When Hamish and I loved each other for a whole year without making love, I did not realize that I had set the mould of my whole life. One could find endless reasons for our abstinence -- fear, virtue, ignorance, perversion -- but the fact remains that the Hamish pattern was to be endlessly repeated, and with increasing velocity and lack of depth, so that eventually the idea of love ended in me almost the day that it began. Nothing succeeds, they say, life success, and certainly nothing fails like failure. I was successful in my work, so I suppose other successes were too much to hope for.
Auntie Phyl's last months in the care home were extra pieces. Age is unnecessary. Some of us, like my mother, are fortunate enough to die swiftly and suddenly, in full possession of our faculties and our fate, but more and more of us will be condemned to linger, at the mercy of anxious or indifferent relatives, careless strangers, unwanted medical interventions, increasing debility, incontinence, memory loss. We live too long, but, like the sibyl hanging in her basket in the cave at Cumae, we find it hard to die.