I’ll tell you this much about him: He has soft eyes and a wonderful smile. He’s taller than me. He’s very good with computers. His accent in English is terrible. He likes his privacy.
In 2016, after several years of a simple and warm love affair, we hit a snag. We had decided to live together, and that I would emigrate to Europe. But to do this, we had to prove our relationship to the government. The instructions on how to do this skewed toward the modern forms of relationships: social media connections; emails; chats; pictures of the happy couple. He read through this, and showed it to me. We both laughed. Our relationship had left few traces in the digital world. We had none of these things.
Debt and depression — surely these demons don’t haunt writers any more than they do the rest of the population, but it falls to writers to describe the experience of poverty or melancholy in ways that bankers or doctors never will. That becoming a writer requires something alternately called confidence or courage or self-delusion lends the sting of penury extra venom and makes the paralysis of depression all the more existential. If you can command words on a page that editors want to publish, why is your bank account empty? If your name is on the cover of books people buy in shops, why can’t you get out of bed in the morning?
His blog, Dying for Beginners, which started as an email to friends, and his columns for what he (and I) called the Sindy have now been collected and published as a book. It is very good, and it is easy to read. Courtauld was a fluent and enthusiastic writer, thinker and wit. Even with one finger of his wrong (right) hand on an iPad, as his multiple sclerosis became worse, and when he could hardly see, the energy of his mind comes straight through to the reader.
Its recipes may not change your life, but some dish has, somewhere along the line; if you’re fortunate you remember who made it for you as clearly and lovingly as this book does.