24 October 1994
You'll find with this letter, not an amusing article from a football magazine, but a couple of pages from a novel. But read this first.
I want to say a few things to you that I should have said to your face a couple of month ago, but out of a misplaced sense of hospitality, or maybe just good old-fashioned cowardice and fear of confrontation, didn't.
Are you aware that your attitude towards me during your recent visit was one of patronising, disinterested aloofness bordering at times on being downright rude? Well it was. And I might add that you didn't just show this attitude towards me, but also to other people you came across, some of whom (my sister, Charlotte) you knew from before, others who you didn't. But as they can speak for themselves, I won't take the liberty of telling you what I believe they made of your demeanour.
In case you have forgotten, or think I am making this all up, lets go on to a few specifics:
1- In the Supermarket
You may remember you were interested in buying cheap bread and I suggested we go to Greggs, my local bakery, to get it. I had to suggest this about five times, giving lengthy descriptions of the goods on offer there, before you were persuaded that I was in fact capable, having lived in Manchester for a year, of buying a loaf of bread without getting either (1) done out of precious pennies or (2) food poisoning. Why this reticence to accept my judgement? I have two theories. One is that your quite impressive headlong plunge into almost total miserliness (an interesting sideline to your visit, but not one I think we need to go into in detail) really had got the better of you. But I think the truth is a little more like this. You really do have an image of me fixed in your mind as a blundering naive kind of village idiot best not trusted on his own to carry out anything more complex than boiling a kettle. Now I admit that I have fed this image you have of me by, for example, being half-blind for the first six months you knew me, and thereafter just by being prone to emotional entanglement and obsessions that it fell upon you as my best friend to try and untangle me from- and by just acting inept (sometimes actually being inept) so that you had to do things for me. I realise that this aspect of our friendship helped foster your own self-image as a practical, level-headed type of guy. And I could live with it- but not this summer, when you gave an excellent impression of Oliver Hardy having to cope with Laurel on one of his clumsier weekends. I don't think I'm taking myself too seriously when I say that your many variations on the one joke (Oh look, Jonathan's glasses have fallen off again) just weren't funny anymore.
2- The Trip to Liverpool
With Charlotte and Abby. I know I said I wouldn't go into it, but your behaviour towards our mutual acquaintances (ie virtually ignoring them) was surely illustrative of something. Now either it was just rudeness (and I think you're too well-brought-up not to know that a few cursory questions about what people are up to in their lives is an accepted sign of courtesy) or it was something else- namely that you think you have come too far, with your pleasant job and settled home life, to have to bother with these ex-friends of yours still floundering hopefully in your wake. In which case, fine. But let me remind you of something. You are Head of Studies of a private language school in southern Spain. This does not really put you so far away from the humble bottom rungs of the ladder where you started- and it certainly doesn't put you on first name terms with the fucking Pope. Your home life I will come to momentarily.
Anyway, the trip to Liverpool. You will remember that me, Abby and Charlotte were having the time of our lives on the way there, laughing and joking in I'll admit a pretty immature way. Your contribution to our hilarity was to complain (in tones which reminded me of a strict uncle who I'm glad I never had) that our antics were putting you off your driving. Fortunately you cheered up during the course of the afternoon enough to ignore us studiously for three hours before turning down our suggestion of a drink in order to take Sonia off on a trip to tick John Lennon's favourite tea-shop, or something, off your tourist itinerary. You may not be surprised to learn that me and Abby spent the next half-hour discussing you and the way you were, for want of a better word, behaving. And when you came back, we made a special effort to talk to Sonia, and (I think to your surprise and obvious discomfort) enjoyed a quite pleasant fifteen minute chat.
I imagine you have been waiting for the bit where I slag Sonia off, and conclude that The Change That's Come About You Is All Her Doing. Well it's not going to come. You'll be pleased to know my estimation of your wife is unchanged. I find her (and I know Abby and Charlotte did) a most pleasant, engaging, intelligent person. But we were only able to find that out when we were able to exclude you from the conversation, and more precisely, to surmount the obstacles you put between Sonia and other people. I'll be specific again. Why did Sonia spend the weekend in the company of people either fluent of proficient in Spanish without being allowed to speak Spanish to us in your presence? Because She Needs To Learn English, I suppose. And in that case, did somebody on your TEFL course not tell you that effective teaching does not consist of a series of petty interruptions to correct any slight grammatical mistake? I suspect this simply infuriating trait of yours- which you continue to extend, again not funnily, to the correction of my English- has less to do with anything linguistic than it has with your apparent need to stop your wife being able to have any conversations that aren't monitored by you. While I'm in the business of making character judgements based on what you would no doubt dismiss as the scanty evidence of our years of friendship and my close proximity to you for a whole weekend, is it not also true that you use Sonia as an excuse for you not to have to go to places you don't want to. I refer to the Saturday night, and while I accept that Sonia's aforementioned Need To Speak English All The Time precluded us from going out spending your hard-earned money at a disco, and while I would not claim to Know Your Own Wife Better Than You Do, I do think that maybe we would all have had a better time had you not decided that the best way for Sonia to spend Saturday night was sitting in the downstairs room of a pub watching you fight a brave but vain struggle against stomach pains before catching the first available bus home.
I'm afraid I can' resist a final, quite rude paragraph asking Why On Earth Anyone In Spain Continues To Put Up With You. I suspect the answer to that one is quite easy. You are succesful in Spain because in that country you are different- a blond, dashing, unconventional, interesting figure, from a different background, who nevertheless has made great strides in assimilating the language and culture of your adopted country. Quite the Jurgen Klinsmann of your profession, if I may employ one of the favourite devices of our once-beautiful friendship- the footballing analogy. Whereas over here, to use no footballing analogy whatsoever, you are exactly what I and most people who came across you took you to be- a person of average wit and intelligence, but someone with nothing more unique to their name than a fast-receding past as a one-time drinking, laughing, partying, Krazy student kid.
It's all finished now Anthony- and I suppose, so are we. Unless you can swallow the bitter pill of this angry but necessary missive, and effect a change in your frankly unpleasant demeanour quite as dramatic as the transformation I saw in you one weekend this summer. I regret to say I find this unlikely.
PS.... I am aware of certain comments you made to Abby along the lines of 'Jonathan, he just wants to be a student all the time, whereas me, I've got my career in motion' or some such. With this in mind, it is possible you may take the above to be some kind of sour grapes effort due to my continued presence on the dole queue. In case it is, I had better inform you that I recently got a job teaching Spanish in a Manchester Secondary School- so I've joined you on the beautiful parabola of the career curve. I only hope it doesn't do to me what I suppose it must be partly to blame for doing to you.
.... TO BE CONCLUDED NEXT TIME OUT....