I have now read two more of The Folio Society’s 1974 selection of Short Stories by Anton Chekhov. The first, which is not illustrated with a drawing by Nigel Lambourne, is ‘The Cross of Anna’. As Elisaveta Fen, the translator, writes ‘It is essentially a story of the destruction of innocence and the folly of so-called self sacrifice.’ One of the author’s themes seems to be the desperate sadness of the widespread custom of much older men being pledged to women barely out of their teens and consequently considered heading for the shelf. My reaction to the pun of the title is also shared by Fen who states that the female lead’s ‘husband is awarded the cross of Anna, worn on a ribbon round the neck; hence the Russian title ‘Anna around his neck’ – a Russian idiom for describing an unwanted burden.’
To my mind, the next story is a tragedy of an obsessional character who manages to transfer his own fears to those around him. Elisaveta Fen points out that ‘Contemporary reviewers enlarged on Belikov’s type’s social significance and importance, treating [him] as a representative of an influential and socially dangerous class of people who threaten and bully their colleagues into conformity with absurd restrictions on their behaviour.’ I agree with the translator that he is more worthy of pity than fear.
Illustrator Nigel Lambourne has introduced a provocative element of his own to ‘Varinka was the first woman who had treated Belikov with friendliness’. It is, after all, his colleagues who thought it amusing to manipulate the prospective union of the two protagonists.
I am grateful to Maj for helping me distinguish between bees and hoverflies.
Today we were visited by both bees
Our new wooden bench was delivered this morning. This afternoon we carried it from our back gate to the Rose Garden in order to install it beneath the Agriframes Arbour. We had been pleased that we didn’t have to assemble it with flat-pack “destructions”. There was, however, a downside. The piece was quite heavy and would only just fit into the available space, so, having carted it up there we left it just outside and went back indoors to procrastinate and think about it.
This structure was to replace the smaller, white aluminium, two seater which was the previous occupant of this resting place, and really only suitable for children or small adults.
It was easy enough for me to shift that and to
leave it on the paving leading to single chair occupying the corner beyond the Little Climber rose and the fallen New Dawn.
After wrestling with the new bench we decided that lifting the fallen rose was a bridge too far, and could wait until tomorrow. Jackie relaxed on her pole and we both rested on our laurels and our new purchase,
looking at the view from Absolutely Fabulous through Festive Jewel.
Meanwhile our previous new bench still enables occupants to share the view with Florence sculpture.
Day lilies are blooming all over the garden.
This evening, after drinks sitting on our new bench we dined on our second helpings of yesterday’s Red Chilli takeaway, including the unopened paratha, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the CEO.