In a surprise which even I couldn’t have foreseen (I had read the daily horoscope and so was pretty mush prepared for anything, even a riot), my son’s physio-therapist, so it transpired, was Tess of the D’Urbevilles. I sat in mute amazement (a common feature of my life), as Miss D’Urbevilles, or, actually, Durbeyfield, put him through his paces to alleviate his acute tendonitis. “Do you have any questions?” she asked at the end of the forty-five minute session.
“Didn’t they hang you?” I asked.
“It was alluded to,” she muttered. “But I think you’ll find that the grisly details were left to the reader’s imagination.”
I thought about this for a second. Although I had studied the book at both A’Level and university (what? That book again? Noooo!), and had thus learned to loathe it with a passion normally reserved for the likes of Bon Jovi, the last thing which I remembered about the book, now that I came to think about it, was something to do with Salisbury and Stonehenge and Tess having been reunited with the dreadful Angel Claire (sp?), waiting to be apprehended by the rozzers, rather than running off to the new world (again, in Angel’s case); so I felt that Tess was perhaps right about this ending. (I can’t be sure and am unable to check the reference for you as I threw my dog-eared, much annotated and despised copy away in about 1993.)
The obvious question, of course, was what the bloody hell was the fictional character of Tess of the D’Urbevilles doing working as a physio-therapist at the health centre in
“But you’re not real,” I said, “so how come you are?”
“If enough people believe in you, you become real,” she explained.
“That’s rubbish,” I said, rather rudely
“No, I read it in a Terry Pratchett novel,” she countered.
“Yes, but that’s just a weak device he uses to explain the existence of Gods; it doesn’t carry much weight in the real world. Jean-Paul Sartre believed that he was being followed around
by a giant lobster and used to drag Simone de Beauvoir around café after café in an attempt to avoid being caught by it; just because he believed there was a lobster didn’t make the lobster materialize.” Paris
“But that was only one person believing; if lots of people believe it, then it can, in a sense, become real.”
“You’re very profound for a milk-maid turned physio-therapist.”
“I’ve had a lot of time to think about it.”
“How long, exactly?” I asked.
“It all really kicked off with the film adaptation starring Julie Christie.”
“That was Far From the Madding Crowd,” I interjected. Bloody Thomas Hardy; I’d had to study him at AO’Level as well.
Tess blushed, and it was at that moment, as I almost felt a twinge of sympathy for the dastardly Alec D’Urbevilles and resisted the urge to light a cigar or offer her a strawberry (I had neither to hand), that my bored ten-year-old son asked if we could leave.
Next week, The Man Who Came to Fit the Blinds was Tom Gradgrind