How many of us are au fait with the great Blossom Dearie? Clive James is. Perhaps he is the only poet to have mentioned her in verse. Clive James, a poet? Yes, amongst his other talents. I remember reading a memorable paean to his wife on their anniversary about five years ago, and being a good (and idle) chap, I've looked it up for you.
Idle is an old romantic at heart, and will, as with all Valentine's days, make the lady idle a morning cup of tea in bed, put the loo seat down after use, order and collect the Chinese takeaway on Saturday evening, to be eaten, incongruously, with a bottle of Pol Roger.
Here is Clive James, pouring his heart out in most un-antipodean fashion.
You are my alcohol and nicotine,
My silver flask and cigarette machine.
You watch and scratch my back, you scrub me clean.
I mumble but you still know what I mean.
Know what I mean?
You read my thoughts, you see what I have seen.
You are my egg-flip and my ego trip,
My passion-fruit soufflé and strawberry whip.
When the dawn comes to catch you on the hip
I taste the sweet light on my fingertip.
I lift it to my quivering lips and sip.
Homecoming Queen and mother of our two
Smart daughters who, thank God, take after you,
This house depends on what you say and do —
And all you do is wise and say is true.
And say is true?
True as a plumb-line or a billiard cue.
On from Byzantium to Cooch Behar
Our Messerschmitt two-seater bubble car,
Laden with foie gras and with caviare,
Follows the shining road to Shangri-la.
With Blossom Dearie singing in the bar.
When the sun fades, the Earth will fly away.
Tell me it isn't happening today.
I have a debt of happiness to pay.
I die if you should leave, live if you stay.
Live if you stay?
Live like a king, proud as a bird of prey.
My share of Heaven and my sheer delight,
My soda fountain and my water-sprite,
My curving ribbon of a climbing kite,
You are my Starlight Roof, my summer night.
My summer night?
The flying foxes glide, the possums fight.
You are my honeydew and panther sweat,
The music library on my private jet.
Top of the bill, we fly without a net.
You are the stroke of luck I can't forget.
I can't forget?
I'm still not ready for you even yet.
You are my nicotine and alcohol,
My Stéphane Audran in a Claude Chabrol,
My sunlight through a paper parasol,
My live-in living doll and gangster's moll —
And gangster's moll?
Mine the fedora, yours the folderol.
The ring is closed. The rolling dice we cast
So long ago still roll but not so fast.
The colours fade that we nailed to the mast.
We lose the future but we own the past.
We own the past?
From our first kiss, a lifetime to the last.
(Spectator, April 9, 2005)