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
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!)
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.