantes, as she had been repelling him.
Perversely, when he no longer cared for her recognition, she started to
gush all over him at some party.
Watch out! Brassie signalled, not too subtly. She immediately donned her
over-sized retro sunspecs. She’s coming! That awful woman..
I rummaged in my bag, as if looking for my keys. ( I wouldn’t look for a
mobile, for I never carry one. Hate them.)
Once La Bete Noire had passed, all was right with the world. Now I am
channelling Browning! But to return to good old Marcel..
What I found highly significant, I continued, was that Proust reports a
conversation with St Loup, where the Kaiser is discussed. He says that the
latter only wants peace but tries to convince the French that he wants war,
in order to make them comply with his wishes over Morocco.
Do you think that sounds like a parallel with Putin? Brassie latched on.
Hmm, St Loup says that if they were not to give in, there wouldn’t be a
war, in any shape or form.
I don’t know if I would have agreed, Brassie frowned.
Quite, but the chilling thing was that St Loup added that one has only to
think what a cosmic thing a war would be -and this was more than a century
ago-I stressed. He said it would be a bigger catastrophe than the Flood and
Gotterdammerung rolled into one. Only it wouldn’t last so long.
Oh, that’s just Proust taking the proverbial out of Wagner, Brassie smiled.
Some of his operas are interminable!
But you take the more sinister point, surely? St Loup likened these games of
brinkmanship to bluffing as in a game of poker.
In that case, politicians could hire someone like Victoria Coren-Mitchell as a
diplomat. She plays poker in her spare time, doesn’t she? I can’t imagine she
would stand any nonsense. She could stand up to a game of Russian
Roulette. Whereas, ‘Don’t be vague, ask for Hague’, doesn’t really cut the
mustard any more. does it? Victoria is way more scary.
But, the current situation’s not funny, is it? I persisted.
No, Brassie agreed. Maybe it all comes down to Putin feeling snubbed.
Feeling rejected is a powerful emotion.
So maybe we should say ‘hello’ to You Know Who next time, I suggested.
Internecine warfare is mutually destructive.
I suppose so. So let’s practise smiling at everyone who walks past, Brassie
nodded. Even though we will probably look like a couple of Malvolios.
So, maybe Churchill was right, I commented after quarter of an hour.
Jaw, jaw is better than war.
It’s a pretty good insurance, Brassie nodded, just like that annoying
dog in the advert.