Wednesday, December 05, 2012

14.9.68: managing to stay alive

[This letter starts off] (Read the other page first will you?  I knew I’d do this someday!) [I'd begun to type on the wrong page.]

Page 2...
Dear Mum, Am writing this as I finish off my breakfast so don’t be surprised if there are a few crumbs and coffee stains on this letter.  Only hope they don’t send it at full rated as a result!  It’s my anniversary – the week since I had my FIRST breakfast here! And I’m still alive. Haven’t killed myself with my own cooking, I mean, nor been knifed in Commercial Road, nor squashed to little bits of matter in the Rush Hour.  I have the radio blaring in one ear and the tap dripping in the other, so things are a little noisy: the radio never does anything but blare – I’ve got it turned right down even now; it’s just that the morning programmes are all pop with screaming disc jockeys, etc. 

Well, what have I done since I last wrote?  I’ve done some more composing – don’t know how you feel about that, but I had to do something to occupy the old mind  - the cooking and ironing and washing, though a strain, wasn’t really using much brain!  I’s a similar thing to that last thing, the one that they did a bit of at the school.  It’s to be five songs this time, and I’m about half way through – quite pleased with the first and third, and so-so about the second.  [Can’t identify what these songs would be, though they probably still exist amongst my old manuscripts.]

I’ve been going into the Centre every day this week too, and doing some practice – still feel rather strange there, and guess I will until I get started.  Remember I said I met Ann Gordon the other day, again, and she apologised for not realising who I was the previous time, well, she also said that she and Kiri T.K [te Kanawa, of course] were to do a concert at the Overseas League or some such, and they wanted a NZ pianist.  Well, since at that stage nothing definite was done because she wasn’t sure whether Kiri hadn’t already got someone, but she said she’d get in touch, and finally, yesterday, I was given a note when I got to the C, from Ann, saying to ring K. that afternoon or Sunday evening.  Well, I tried on and off all afternoon, but couldn’t raise a whisper. So I’ll ring on Sunday.  Nice to be doing something already, wouldn't it?  I’ll let you know how it turns out.

On Thursday I’d decided to go to Dickens House, but by the time I’d got to the Centre and away it was about 3.30 – I was very late that day – and by the time I’d walked along C.Rd, another 20 minutes, and got a train going in the direction I was (I finished up getting on one that was going vaguely that way, but not quite; had to change my train plans entirely) and even then I had to walk from the Monument station to the Bank – you do this underground, and seem to go up and down steps, escalators, along corridors and tubes for ages, and just as you arrive you find the train just going out!  Still it’s fun!  Well, I got to Russell Square Station eventually – you see, the D. House was shutting at 5, and it was then 4.15 – and of course that particular part of London isn’t as well sign-posted as the rest (one thing about L, they expect you to get lost, but they also expect you to have an A to Z and a tube map!), and I spent several minutes figuring out which way to go.  However, by the time I’d reached the house, now just another amongst dozens of houses divided up for doctors, etc., it was 4.35, so I thought I’ll come back tomorrow, and did.   [I assume this is 48 Doughty St, but I don’t remember going there at all!  Certainly Doughty St is near the Russell Square Station. See photo.]  

It was well worth 2/6, but there is an aura of the celestial about everything: this is the knife-stand that he used, this is the feather-duster a maid who stayed for three days touched – it’s not quite that bad, but some of the stuff is a little ridiculous.  Other stuff is a little uncanny – the chairs that he sat in for such and such a portrait, and the portrait is hanging above it – oooh, it’s a little spooky!

But it really was interesting, particularly the letters and manuscripts – his writing was much worse than mine!  - the books and paintings and the very fact of the house itself. But some of the stuff, such as the window that Oliver Twist, for heaven’s sake, is supposed to have crawled through in some part of his story is just a load of old twaddle! But London in general is surrounded by this fascination with the places where things were supposed to have happened – in the books!  Mad, I call it.  He certainly made lots of parts of L. and England famous, for entirely fictional reasons.  It is interesting, however, to come down out of the house and walk into Greys Inn Road – where so many of his stories are set at certain times.  That is weird, because though so much of it has changed, much of it hasn't and if I could recall some of the incidents, I think I’d feel a little funny.  Perhaps this is what has got to the Londoners themselves.

Also went to see Madame Tussauds, but it was something ridiculous like 7/6 to get in, so I didn’t!  And so was Regent’s Park Zoo so I just wandered round the outside. Then promptly went off and went to this show that I couldn’t get into standing and paid 8/6 for a seat, where I had to lean forward so far I may as well have stood!  Still it was worth it: Richard Briers and Ronnie Barker are both in it, and though neither has much to do really it was quite intriguing to see them in the flesh.  And to see Briers in a rather nasty role for a change: they both get shot during the course of the play, but so do a couple of others – so! It’s a quite mad play within a play: they’re a couple of critics watching a play that eventually they become part of; quite mad, but very entertaining. [This will Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound, I’d guess.]

There was shorter play before it about a composer and lyricist who with their leading lady act out a new musical in the hopes that a producer who is sitting in the audience with us will  put it on.  But the play wasn’t terribly good though they all acted madly. 

Mr and Mrs Marshall seem to be a very nice couple: they've now given me another hot plate, separate-like, which I nearly wrecked when I turned it on, as something started to burn: turned out to be a piece of cardboard that was sitting on top and which I’d thought was a part of it all!  I’ll burn the house down yet: the oven keeps smoking every time I cook in it, though Mrs M is going to have a look at it next time I cook something as she says it shouldn't!

Lots of luv, Mike XXXXXXX