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