Saturday, 10 April 2021

Diary: No Man is an Island

"Any man's death diminishes me," wrote John Donne. And while, as any other human, I mark the passing of anyone with anything but joy, I can hardly jump on the "deeply sorrowful" bandwagon of mourning that seems to have gripped the nation (well, those involved in broadcasting) since the announcement of the Duke of Edinburgh's death yesterday. 

The North Korean-style solemn music across BBC radio, the clearing of the schedules, cancelling of BBC Four and rolling news across all media seem to indicated more the desperation of journalists and broadcasters indulging their own passion than the properly respectful marking of the man's passing. 

It's not just the BBC, either. (Although quite why repeats channel Radio 4 Extra had to be given over to special news bulletins for nearly two days is another matter. What were they doing, repeating coverage of Queen Victoria's passing?) Cathedrals and churches up and down the country competing with each other to say how "deeply saddened" they are, and how quick they've been to open up for "private prayer" and provide books of condolences to sign. 

The man was 99. He'd led a good life. So have many, many others whose passing we either fail to notice or ignore. Ok, he was a public figure but the role wasn't exactly that of an NHS doctor on covid duty, and it came with considerable privilege. Surely the most appropriate response is to celebrate a life lived well (and at our expense) rather than pretend it's the death of Diana all over again. 

In other news, I’ve been trying to get Faber to give me permission (at a price; they’ll do nothing for nothing) to use a line of Larkin’s as an epigraph in my latest book. Things started well: the Society of Authors thought they could help, as his trustees. Then a nice lady at Faber said I needed to use their bot: I did. The book I need t quote from wasn’t there. I chose the nearest I could find, the bot duly spewed out a licence and demanded payment. But I wasn’t going to part with cash for something that some lawyer somewhere might want to challenge in the future. So I emailed again: and again; and again. But the nice lady isn’t answering. 

Perhaps the Faber offices are closed for mourning? 

I wonder what the man himself, who was nothing if not obsessed with death, would have made of that?

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