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Issue 85 - Life is not a beach

Whisky Magazine Issue 85
January 2010


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Life is not a beach

Jefferson Chase looks at a poigniant portrayal of family life

Memory, like music, is an often melancholy pleasure. Why is it that we're often drawn – for instance in quiet moments over a dram of whisky – to think back upon past times we regret losing, or even regret experiencing at all?

I don't have an answer to that question. But I do know that I felt much the same way reading Patrick Gale's sadly seductive 2001 novel Rough Music.

The story revolves around a seemingly normal family that pays two holiday visits to a coastal town in Southwest England – once during the 1960s and again more than 30 years later when the mother has developed Alzheimer's.

That second visits dredges up memories that suggest something not at all happy has been buried in the past. Something the family patriarch – a prison warden – senses in their holiday abode.

John went directly to the kitchen, poured himself a splash of Scotch and downed it in one needy swig. Then he poured himself a second, longer one, with some ice and took it back to the sofa. All at once that other house, that other time, were here about him…It stirred up much, however, that he would have rather left untroubled and unremembered.

Shaken and stirred, John realises that this holiday is going to be anything but the proverbial walk on the beach.

For one thing, his wife Frances is incrementally drifting off into mental decrepitude, causing a stir at a concert of classical songs they jointly attend.

He sniffed and he saw she was crying. She had always been charmingly sentimenta...

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