Saturday, December 08, 2012

20.9.68 Culture Shock and Shock of Recognition

Hullo, old soul, how are you and the kid? [The cat] You’re a regular genius, you know, that poem was a delight and really cheered me up; in fact I got 3 letters in two days, and that was marvellous.  But I’m afraid since then I’ve felt a bit depressed – almost as bad as when I was in Rome. Don’t know why, it just seemed to get to me yesterday, and yet I was quite enjoying myself.  So I’m sorry if this isn’t too happy a letter.  I know I’ll get over it, but it just seems to hit you every now and then, as you no doubt well know. I think, perhaps, once I get started on the course I’ll be all right, but at the moment I’m rather concerned about how it’ll all go. I don’t think I mind living in England at all, though morally I don’t think the climate is as good as NZ, and they’re worried about NZ – so!  [One of the most startling things to my eyes at this point, I remember, was a huge poster for a Swedish movie that hung from a building in Central London: the two actors were naked and making love.  Commonplace now, perhaps, but at the time shocking.]

Kiri put me off a little yesterday I think with her scandal sheet about some of the happenings last year at the school.  So between us (you and me I mean) we’ll have to pray like mad that I can steer clear of that sort of thing.  [I probably never told my mother about the many ‘scandalous’ things that did go on in the course of the year, amongst both students and staff.]

Well, that’s made me feel a bit better, but it’s probably made you feel worse.  I’m sorry about that, but at the moment you’re the only one I can really put everything straight to. Perhaps I shouldn't send this, just carry on typing until I’ve got it out of my system, and then destroy it? 

I’ve had a couple of meals at the Centre the last two lunch times – quite reasonable dinners at not too bad prices, so that would seem to help.  And saves me fiddling around till 7 at night cooking a big meal when I get home.  Not that I mind, I bought myself a little book called the No Time to Cookbook, and it’s already come in handy.  It has recipes for meals that take 10, 20 and 30 minutes so is quite good because they’re all fairly filling.  Some are a bit expensive, however, so I’ll stick to the cheaper ones. 

Did I tell you I gave the Crowls some chocs last time I was there; I’ll see if I can get some flowers for Mavis this time.  This will be the last weekend for a couple as they’re going on holiday. 

There have been two or 3 things I’ve meant to say for ages and keep forgetting.  First I must apologise on my bended knees for being so rude to you on the day I left – I know I’m always a bit shirty on that sort of occasion, but I seemed to be extra nasty that day.  I am really sorry.  Next to mention the little old houses that we saw going into Rome (!): several of them had little niches up in the wall and there would be a statue of Our Lady standing in them.  Similarly in London there are odd little statues hanging on buildings or sitting in some unexpected corner.  Very few religious ones of course, but occasionally I’ve seen a crucifix or somesuch hanging over a door.  And last night I saw the second of two quite absurd accidents: a taxi was standing in the middle  of Plaistow High St, with another car pulled up behind it, when a bloke in a little sports model pulled out from across the street (I think) and quite happily ran into the back of the car!  I don’t suppose he was too happy about it really, but it just seemed too silly to have happened.  No one hurt.  And another day this week a fellow who one minute was parked at the side of the street came suddenly shooting down and into the back of another parked car.  I don’t know whether his brakes suddenly failed or what!  And another titbit.  There is a little man with a moustache doing a buskers act outside one of the Piccadilly Circus theatres each time I go past.  he has a couple of people playing for him and sings and dances without a sign of strain, and he’s not all that young, either.

Onto what little I’ve done this week.  On Monday I went to the National Gallery and actually managed to get right round it, I think.  it’s amazing though to see half the pictures (well some!) that are in the Wonderland of Knowledge and other places just sitting there!  A whole room of Rembrandts, dozens of Italian paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries, and a host of others that you’d know by sight too I’m sure.  The funny part is seeing them in colour after looking at the black and white pictures for so long: it sure makes a difference.  [The Wonderland of Knowledge was a set of a dozen hardbound books covering a huge variety of topics of interest to a growing mind that had been in my home for as long as I could remember; I’d studied the pictures in it for years – though not the text so much – and so was familiar with many of these paintings when I came to see them live.] 

On Tuesday I joined the Nat. Film Theatre, which since it works out to something like a penny a day seems quite reasonable.  Plus the fact that you get a lot of free guff as well as free copies of Sight and Sound, the big Brit. film mag.  I also went in and saw something called [The Extraordinary Adventures of] Mr West in the Land ofthe Bolsheviks, a silent film which was extremely funny in a goon-show way. Mr West is an American senator who goes to Russia (complete with cowboy protection!) and gets involved with a gang who do him out of all his dollars. 

On Wed, I went to the Meistersingers which cost a pound, which is a lot.  I could have perhaps got in for less but it would have meant a killing evening’s sitting: the show starts at 5.15 and goes till 11.30!!  So I got a slightly better seat, and a marvellous view, and still didn’t have anywhere to put my feet!!  None of the London theatres think about this apparently.  But it was worth it.  There are two breaks, one of 15 minutes and another of 45.  Over a 100 in the orch, and more on stage.  Fantastic. 

Last night, because the Opera Centre got half price seats I went to a concert at the Royal Festival Hall.  And even though it’s a new hall, there’s nowhere to put your feet!   We got the cheapest seats, and they were still excellent.  It’s a great place: 3 huge floors all fronted by glass, looking out over the Thames.  They played my favourite Mozart Concerto, outstandingly, and two Beethoven bits. [Not at all informative; I don’t now know what my ‘favourite’ Mozart Concerto was.]  London is still small: the boy next to me was a NZer (so he said to his girlfriend!) and Gerald Krug, one of the Aussie Conductors during last year’s little trip of mine, was there with his wife.  At least I’m sure it was him.  He didn’t seem to recollect me when I sort of kept wandering around them at the interval, so I didn’t speak in case it wasn’t; but I’m sure it was!  People here don’t seem to expect to see anyone they know.  Going to Reg’s last week, there were three Americans on the tube [handwritten from this point on] who stayed on when I got off.  They turned up at St Alban’s Cathedral.  I wasn’t greatly surprised but the Crowls seemed to be! – when I told them, that is. I’d better go and do some work and have some breakfast etc.  An awful lot of love – Milke (who?) Mike.

[This business of meeting people I knew from New Zealand in such a vast congregation of people has always intrigued me. When Celia and I go on trips out of Dunedin we always keep an eye out for people we know, and usually meet at least one person.  But that’s in NZ.  When my wife Celia and my eldest daughter Stefanie  went to England around 1987, Stef was taken by some of her relatives in Northampton to the mall at Milton Keynes.  She met my cousin from Dunedin! When Celia and I were in England in 2007 we travelled some distance out of our way to catch up with another one of my cousins, whom I hadn’t seen in years. When we first arrived she was out, and the woman she lives with entertained us. When my cousin arrived, it was with my uncle from Dunedin in tow – I hadn’t even known he was over there.]