Charles Dickens has become a daily companion. There are free unabridged readings of his works on YouTube. A voluntary group called Librivox have uploaded a selection of work which now fills my many hours of journeying. The voice of reader Mil Nicholson endows with life the characters drawn by Dickens. The forty mile journey from Athboy back to Dublin at the end of each school day has become a time passed in a profitable way.
There is not a single Dickens character whose vocabulary I do not envy, even the odious Uriah Heep from David Copperfield and the manipulative Silas Wegg from Our Mutual Friend have a capacity to argue well the case they present.
Confronted with difficult situations, challenged about their behaviour or their motives, the people on the pages of Dickens’ novels seem always able to acquit themselves well. One would need the skills of a legal advocate to challenge Mrs Jellyby of Bleak House concerning the care of her children.
Perhaps there are passages from Dickens that might be committed to memory, passages that might be resources on which to draw when attempting to argue a particular case.
Of course, in Dickens, those who argue with eloquence, meet eloquence in response. No-one answers with a blunt restatement of what they have already said, or simply ignores what has been said to them. There is a possibility of a constructive engagement.
Being someone who struggles to find words in an argument, or find myself saying the wrong thing altogether, the idea of someone being willing to at least engage has an attractiveness about it.
Professional relationships are not a problem, thirty years of clerical life, combined with a development of skills of ‘plámás,’ have provided a basis for ensuring smooth interactions with colleagues.
No, it’s the personal relationships that have been a problem, not being very good at them.
There have been too many moments where I have done and said the wrong things, too many occasions which have become causes for regret.
Trying to repair what is broken is difficult without an aptitude for reconciliation, and had such an aptitude existed, the breakages would never have occurred in the first place. There have been times when attempts at repairing the damage I have caused have served instead only to exacerbate already fraught situations.
In former times, I would have encouraged people to use the occasion of Christmas to seek a truce in family disputes. Watching Joyeux Noel, the French film on the 1914 Christmas truce, I have realized that a ceasefire between warring nations seems a simple matter compared with personal estrangements.