31.7.69 [First letter from 18 Bethune Rd, Stoke Newington.]
Dear Mum, sorry to have been such a long time in writing again, but things this week have been hectic. Even though the Opera Centre is officially finished, my ties to the place have not yet been severed and I’ve been in there every day this week ˗ but instead of my spending money because of my presence there I’ve actually been making a little, a pound a day in fact, for coaching Peter Lyon who goes to the Scottish Opera For All shortly to work.
Last Friday I not very cheerfully set out to start transporting all my stuff up to Bethune Rd and the one trip convinced me that turning myself into a pack-horse wasn’t the answer. (I did tell you we’ve got the place ˗ or did I? Perhaps not!) So after having frizzled up in the heatwave (or drought as they’ve called it!) on the way up here ˗ via two trains and a tube ˗ I decided this was not good enough and rang up Reg and explained my trouble and without any more ado got all the rest of the stuff moved on Sunday morning. And then I stayed overnight at their place until Tuesday night (from Sunday) because the flat has not really been completely habitable until now.
Saturday night was the last performance night and after the show most of the students, and other odd bods, went all the way down to Forest Hill, in the SE of London (though not far from Blackheath) for a party at the Jennings house. (David and his wife, Teresa Brooke, have both been students. Her mother is Patricia Hayes, the actress.) It was far and away the best party I’ve been to for a long time, and was only wound up sometime after I left ˗ at 4.00 in the morning. Alistair and his fiancee, Imogen, and David Syrus and his brother Peter came back to Blackheath for coffee, and watched the sunrise. As I had to get up for 10.30 to meet Reg, and wasn’t quite with my packing, and would have to go to Mass somewhere along the line, I decided to stay up, and went out onto the Heath when the others had gone, and walked in the dew, and watched the most fabulous of skies gradually grow lighter and brighter. There was a weird peace around, actually, with only the sea pigeons and large black crows (?) to disturb me. There were cars in the distance, but they don’t count somehow, and I only saw one other person out walking ˗ which isn’t really surprising! I thought I would have felt very sad somehow, but didn’t really seem to, just a little contemplative. I suppose the older you grow, the more you accept that everyone of your friends disappears sometime, and all of these eras in life come to and end. (It’s probably just as well ˗ being the way we are, finickity ˗ we’d probably get bored otherwise). Then I went back and had a bath, and and cleaned the windows and went to Mass (and nearly dropped off at it) but the five hours or so that seemed to be a short time for sleeping in took a lot longer to be awake through.
Anyway, for the next three nights I stayed up at the Crowls’ trying to cause as little disturbance as poss ˗ and seeing far too much TV: including Woman of the Year (with Tracy and Hepburn, one of their best ˗ with a fabulous where she tries to cook breakfast for him when she’s never been near a kitchen in her life) and the original Frankenstein with Boris Karloff, which was interesting rather than horrifying. And for some reason it was all updated to the thirties (or late twenties anyway) and had one of those revolting English actors playing the Baron [Frederick Kerr], and supposedly getting all the funny lines ˗ ugh, that’s one thing that has outdated itself. Karloff was very good incidentally, and makes the film I think, which is only otherwise notable for its direction of the not over-inspired script.
Yesterday, Mike and Hazel and I went to an early showing of Chimes at Midnight, an Orson Wells film adapted from the plays that Falstaff appears in which were collaged together to make a portrayal of him as the more important character rather than as a subsidiary to the King. There is no such thing as a bad Orson Welles film; even his failures are immensely interesting. [I couldn’t have known this from experience, not having seen most of his movies; it was plainly something I’d read.] And this has a superb cast putting Shakespeare across in a superb way.
We then went up to Mike’s for a meal, and then went to Piccadilly to see a late preview of one of Mike’s company’s new films. At 11.30. it was positively the most sick film I’ve seen, I think, but very well done for all that. It’s a terrifying exposé of the really seamy side of New York life, but with redeeming features in the characters in the story ˗ they seem victims of their country rather than themselves: it was made by an Englishman, and possibly couldn’t have been done by an American. It’s called Midnight Cowboy, and for once I’ve seen if before you possibly can ˗ but I don’t suggest that you see it. It only shows things that have existed in humanity for centuries, but isn’t in the least bit pleasant for the acknowledging of them.
The drought broke incidentally, on Tuesday ˗ the very day on which I had to go wandering around the streets ˗ it was so wet I got soaked to the skin even though I perpetually carried an umbrella. And now that that’s been and gone we’re back to the heat again. The English don’t deserve to have the lovely weather ˗ they only say they like cold better.
We’re to have a telephone in this flat ˗ presuming it won’t cost too much (it’s already here but disconnected) and I had a little Irishman here yesterday who had been about to take it away until I said we wanted it. And did he talk!! And I’ve had two grumpy little men coming and going with furniture and cookers and fridges that they can barely lift ˗ and I always seem to be doing something wrong for them. I’ll be glad to be settled in here. Love Mike.