I told it to him straight: "It won't last five minutes, Dad," I said. "You've become much too selfish to live with anybody. You couldn't live with a dead dog for long without coming to blows with it. Living in that flat with you, she'll feel trapped."
I'd said this to him while driving down the outside lane of the southbound M5 at 100mph. We were going down to Padstow in Cornwall to visit Sid's sister, who lives on her own in a caravan down there. After my forthright tirade, Sid put on one of his "inscrutable sadist" grins, and showed me his upper dentures. We didn't speak after that until we were coming up to the Taunton junction, when I asked Sid if he'd mind if we made a small detour so that I could visit Evelyn Waugh's grave, which lies in a village churchyard not far from the motorway.
Waugh, the man as well as the writer, has always been a personal and, I always feel, a rather dangerous obsession of mine since I first read Decline and Fall when I was 18. I'd not visited his grave before but thought the timing, 29 October - the day after his 95th birthday - somehow significant. I think I had an absurd notion that the closer to his birthday it was, the more likely it was that he would appear to me as an apparition. I was, of course, also well aware that the last thing Evelyn Arthur St John Waugh would have wanted was a couple of oiks like me and El Sid footling round his last resting place; and that if his ghost were to appear, it would probably be rude and offensive.
"Go ahead," said Sid, amiably, "Friend of yours was she?"
"He was a bloke, Dad. A writer. Wrote Brideshead Revisited."
El Sid rarely reads anything other than menus or boxing magazines and, even if he did read books, one has the impression that he would instinctively avoid anything with a title like Brideshead Revisited.
"Brideshead Revisited?" he exclaimed. "What's that all about, then?"
"It's about a homosexual love affair Evelyn Waugh had when he was a student. It was on telly a few years ago. Starring Jeremy Irons."
El Sid snuggled exultantly back in the passenger seat, then gave me an arch, accusing look. "Sounds about right," he said.
My father, I forgot to mention, is currently working on a theory that since I left the dustcart to become a journalist I have turned into a "raving iron".
Sid's theory had been rekindled only the day before, when he'd idly picked up a paperback I'd left lying around. It was a collection of poems by CP Cavafy that I'd bought in a second-hand bookshop in San Francisco. On the front cover there is a black and white photograph of the great man himself. If ever a man looked like he had homosexual leanings, that man was CP Cavafy. Sid was intrigued. I watched him open the book gingerly, as if CP was likely to leap out at him from between the pages. Inside the cover there is an inscription, written in blue felt tip.
"Who's Edward, then?" asked Dad, innocently, after he'd read it.
"Edward?" I said.
Sid reminded me by reading the inscription aloud in a falsetto voice: " `My love,' it says, `The afternoon of oil and caresses. Fiery language that made your seed burst across my chest. You and me - Our rich story! On and on. I love you. Edward.'"
"No idea," I said. "It was already there when I bought it."
I turned off the motorway and carried on through Taunton until we came to the pretty village of Combe Florey. A man cutting the grass in the church cemetery said that he'd never heard of Evelyn Waugh. But we came across his grave lying on specially consecrated ground just outside the bounds of the parish church, about ten feet from where the grass-cutting man had stood scratching his head. There were two graves. One simply said, "Evelyn Waugh. Writer". The other said, "Laura. His wife". Sid liked that.Reuse content