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Four extremes of passion, three nations

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The Finnish ambassador turned to me.

‘It’s not true that Finns have no sense of humour,’ he said.  ‘Or that we lack passion.’

‘For example,’ the ambassador said, ‘there was once a very elderly lady.  One day she turned to her even older husband, and said: “Darling.  Why do you never say you love me any more?”

‘”Well,” said the husband.  “On the day we married, seventy five years ago, I told you I loved you.  If the situation changes, I shall let you know.”‘

George Elliot

George Eliot’s Middlemarch is incisive on relationships: “Poor Mr. Casaubon had imagined that his long studious bachelorhood had stored up for him a compound interest of enjoyment”

I thought of my Finnish friend when I was browsing my post about one of the funniest writers in the English language, the great George Mikes (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site).  I recommend the post if you have not read it.  Mikes said it was the English, rather than the Finns, who were sometimes lacking in passion, as in this example:

The English have no  soul; they have the understatement instead.  If a continental youth wants to declare his love to a girl, he kneels down, tells her that she is the sweetest, the most charming and ravishing person in the world, that  she has  something in  her, something peculiar and  individual which  only a few hundred thousand other  women have  and that he would  be unable  to live one more  minute without her.  Often, to give a  little more emphasis  to the statement, he shoots himself on the spot. This is a normal, week-day  declaration of  love   in the  more   temperamental  continental countries.  In England the  boy pats his  adored one  on the back and says softly: I don’t object to you, you  know.’  If  he is quite mad with passion, he may add: ‘I rather fancy  you, in fact.’  If he wants to marry a girl, he says: I say… would you?…’  If he wants to make an indecent proposal: ‘I say… what about…’

Meanwhile in Germany, I recently learned that the Cologne a cappella band “The Wise Guys” have a terrific song called “Relativ” (in English: relatively).  You can listen to it (in German, with lyrics) at the link.  The chorus, spookily similar to George Mikes’s English boy, is:

‘I like you, relatively speaking,

Maybe even a bit more,

I like you relatively a lot.’

It’s a beautiful song, even if you don’t understand German – but better if you do.  My point is, the Germans do restrained passion too.

Finally, we must turn to Eartha Kitt, 1927-2008, once described by Orson Welles as “the most exciting woman in the world.”

Her splendid song An Englishman needs time compares English lovers to those from other geographies, including Spaniards, Portuguese, Italians, French, Viennese, Dutch, New Yorkers, citizens of Hollywood, Persians, Eskimos (sic) and Swedes.  In each verse, she describes the specialities of each nationality: “The Italians long for an operatic song or a soft Sicilian rhyme, while the French fall in love, at the drop of a glove…”

Each culminates in the disdainful comparison “But an Englishman needs time.”

The final verse brings salvation for the English.

But after all is said and done

And the battle is finally won

Ladies… let’s contemplate

Who wouldn’t wait

For a mate

Who takes his… [immense pause] …time?

Maybe sometimes, restrained passion is best.

P.S. If you enjoy fresh, original writing, feel free to friend me on Facebook or sign up for e-mail updates (top right – see the “click here” blue button).  You can check out the range of writing on this site via my 5 pleasure paths or enjoy a complete Hotel Story and much more on my new YouTube channel.


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