J B Priestly was born and brought up in the West Riding of Yorkshire, as I was. He would answer a friendly enquiry with the reply “Mustn’t grumble”, which makes perfect sense to a Yorkshireman. When I was a teenager his novel The Good Companions was my favourite book, although when I picked it up a a year or two ago I was disappointed to find it unreadable. On the other hand his play, “An Inspector Calls” has remained one of my favourites and I go to see it whenever there’s a new production. 60 years ago, when Priestly was 65 he published a collection of 114 brief essays under the title “Delight”, which became a best seller. In it he describes the pleasures of the Slow Life in elegant simple language. Here’s an extract , “Not Going”, which explains why I’ll be staying in this New Year’s Eve:
One of the delights known to age and beyond the grasp of youth is that of Not Going. When we are young it is almost agony not to go. We feel we are being left out of life, that the whole wonderful procession is sweeping by, probably for ever, while we are weeping or sulking behind bars. Not to have an invitation- for the dance, the party, the match, the picnic, the excursion, the gang on holiday- is to be diminished, perhaps kept at midget’s height for years. To have an invitation and then not to be able to go- oh cursed spite! Thus we torment ourselves in the April of our time. Now in my early November not only do I not care the rottenest fig whether I receive an invitation or not, but having carelessly accepted the invitation I can find delight in knowing that I am Not Going. I arrived at this by two stages. At the first, after years of illusion, I finally decided that I was missing nothing by not going. Now, at the second and, I hope, final stage, I stay away and no longer care whether I am missing anything or not. But don’t I like to enjoy myself? On the contrary, by Not Going that is just what I am trying to do.