Sunday 2 May 2021

Random Jottings

Talking of Chekhov, this photograph of the author with his wife, the actress Olga Knipper (who lived to the age of 90, dying in 1959), has always struck me as one of the most engaging pictures of any writer. Relaxed, open and genial, and clearly happy in his wife's company, Chekhov has none of the usual affectations of an author posing for a photograph: the pensive, soulful look, the chin resting on an elegant hand, the profile shown to best advantage, the calculated advertisement of 'artistic' character. Chekhov was too busy writing – and practising medicine and staging his plays and working for prison reform and supporting his demanding family – to bother about 'being a writer'. 

Meanwhile I'm being targeted again by clerical outfitters, whose latest offerings include a fine preaching scarf and preaching bands, and a 'black grosgrain cincture with falls'. Tempting though all this is, I fancy there is, alas, rather more to being a cleric than dressing up. Ronald Firbank was said to have been so impressed by the uniform of the Pope's Swiss Guard that he considered applying to join it. I don't think that would have gone very well...

I see the Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corporation – sorry, HSBC – has yet another fatuous slogan: 'Welcome to the New Normal', with 'Normal' crossed out and replaced with 'Different' – 'Welcome to the New Different'. Hmm. I guess it's no worse than 'We are not an island. We are part of something bigger' – a particularly unfortunate slogan these days for a Hongkong-based company. 

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