Saturday, February 16, 2013

30/11/68 Oil heaters, actors & fog


Dear Mum, how are you two?  [The letter was addressed to Mrs P Crowl and Fred – the cat, in other words] I got a book the other day called Mozart’s Letters: actually it was only a selection of them, but it’s nice to see that even he wasn’t all that original a letter-writer.  Like me, when he had something to say, he’d go on for quite a time, but otherwise he’s likely to make some excuse about not having enough paper, or no news – he’s always telling his family to send some news! – and what a load of old rubbish he writes at times: especially to his sister or cousin.  Suddenly in the middle of a paragraph he goes quite crazy and writes absolute nonsense!


About your Parkinson and Frodsham, I’m afraid I can’t find anything about them anywhere.  Change Alley appears not to exist – I wonder if it was bombed out of existence in the war? – because there’s no reference to it in the A to Z of London, and the name of the firm doesn’t appear in the telephone book, as far as I can see.  I even looked up chronometer makers in the local library’s trade dictionary, but there was only one entry, and that was in st Albans.  Don’t give up hope, however, I’ll ask our receptionist about it when he comes back to work on Monday (he’s had a bad throat) because he’s a mine of information, and may know something about the street at least.  [I don’t remember what this was all about, but certainly Parkinson and Frodsham were chronometer makers going back into the 19th century at least.  I didn’t realise that Change Alley was short for Exchange Alley, which would have helped me. P & F had offices there, it seems.]


On Thursday morning, Kingsley suddenly vanished out of the house before I was even finished breakfast, and not obviously going to school, and I discovered the next morning what he’d been up to  - not having come home till fairly late on Thursday night.  (Got over the cold by the way – stayed home again on Tuesday – just couldn’t face trying to do work, and felt much better for it – got up at midday, and eventually got dressed, and sort of recuperated.)  Back to his lordship – he’d gone and bought an oil heater, saying that he can’t stand trying to sit round the fire any longer – truth to tell I find it just as cool!  I was prepared – in my usual irate fashion – to go crook at him, because he told me it cost £8!!, but he said since it was his idea, he was paying for it.  I can’t see that it’s a great advantage – as it smells oily of course, and trying to dry anything in front of it is a very slow process – you can put a minimal amount of stuff on top of it, but that’s all.  And I’m afraid, as I realise I’ve already said, that it’s no warmer.  I said I’d pay him something for it, but I don’t feel like dragging four quid out of the bank just like that.  Admittedly it’s surely quicker than trying to light the fire, and then waiting around for that to heat up, but at least that was already installed, and all we had to do was buy some coal every so often.  I don’t know what to think, and can’t say anything much as usual, without putting my foot in it.  I don’t know, perhaps I’m an unsatisfactory person to live with.  (I’m sure you’ll disagree, so there’s not much point saying it to you!) [maybe she wouldn’t have done] but I find it hard to say that something isn’t quite to my liking, without feeling sure beforehand that I’ll put my foot in it and cause some sort of upset.  While Kingsley has got a sense of humour (and while mine is rather malicious, I suppose) he is very serious about domestic matters, so to speak, and obviously gets that impression that I’m the type who merely muddles along while he knows how to do most things.  It’s true up to a certain point because he has a real nose for bargains and things, and I invariably wind up getting things for twice the price I need have, and because even though I do muddle along, I get there eventually, even if my discovery of how to do something is the way people have been doing it for a thousand years!  Still, I suppose to a certain degree I’ve got some imagination on my side, (it’ll probably turn up that’s really got a lot of that too!) and maybe that will compensate.  I’m afraid this is a gripe letter, so ignore everything up till now!

Paul Schofield


It was good to get back to work on Wednesday, even though I worked too hard when I did get there, because several people inquired how I was and where I’d been, etc, and I felt at home again.  On Thursday, Kevin and I went to see  A Hotel in Amsterdam, the latest John Osborne play – he wrote Look Back in Anger some years ago.  It’s not really a very good play but it has Paul Schofield in the lead, and this makes up for its defects.  He makes even the most uninteresting line worth hearing, merely by the modulation of his voice most of the time, and I would like now to see him in a really good part.  Alec Guinness is in a play revival here at the moment, and I’d very much like to see him, too.  [Don’t think I managed this.]


What you say about not believing I’m here most of the time doesn’t apply except on two occasions. (I don’t know why it doesn’t apply, but my mind seems to have accept it all.) These are, invariably when I come out of an underground gents (!) or even sometimes the Tube (don’t ask me why!) I have the funny feeling I’m going to come out in a different place, not necessarily home; and the other occasions are when I see actors on stage that I’ve seen in films – I just don’t believe somehow that they’re actually down there on the platform.  Otherwise, I feel quite at home here most of the time, because the run of the mill person around is exactly the same to look at, except out here in the East, where the majority of men have a very close-cropped hairstyle and a definitive way of dressing – mainly with jeans, and where the women come in two kinds: heavily made-up young ones, with very little beauty about them, or old ones (older) who have gone to seed, so to speak.  This is only the East End lot, the average proper Londoner, rich or poor, is generally a different animal.  [Oh the wondrous generalisations of youth!  Not sure that they improve with age.]


Tonight Mike and Hazel and I are making a short trip out of London, down south to Epsom – near Ascot, so they say, to see a production of The Turn of the Screw, the Britten opera based on the Henry James story. Invited Kingsley, but he wants to go and see Figaro at the Wells instead, even though this other is finishing tonight.  You might be interested to know I went to confession this morning, and the priest talked about practicing tolerance, and in your last letter you talked about it, and my one New Year resolution at the beginning of this year was on the same subject – so, if I don’t get to achieve anything at this rate, there must be something wrong.  I’ll have to start another letter if only to tell you a joke I heard in the play


Part II


There must be some other things to tell you anyway!  This joke was in the Osborne play: a girl went to a very strict convent to become a nun, and one of the vows they had to make was not to speak more than two words every three years. (!)  At the end of the first 3 years the young nun went to the Mother Superior who said, Well now, Sister, you may say your two words, and after a great effort the nun said, ‘Bad food.’  Three more years passed and the time came again. Well now, Sister, you may say your two words: and the young nun said, after a very great effort: ‘Uncomfortable beds.’ Three more years went by, and once again, the young nun came before the Superior.  The Superior repeated her usual speech but this time the young nun didn’t say anything for a very long time, and then finally came out, very quietly with, ‘I want to go home.’ The Mother Superior replied, ‘And a good thing too – you’ve done nothing but complain since you came here.’  And after that great effort, and considerable waste, I’ll leave the rest of this until tomorrow, in case The Turn of the Screw  is very interesting. 


[Handwritten] Michael sez thank you for looking after his Mum – re the address, I knew you’d commented it on but didn’t bother to look back and see if you’d actually told me the street!  Kevin’s ex fiancée is AGAIN ENGAGED – which seemed to relieve Kevin on any responsibility for the break-up!! I’ve now received your latest letter re Mike’s Mum and I’ll pass it on.


[Typed] What a terrible day it is here!  The fog is the thickest I’ve yet seen here, and everyone gets on the bus coughing and spluttering.  Plus the fact that the tops of the buses are generally full of smoke and if you’re not coughing for a start you soon start!  Fancy asking me if I wanted any more fudge and biscuits!  I’d thought I’d already hinted on this subject as it was – remember I asked if I should send the tin back to you.  I think the reason why it was so difficult to open was simply the fact that it had been stuck down for so long. Perhaps I should send the tin back to you with some books I don’t require any longer – although that might make a rather heavy parcel.  Kingsley had suggested ringing you up at Christmas by getting you to go up to his place, but then as it turned out his family had made some other arrangements, and this is no longer possible.  [Not sure why my mother needed to go to someone else’s place for a phone call, since we had a phone at home.] You’re probably happier anyway, not having to troop up there at that time, but he then said perhaps he could give me a couple of quid for Christmas as compensating!  The boy’s crazy – if I did ring I’d be paying for it.  However, if you don’t mind, I don’t think I will ring – I can’t see that I can say much in two or three minutes and neither could you, and we’d probably both wind up more miserable than we started!  So I thought I’d write you a long letter instead.  Do you mind?  It’s less the expense, than the fact as I’ve said, that we’d probably both be more upset about it than anything.  We’ll see.  And I’ll let you know if anything does come up. [International phone calls were very expensive in those days- I don’t think I actually rang her until around 1970!]


Megs Jenkins, in Green for Danger, 1946, 

We went to The Turn of the Screw on Sat.  I had to pick Hazel up from the Opera Centre, and as a result James Robertson, who was also going, gave us a lift to Waterloo Station.  We could have gone the whole way with him, but we had to pick Mike up there.  As it happened, Mike went another way, but I was glad we caught the train really, as Mr Robertson is rather hard going conversation-wise.  When we got to Epsom we were given the most elliptical set of directions and went the wrong way first.  How badly Londoners know their own area!  It was ages before we found someone who directed us correctly.  The show turned out to be an amateur one, and though the singing and playing was fairly good, and the words were excellent, the production was appalling.  Anyway, I enjoyed it to a certain point.  Then the three of us went back to Mike’s flat, and just as we were about to leave, Lindsay arrived in a bit of a flap saying that he had some people coming up.  All he meant was that we should tidy up, but we thought he wanted us to leave.  He didn’t, but we did!  Megs Jenkins, one of my favourite, smaller part players in films came up – she seems to be an especial friend of Lindsay’s.  So it was quite a thrill sort of being on the same floor as her!  I left to get a last bus, but apparently missed it, then discovered as I was about to walk home again that I’d left my keys at my own flat, and as I didn’t really want to wake everyone up at that time of night, went back to Mike and took up his offer of a spare bed!  [Handwritten again; possibly because the shift key seemed to be playing up.]  Then left at about nine next morning, not feeling very bright as I didn’t sleep too well due to the central heating and the electric blanket and the heavy quilt.  I’d intended to go to Petticoat Lane that morning but decided not in case Kingsley had wondered where I’d got to – he hadn’t of course! 


Went to Albert Hall (first had tea in Kensington High St) with Kevin but we were both so tired that we nearly went to sleep in the first half seemed to go terribly slowly!  [But what did we go to hear?]

Yesterday was technically a day off (Monday) but I went in anyway and spent so much longer at (the Opera Centre) that I didn’t have time to get home again.  Played the first of the songs I’d written for Kurt, but I’m a bit unsure of what he thought of it!  I’ve made some alterations to it anyway now.  Then we went to the pub next door and he shouted me a drink, and told me most of his life story – interesting but reasonably incredible!  Then Mike shouted me to a Royal Shakespeare play The Latent Heterosexual (what a title!) which was exceptionally well produced and acted (Roy Dotrice of Misleading Caseshe’s only in his forties – was superb in the lead) and nowhere near as bad as the title might imply!

Lots of Love, Mike