Helping Out On Valentine's Day
For many years other Radio 4 programmes have derided 'Quote, Unquote.' This both annoys and puzzles me. I have collected quotations all my life in what used to be called a 'Commonplace Book'. The criteria for writing down a quote are:
1) It makes me laugh
2) It expresses a truth about the world
3) It surprises me by putting a new twist on reality.
The best quotes may do all three.
If you keep such a book (and I've done so since I was a teenager), the selection of quotes reflect the different stages of your life. Some of the early ones in my collection reflect the morbid pessimism of the teenage years.
And if you write, whether as a blogger, journalist or novelist, your personal collection of quotations is a more valuable reference source than any published collection.
As I am spending Valentine's Day sowing seeds of the botanical variety and don't want to get compost in the keyboard, I'll save time by offering you a selection of quotes on the general theme of love and sex.
First off, this from Katherine Whitehorn, from this week's 'Quote, Unquote':
"Outside every thin girl, there's a fat man trying to get in."
A nice twist on an old saying.
Here's Kingsley Amis' typically cynical take on the old 'across a crowded room' scenario:
"Ronnie was wondering who the hell she was. And what she was. Not that that really mattered. He would forgive somebody who looked like that anything in the world. Even if she turned out to be a folk singer he was going to screw her."
(from 'I Want It Now').
One always has to include Ambrose Bierce's definitions in these collections:
"Love: a temporary insanity curable by marriage."
And when love is not a temporary insanity, that's a small miracle, as explained by Somerset Maugham:
"We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love.
It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person."
A different take on deviance:
"An Irish queer is a man who prefers women to drink."
- Flann O'Brien
Which leads me to one of my favourite quotes of all time. Michael Caine was asked if a Hollywood neighbour was gay and replied:
"Well put it this way: he'd help out if they were short-handed."
That one meets my criteria (1) and (2) above. It also reminds me of the old gay joke: What's the difference between a straight man and a bisexual? Answer: 6 pints of lager.
Here's something that young people know but adults will never tell them:
"Sex without love is a meaningless experience.
But, as meaningless experiences go, it's pretty damned good."
- Drew Carey
A decided lack of romance in all of the above. Sorry.
So I'll end with a real life quote that touched me deeply at the time.
About 25 years ago I was having a drink with a young Indian boy who asked me if I were gay. I said I was and that I hoped that wasn't a problem. His reply was:
"It has no more relevance than if one of us liked roses and the other liked lupins. It's no reason for me to hit you over the head with my roses."
People don't usually talk like that except in drama. And 18 year olds don't usually show that degree of wisdom and tolerance, not to mention grasp of metaphor.
How strange that one of the most memorable things said to me came from a brief encounter where neither love nor sex were on the agenda.