13/3/69 [Completely handwritten letter on an aerogramme]
Dear Mum, I’m writing a few words now before I forget again. THANK YOU for the sweets & biscuits which arrived nicely in time for LENT. However, I didn’t think it would really be wise to leave them another six weeks so I gave myself a special dispensation and have started on them. The biscuits, I’m afraid, got very knocked about; I think the packing had come loose and they were crushed but eatable. Please don’t make a habit of this. 3 Post Orders a week ˗ I don’t want a bankrupt mother on my hands!!
Thanks too, for all your concern and prayers about me ˗ I am feeling a lot better, though I still have this choky cough, but at least I’m beginning to feel a little like my old energetic and cheery self again. You know that I used to boast that I could never feel blue for long? ˗ well, this was the longest time I’ve ever felt and I was beginning to wonder really what was wrong with me ˗ no life, listless, etc. But others in the place (the Centre) have had the same trouble. Must be a bug or someut..
We’ve (Mike, Kate and friends) just been to a production of Hamlet at the Round House ˗ an old railway turntable building converted into a theatre. The audience sits, almost, on three sides of the stage, and consequently everyone is very close, and feels right in it. Nicol Williamson was Hamlet ˗ and fabulous, as he always is. The rest of the cast was equally superb. Man alive, it really is a fantastic play, and the mere fact of knowing it so well (this is the 4th or 5th version I’ve seen) made it all the more effective. In two scenes I felt like crying out loud ˗ where Hamlet and his mother have the long argument, and when Laertes tries not to cry on hearing that Ophelia, his sister, has just drowned, but can’t restrain his tears. The fight scene at the end was horrifying, it was so well done and so close. And actors would come right thru the audience ˗ you really were in the thick of things. I’d like to go again!!
NEXT DAY ˗ Spent a boring morning at the Lortzing ‘Opera Rehearsal’ rehearsal. [I presume this must have been a production put on at the Opera Centre, though I don’t remember anything about it.] What a load of old rubbish this is ˗ some of the music is “pretty,” but the dialogue is the sort of stuff I gave up writing years ago!! [Remembering at this time that I was an ancient man of 24] I feel it’s just a waste of time.
Later this afternoon Delia Wallis and I set off for Hertford (pronounced HARFORD) where I was to accompany her (unpaid except for expenses) at an Old Folks party. At Kings Cross [Station] we met up with her boyfriend Robert, who seems a pleasant gentle soul. (But he’s a singer!! Just been touring with the Welsh Opera For All.) We travelled rather slowly up to Hertford and walked in heavy rain to her (family ) home, which is a large (3-storeyed) place of the type I thought had all been converted into flats. Hertford seems rather pleasant ˗ some of it old, some very mod. We had some tea there, and eventually her brother-in-law, Clive (married to Coral), drove us to the Corn Exchange where hundreds of old people were being treated to a party-cum-concert. We were on after a party of schoolgirls who sang a seemingly endless medley of songs, and vaguely danced. On arriving at the piano and playing I soon discovered it had no sustaining pedal which was a considerable handicap!! However the songs (4 oldies) were all very very popular and after this I was driven back to the station.
When I got to Kings Cross again I remembered George Bamford [the music copyist] had said he had some more stuff for me. The lift in their flats isn’t working and after climbing 5 flights I found he wasn’t ready to give me the stuff ˗ I’d originally said I’d go tomorrow! Anyway he invited me in to watch an old pro on TV (colour ˗ which isn’t very attractive; it’s too inconsistent) who was playing jazz on a vibraphone ˗ with four sticks. Which is almost like trying to hit the right keys on a piano with sticks. He was fabulous and made the climb worthwhile.
Lots of love, Mike
*[Delia Wallis sang with Convent Garden, and later must have moved to the USA to work. She was on the staff of Fredonia State University of New York prior to her death in 2009.]