The Remains Of The Day

I like it when people muse on things and let me in on it.

Besides the fact that it’s always refreshing to see that someone has their own version of your stumpy thought processes, it sometimes gives you an insight into your own perspective on similar things.

Take, for instance, the novel The Remains Of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. It’s pretty famous now, as a movie with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson in it, not to mention winning the ‘Man Booker’ prize in 1989. To be honest, I never managed to catch more than the trailer, when I had a chance to watch it on HBO back when I used to stay in what I shall label Really Stupid City, for my future ranting purposes.

This lovely book of less-than-250 pages describes the unfolding of events over six days of a tour around the English countryside. Very briefly, Stevens, the aging butler of Darlington Hall (which is now home to an American gentleman) is encouraged to take a break from his service routine and take a look at the countryside in his master’s Ford, during which he does everything from pass off for a Very Important Personage to resolve old issues with himself to give an ending to a uniquely English form of unrequited love.

What’s interesting more than the people he meets or the places he sees are his various recollections of life at Darlington Hall before the Second World War. The author just makes the entire book seem like a natural flow of thought at its rambling best. This is how any of us would ponder our own issues if we decided to ‘take a break from it all’, and the book focuses especially on those who must soon put their feet up and enjoy the remains of the day – those near retirement age, and their reminiscences of the past.

Enough about the book.

I know too many people who find relaxation only in the company of others they like. I know people who are afraid of loneliness, to the degree that they feel insecure if their acquaintances seem to be more busy with their own lives than with those of these people.

I admit that we all need some form of companionship, from friends or family. We need to be needed, to belong, on some level. I have felt so misanthropic at one stage as to hate this in myself, and to constantly distance myself from other people to enjoy my own company. While that may have been one of those issues that need to be worked out as you “grow up”, I still like the time that I get to myself, without interruptions from the outside world. It gives me the chance to think about things I normally pack up in a box and shelve somewhere. It can be quite a change if you, like me (quite unlikely), have been doing more shelving than unpacking and perusing.

It’s hard to get some time exclusively to yourself when you have a platterful of things to do, but it’s always easy to squeeze in time here and there. There are the long drives to the Insti to meet Dot, the time after an exam that I finish early, the time spent rolling around in bed while waiting to fall asleep, and moments like this when everyone is busy around the house and I get to sit undisturbed, admittedly doing everything but my work.

Throughout my life, I have felt my privacy invaded or my person violated somehow by even the stare of another person. I’m very sensitive to the presence of “other people” because I feel like it steals something from an otherwise perfect moment. If I think about it, it’s almost as though I feel that they want to take something away from what they covet in vain. Anyway, sometimes you need people to force you to think, to act on things you’d otherwise be too lazy to go about, to learn from and imbibe the better qualities of. I don’t need many people, but I do need the ones I’ve invested something in, to exhibit a need for me every once in awhile.

What was the point of this? To sound as vague as possible so you don’t latch on to what I’m really talking about? I’ve skirted around everything I’ve wanted to say without actually landing on certain things I don’t want to state. 

For what it’s worth, that’s what the book is like, too.


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