I have been attempting to read Lucy Hughes Hallet’s The Pike. I’m finding it hard going and were it not for a book group and chosen by a friend of mine, I would have abandoned it already. I am amused to discover after three attempts at it, that each time I give up on the same page – which reminds me how I was never able to read the Diary of Richard Crossman beyond page 46 despite repeatedly trying.


This makes me consider diary writing and I have to confess that mine is not what it used to be. Possibly I channel my energy more into blogs, but perhaps now I am older I am beginning to learn the art of discretion. I have ever been a woman well able to keep a secret, and have never been in the habit of revealing the whole of my thoughts, but when I was younger I used to write pretty much the unadulterated truth of what I thought on subjects I was prepared to commit to my diary.


But now I am older and can more readily see a time when I may be gone and my papers (if I preserve them) will be in the hands of others and that people I love may well be hurt by passing comments which amounted to no more than a rock of irritation in a vast ocean of love for them. When you love people, you look at them and think of them a lot, and it is only natural you will occasionally be irritated or anxious about them.


D’Anunzio, (the Pike) was very gifted and this can be a problem for the holder of the gifts – what is he to do with them? I have long suspected that ‘ambition’ – that quality held in such high esteem in the 21st century, is in fact of doubtful morality.


Recently I had a conversation with a friend of mine (whose wise opinions are greatly valued by me) as to whether we should have made more of a mark on the world with our talents. He is a practical person, whose working life was one of dealing with practical problems, but he is also very clever and astute, insightful and reflective, artistic, gifted in many directions which are not immediately obvious. I thought about this a lot afterwards and I came to the conclusion that our measuring rod for success in life is warped and deceiving.


To have arrived at old age with wisdom, charity and dignity, able to support with unobtrusive love and affection the people around you; to be an elder of your tribe, able to receive their assistance graciously but standing like a great tree on their horizon, still holding on to all that you ever valued; to have seen something of life and to have enjoyed it and still be able to laugh at its oddities; and to have acquired some wisdom and humility in the process – how could you have accomplished anything more? (I do not include myself in this august body; I only aspire to this happy condition.)


So perhaps one’s accomplishments in life need not be measured in riches or honours or fame? For those who achieve these things, all credit to them, but the best heroes. the real ones, are almost always unsung.


As for D’Annunzio, he was not a pike. A pike is a fish with an honest interest in survival. D’Annunzio, despite his dazzling gifts, was a fraud and a leader of men to destruction, a cad and a bounder. In a well written biography, you have confidence in the integrity and judgement of the author but Hughes Hallet refuses to be ‘judgemental’ about her subject, despite his repugnance. The writing does not have an orderly flow. She opines that ‘the beginning is seldom the best place to start’. I think, madam, that you’ll find that it is.

So now I’m scrabbling about for my usual conclusion, but I can’t find one. Maybe I’m finally learning that there isn’t necessarily a conclusion? That there is always more to learn? That life just runs on like the Thames, whether you’re swimming or drowning?

My conclusion is that should I ever have another stab at Crossman’s diary I should start on page 47.

And The Pike? I’ll spike it.