The Collapse of Ely Cathedral’s Central Tower, The Execution of Catherine Howard, and Happy Birthday Peter Tork and Oliver Reed
Old news. I crave old news. As the actual news gets more and more stupid, I find myself going first to the anniversary pages when I get up in the morning.
Over night (March 12-13) in 1322, the central tower of Ely Cathedral collapsed. This dramatic event resulted in the subsequent creation of the fascinating octagonal space w know today.
On this day in 1542, Catherine Howard was executed. Not so much written about Catherine Howard today, but just about the most successful Henrician historical novel before Hilary Mantel – The Fifth Queen by Ford Madox Ford – charts her perplexed inner life with consummate assurance and fascination. Ford Madox Ford was also, incidentally, ahead of the game in offering a sympathetic portrayal of Thomas Cromwell.
A bunch of birthdays occur to me today. Peter Tork (the funny looking one out of The Monkees) has a birthday today. So does Peter Hook out of New Order. Despite their first names and their distinctive monosyllabic last names, Peter Tork and Peter Hook never worked together. Perhaps this is a tragedy but probably it isn’t.
And Oliver Reed would have been seventy nine today. When we mourn Oliver Reed we mourn someone who died before his time – or before most people’s time, but we also mourn someone who made us feel that nobody need ever die. He never played Falstaff – perhaps because he was Falstaff – someone who defies any rational economy of being – someone for whom the basic Newtonian laws of conservation of energy do not seem to have to apply. By this late forties already it seemed, that if anything could have killed Oliver Reed – it already would have. I still would have loved to have seen his Falstaff though. It would have been a menacing abusive Falstaff and, above all, a true one.
We love people like this. I would say God Bless Keith Richards at this point, bless him for still being alive, but I have a feeling that God has very little to do with it.
The state of political debate right now is so impoverishingly imbecilic that I can’t handle it. Not first thing in the morning. Not later in the morning I suspect. Give me old news I say. Old news I can handle. Old news and birthdays of people I grew up with – people who – even if they have grown old – will not grow old in my head.