Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Is it better to be "cool" or passionate?

Before I start debating the temperature of our personalities, it may be a good idea to include an apology.

The man of the title, Kyril Bonfiglioli, was the subject of the first nine posts of this blog, from 31st March till 20th May this year.  That's where you'll have to go to read my memories of his exploits and escapades, the scandalous and scurrilous, comic and dangerous.

     I am reminded of him now because Bonfig, my late friend and one-time colleague, cult novelist, wit, raconteur and knife-thrower was, conveniently for this post, a perfect example of the passionate personality.  He was a man of extremes and contradictions, of quick temper and generous nature.  I know he was an outstanding teacher; I believe he could have been a dangerous enemy.  He both embarrassed and inspired me, not usually at the same time.  He loved and lost, had friends of brilliance in the worlds of art, literature and film-making, and in two of those fields shone as brightly as any.  He knew millionaires and men of power, gangsters and politicians, yet ended his days, to all intents, penniless in a tumbledown cottage in Ireland.

     And whom do I pick for the antithesis of this edgy, discomfiting, uplifting, mercurial character? Why, none other than myself - totally without ambition, wed to my first wife for 45 years till widowed, talented to "somewhat" standard in far too many fields but too laid-back (read "lazy") to concentrate on one and forego the joy of the others.

     Take my attitude to illness.  I had never ruffled the sheets of a hospital bed between an emergency appendectomy (1955) and a double coronary bypass (1999), so I could not claim to be inured to the anxieties of illness and the understandable fear of "going under the knife".  Yet I accepted the heart problem and its surgical solution with little more than slight anxiety and a mild irritation.  ("This shouldn't be happening to me; I'm a tai chi teacher!")   It may be hard to believe but I assure you it was so.

     It was at a tai chi class that the problem first arose.  Unusually, I had given way to anger in a confrontation with the hall manager.  I said to my wife, "Could you start the class off.  I'm not feeling good.  I'll go and sit down for a while."  Ten minutes later I came back and announced to the class, "Sorry about that.  I think I may be having a heart attack.  Could somebody drive me to A & E?"  Younger son Stewart, when he heard about it, thought that was "really cool".

     When I was diagnosed with mouth cancer four years later, my reaction was similarly unpredictable. "Cancer, eh?  Never had that before."

(to be continued - next Sunday, 28th July)

This post is getting too long.  And it's late.  I've tried to be consistent and post every Sunday, just like D C Thomson. (Scottish joke - Sunday Post.  Sorry.  It won't happen again.)  Now it's 11.30 on Tuesday.  I'll blog no more tonight.