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Us Us by David Nicholls
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“From an evolutionary point of view, most emotions - fear, desire, anger - serve some practical purpose, but nostalgia is a useless, futile thing because it is a longing for something that is permanently lost . . . .”
David Nicholls, Us
“Was it the happiest day of our lives? Probably not, if only because the truly happy days tend not to involve so much organisation, are rarely so public or so expensive. The happy ones sneak up, unexpected.”
David Nicholls, Us
“I had always been led to believe that ageing was a slow and gradual process, the creep of a glacier. Now I realise that it happens in a rush, like snow falling off a roof.”
David Nicholls, Us
“Of course, after nearly a quarter of a century, the questions about our distant pasts have all been posed and we’re left with ‘how was your day?’ and ‘when will you be home?’ and ‘have you put the bins out?’ Our biographies involve each other so intrinsically now that we’re both on nearly every page. We know the answers because we were there, and so curiosity becomes hard to maintain; replaced, I suppose, by nostalgia.”
David Nicholls, Us
“perhaps grief is as much regret for what we have never had as sorrow for what we have lost.”
David Nicholls, Us
“The problem with telling people that they can do anything they want to do is that it is objectively, factually inaccurate. Otherwise the whole world would just be ballet dancers and pop stars.”
David Nicholls, Us
“I love you is an interesting phrase, in that apparently small alterations–taking away the I, adding a word like lots or loads–render it meaningless.”
David Nicholls, Us
“Paris was all so... Parisian. I was captivated by the wonderful wrongness of it all - the unfamiliar fonts, the brand names in the supermarket, the dimensions of the bricks and paving stones. Children, really quite small children, speaking fluent French!”
David Nicholls, Us
“Emotional intelligence, the perfect oxymoron!”
David Nicholls, Us
“I'm aware that couples tend to embellish 'how we met' folklore with all kinds of detail and significance. We shape and sentimentalise these first encounters into creation myths to reassure ourselves and our offspring that it was somehow 'meant to be'.”
David Nicholls, Us
“It’s the face itself that I love, not that face at twenty-eight or thirty-four or forty-three. It’s that face.”
David Nicholls, Us
“The fact was I loved my wife to a degree that I found impossible to express, and so rarely did.”
David Nicholls, Us
“Other people’s sex lives are a little like other people’s holidays: you’re glad that they had fun but you weren’t there and don’t necessarily want to see the photos.”
David Nicholls, Us
“I have always been well liked, I think, always well regarded and respected, but having few enemies is not the same as having many friends, and there was no denying that I was, if not "lonely", more solitary than I'd hoped to be at that time.”
David Nicholls, Us
“But how can you not like music? That's the same as not liking food! Or sex!”
David Nicholls, Us
tags: music
“Over the years I have read many, many books about the future, my ‘we’re all doomed’ books, as Connie liked to call them. ‘All the books you read are either about how grim the past was or how gruesome the future will be. It might not be that way, Douglas. Things might turn out all right.’ But these were well-researched, plausible studies, their conclusions highly persuasive, and I could become quite voluble on the subject. Take, for instance, the fate of the middle-class, into which Albie and I were born and to which Connie now belongs, albeit with some protest. In book after book I read that the middle-class are doomed. Globalisation and technology have already cut a swathe through previously secure professions, and 3D printing technology will soon wipe out the last of the manufacturing industries. The internet won’t replace those jobs, and what place for the middle-classes if twelve people can run a giant corporation? I’m no communist firebrand, but even the most rabid free-marketeer would concede that market-forces capitalism, instead of spreading wealth and security throughout the population, has grotesquely magnified the gulf between rich and poor, forcing a global workforce into dangerous, unregulated, insecure low-paid labour while rewarding only a tiny elite of businessmen and technocrats. So-called ‘secure’ professions seem less and less so; first it was the miners and the ship- and steel-workers, soon it will be the bank clerks, the librarians, the teachers, the shop-owners, the supermarket check-out staff. The scientists might survive if it’s the right type of science, but where do all the taxi-drivers in the world go when the taxis drive themselves? How do they feed their children or heat their homes and what happens when frustration turns to anger? Throw in terrorism, the seemingly insoluble problem of religious fundamentalism, the rise of the extreme right-wing, under-employed youth and the under-pensioned elderly, fragile and corrupt banking systems, the inadequacy of the health and care systems to cope with vast numbers of the sick and old, the environmental repercussions of unprecedented factory-farming, the battle for finite resources of food, water, gas and oil, the changing course of the Gulf Stream, destruction of the biosphere and the statistical probability of a global pandemic, and there really is no reason why anyone should sleep soundly ever again. By the time Albie is my age I will be long gone, or, best-case scenario, barricaded into my living module with enough rations to see out my days. But outside, I imagine vast, unregulated factories where workers count themselves lucky to toil through eighteen-hour days for less than a living wage before pulling on their gas masks to fight their way through the unemployed masses who are bartering with the mutated chickens and old tin-cans that they use for currency, those lucky workers returning to tiny, overcrowded shacks in a vast megalopolis where a tree is never seen, the air is thick with police drones, where car-bomb explosions, typhoons and freak hailstorms are so commonplace as to barely be remarked upon. Meanwhile, in literally gilded towers miles above the carcinogenic smog, the privileged 1 per cent of businessmen, celebrities and entrepreneurs look down through bullet-proof windows, accept cocktails in strange glasses from the robot waiters hovering nearby and laugh their tinkling laughs and somewhere, down there in that hellish, stewing mess of violence, poverty and desperation, is my son, Albie Petersen, a wandering minstrel with his guitar and his keen interest in photography, still refusing to wear a decent coat.”
David Nicholls, Us
“There's a saying, cited in popular song, that if you love someone you must set them free. Well, that's just nonsense. If you love someone, you bind them to you with heavy metal chains.”
David Nicholls, Us
“The early days of any relationship are punctuated with a series of firsts - first sight, first words, first laugh, first kiss, first nudity, etc., with these shared landmarks becoming more widely spaced and innocuous as days turn to years, until eventually you're left with first visit to a National Trust property or some such.”
David Nicholls, Us
“From an evolutionary point of view, most emotions – fear, desire, anger – serve some practical purpose, but nostalgia is a useless, futile thing because it is a longing for something that is permanently lost, and I felt its futility now.”
David Nicholls, Us
“Well, in the first flush of love, if someone tells you to read something then you damn well read it [...]”
David Nicholls, Us
“Light travels differently in a room that contains another person; it reflects and refracts so that even when she was silent or sleeping I knew that she was there.”
David Nicholls, Us
“Well I can tell you now that married life is not a plateau, not at all. There are ravines and great jagged peaks and hidden crevasses that send the both of you scrabbling into darkness. Then there are dull, parched stretches that you feel will never end, and much of the journey is in fraught silence, and sometimes you can't see the other person at all, sometimes they drift off very far away from you, quite out of sight, and the journey is hard. It is just very, very, very hard.”
David Nicholls, Us
“Why, I wondered, did people seek out portrayals of the very experiences that, in real life, would send them mad with despair? Shouldn't art be an escape, a laugh, a comfort, a thrill?”
David Nicholls, Us
tags: art
“There may well be a scientific paper to be written on why walking in an art gallery is so much more exhausting than, say, climbing Helvellyn. My guess is that it is something to do with the energy required to hold muscles in tension, combined with the mental exertion of wondering what to say.”
David Nicholls, Us
“Familiarity, globalisation, cheap travel, mere weariness had diluted our sense of foreign-ness.”
David Nicholls, Us
“Yet there seemed to be no easy correlation between the awful grief I felt at her death and our closeness - or lack of it - in life, and it occurred to me that perhaps grief is as much regret for what we have never had as sorrow for what we have lost.”
David Nicholls, Us
“I was looking forward to us growing old together. Me and you, growing old and dying together.

Douglas, who in their right mind would look forward to that?”
David Nicholls, Us
“There’s a particular grubbiness that comes with travel. You start showered and fresh in clean and comfortable clothes, upbeat and hopeful that this will be like travel in the movies; sunlight flaring on the windows, heads resting on shoulders, laughter and smiles with a lightly jazzy soundtrack. But in reality the grubbiness has set in”
David Nicholls, Us
“The problem with telling people that they can do anything they want to do is that it is objectively, factually inaccurate. Otherwise the whole world would just be ballet dancers and pop stars.”
David Nicholls, Us
“She liked to ‘leave dishes to soak’, an act of self-deception that I’ve always abhorred.”
David Nicholls, Us

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