Jeremy Clarke

Jeremy Clarke

The joy of the Great War memoir

Harley Granville-Barker, actor, director, playwright, manager and critic, was a pasha of the Edwardian London stage. As a director, his Midsummer Night’s Dream of 1914 was a theatrical landmark. His own plays were provocative and controversial. The Secret Life, for example, was an analysis of the torpor of the British ruling classes. Waste, involving a

It’s my ninth – and final – chemotherapy session

‘Sorry I’m late,’ I said to the big unit stationed behind her computer. She’s the chief, this one. She shows no fear or favour. ‘It’s not grave. Room two,’ she said without looking up. ‘Today’s my last one,’ I said. ‘I know,’ she said. Room two comprises three cubicles. Two were already occupied. I was

The farcical world of the Sharon’s Ex-Boyfriends Club

Sharon told me once that the best sex she’d ever had was with Tom in the town public conveniences, bathed in that mauve light some town councils install to inconvenience junkies. Which was typical of Sharon’s unsnobbishness and of Tom’s work ethic. I’d met Tom through Sharon. In a list of boyfriends that year that

The magic of champagne

The four portraits of four siblings that Catriona had painted from their photographs over four months were framed, hung and lit and ready for a viewing by the loving parents. That so much creative endeavour should succeed or fail at a glance made me terribly glad I wasn’t a painter. At the appointed hour of

My wig faux pas

I listed for Catriona the reasons why I did not want to go out to dinner that evening at the posh new restaurant in the village. The Hammers were on telly that evening and we had a fire lit. Plus, I was only just back from the hospital at Marseille where another half pint of

Most-read 2021: The joy of my new British passport

We’re ending the year by republishing our most popular articles from 2021. Number six is from Jeremy Clarke’s Low Life column in January. He writes about the joy of receiving his new black British passport. ‘Anything you want?’ says Catriona on her way out of the house to go to the shop. I’m standing at the hob

Would my scan results be a death sentence?

At the desk I gave my name and showed my Covid vaccination pass and the woman told me to take a seat with the others. I greeted the two elderly couples and the healthy-looking man wearing a three-piece suit and tie and plonked myself down on one of the orange sofas. The tatty oncology department

A hidden side of the Somme

Noticing via this Low Life column that I had trench fever, the Western Front Association treated me to a year’s membership and subscription to their excellent quarterly magazine Stand To!. And if that wasn’t enough, they also offered me a place in their contingent at this year’s Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph — a

French kissing with the French

Every year Vernon celebrates the gathering in and pressing of his olive harvest by inviting friends to a ceremony at his house. This year there were seven of us. He poured about a third of a pint of the freshly pressed, very green oil on to a central white china plate. We each took a

The joy of French hospital food

After checking me in, the receptionist, who was wearing an overcoat, said: ‘There is no heating in the hotel. The unit is broken. But it is not cold today so you should be fine.’ Room 357 was cold. Hoping to raise the temperature by a degree, I filled the sink with hot water, turned on

My moment of madness in the opticians

Foolishly I chose new specs in the village optician’s after a long lunch: a rather outré design that I might not have chosen had I been completely sober. For the past decade I’ve worn a retro design I’d first admired in David Bailey’s striking black and white photographs of Ron Kray. Thinking it might be

A tale of bitter brotherly rivalry

For early humans there was no distinction between spirit and matter. There was no idea of self; no barrier between consciousness and the world. Eventually, evolving self-consciousness and thought put a barrier between the two. Object was irrecoverably divorced from subject. Or so I’ve read somewhere. Something like that anyway. Very recently yet another barrier

The healing power of champagne

The day after Catriona was fitted with a plaster cast and crutches, her elder sister arrived from the UK for a rare visit. Marigold is also on crutches. Diabetes. Which left me as the only able-bodied member of the household, though an ethereal one. I try daily ‘to run with determination the race that is

Life amid Catriona’s cleaning regime

Earlier in this run of glorious October sunshine I was languishing on the bed in the middle of the afternoon not feeling up to much. The phone rang. Catriona. Could I manage to get down the path to help carry two heavy shopping bags back up to the house? ‘I’m on my way, mon chou’,

My happiness has given way to a paralysing melancholy

From our hypothetical drone-mounted camera let us look down into a secluded valley in the same series of valleys as Brad and Angelina’s celebrated Provençal vineyard. Cultivated olives and vines on ancient terraces descend to an English lawn encompassing a pretty stone cottage, formerly a beekeeper’s. The lawn is wide and green and must take

Acorns and aliens: lunch with Vernon and the Ukrainians

Catriona and I were late for lunch at Vernon’s because I couldn’t get out of bed. The four of them — Vernon and the three Ukrainians — were sitting outside drinking in the sun when we walked up the path. The Ukrainians are renting Vernon’s other house. Nina is married to Andrij. Valentyna is Nina’s

The downfall of the French middle class

The chesty Corsican taxi driver was giving me his earnest appraisal of the way things were headed in France politically. On the right we were passing the battlefield of Aquae Sextiae where the Roman general Gaius Marius, commanding 37,000 legionaries, massacred a 100,000-strong Teutonic horde thought to be headed for Italy after laying waste to

Sally Rooney on steroids

To lessen the side effects of chemotherapy I am prescribed a corticosteroid. I take a whopping dose around the treatment dates and a maintenance dose the rest of the time. The physical side effects of prednisolone are sweating, insomnia, a gargantuan appetite and a moon face. The mental effects are similar to those of decent

I rather enjoy my chemotherapy sessions

With a French health card everything is free for us cancer patients, even taxis to and from the hospital. ‘This is the longest taxi ride I’ve ever taken in my life,’ I said to last week’s driver, Virginie, on the outward leg of our three-hour round trip to the hospital at Marseille. ‘Your poor French