Saturday, December 01, 2012

3rd letter 6.9.68

6th Sept 68. OVC.  

Dear mum, to continue with things as from where I left off last time.  On Wednesday I met Mike in town, about 1.30, and he gave me the fabulous news, for him, that he had a job as Chief Press Officer for United Artists, in London.  He’d been ringing up all day Tuesday as we’d trailed around London, and he found out that morning.  Apparently he could have started in a fortnight, but he’d already planned to go hitch-hiking on the Continent, for a month, and so told them that he’d have to give a month’s notice at his present position – which in actual fact he doesn’t have.  [A not uncommon approach to negotiation from Mike.]

So once more we wandered around L., not really seeing very much this time, but gave me a better idea of where I was going, and what fits in with what.  Then we caught a tube, in the rush hour, which is nowhere near as frightening as I’d been led to believe, and went out to Arnos Grove Station, where we were to walk to Anne and Pat’s.  However they were on the same train, they’d taken the neighbour’s two kids to Battersea Park, and they were both looking a bit had it.   As we walked to their place, Anne told me all about an operation she’d had to have since she’d arrived – some infection that had grown to something very nasty – she’d caught it coming over  - and the first doctor she went to reckoned she was just neurotic! However she’s better now, although she can’t start teaching again on Monday, as she should have.

Well, they gave us a very nice meal – they live in a fabulous place, really – board with a lady who’s hardly ever there, and it’s all done out in carpet and very comfortable – the luck of some people I said!  While there I rang Reg [my English uncle, whom I’d never met, and had only corresponded with – my father’s brother] and he was thrilled to hear from me, apparently, and immediately invited me out to dinner the next night!  He gave me very precise instructions how to get there, and we checked it through on one of the few things I’ve bought – an A to Z of London – about 260 pages of maps and indexes on London alone!  But it’s quite indispensable.  Only 3/6.  [I probably mentioned the price because I had to live on £500 the first year I was in London.]  And I also have a tube map.  Let me tell you about these tubes.  There are about seven lines, and another, the Victoria, is opening shortly, and by going down any subway, anywhere, you can eventually get to where you want.  You buy a ticket for your ultimate destination, and as far as I can see there is nothing to prevent you from staying underground all day, as long as you come up at the proper destination.  And even then some of the tickets have your starting point on them, and so I suppose you could actually come up where you liked, as long as it was within the amount on your ticket.  I have no intention of trying that but the system itself is absolutely foolproof, as long as you know where you want to go!  [My first memory of the Underground was descending the long escalator at Piccadilly - I think that was the station - and seeing the hordes of people.  That was only time the crowds surprised me, seemingly.]

The buses are considerably more complex, but they are well signposted, and the conductors are very helpful. I learnt this yesterday, when I decided it was time to start home-hunting! I had bought a Weekly Advertiser the day before but, since it took me so long to find out where each locality was, I thought it would be better to see an agent.  I thought I’d try the OVC one, although Mike and K. had told me that they’d only have Earls Court stuff, and they were right.  However, the man there suggested going to the London Accommodation Bureau in Oxford St, and said you can’t miss it, it’s right beside Woolworths.  Well, it took me an age to find WW, and the LAB is still missing.  By chance, however, I saw a place called 139 Flat Service (also in O. St) and went on up, thinking that even if it cost me a bit to pay them it would be worth it.  They put me onto two places – 3, actually, but in the end that person wasn’t home, or some such – and so I wended my way out to the [other two].  This is where my A to Z and tube map came into their own.  You’d think I’d been living in London all my life!

The Troxy Cinema, which became the London Opera Centre
The first place is in Plaistow, on the East side, but quite a way out.  This was its only disadvantage, as it had three rooms: kitch., living, twin bedroom, and sharing the bathroom with the landlord. And though the area is scungy down at the tube station, it gets prettier and altogether better as you get near it.  The other place was only a short bus ride from Commercial Rd [where the London Opera Centre was situated, the place I’d come to study at], but had no linen, a shilling bathroom (!), and some other bods wandering around too. As it happened I arrived at the same time as another bloke who’d been in 139 when I had!  But as he was working on the south side of the Thames, he didn’t think it would suit.  The little man who showed us around it had so many keys it took him several minutes to open each door, and he had the improbable name of Muskeran!  The other person, in Plaistow, Mrs Marshall, was much more pleasant, and what’s more pointed out the disadvantages!  So I didn’t know what to do – the second place was tempting by virtue of its closeness to the school, but the other was cheaper and more comfortable.  So in the end, I decided on the Plaistow place.  Only hope it’s as good as I thought.  [I was committed to finding a place to share with another student, Kingsley McLaren, who was studying at a different college. He arrived a bit later.]

The address is 13 NEWMAN ROAD, PLAISTOW, LONDON, E 13.  So I’ll shift out there tomorrow, and take some of the gear out tonight.  I can leave whatever I can’t manage here for a couple of days, I should think.  Have just realised that I didn’t tell you about going out to the school.  I caught a tube, and then walked along Comm. Rd, which since it’s in the East End, is very, very scungy.  It improves as you get to the school, but I wasn’t feeling too happy about living in the neighbourhood.  They were expecting me there anyway, although there wasn’t anybody of importance around, and they had a little envelope with stuff to read and fill in.  I’ve since sent them a cheque for £50, for the first term, and hope that I don’t have to pay the lot at once.  Thought it just might help the bank balance.  A secretary [June Megennis, the Administrator, rather than a secretary] who was there showed me around the place – it’s on the lines of the Mayfair [Theatre in Dunedin], an old picture theatre but much bigger.  Well, that was about all I did there and then wandered back to the City.  I’ll carry on in another letter. 

Love Mike.

[There's an intriguing bit of coincidence in my moving into a house with the number 13 - in E 13 as well.  This number has been fairly significant in my life: my birthday's on the 13th, I was married on the 13th...!]