7.11.69 [handwritten ˗ three letters sent at the same time]
This letter belongs before this one, dated around the 10th Nov.
Hullo, hullo, hullo, how are things going with you, then? Hope you’ve settled in quite well back at work etc, and that you’re still feeling okay ˗ and looking after yourself. I wrote to Fred [the cat] a little while back and she assured me she was keeping at least one eye on you, but I know what a lazy wee soul she is. Anyway I received your latest letter listing everyone else’s troubles and none of your own problems, so I can only presume you are okay. Good heavens! I didn’t realise Auntie Rose was still alive ˗ that is presuming it is one of the dwarf group, is it? What made me think she had died I wonder? [By the ‘dwarf group’ I meant the fact that my three great-aunts on my grandfather’s side were all tiny, and got tinier as the years went on.] I hate to think of such an old person having an operation ˗ you always assume that old people aren’t nearly as tough as young ones ˗ and while they don’t look it, they seem to come through some pretty hard knockings-around. [She was actually only 77 at the time, if my records are correct.]
....Last night I got home to find that just a short while before Cathy had
[second handwritten letter]
Arrived home and apparently surprised an intruder. According to her, she was going round the back of the flat to put the bike away, when she saw that ‘Ian’ was standing in his room, with the light on, and her light had been on as well. She didn’t do anything but fiddled around putting the bike to rest. Whoever it was in the house vanished because when she got back inside again (she has to go all the way round the front again) she was alone. The funny thing is how he got out our front door (if he did) because to anyone who doesn’t know it, it plays a trick by first apparently refusing to open more than halfway, and then shutting with a sudden bang when you least expect it. Perhaps he got out the window again ˗ someone had knocked over a little table in Ian’s room, and something else, so he presumably did exist, but it’s all pretty odd. Nothing was missing. We called the police about it, and two friendly young East End-accented boys (no older than any of us) arrived and just sort of took a few notes in case it was tried again. The whole thing was just rather funny really.
On Wednesday David accompanied Alan Opie at the Purcell Room in a ‘solo’ concert. Alan sang a Vaughan Williams cycle (one that I remember rehearsing with Graham Gorton at home), three Wolf Lieder, and then after the interval a Schubert cycle of fourteen songs. [The Vaughan Williams was The House of Life; ; the Wolf, Drei Harfenspieler, and the Schubert, Schwanengesang. Graham Gorton had been one of the cast in the piano tours I did with the NZ Opera Company.] Quite a programme really. The first half was tremendously exciting ˗ it makes a whale of a difference if you know the people involved and have taken notes at a rehearsal (they did one at the flat the other night ˗ with Alan’s fiancee [Kathleen] and me taking notes: means finding out the faults made during rehearsals and endeavouring to find out why they’re made) ˗ and the second half had exciting individual songs, but wasn’t quite so good. I was a bit like a mother hen ˗ though why I should be I don’t really know! ˗ and yet I haven’t enjoyed a concert so much for a good time either. The programme he sang would have taxed a much older and [more] experienced artist, and yet to hear someone comparatively young doing them and occasionally letting himself go completely is a rather fabulous feeling. [Alan was 24 in 1969.] And anyway, both the Schubert and V Williams must have been written when they [the composers] were fairly young, so the feeling is in a way the right one.
Dave’s parents came up, and it was very nice to see them again, and also a lot of familiar faces came to the concert, so it was a very friendly affair. Dave and I arrived home not quite on top of the weather, but awake (just!) at about 1.00 in the morning, and fell into bed.
I went to Die Frau Ohne Schatten again last Monday and it is still terribly exciting.
What a place for all sorts of people London is! At one point today we had in here the male cashier from our sister cinema, the Dilly [also known as the Dilly Cineclub; later it became the Cannon Dilly], and one of the soho ‘locals’. The latter is either in a drunken fury with everyone, or else goes around blessing all, with flowers in his hair, and decorations. He knows all that is to be known about Soho and the people, and for some obscure reason is called ‘Phyllis’! The other guy wears the most modern outrageous clothes, and perfumes! and today had on a white coat with white fur trimmings ˗ about mini-skirt length! Ugh!
I’ll put in some other comments at the beginning of another letter but won't send it yet. Have sent it - see III!
[third handwritten letter]
To continue about the people: have I told you about the buskers around here? (I have a funny feeling that I have): one group comes on a Friday ˗ a flautist (and what a fabulous sound he makes) and his accompanist, a banjo player. The latter is so terrible it’s not true. And he rather spoils the flautist’s music! The other group I see on a Friday morning at Oxford Circus ˗ one plays clarinet, another banjo and another a drummer and they are the swingingest group in London. It’s quite refreshing to come out after a tube ride and hear them echoing up and down Argyll St ˗ the Palladium’s street, incidentally.
Going home on a bus at night can be interesting too: I had two Welshmen sitting behind me one night and one was dead drunk ˗ but all the same insisted on holding a very involved conversation about a crane with his mate. This would have been okay except that he hiccupped every thirty seconds on the dot, and was quite upset in his train of thought each time. The conductress on the bus turned up again the next night going home and said she thought this guy was going to be sick all over me any minute.
About two or three nights later I was reaching my stop on the way home, when the man behind me sneezed and was sick all over ˗ including some of my suit! Poor guy. I didn’t know what to do about him ˗ whether to just leave him there with the conductor or what! There wasn’t much I could do really, short of inviting him to come and clean himself up at home.
Did I tell you about the night there was a fight upstairs on the bus? Yes, I think now that I did (the flute player and his mate were outside just now ˗ they play Elizabethan Serenade when they come to a certain corner of the piece they go in different directions ˗ it’s very funny really. And they also just played Eton Boating Song and at one stage the banjo player went shooting off in a completely different key!
The people that come into the cinema are a pretty varied lot: your lonely old men (and lonely young ones, too), your tired businessman (he does exist), the boys out on the town for the night, your country boys, the bully boys who seem to think it’s a necessary part of their living, the young kids who are just curious perhaps, the ones who just don’t know how to get on with their wives, or their lives, or both. Hazel said once that they’re all people who can’t get on with women in their normal lives, but it seems to me that this is too great a generalization for the variety that comes in. Anyway, it gives me an opportunity to cheer up quite a few of them, which may be something at least. It certainly does me good to see their faces break into a smile when I sometimes hadn’t thought it possible. Many of them are mere kids really ˗ I’m beginning to feel like a father figure!