Saturday, 4 June 2011

Character Q&A - Jonathan Montague



“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?”  Pride and Prejudice 
Sometimes to be a good neighbour is to be nosey and to use that nosiness to watch over and out for the people around you.  At other times, such an appetite for scrutiny and observation can be used in other ways, to gain power through gossip and innuendo, and to achieve a tingling satisfaction at having spotted or heard something deliciously wicked or vulgar.  We all need neighbours and we all do not need neighbours, such is our paradoxical desire to live within a community whilst retaining a degree of personal isolation and privacy.  In a break with author/character protocol, the residents of Maple Court have agreed to be profiled in the following questionnaires to help us understand who they are and what drives or interferes with their emotions and ambitions. 

How would you describe yourself in five words?
Creative, responsible, protective, literate, redundant
What is your star sign?  (Please refer to the characteristics list provided.)
Capricorn meaning I am supposed to be practical, prudent, ambitious, disciplined, patient, careful, humorous and reserved, but also pessimistic, fatalistic, miserly and grudging.  I recognize some of it but you’ll have to ask my wife, eh ex-wife, and daughter, as well as my friends to get an objective view.  I feel comfortable as the goat, sometimes lumbering along but always determined to get to wherever I’m going in the end.
What is your favourite colour?
Blue.  If you checked my wardrobe from suits to shirts to ties, blue is the dominant colour.  I can’t explain t but I’ve always liked my look – get me – in shades of blue.  My hero, Jim Rockford, had a penchant for blue shirts but I’ll bet never used the word “penchant” in his Beverley Hills investigations.
What is your favourite food?
Pasta and that whole garlicky atmosphere you get in a busy Italian restaurant.  I like busy restaurants because they provide their own entertainment and Italian restaurants make good noise.
What is your favourite drink?
I like a large glass of Chianti, to drink with the pasta in that restaurant setting.  I don’t even need company to enjoy it.  The glass itself is important too.  I cannot stand drinking out of a crystal glass for some reason.
What is your earliest memory?
When I was three or four, a man came to our house and killed a puppy we had been given.  He was off the rails, a local rogue and he just marched up to us kids, grabbed the little dog and strangled it.  Then with a growl at us, he threw the pup in the grass and swaggered away.  We circled the dead dog and spent ages just staring at it until I plucked up the courage to poke it with a stick.  It was dead.  I have never forgotten the futility of that incident nor the evil in some people.  I’m not a great dog lover but I abhor cruelty.  If I had owned dogs as a child, maybe I’d be a bit more tolerant of them.
What is your happiest memory?
Several Christmas mornings when I was very young and Santa Claus was very real.  The sheer excitement and joy at walking into the living room and seeing a pile of presents delivered by this jolly man was potent.  I still love Christmas but not in the same way.  Sometimes I regret losing that innocence of childhood.  But that’s the way it is.  People like me are all lumped together as grumpy old men but Christmas has had all the spirit and meaning squeezed out of it by shops and television.
What is your biggest worry?
My daughter’s safety and security, first and foremost and then those bigger things like the environment, war, terrorism and crime.
What is your greatest strength?
I think I’m resilient.  I tend to tough things out, although I’m becoming less patient as I get older. 
What is your biggest weakness?
Red wine and The Rockford Files, both together while stretched out on the sofa.  I can easily devote hours and hours to doing absolutely nothing and not feel guilty about it.
Who or what do you love the most?
My daughter most of all, then it has to be James Garner, John Wayne and Fred Flintstone.  Sophie means more than the world to me.
Who or what do you deplore the most?
Rudeness.  And, I suppose, if I’m being honest, I deplore my wife, Angie.  Deplore might be too strong but she’s a selfish woman and, worst of all, a disinterested and uncaring mother.
What is your most treasured possession?
Sophie, if I can label her a possession.  Otherwise, it’s material things like DVDs, books, mementoes from the past.  I collect autographs, on and off.  My prized collection includes signed photographs of Jack Lemmon, Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine, Kathleen Turner and lots of other actors and actresses.  I once wrote off for James Garner’s autograph but he never replied.  Too busy solving cases, I suspect, ha, ha.
What would be your ideal job?
I would love to be a professional writer living in a grand villa overlooking the sea in the south of France.  The whole idea of being creative in beautiful surroundings is a dream to savour.
Where would you most like to live?
In a villa in the south of France.
Do you owe your parents anything and if yes, what?
I owe my mother my common sense and practical approach to life and I owe my father my love of books and great movies.
Which famous person do you admire and why?
Oh, there are so many but if I could think of one it would probably be a writer, maybe Charles Dickens or Raymond Chandler.
On balance has your life been more satisfying or disappointing?
Satispointing or disafying – somewhere between the two.  There is a feeling that when you get beyond fifty, life seems to trickle away a little faster than it used to, something about reaching the top of an incline and then suddenly the strain of climbing gives way to the slippery slope on the other side.  When you are approaching forty, it seems to take forever but after forty, time just seems to zoom by.  It’s that feeling of time running out that’s scary.
What is your greatest achievement, so far?
Reaching my mid-fifties in reasonably good nick and ensuring my daughter has grown up to be the way she is.  She’s feisty but sensible.  It’s been against the odds a bit since her mother lost her marbles and walked away, but I’m proud of Sophie for handling it the way she has.
What is the most important lesson you have learned from life?
I remember one of this religious signs outside a church.  It read: “Life is a journey not a destination” and I suppose it’s not a bad lesson.  We are all just passing through, transients in search of whatever our ambitions are all about and victims of fate’s hairy hand.  As we are on this journey, we have to make the best of it, relying on ourselves more than others.
Describe Maple Court in five words
Creaky, comfortable, familiar, annoying, home.

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