Friday, November 08, 2013

27.1.69 Flat-hunting, Verdi, and Schoenberg


Dear Mum, how our fortunes change within the space of hours almost! It seems an age since I last wrote though I know it’s not, and equally, the last week seems to have been one of the longest (and funnily enough also the shortest) I’ve ever known. Sorry about this curious start: explains: When I last wrote it was a happily confidant little lad who thought that the subject of the flat was all settled. However David Syrus decided that he was really better off where he was and so left me with a whole flat to myself. I tried Kurt Gänzl, because I knew he wasn’t too well off, flat-wise, but he had other complications and that wrecked that idea. I asked another guy too, but he has complications too. 

So! what to do? I really didn’t and still don’t feel like moving, despite the disadvantages of this place, and I feel in a bit of a mess. Today I thought that well, it could turn out for the best and so I went off to the place that I’d gone to before, to see what they could turn up for me. I’d also discussed the problem with Reg over the weekend and he’d said he’d get onto his contacts and see what might turn up. I tried two places tonight; the same young man who served me before was my aid again, and even gave me a lift up to Stamford Hill, where the first place was. He’s a very pleasant bloke: his landlady is a New Zealander (!); and he lives up that way anyway. The first place (I’m looking for a bedsit) was a very small room with only a gas ring to cook on, and utensils consisting of three different knives, up on the second floor of a house, and while it may have been quite cosy, it didn’t seem to be me. The bloke, his name is Atkins (his first name begins with A too, but the only thing that comes to mind is Arty, and that doesn’t seem right) then gave me a lift down to Seven Sisters Road, where I then walked up to the next place. This was a basement room in another large house, but there were no utensils there and the electricity included was only the lighting. It also looked cold, but the room was larger, and the woman who was fairly deaf, seemed anti-everything. So neither of those seemed much good. I was able however to get a bus right to the door of this place from there which was some consolation, but my hints to Mr and Mrs Marshall that I’d like to stay but couldn’t afford the rent came to nothing  – though they were very sympathetic and seemed to think they’d be as sorry to lose me as I would be to go!

Went out to ring Reg, who incidentally had a cyst taken off his eyelid today, about the same time as I was doing my audition for Opera for All, which seemed to go reasonably well – I was happy anyway, tho I don’t really know what they thought. He hadn’t been able to do anything from his end because his phone had gone on the blink! However he’s not giving up.

When I came back from ringing him, Mr M came up the stairs and said would I like to stay on £4 a week until I could find someone to share the place! I said that that was very nice, thank you, but I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to manage to stay on, as I didn’t see much hope of getting anyone to share the place. (I wonder if I should advertise? for someone, I mean?) Mr M said well, they didn’t expect me to be tied down to staying on, and he seemed to not mind if I went off after having only paid him that much for a time so that is something anyway. But I don’t know if it puts me in an awkward spot or not! But it’s nice to know I’m a reasonable sort of tenant anyway! That’s a review of the situation up to date.

On the weekend I went up to the Crowls and they had been given tickets to an amateur performance of an opera by Verdi, which is never done: Luisa Miller. Maurice Coombs supplied the tickets – we went to his place on Boxing Day – and it turned out his wife Phyllis was in the chorus – she’s Mavis and Nina’s little sister (about 45!). The production and acting and even a lot of the musical performance was very amateur – these people should see some of our local stuff [ie, productions in Dunedin] – they’d never believe it – but Verdi shone through everything in sight. He can’t be put down, that man. Even when the singers seem incapable of doing the thing properly or with the proper amount of passion, the fact that they had to sing it at all made them do it at least half-way decently. His music is fabulous, and it was a treat to hear something really unknown to me.

We’ve had fabulous weather here the last few days: it’s actually been in the fifties! [I assume this is a Fahrenheit temperature, since this was mid-winter, though even 50 degrees Fahrenheit hardly seems anything to crow about.] And very mild. People are going around without coats even. Overcoats, I mean. (Although I saw one fellow in shirt-sleeves and one idiot in his singlet!)
Jane Manning

During the last week I went to a performance of modern works: arrangements by Berg and Webern (the former’s life story I’ve just finished) and a performance of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, first without reciter, so that we could just hear the music, and then with reciter – Jane Manning, who was also in The Growing Castle a while back. This person doesn’t sing, but speaks on the notes written down; the effect can be fantastic, and can also be less impressive than either speech or singing. She was super-excellent, anyway, ploughing her way thru some horribly difficult things with ease. And so did the chamber ensemble. I had a score of the Lunaire, so knew just how difficult some of it was. Most of it, in fact.

For the record, at my audition, I played a chunk of Boheme, tho not all I intended, and a duet (between Anna and Ottavio) [from Don Giovanni] but they didn’t let me finish that either. and because they were pressed for time, I didn’t play the piano piece I’d prepared. The sightreading was from Verdi’s Falstaff, and seemed to me to be easy, but perhaps I was mistaken!

Last Wednesday we went to a general rehearsal of the last act of the Meistersingers, but it seemed only partially good. the Sadlers Wells version had seemed just as good, in fact. On Thursday Mike got us into a premiere of Buona Sera Mrs Campbell, a very funny and rather moving comedy, with Gina Lollobrigida, and several other very good actors.

19.1.69 - London Opera Centre tours to Southampton

Dear Mum, just another few words, as I now have returned from Southampton, and may as well tell you about it while I have a minute free.  (Incidentally, I seem to have got over bug of earlier in the week without any more troubles, which is good.)  Well, on Friday morning, after I last wrote, I had to get up at the revolting hour of 7.00!, in order to have plenty of time to get to the Waterloo Station to catch a train at 9.47. As it was I was much too early by about ¾ of an hour, but it didn’t matte,r even though Waterloo is a very draughty station. There were only seven of us going down by train, Kiri [te Kanawa], Jane Plant (another married soprano, a bit dithery), David Smith, the Canadian tenor – and a curiously mixed up boy – 21 – sometimes very nice, sometimes downright over-rude; Keith Stoppard, and Bob Lloyd, also both married (!), Henry Ward, one of the reps, and me. Bob and Henry and I talked all the way down, and found out a bit more about each other, tho Henry is inclined to be a bit reticent, and the comparatively short time – about an hour and a half – passed quickly.

Southampton seems a nice place, though I didn’t really see much of it at all, except when travelling from A to B, but it looks a bit quieter than London. And it’s quite near the New Forest – some of which wanders into the town. The theatre we were playing at was the Nuffield Theatre, in the University and like much of the University, very new, and except for the outside nicely designed.

Everyone was to be billeted with local professors and lecturers and students, and they were all supposed to meet us before the rehearsal in the afternoon, but very few did. However it didn’t matter, and after we had collected our meal tickets, we went and had lunch in the University Union. Here for the first time I struck some of the cast playing this game (which they had apparently played all the way down in one of the cars, and it spread amongst the whole Opera Centre part of the company) which entails someone having a name beginning with, say, C, and the others have to ask him if he is, eg, an American composer (Copland) and if the person with the name doesn’t know an American composer the rest get a ‘free’ question which means they can get some more definite clue about the person. It takes an awful lot of concentration, and since it was played at practically every meal with generally anything up to ten people, and also all the way round a little trip of Southampton we took last night and also all the way back in the car this morning I feel fagged out! Came home and just slumped down on me bed for an hour.

Anyway, our rehearsal went off not badly, (with me conducing the off-stage chorus in Dido – and string quartet – tho they really could probably have done without me!) and after this I caught up with my billet. To jump ahead a bit, they turned out to be a late-twenties couple – he is an ex-second fiddle with the Allegri Quartet, which has quite a good reputation over here, and has toured a lot of the world, including NZ (tho this particular member didn’t, just Canada, and the States), and his wife is a very good cellist called Sharon McKinley – he is Peter Thomas.  And they were so informal and so nice – she was a delight in fact – that I felt very relaxed and happy with them. They only lived two minutes from the theatre so I was enabled to go and come as I pleased – they gave me the back door key!

Queen Elizabeth I
On Friday night the show went very well, I think, and even better last night. Better I think than it ever did at the Wells. The orchestra decided to have a little fun too, and at the end when the curtain calls were running thru, as Theresa Cahill comes out as Angelique, she brings the sign with her: Wife for Sale, and the orchestra all threw money up at her!  During [between?] yesterday’s shows, half a dozen of us went to see if we could see the Queen Elizabeth but couldn’t get passes, so we went across on the Hythe Ferry instead, which at least took us out over the harbour area, quite close to it. The others all reckoned she wasn’t as big as the old pair of Queens, but I wouldn’t know. She looked a fair size to me, and rather neat and lovely. However one of the wardrobe girls was also telling me that she had a closer look at it and it looks badly put together. In fact, it seems to me to be generally a rather bad piece of workmanship altogether. [This observation apparently based on what the wardrobe girl said..!]

Alan Opie - a more recent photo
After last night’s show, Alan Opie and his girlfriend Kath Smales, (also a student) and Tony Baldwin (who   Some of the humour was rather crude, and there were a few rather unbelievable lines to some of the songs, but it was a very pleasant atmosphere in spite of this.
brought me back today) and I went to a pub up the road from the theatre and walked into a sing-song that was going on, and sat down and joined in and really enjoyed ourselves.

This morning, on the way back – David Smith was with us too – we stopped off at a nicely built – in an old-fashioned style (tho a reasonably new place) – pub, and had a sort of second-breakfast: and the atmosphere was straight out of Dickens: the host seemed to be expecting us just to walk in at that particular moment – he had sausages sitting there ready and waiting, and coffee and rolls appeared out of thin air, and there was a nice roaring fire. Lovely. And not very expensive either. He told us to come back again, and made it quite obvious that he would be just as ready next time.  There was a lovely little fast-flowing stream running past the place, and a little short-haired terrier mooning about the lounge.

So that’s me Southampton jaunt – much pleasanter than I expected it to be – and with a welcome back anytime from the Thomases.

Better go and do some washing – see yah!

[handwritten] Love Mike.
PS I’ve got to play both the difficult pieces in the Master Class AND conduct the third! Good Grief!

16.1.69 Post-Christmas activities

I started adding these letters I sent from the UK to my mother back in the sixties to the blog some time ago...the last one I added was in May this year. So there's a certain irony/serendipity about the first line of this letter ...

Unending apologies for making you wait so long for a letter, but I really have not an idea where the time has gone.  If I thought I was busy last term – I didn’t know what was coming in this one!  WOW!  The mails have been all up the whop here because I got two aerograms from you on one day last week – dated four days apart. 

Re Reg’s Christmas presents: he got yours prior to Christmas by about a fortnight, and we spent one Sunday morning making a quite detailed trip through the book, along with the other one you sent a couple of years ago, on Dunedin.  I don’t suppose you got my present in time, either, in spite of the airmail, and Mike was telling me he was a bit annoyed because he’d sent stuff way back in October and it only arrived in the New Year.  All the mails were fine at the end – can’t understand them down under.  Thanks for all the Peanuts. 

Kingsley told me this morning a nice bit of news before I went to the Centre – he’d been offered board at a place – one of the Old Hostels in Notting Hill Gate –that’s sort of West – it’s a place where he has his own room he thinks, and they provide full board for £4-10-00 a week.  It means mainly less expense travelling, and his mother won’t be sending him anything more for a while for fares, as she had a heart attack just recently (but seems to be okay) as he’s quite a bit closer by tube to the Guildhall.  Hope he’ll be happy there.  It’s obviously got other advantages: TV, etc, but I wonder if he’ll get much peace.  Anyway, it left me in a bit of a spot because I don’t particularly want to move out of here, inconvenient as it may be in some ways, and I had visions of shifting to a bedsitter or what have you.  He was definitely going, come what may anyway, so I thought when he said could I find someone to share the place: Who would come?  The only person I could think of was David Syrus, one of the other reps, not mentioned in these dispatches for a while, and who I knew lives in one room in North Central or somewhere, and might be glad of a bit more space.  I thought though that he was probably paying less rent, and mightn’t be very agreeable, in view of the way-out-ness of the place.  I put it to him, after a few quick prayers to the Good Lord, and his eyes lit up immediately!  Seems he is actually paying £2-15-00 a week, as well as 1/- for the bathroom, and this was one advantage.  Also it’s that much closer to the Centre, about 20 minutes on his bike, if that, and he has the 3 rooms.  He hasn’t said definitely yet, because, he has paid a month’s rent in advance when he first shifted into his room, and doesn’t know if he’d get it back.  So!  A change is in the air by the looks of it.  Kingsley has to leave by the 25th, so I may have to have the place to myself for a fortnight or so.  That’s the stop press news. 

Back to the previous weekend.  I haven’t told you about my Worthing trip have I? Kevin and I went down on the Sunday, (after standing on opposite sides of a box notice board waiting for each other for about 20 minutes at Victoria) and – I have told you about this haven’t I?  Sure I have.  Perhaps it’s not so long since I last wrote after all.  I think I’d better work backwards with the news, as I’m not sure now where I left off.

Last night Kevin and I went to Orpheus in the Underworld, which is now in its ninth year revival – it was first performed in ’60, and has toured the world since then.  It was fairly good though a little tired, and obviously an awful lot of the sparkle of the original performances has vanished.

On the previous Sunday, I’d come home in the evening about nine, feeling not to hot, but I thought I was just tired.  However during that night, my head went on fire, and my legs ached something terrible.  This is a symptom as far as I’m aware of one of the 'flus at present in fashion, and though I got up and went to the Centre on Monday – had to do an Angelique rehearsal – I came home early and stayed in bed till Wednesday morning, consuming sort of alternately: oranges, Bovril, and aspirins!  Actually I’d had a headache at the Crowls on Sat, but it had seemed to go off, although I slept terribly on Sat night – worse than I usually do there!  (I just can’t get used to sleeping in hot houses.  Now I just take all the top bedclothes off, except for a couple of blankets, and sleep like that.) (They provide: a hottie, 3 blankets, a heavy eiderdown, two rugs!) I’d gone up to the Crowls on Friday night – at 11.15 (with my uncles’ acquiescence – he didn’t mind at all he said, they always stay up till midnight – they do too – nearly knocks me out the way they go on!) – because originally Mike and Mervyn Jarvis were going to go The Force of Destiny (a new Verdi production) but we couldn’t get in, so we went to the pictures instead!  It was a film called Hot Millions with Peter Ustinov (who also collaborated on the script, and it showed in the dialogue), Robert Morley (in two tiny scenes) and my favourite actress: Maggie Smith.  (Remember The VIPs? She was Rod Taylor’s secretary; and also Desdemona in Olivier’s Othello!) And the first thing Ustinov does in the film, almost, is get on my bus! A no. 15 going to East Ham.  I felt quite proud.  And it’s full of bits of recognisably London, not landmarks, but streets that look very familiar, and even shops.  And there was also a shot in Rome from the top of St Pete’s, which I’d been on!  Yippee!  See it if you can – it’s a ‘take Monica Stokes type’!  [Because my auntie Monica would have laughed throughout.] and don’t let the people leaving at the end let you think it is the end; it’s not quite. 

Anyway, after this, I went, via the new Victoria Line, which to my uneducated eye didn’t seem anything remarkable, except perhaps that it was a little cleaner!, to the Crowls, where my illustrious uncle was planning his usual exhausting day’s outing for me!  It was supposed to be the Vic. and Albert Museum, but we went to Madame Tussaud’s instead.  (Had to go round Regent’s Park to park the car.  Fabulous fabulous houses and mansions round there.  All Georgian with pillars

Part II
and statuettes on the outside of buildings, etc.  Lovely stuff. In one part they’ve pulled down all but the front of a whole section of these houses, and all that’s standing looks like a whole lot of sightless eyes with the sky – grey – behind. Madame Tussaud’s is most curious. None of the models are quite life-size – always just a bit smaller it seems, and some of them have heads that are much too big. Some in fact are so bad they’re not even recognisable ([Samuel] Johnson for one, and heh, heh, heh, Holyoake for another). However the majority are good, and some are remarkable.Though the show biz section is consistently bad, and out of date. The Chamber of Horrors was in a state of repair, and only a few murderers were still sitting in their coffins. Most of the older exhibits are excellent, though they include rather odd subject matter. And there is a section that represents the two lowest floors of the ship the Victory with Nelson dying in one bit, and the usual sound of men dying all around and guns booming and the ship creaking and the smell of gunpowder, and generally it just made me feel sick. All the facts and figures of how Nelson won his great victory. And a footnote: 300 (?was it?) of the men in the battle went deaf as a result of it. Great...

We went onto the Planetarium after lunch and tho it was only for ½ an hour it was fantastic. You go into a great round room holding possibly 5 or 600 people and seat yourself and look, while you’re waiting, at cut-out silhouettes of London landmarks set up round the entire room with lights behind them. In the centre is a machine that is in fact a massive projector controlled from one side of the room by a panel with a man commentating. The roof is dome-shaped and when the show starts we grow [go?] through a quick version of the sky coming into night as the stars gradually appear. And then the whole thing moves right across the dome, at the will of the operator. Also on the dome are flashed pictures, sometimes moving, of close-ups, so to speak of other galaxies that appear like masses in our sky; the Milky Way for instance. This was much more interesting than the two hours at Madame T had been. And above all it made me feel terribly insignificant. If you move one inch forward in your chari as you read this, you will be one inch closer to England. That is comparable to what our voyage to the moon is in size to the entire galaxy we inhabit. And that’s only one of millions of galaxies. Doesn’t say much for our importance, does it.

Back to the Crowls for tea, and Winnie Crowl came too. Remember her? She’s Reg’s cousin. A dear old lady who really makes an effort, like Reg, to talk to you as an equal, not as a youngster – tho she’s getting onto 65 or 70. She doesn’t always succeed, anymore than Reg does, but they do try not to alienate themselves from someone who is so much younger. With a little persuasion I played some Beethoven sonatas – bits of them for them, explaining as I went along what was happening. Reg recorded most of it! Good grief! Things must sound pretty terrible on that piano actually, because it’s out of tune, and sticks, and notes won’t repeat, and oh, dear.

On that morning, Nina had said just before we went out that she would wash my scarf for me if I didn’t think that was being rude suggesting it! I accepted gratefully of course, and she gave me one for the day, and then gave it to me full stop! She’s a real dear, and I don’t think Mavis could do without her. She looks after Margaret much more it seems to me than her parents (!) and Marg is really attracted to her. So am I – she’s lovely, and has a marvellous sense of fun. I rather think perhaps that Reg has been living in a house with 3 women too long, and this is why I’m so acceptable! I often wonder if Mavis really cares to have me there every other week, although she too is extremely kind, and I’m no doubt doing her an injustice, because of her very quiet way. They also washed a shirt that I’d left there by mistake over Christmas – I’d had a funny feeling I was a shirt down! – and also told me which soap powders were best for whites. We chat about all sorts of domestic things there! (!!!!!: Penalty!)

Patricia Hayes
Anyway, on Sunday after lunch Reg took me over to Ann and Pat’s – five minutes away – as I had to play for these two at some Charity do. It turned out to be for the Assumption Sisters’ friends: the people from the families they’ve helped over the years. It’s an annual affair: one week (last) for the men, and the one we went to for the women. And they provide supper in a huge room, at tables, not buffet either. It was one of those thrown together concerts, and the worst part about the girls’ items, was that they didn’t know them. I hate that, I’m afraid, and find it very embarrassing. But the biggest surprise of all for me was that several actors came along to do some poetry readings and in the group was John le Mesurier – you do know, from George and the Dragon: the Colonel!  And he’s also, as they said, been in practically every British comedy ever made. He was a delight. Whether or not he was acting all the time I don’t know, but he was just like he always is. Must be his public image. He read a couple of poems, and said he’d never done this sort of thing before, and wasn’t quite sure if he’d do it right, and made every word he said before he even started like the lines from a comedy. Marvellous. The others were all good too, and though some of their faces seemed familiar, their names meant nothing. (One of the women at the do was Patricia Hayes, an actress. Ring any bells. Made films, a few, round the 40s and 50s. [The daughter was Teresa Jennings; she’s mentioned in the obituary. She was small, like her mother. Her husband was considerably taller.] Another student has a brother in a pop-group which I’d heard of back home.) The concert went on rather long however, with too many bad items, including ours, and not enough good. There was a lady ventriloquist (looking very like BerthaRawlinson!*) who was very good: her [handwritten] dummy took over completely – and had an argument with a lady in the audience! In fact it really does seem that these people get a bit schizophrenic as the dummy did all the talking nearly.  
Centre, a student, I mean, but married to another one of the students, is the daughter of
LOTS of love, Mike

*Bertha Rawlinson - see entry in Te Ara Biography.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Newest member of the clan

 Heard from Daphne Hannagan this afternoon that she now has a great-grandchild.  

The baby's name is Elise Mackenzie Simeon.  Her parent's names are Melanie and Luke and normally they live on Stewart Island (presumably when they're not giving birth to babies...)

Thursday, May 02, 2013

7.1.69 First letter of 1969


Hullo, is this the first letter I’ve written you in the New Year?  Happy New Year anyway.  There seemed to be a bit of delay in mail here and I’ve only just (a day or two ago) received a letter you wrote on Boxing Day.  I think I’ve had everything you’ve sent from Fr Deslandes; not quite sure but I think I’ve two.  And they arrived without extra charges or anything.  [Father Deslandes, as I recall, ran the orphanages for South Korean orphans.  My mother and I each sponsored one of these boys for some years.]


Both Margaret and Mavis’s birthdays are in December!  Mavis’s was on one Saturday that I was up there and I think you’ll find a reference to it not so long ago in a letter, but I can’t remember the actual date, and Margaret’s is just a short while before Christmas – but again I’m not sure of the date – perhaps I can find out – plenty of time anyway!  Do you think I should have at least sent a card or someut?  It’s a bit late now of course.


Got me $10 without any great fuss , except that the gits at this end had sent the copy where I could then collect the money to a Post Office way around up the main street, instead of sending it to the Main Post Office, which is two minutes walk from the house!  It’s a little branch in the back of a Chemist’s shop.  There are almost as many Post Offices here as pubs – four branches within close walking distance!  And guess what else turned up – I was riding along in the bus just last week from the Opera Centre, a way I’ve come dozens of times and the bus passed a little notice on the wall saying: Change Alley!  It was where it should have been, but is too small to be in the A to Z.  I was on my way into the Strand but decided to come back later and have a proper look.  I did (and incidentally discovered that I’d never walked along Fleet St before in the process) about 10.30 at night and went in and had a look at it – at considerable risk to my life and limbs if any mugger had seen me no doubt!  In Change Alley there are now the back entrances to the St Martin’s Bank  and Lloyds Bank and one or two subsidiary buildings’ rear ends, but no Frobshm and Whoojy.   Sorry, they just don’t appear to exist anymore. 


Got some Tablets today – with all the guff inside them.  Thank you.  Also the 2 bob bit! 


Well since I last wrote what’s happened?  On Tuesday, New Year’s Eve, I went up to Ann and Trish’s for a meal, and to go to a party with them. They had been carol singing with some Anglican group, and the people at the party were from this – but not a very friendly mob.  I talked to the same guy nearly all night, and one or two others.  The majority of them left us alone – the 2 girls, Anne’s sister Marie and self – until after we came back from Trafalgar Square, when most had gone home and there were less to contend with.  I’m supposed to be going to a meal at a pub called the Swiss Cottage on Sunday with 12 of them – some of those I got to know vaguely, but I’d sooner not go – it sounds a rather too expensive, and unnecessary evening.  The four of us went to T. Square to bring in the New Year, but apart from the spectacle of hundreds of balloons floating away up at midnight, and some nits prancing about in the fountains – we watched from a little distance on the St Martin’s in the Fields Church steps – it wasn’t very exciting.  And we were only there for a short while.  None of the girls wanted to go in the crowds, and though I might have if I’d been with Mike or Kevin or someone, they made me feel rather panicky with their constant insistences that we all hang onto each other ALL the time.  By the time we got home from the party it was about three – I was to sleep on a couple of chairs in a sleeping bag at the girls’ place – and I was feeling rather unpleasant generally – I helped those girls wash up the dishes twice that night, at the party, while the hostess stood around looking on!  And we missed a lift home to the girls’ house as a result.  (Aaaagh – what a mess this is.) I didn’t mind doing them the first time  - but twice was too much!  And then I slept badly, I had a bit of Kingsley’s sore throat, and I’m always too hot in a sleeping bag.  What a night!  And then I had to go to the copyist’s all day straight from the girls’ without a shave – I was too lazy to carry my shaving gear as well my pyjamas, but since I’d gone to the copyist’s on the Monday with a day’s growth then too, they probably think I live in a state of permanent bristle. I hadn’t been due to go anywhere on the Monday and had got caught out.  Anyway, Pat cooked me a fantastic breakfast – beans, an egg, sausages, toast – and since I was still feeling rubbishy I couldn’t even finish it!  She’ll make someone a marvellous wife – not me, though – I don’t think I could stand someone quite as scatty as those two can sometimes be around me for life!  [Apparently unaware that people do grow up.] Actually they’re not so scatty as of yore – just indecisive – eg, if I hadn’t sort of organized them about getting off and going to T. Sq, we’d never have got there. For all their close and long friendship, they don’t think alike enough for me.  [What?]


To go on, I went to the copyist’s - did I tell you his name – George Bamford, in his late 40s I should think, glasses, little mo, and though apparently disorganized, a very thorough copyist – though even he with Zerox [sic] machines and all finds keeping up a task.  How did they do it in the old days?  His wife does all the photo-copying for him – he does all the necessary writing.  And though they appear to be a middle-class sort of couple they talk when their boy is there – he’s 19, 20, like East-enders.  In fact, George talks a good deal of the time  - and copies away while he does so!  But it was most fascinating to hear the talk around me of recording sessions, the Rolf Harris show (which they do all the copying for) concerts, etc.  I spent all day from about 11.15 till 6.00 cutting single lines of music from photo-copies, pasting them on (with double-sided Sellotape) another sheet (and editing them so that the players could turn over conveniently), in order that these sheets could then be cleaned up with a white paste substance (so that the edges of the cuts don’t show ) so that they could then be photographed again, blown up to a bigger size – the print was tiny – and thus turned into completely new parts.  Most of the work as awkward as this – this stuff was just too


Part II

finickety to copy out.  They gave me a luncheon voucher for three bob for lunch and I just went out – determined that I wasn’t going to starve because I’d been feeling so rotten – and had a 5/6 lunch – four courses!  And not too badly either.  The Bamfords are a very nice couple – they seemed to be giving Christmas presents – belated, to nearly all the kids in the block of flats they live and work in! Certainly there were enough kids there at various times.  And he’s very patient – though I think I was working well enough (since I did the whole job of four complete parts in the one day) and I think that some work (more of it) will definitely come my way.  He’s been asking me to ring and find out about checking some more parts, but so far he hasn’t had time to do them.  He even said tonight, since it was the third time he’d had to put me off about the work, that it would definitely be given to me, when he was ready, so! this will be a little extra cash in hand. 


However withal this filling in my time – and Hansel and Gretel and Les Girls (film) on Thursday, the first with Kevin and the other with Mike, the week that I’d planned to spend in practice slipped through my fingers somewhat.  However I did get some work done.  Hansel and Gretel was rather a delight, with two adults in the parts looking like kids!  The witch was a bit disappointing – played by Aussie tenor Ronald Dowd, but he looked unhappy as a dame – and consequently the last act was nowhere near as good as the other two.  Les Girls is a Gene Kelly, Kay Kendal, Mitzi Gaynor, Leslie Phillips, Patrick MacNee (Avengers) musical, which Mike has been insisting  for years was very very good – and it was.  The music, for Cole Porter, wasn’t up to scratch, but it was well performed, and the whole was very enjoyable. 


On Friday I came home after playing the piano most of the day and spent the time copying out my songs for Kurt.  Did this all day Saturday too, and didn’t even go out as I thought I might have done at one stage.  (While I think about it, cooked myself a pie tonight with: two half-cooked sausages I started for breakfast but which I’d originally intended having on last Sunday and forgot – forgot yesterday too -  a half cauli, also intended for Sunday’s meal, two enormous potatoes, mashed, a left-over tomato, an onion, and a small tin of vege soup, without the water added.  And cooked for about a quarter of an hour: it was delish! Crowl the chef is back!  Actually I got the general idea from a recipe I’d used one other time, with considerable adaptation.)


On Sunday, just for interest’s sake, and I suppose to keep Kevin company, I went to Worthing with him, by train.  He was going back to pay his ex-employer a fiver he had had to borrow when he arrived back in England, and so we went via Brighton.  Saw quite a bit on the way down – passed Gatwick Airport where only a night before a plane had plowed into a house a mile from the airport, and where also there’d been a train crash – didn’t see either of the wrecks, of course, but when it got to Brighton it was already dark – five o’clock – and drizzling and windy.  But we walked around a bit for ¾ of an hour, and had a quick glance at the place.  When we went on to Worthing, a nice enough wee town – also a coastal place – and spent an hour talking to mine host, his wife, and dog. 


Monday, we were back to work with a vengeance – a free morning, but straight into rehearsals for the coming master-classes.  I’m out of working condition, I can see – we were spoilt over the pre-Christmas time because we had no language classes and no coaching sessions.  Still it’s very nice to see everyone again, and though this morning’s reps’ class was rather terrifying, and the forthcoming Opera for All auditions at the end of the month don’t help either, but once again it was all very good.  The class this morning was taken by John Gardner – that’s all I know about him – on Massenet’s Manon.  It was terrifying, because I was first to play and had to play the overture!! Fortunately it was playable, but he was very finickety about right harmonies – wrong notes don’t matter as long as the harmonies are right, he says; fair enough, but I hadn’t even looked at the overture!  Still, that wasn’t the worst: when my turn came round again , he wanted me to play one bar and of course do you think I could get the blasted thing right for him, on the spot?  Makes me shake to think about it all.  But he said something that interested me: that he was rather of the opinion that we shouldn’t prepare these works beforehand for the rep classes – we were expected to be able to sight-read this sort of thing as a normal course of duty, and he said that you were inclined to lose your nerve if you got flustered after you had prepared it or if your sight-reading was constantly letting you down.  I think I have lost my nerve (!) because there was a time, in the dim distant days, when you could lay anything down in front of me and I’d have a go at it.  But now it worries me.  And yet, in my own coaching sessions, I cope quite adequately with what is given me.  I think it’s the fact of having an unknown quantity in the presence of a particular rep, and the presence of the stage managers.  Oh, dear.  Well I suppose if I can survive this morning’s battering and still look the others in the face things can’t be all that bad.


That’s pretty brought things up to date – went to Mike’s for tea last night thence to see The Canterbury Tales, a musical, of sorts, which I enjoyed in large spots, but not entirely.  Kate and Mervyn Jarvis also ran [came? Mervyn was a good friend of Mike’s and I’d also had a bit to do with him back home.] The latter’s over here on a business holiday till the end of the month. 


Oh, well, pray for me!  That I’ll get through this next month, and term without too many bruises and that I’ll get some of the old confidence back.  I think perhaps that’s what lacking, you know.

[handwritten] Anyway, lots of love to you both – Mike XXXX