Looking for Horace

Another wet day here in South East England with low pressure over the English Channel – I am showing off now – and rain is forecast for the rest of this week which I have taken off so that I can recover from more than a touch of over-exertion surrounding over a week of birthday celebrations.

I have my next MRI brain scan on the 30th. and, as it is on the day of the first anniversary of my brain haemorrhage, I really want the images to show that the haemorrhage blood has finally gone from my brain. Rest, as I have been told all year, is important so I canceled my kungfu lessons, postponed various social engagements, decided to write short and light-hearted blogs and a few Twitter comments but generally to put my feet up listening to a couple of recordings of Verdi’s great opera Un Ballo In Maschera (A Masked Ball) which he wrote in my current musical year, 1859.

It has been really enjoyable being a lazy slob – maybe I should keep it up. Slobbing around on a rainy day is near perfection.

A friend “twittered” me yesterday assuming that I was looking for a book by that noble Roman Horace. Previously I had “twittered” to the World about how I was looking for Horace but I didn’t mean the author of those Latin odes but Horace the spider who has been living just outside my bathroom window, near the dustbin all year.

Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65 BC – 8 BC) , the poet, not the spider, was a great writer who got tangled up in the war that followed Julius Caesar’s assassination and got his land confiscated when he found himself on the losing team. He managed to make a living as a poet and eventually got given a whole lot of new land for his troubles.

I have always liked his well known phrase, “carpe diem” (Seize The Day) which is one of the few popular latin quotes still in circulation today. Nothing like a brain haemorrhage to make you think carpe diem.

Horace also wrote “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” (It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country) – a phrase now associated ironically with the carnage of the First World War (1914-1918). We are less sure about that one these days. I am not sure he believed it either because he said that he survived in battle by throwing away his shield and running away. Sensible man Horace…I guess running away from danger is a form of carpe diem.

Now Horace, the spider, not the poet, is much less likely to run away from danger than his great namesake. Anyone who touches his web is soon aware of Horace rushing towards him on all legs with lunch on his mind. As my pet damsellfly Odette discovered to her cost last week.

I have often admired his resilience when I have accidentally walked through one of his webs only to find the structure back in place with Horace sitting in its centre only minutes later. Like the poet, he is used to losing his estates but brave-hearted enough to fight back never to just turn and run.

There was a disturbing scene when I walked through his web last Saturday night. I looked to see what I had done with a sense of unusual guilt. The web was gone and so was Horace.

An hour later, I was back up in my study typing some rubbish on my computer when I felt a ticklish sensation on my head. I brushed my hand across my hair and down onto my keyboard fell Horace. No shield to throw away, he just ran for it – over my desk and down onto the floor beneath.

That I feared was that after a good search showed no sign of him. Saturday, Sunday and then Monday: no Horace. The empty space outside the bathroom window spoke poignantly to me every time I looked out. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, I thought seeing the space where his kingdom had once stood. He must have sat there at its centre as I brushed him away in my clumsiness. Poor Horace.

Then last night, just as I was preparing for bed, I saw him.

He was sitting half way up the wall by my study door – looking at me, I like to think, with pleading eyes. Carpe diem, I thought, picking him up gently, carrying him to the window and letting him drop to the space by my dustbin.

This morning, in the rain, I went out to have a look and, yes, there he was back in his usual place, rain droplets shining from his web. Worth a celebration I think so raise your glasses to Horace with a toast: Nunc est bibendum (now we must drink) as Quintus Horatius Flaccus would have said.

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