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About the Author

The author is a postgraduate student of things literary,

notably literary theory.
He is writer of fiction as an avocation.
Bo Peep Adaptation of AH Clough Poetry and The
Dummy Run have been published by Austin Macauley. A
number of short stories have appeared in small press
Frequent rambler in the woods by inclination; also, on his
GPs cogent advice.

For George and Weedon Grossmith qua the brothers who
have persuaded me that a nobody has every reason to have a
go at a secret journal.


M .






Copyright Nicholas M. Romano

The right of Nicholas M. Romano to be identified as author of
this work has been asserted by him in accordance with section
77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be
reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any
form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the
Any person who commits any unauthorized act in relation to
this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil
claims for damages.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the
British Library.

ISBN 978 1 78455 018 9
First Published (2015)
Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd.
25 Canada Square
Canary Wharf
E14 5LB

Printed and bound in Great Britain

Im indebted to the Lady and the Philosopher for the
My diary is in memoriam.

Now no matter, child, the name:

It is Margaret you mourn for.
Gerard Manley Hopkins

The Characters
The leader of a top executive body. An authoritative, staunch
champion of the Establishment and the holder of radical views.
College mature student of the Humanities with a soft spot for a
new school of criticism called deconstruction. Mrs Ts
contentious tenant.
Lecturer. Very left wing.
Deputy-librarian with middle-of-the-road views.
A New Age Movement fan.
Missionary priest and a lover of tradition.
An ardent feminist.
Mrs Ts pet chinchilla. A standoffish but steadfast companion.

Day 1
Abbau, destruktion, deconstruction. I didnt bargain for a
pretty pass, but here I am, trying to get it off my chest and into
a notepad. The attic Ive recently moved into puts me on a
level with the spaghetti-like arms of a silver lime stretching
towards the sky, and the distribution of light and shade all over
the place makes for a chiaroscuro which, I suspect, would put
Caravaggio to shame. I can thank my lucky stars that Ive been
provided with a room of my own by courtesy of lady called
Margaret. Why buckle down to writing something like a diary,
then? The celebrated Samuel Pepys had a good deal to say
about himself and his host of friends as well as about things
such as the restoration of a king, a deadly plague, and a
devastating fire, whereas the sovereign of the island I came to
a good many years ago is safely on her throne and neither
plague nor fire is raging. As to my handful of friends, all I can
say about them would fill no more than a couple of pages and
that would be barely enough for a decent record. To crown it
all, Pepys knew how to write one, whereas I...
The thing is, I had a peculiar dream last night: a luminous
spot bobbed on the water and in its wake a ladder stretched as
far as my eyes could reach. Midget creatures were moving
their cloven hoofs up and down the framework, and my father
was standing on an upper rung with a patriarchal face and a
book in his hands, the word DIARY engraved on its front
cover. On waking up I have swallowed a cupful of my regular
mighty black coffee, hurried to my blotchy desk and jotted
down Day 1 at the top of the first page of my notepad.

Day 2
5, in all honesty, but the truth of the matter is that hardly
anything of note has occurred to me since Day 1: no ladder has
come into my line of sight with or without little devils on it,
and my makeshift little journal would have stayed untouched
inside the desk drawer had it not been for Sophie, the
chinchilla who happens to be my landladys darling and spends
most of her time ensconced in a burrow surrounded by an arty
piece of rock in a little corner of the flower-papered walls in
the lounge. True to her Latin American roots she shows up
only fitfully and mainly to nibble at the seeds, fruit, or grain
provided by her solicitous custodian.
Now, I was inserting a spoon full of steaming-hot tomato
soup in my mouth when I espied Sophie scurry out of her hole
and head for the allotted grub at a grey squirrels jerky pace.
The next moment I saw her stop dead in her tracks and swivel
her whiskered snout my way. Hi there! I cried. Enjoy your
meal, darling, I added in the teeth of her beady stare, but the
little darling scampered back into her sanctum, wagging her
tufted, dark-streaked little tail. You cold puny thing, I
muttered. Let me tell you that Im not sure you deserve your
time-honoured name. What about Ching-Ching for a
melodious change, eh?
Within seconds I was wondering how on earth the SinoTibetan name had flashed across my mind. Admittedly, I have
fallen in love with the charismatic Chairman Mao in the course
of my life, but that was far away and long ago. I shook my
head and followed the soup with a copious portion of fully
mature Cheshire cheese (its crumbly texture suits my palate to
a fault) which I washed down with a mug of ginger beer whose
spice flavour tickles me to death (sic).
My appetite satisfied, I headed for the upper regions, but
there she was again, Ching-Ching, sneaking out of her shelter
and making another neurotic dash for her ration of grain. The
dainty rodent seemed utterly oblivious of my presence and I

felt tempted to be a spoilsport, but a ponderous essay

recommended by Dr Lighthouse (my personal tutor at the uni
college I joined last year) demanded undivided attention, and I
left the nonchalant creature to her succulent victuals.
A few hours later and my reading (hardly a perusal) of the
academic piece of work completed, Ive resisted the idea of
going downstairs again for another go at Sophies fellowship
or, failing that, a peek at Newsnight, the reputable current
affairs TV programme. Instead, Ive opened my notepad and
duly entered the ups and downs of the day. I shall watch the
news broadcast tomorrow night, without fail. And so to bed, as
good Pepys would often say to himself at about this time of

Day 3
An early breakfast with Ms T (I find the first letter of my
landladys surname adequate for the moment. As to the Ms, it
is because Im still in the dark about her marital status.)
Come and join me for a bite, Dino, she chimed as soon as
I entered the lounge. I willingly obliged, and the eats made a
hearty full English a veritable feast for my eyes!
Attractively dressed in a royal-blue garment which
harmonized with the colour of her eyes, my hostess let darkbrown cornflakes drop into her Wedgwoodblue bowl while I
stole a surreptitious look at her high forehead, assertive nose,
strong jaw, drawn-in lips, and gently tumbling chin. I quickly
put two and two together and came to a sum which tallied with
her dignified deportment: all in all an intriguing female
specimen far from devoid of charm in her vibrant full growth.
Im all for this variety of breakfast, I let her know in
between mouthfuls of the porridge I had opted for.
Particularly the toasted bread finely crowned with butter and
strawberry jam. The whole lot goes rather well with the tea.
Im delighted to hear this. The emphatic assertion was
enhanced by a robust smile. You see, cereals and a fry-up
have taken pride of place on our dining tables since time
immemorial. Like the tea, they are intrinsic to the tradition of
this country and I see no reason to replace them with a
continental apology for a morning meal.
I was chuffed about the intrinsic: its a Latin term and in
all likelihood Tacitus would have been equally happy to hear it
come through the lips of someone born and bred miles beyond
the sound of Capitol Bells (by the bye, were there any bells in
the historians time?) Its the sort of tradition that stays with
you for a good while after the initial impact, I remarked.
Actually, by you I meant me and my guts, but I saw fit not
to elaborate on the delicately gastric subject.

Im only too pleased to share my place with someone who

appreciates our past. You may want to know that Ive done my
best to make my feelings about our national heritage ring out
clear as a bell since the day I was entrusted with the charge of
my executive body. That was on the third of May last year if
my memory serves me.
I ventured an impromptu opinion. Im sure youre doing a
good job of work, I said with the tentative smile of one not
privy to the inner workings of a highly organized body. I
suspect you have nerves of steel, maam.
Daisy, if you would. It was a gratifying request from a
lady playing her role as to the manner born, and it was
followed by, I believe in common sense, Dino. You are
conversing with a no-thrill woman, an ordinary person who
leads a very ordinary life. And thats all there is to it. She
paused for a moment and then, Steel, you said. Well, while we
are on the subject of the metal let me mention that the steel
workers have been on strike since last January. Frankly, I have
no time for them: I see their industrial action as an instance of
a material world clashing with an ideal reality. I hear the
language of men on a battlefield, and its not to my taste. You
see, the trade unions are aiming to jump on the gravy train, and
they must be curbed as well as reformed for the good of the
country as a whole. Thank goodness, someone in authority is
prepared to tackle them in the proper way. Sitting straight as a
ramrod, she dipped her spoon into a melange of cornflakes and
milk. Have you had the opportunity to see Im All Right,
Jack? The film, I mean. I shook my head. Well, it was good
fun, but no one can keep laughing forever, as Mr Windrush and
Mr Kite learned to their cost. People must be educated in the
economic facts of life and be prepared to accept spending cuts
and low wages. My late father once said, It isnt difficult to
embark on a course, my dear girl; more difficult is to stay it.
Her mouth tightened gently; her eyelids quivered with
sensuous ease. We were made to go forward, I say. A
temporary withdrawal is all right as tactics but not as a
strategy. Doubt can be useful as a suspension of judgement,
but as a way of life its treacherous. She darted a knowing

look. Ready for the brew? she inquired, and in response to

my significant nod she poured a stream of dark drops out of a
pot wrapped in a Union Jack cosy. Then she examined
carefully the plate that, laden with sausages and bacon, lay at
the far end of the table. Well, we had better move on to the
fry-up. If we dont, your yum-yum strawberry-jam toast will
be unduly deferred, she added with a smile which almost
made me blurt, Im all right, Jill. We did make the badly
needed move and in harmony with it a couple of perfectly
toasted sandwiches made my morning: a proper English
breakfast and the close presence of a landlady who calls
herself Daisy; I say, what else could a newcomer want for a
look on the bright side of life?
Well, it does seem that Ive filled more than one blank page
and been left with nothing else to write down except the fact
that Im All Right, Jack is now a number one priority.
Hopefully there will be a videocassette of it in my local library.
I really want to find out what the good fun was all about.

Day 4

Jack statically absent at the college library, but a dynamic

tutor as a compensatory presence: bang at 2 p.m. I make
contact with the reasonably young Dr Lighthouse, aka Red
Roger, in his book-crammed shelter, and he welcomes me with
a sober smile somewhat at odds with the shine of his cream
flannel trousers and red jacket sporting a CND badge on a
lapel: Beau Red Roger, at first blush.
William Morriss poetry is the only item on the agenda, and
Im properly equipped with a portfolio containing a batch of
my extempore comments on The Earthly Paradise. My mentor
listens attentively to a couple of extracts, and a few blinks are
interspersed with signs of assent. When my patchy reading
comes to an end he rewards me with a soft-spoken
acknowledgement that I havent done too badly for a freshman.
In the next breath he proceeds to elaborate on the matter in
hand. Those old men on the earthly paradise island severed all
links with the world, and they did so in the name of tradition,
he says before hinting at the tales of the idle singer of an
empty day as paradigms of luminous classic myth as against
the sombre fantasies of medieval minstrels. The problem is,
tradition can be radically destructive, he adds. Its steeped in
metaphysics, and a metaphysical ground will sooner or later
swallow a traditionalist digger. His sharp nose crinkles as he
makes a couple of learned remarks about the felicitous
juxtaposition of the elders of the nameless city in a distant
sea and the Norse wanderers; the aptly interpolated lyrics, and
the deepening and darkening tone of the narrative. Finally, he
waxes lyrical about the Victorian authors deep-felt sympathy
for the ill-starred human kind.
When we part company in front of the drinks dispenser that
has regaled us with self-styled cappuccinos the pundit throws a
Parthian shot. I suggest that you re-read the poem before we
chew the fat again, he says, and I respond with academic
acquiescence while casting a glance at the lefty paper he is

gently waving. My intrusive eye does not escape his attention.

Incidentally, he promptly resumes, dont you think that the
pinkos have lost touch with the real world we live in? So did
the tale-tellers in their nameless city, naturally, but they kept
looking back to their lost youth with nostalgia, whereas our
shrivelled, bent and grey spinners are looking forward in
oblivion; sadly, they are barely conscious of their spiritual
emptiness. Gracious me, we live in an epoch of full speech.
The name of the game is that we need a concept of virtuality
which is opposed to actual reality at our peril. The long,
forceful statement serves as a bye for now.
Inside my routine route master my mind drifts to a utopian
country where citizens are ruled by good laws, men and
women are equally educated, and religious tolerance is the
norm. What if, like Raphael Hythloday, I had ended up in such
a corner of the world instead of reaching this counterpart of
Queensland Magnetic Island? Well, really, the traveller was a
raconteur of nonsense by definition; moreover, Ive been
blessed with Dr Lighthouses inner fount of wisdom. Come to
think of it, I cant help wondering whether, on a par with the
idle singer of an empty day, my tutor was born out of his due
time. Also, it would be quite interesting to know what the
commonsensical, hard-nosed Ms T (I cant yet bring myself to
call her Daisy) would make of Red Rogers contention. Yes,
raising the complex issue with her is the nearest thing to a
categorical imperative.

Day 5

Down in the kitchen at 7 a.m., and my landlady already up

and about, bent over the cooker and intent on resetting its
Welcome back to the world of the living, she said with a
budding grin and a throaty early-morning voice. I dearly hope
that the timer will preserve me from the inconvenience of
having to put my head in the oven.
Better than having it in the clouds, dont you think? My
hazy remark, I realized at once, was definitely in tune with the
unclear light of the young day. Rewarded with some progress
in her smiling face, I collected my grub and moved into the
lounge-cum-dining room.
A short digression if I may: on weekdays Im in the habit of
having a native breakfast (alternately wheat and oatmeal for
starters), but when Sunday comes I repair to the bar round the
corner for a frothy cappuccino and a fat slice of cheesecake.
The day of the Lord deserves a special treat, I devoutly
believe; moreover, it gives me a golden opportunity to
consume my sweet-and-sour dreams.
Today being Monday, I made ready for a decent portion of
wholemeal cornflakes mingled with half a pint of goats milk
(has my acquired taste for the latter something to do with the
Yom Kippur sacrificial mammal?) and my spoon was on the
verge of dipping into the bowl when I heard Ms T say, You
know, Dino, I lunched with a collier yesterday. This chap
called himself Colin, and I have a sneaking suspicion that he
did so because of the assonance between his name and his
metier. But no matter what the name, when I suggested that we
ought to round off the gastronomic event with some proper
dessert he agreed and plumped for cherry tarts. My choice was
ice cream, and he remarked, I saw you eating a cherry cake
while having a bit of grub with a sturdy bloke the other day,
and I was not thrilled: its no good to indulge in one of them
tarts when you are in the company of characters of his sort. Big

men throw the stones in your eyes; or so Jerry says, ha-ha.

Now, Colin was no sturdy bloke nor did he sound Teutonic to
me. She stepped away, but soon stopped and added,
Incidentally, its my considered opinion that our continental
partners are heading for cloud-cuckoo-land with their
grandiose federal project. Moreover, should they be given
additional power to meddle with our national concern? No, I
say. Should we surrender our sovereignty? Not for the life of
you and me. For centuries we have been coping on our own,
and for good measure on the occasion of the latest world
conflict we stood against tyranny while the rest of Europe was
being knocked down like a bunch of wooden pins. Her steely
blue eyes glared with a trace of holy-than-thou hue. Young
man, I suppose that you were not around when the bloody
contest took place. Well, I was as barely more than a child, of
course but its a fact that childhood memories stay with you
for the rest of your life. The modulated pitch of her utterance
was sustained by purpose and defiance. A driving force seemed
to be in full swing inside her. I must push on now. My men
are waiting for me, but you and I shall have a nice cherry tart
or two together one of these days.
She went forthwith and I followed her with my eyes and a
pondering smile. My men, she had said, and it made sense to
me to assume that she had been referring to members of the
executive body helping her with the business she was in charge
of. I returned to my flakes: they had sunk in the milk and
tasted mushy definitely neither the thing I associate with a
good crunch nor, I suppose, what Ms T would be prepared to
settle for when dealing with Britannias children.
The rest of the day has been a run-of-the-mill affair and as I
write the small hours of the new day are ticking away. Is the
bellman crying under my window, Past one of the clock, and
a cold, frosty, windy morning? Samuel Pepys would regularly
hear the cry, but then his days are long gone and so, I suspect,
has the bellman. My best bet is to take refuge in my bed and
pray to Morpheus for a timely visit. The god owes me one
because of all my sleepless nights when I was a high school
student of classics.

Day 6

A few profitable hours spent inside my college spacious

library. I dont intend to make a thing of it, but I do seem to be
having a peculiar rapport with books, for a set of printed pages
affects me according to the size, the colour, and, more
importantly, the binding of it. In the light of that my recent
venture into the discipline that goes under the name of literary
theory has surprisingly changed things to a degree: Im
beginning to see words metamorphosed into signs, and the
sight makes my fingers slide across the printed letters as if in
an effort to make contact with sound patterns along with the
concept to which they refer. The only snag is that I have learnt
by courtesy of a linguist called Saussure that theres no
existential link between the acoustic image and the concept;
consequently, any relation between them is arbitrary. The
blooming baffling thing is, a verbal sign has a meaning only
because its different from any other sign. Reader, I daresay
that there is enough in the notion to make the mind boggle.
And oh, I nearly forgot! I have a penchant for the smell of
books as well: I often find myself sniffing them and then
wondering whether this inclination of mine is a symptom of
masochist leanings indulged in with the help of a surrogate
body; in the eyes of a reputable shrink who also happens to be
a member of my extended family it is as likely as not
something of the kind.
Late in the afternoon, I smelled and touched the surrogate
body provided by literary theory. Red Roger has assured me
that I will soon be seeing language as a dialogue between
speakers who feel concern for each other and therefore
something involved in a meaningful interchange which is
integral to the system: that would be ideology at its best, and
nothing short of a miracle.
Knocked into shape, I ploughed for a few hours through
pages studded with black marks until, oh marvel! I had this
fleeting sense of them having two sides, the signifier and the

signified, in the words of the perceptive Saussure, and

therefore of the urgent need for the structured language
advocated by the linguist. I rubbed my hands, leapt up and
dashed into the refectory for a well-deserved Danish pastry and
an antioxidant cup of green tea.
The combination of the two made me all set for the music of
the sign again, but, uncalled-for, Carry on Camping swooped
on my mind as something not to be missed on the telly in the
evening. In fact, it came to me as a matter of signifiers: I
envisaged being offered, say, the bursting sound pattern of
something of a curvilinear kind. As to the signified, well,
really, Id better leave it out of the picture after learning that
the relationship between acoustic image and concept is utterly
discretionary. There will be time. There will be time, I
whispered in tune with TS Eliots Alfred Prufrock, but seconds
later I was scratching my straggly hair in the wake of the
recollection that the author of The Waste Land had visited the
barren place sometime after hearing the solitary singer and
found that Tiresias, the blind soothsayer who had made
Oedipus go to his doom, was in it. I gave a shrug. Never mind
the place, my rising and dropping shoulders signified: time is
of the essence in my case and a wise course of action is to
leave all this recondite stuff well alone until tomorrow.
I walked out of college on a cushion of air: soon I would be
watching Barbara and Kennett do their level best to help
myriad viewers make their ideological points and decently
carry on with the demands of a long day spent turning an
honest penny. Yes, it would be one of those magic moments so
hard to come by in the course of a humdrum life, and didnt a
popular crooner wax lyrical about them when my young and
naive self craved for the silky touch of a magic wand?

Day 7

On the bus taking me to the library I hit on the idea of

paying a visit to a campsite in the summer. No ulterior
motives, I swear. A simple syllogism will corroborate my oath.
Minor premise: my tent has been designed for a single
occupier; major premise: a single occupier cannot embark on
Carry On shenanigans; conclusion: my tent excludes the
possibility of any carrying-on. In other words, any logical link
between my journey to, say, Paradise Campsite and ulterior
motives would be as arbitrary as that between an acoustic
image and a concept. Honest to God, I see my visit as the
fulfilment of a long-standing yearning for a return to a
paradisiacal place.
Inside the library, I swerve to the shelf where Mikhail
Bakhtin, the theorist Red Roger has recently recommended by
virtue of being a miracle man, is expected to be; alas, no sign
of him, and I head for Mr Smoulder, the bespectacled, greysuited, seasoned deputy-librarian. He responds to my query
with a search through the library catalogue, and I avail myself
of the silent gap to scrutinize his exceedingly thin physique: a
jockeys build, at first sight. I say, ever thought of riding a
Grand National winner, Mr Smoulder? I silently put to him
with a little wink.
In a space of few seconds the might-have-been professional
horse rider informs me that the item I want is on loan, but a
reservation would be quite in order. Bakhtin may not reappear
for several weeks; consequently, allow me to suggest an
optional read, he adds with a sparkle in his gimlet eyes and in
a cultivated low voice; what about Newman for a change?
John Henry Cardinal Newman, I mean. The faithful probably
know him as the author of Lead, Kindly Light, but he also
wrote the Tracts for the Times in which he proposed the
celebrated Via Media Latin for Golden Mean, as you
probably know. If you decide to have a look at the Tracts I can
confidently presume that you will be given an excellent

opportunity to broaden your horizons. Give it a thought,

anyway. I give a slow nod, and he produces an auspicious
smile. Im only too pleased to show you where you can find
Newmans works. We move to the stairs leading to the upper
floor and en route my eye falls on his legs: they seem to curve
slightly outwards in the tibia region. Perhaps he is a jockey in
his spare time.

Day 8
Ive tapped into my late night energy reserves to make a
record of my growing impression that there are traits of
masculinity in Ms T, her floral name notwithstanding: the
quaintly feminine features I observed when we first met appear
to be offset by more than one indication of the virago type. By
the look of her she is a woman, but should I say that she is so
because of her biological structure or because of how she
behaves? Does the essence of womanhood affect the way a
female subject relates to the social environment?
Early in the evening she came through the door, swinging a
medium-sized dark handbag. You may well have noticed how
restrictive even a democratic government like ours can be,
she said at once. And the shame of it, for we are all born free.
I see myself as a free, independent woman who believes in the
responsibility of the individual. Each of us must be freed from
the dead hand of the state, but never allowed to sink back into
hedonistic self-indulgence.
I myself like to think of a society rather than of a state,
said I.
Society? There is no such thing as society. There are single
men and women, and there are families. Class is the motor of
politics in our country, as it is in any other country on earth. It
has always been. She cleared her throat gently. Allow me to
show you something, old boy. She opened her handbag. I
like keeping papers nicely tucked in here, she added while
looking into it. Doing so makes them almost part of me just
as my lipstick does.
Good organization seems to come naturally to women, I
I for one am constantly taking a leaf out of Natures book,
said she. You may want to know that I was a research chemist
in my early days. Her visual search came to a quick end. Im
afraid the paper I meant to show you does not appear to be
with me at the moment; so much for a womans good

organisation, but never mind; it will crop up sooner or later.

Suffice it to say that it has something to do with the state we
are in these days. Not to mince words, our country is going
down the tube in a whirl of industrial chaos and in the wake of
economic stagnation. I envisage a bleak future for us all unless
everybody buckles down to prevent that from happening. Do
you grasp my meaning? A slow, tentative smile broke
Ah, the meaning! In the eyes of TS Eliot no more than a sop
thrown to readers in order to keep them distracted. Even so,
isnt language a means of communication and as such oriented
towards the other? Consequently, shouldnt I see Ms T as
someone who, while recognizing the dialogic quality of her
language, was endeavouring to use it to further her personal
cause and spike everybody elses guns? Would you care for a
cup of tea? I heard her ask, but it seemed to me that, as a user
of language, she had already offered me my cup of tea (a
metaphor done to death, I know, but I do appreciate the virtues
of the beverage). Dr Lighthouse had recently stated that we
live in an epoch full of speech, and I thought that was an
appropriate moment to tell my hostess how highly I valued her
mastery of the art of conversation as well as her offer of a
cuppa. Surely there would be another occasion for both.
Well, I think I have said and written enough for one day.
The long shadows of the night have fallen only too quickly and
my bed has been waiting for its sole occupier long enough;
contact with it makes moral sense. The rest will be, if Im
allowed a small-hour celebrated quote, silence.

Day 9

My writing-pad has been lying idle on the desk for the past
few days and, in the depths of night again, I find myself
confronted with a gap which looks as dangerous as that
between a platform and a train. High time I filled the empty
space, mainly because novel ideas about the way we speak and
write have been brought to my attention as an aficionado of the
Humanities; therefore here goes!
This morning it was tea for one and one for tea: no sign of
Ms T. Sophie was not in sight either, and somewhat
disappointed even though sharing my breakfast with the
mammal was not on the agenda, I drained my mug in solitary
confinement. The drink had a middling taste, but then would it,
if shared, have had a stronger flavour, say, the exotic tang of
leaves reaching my table at the end of a long voyage from a
far-away corner of a foreign field which, in the sight of a
wartime young poet, would be forever Albion?
Inside an hour I was at college hoping to take part in a teafor-two and two-for-tea social event, but when I caught sight of
Mr Smoulder and saw a possible tea-drinking companion
totally absorbed in his duties I headed for the shelves. Terry
Eagletons introduction to the intricacies of literary theory was
available, and I promptly took it down and onto my favourite
little place facing the window. I opened it at random. When it
comes to language, where do you draw the line? I read. Then,
Since the meaning of a sign is a matter of what the sign is not,
its meaning is always in some sense absent from it too.
A couple of lines below I learnt that language is something
out of which Im made, rather than a tool I make use of;
consequently, the idea that I am a stable, unified entity is a
fictional one. On the other hand, equally fictional is any other
meaning ideologically raised to a privileged position: concepts
like Freedom, the Family, Democracy, Independence,
Authority, and Order are barely compatible with the to-and-fro,
present and absent movement of language. The trouble is that

principles of the kind are embedded in our history and

therefore affect whatever we do, and in the wake of the
influence any attempt at dealing autonomously with such
principles entails a painstaking job of deconstruction. De-construc-tion?! Surely that was a turn-up for the book. I was being
given an inkling of structure, sign and play in the discourse of
the human sciences as seen by a monsieur called Jacques
Derrida (by the bye, where does the accent fall in the name?). I
felt compelled to move to the refectory for a pristine cup of tea
and a presumably still undeconstructed croissant by way of a
tribute to the newly discovered philosopher. Now I had a name
to suggest to Ms T, and the sooner the better.