|Newsletter No. 635
|A quick trip to London
November 1 to 4, 2005
Tuesday, 1st: Up very early.
Quickly wash, dress, pack. The rest of the house sleeps: four guests from
Budapest in the basement, Ulli Lindenmann, from Darmstadt, on the couch,
Olga Kovshanova, from St. Petersburg, in the upstairs guest room. And
a friend will stay in my bed while I am away. Slip out and catch the No.
38 bus to the Gare du Nord. Check in for the 10.19 Eurostar. The British
woman checking passports is extremely nice and I kick myself later for
not inviting her to a Sunday dinner. Uneventful ride to Waterloo which
I suppose is OK. Call, as arranged, John Lloyd when the train pulls into
Waterloo at noon. He suggests we meet at 13.30 in front of the Odeon Cinema
at Marble Arch. We can dine nearby and he can grab a train afterwards
at Paddington to travel to Oxford. Walk the short distance to 51 The Cut
and learn from Nathan Hildon that Sheila Colvin is in London and she has
gone with John Calder for his cataract operation. Also learn that Toby
Fenton is leaving London to start a new life in Brazil. John Cairney arrives
and we talk about the upcoming Thursday event. He puts about a dozen copies
of White Washing Fences in the window.
Take the Jubilee Line from Southwark to Bond Street and change to the
Central line and ride one stop to Marble Arch. John Lloyd arrives a few
minutes afterwards on his bicycle and he suggests an Indian vegetarian
restaurant nearby called Chai Pani (at 64 Seymour Street). We stroll the
short distance. The waiter tells us we help ourselves at a buffet table.
We bring each other up to date with talk about Moscow and Natasha Starkova,
with talk about The Financial Times and the creation of a Media
Centre in Oxford, with my report of the situation with Emile-the-Rat,
with talk about Paris and the Sunday dinners. I give John a copy of White
Washing Fences. We talk about Ilaria and Italy, about Astrid and Edinburgh.
I try to pay for our lunch, but John will not let me. He gets on his bike
and I find a bus to Bishop's Bridge Road and Ernie Eban's flat.
Ernie and I discuss having an Indian take-away dinner tonight. But almost
everyone I call is not at home. Leave lots of messages on answering machines
(Ulla Larsen, Jo & Yelena Durden-Smith, Jim Campbell, Alex Kan and
others). The few people I do manage to reach are not free tonight. Hercules
Bellville is in America and not back until next Monday. Benny Puigrefagut
has a translation that must be finished tomorrow. So I throw in the towel.
I call Dorota Chrisp and tell her I am on my way to Chiswick. She says
she is preparing dinner.
Dan Topolski passes briefly to give me a warm embrace and a welcome to
London. He is busy trying to raise money to maintain his father's old
studio next to the National Theatre under the arches. Dan reports a major
Feliks Topolski exhibition in Warsaw next year. When Dan departs, Ernie
and I walk to Bayswater Road, pass Norma Moriceau's old flat (where one
of the first meetings for I.T. was held), to get the 94 bus. Ride
to the end of the line near Chiswick Park tube station. A short walk to
Tim and Dorota's home.
Dorota has prepared an excellent dinner. We catch up with news of mutual
friends and her family. Go to bed early. Am soon fast asleep.
2nd: A long good night's sleep. Up at 8 and go down for a breakfast
feast with Dorota, Tim, Joe and Lila. Later they all go out and I shower
and dress and prepare to travel to East Finchley for the interview with
Malcolm Hart for his documentary project about Bill Levy. Walk to Chiswick
Park tube station and purchase a Day Pass. Get a call from Hanna Dalipi
in Paris wanting to stay in the atelier. I say OK, but one side of me
wonders if I am doing the right thing. The atelier is full of people.
Ride to Embankment, change to the Northern Line and soon arrive. Walk
the short distance to Malcolm's home. We have a simple lunch and catch
each other up to date. He thinks we last met in Los Angeles some ten to
fifteen years ago. We have fresh salmon on toast. We talk about mutual
friends and the London scene in the 60s. Time to start filming. We talk
about Bill, how we met, our activities in London with I.T. and
at the Arts Lab. I tell Malcolm about the Sunday afternoon tea at Bill's
when the idea to create Suck was born, how I called Willem de Ridder
in Amsterdam to ask if he would like to be involved with Suck and
if we could use his office as the production headquarters for Suck,
etc. We discuss Germaine Greer, Heathcote Williams, Jean Shrimpton, Susan
Jansen, Lynne Tillman, Jack Moore and all the other characters that were
involved in the early days of Suck. After a while, Malcolm says
that he has enough. He shows me what he has done so far. It looks superb.
Malcolm thinks that with my contribution, the film is finished. He thanks
me for my contribution. I invite him to come over to Paris and spend some
time in my guest bedroom. He promises to take me up on my offer.
Walk back toward the tube station and jump on a bus going south. Get out
at Archway and decide to take the tube to Waterloo. On the platform, ask
a young woman if the next train will take me to Waterloo. She says no,
that I should wait for one via Charing Cross. We talk and I learn that
she is Valentina from Rimini, that she has been in London a few years
studying contemporary dance. We talk about Pina Bausch, Bob Fosse and
William Forsythe. Valentina's train arrives and we are both sad and reluctant
to see our encounter come to an end. Give her my address in Paris and
tell her to call the next time she travels there. She promises to do it.
Continue to Waterloo and walk to 51 The Cut. John Cairney reports that
Sheila Colvin and John Calder are around the corner, that John is back
from his operation and resting. We walk the short distance. Minutes later,
Séamas joins us. Sheila goes out for tea and chocolate cake. We
stay an hour or more, just the four of us, talking and talking. Then it
seems John is getting tired, so I suggest to Séamas that we leave.
He goes to his b & b and I walk slowly to the National Theatre. Then
stroll across the walking bridge in the softly falling rain to Embankment
and Charing Cross. Make my way to St. Martin's Lane and think of Margaret
Ramsay and the early 60s. Find a café and telephone Séamas.
He says he will join me. After my hot chocolate and speaking Spanish with
the waiter from Chile, learn that the café is about to close. So
walk up St. Martin's Lane and bump into Séamas in the street. It's
almost 8.30. Suggest we head for #2 Brydge's Place, the club that Emma
Hope has arranged for us to meet and where we will dine.
We are early, but ring the bell and up we go to the bar to await our hostess.
A fellow named Giles makes a gin and tonic for Séamas and a tonic
for me. We also meet a fellow named Michael, from Italy, and his lovely
wife, Heidi, from Honduras. We learn that Michael and Heidi plan to travel
to Paris the weekend of the 12th/13th of November to celebrate his brother's
birthday, so we extend an invitation to come and dine Sunday evening.
Emma has booked a table for us upstairs. She and her brother, Tom, soon
join us. Tom is involved with Kevin Spacey and the Old Vic Theatre. I
tell him my wild scheme involving John Calder, Michael McEvoy, himself
and Kevin Spacey. Tom seems to be excited by the project. We talk about
Jonathan Bate, an old school friend of Tom's and who is now a Shakespearian
scholar at the University of Liverpool. Micia, a woman who used to work
as a journalist for American Vogue, arrives and joins us. Dinner is sublime
and the conversation is even better. Learn that Tom has a wife he met
in Hong Kong. Tom also tells us a lot about Kevin Spacey and the Old Vic
Theatre. Very late it is time to pay the bill. Emma has treated us all.
What a delightful lady she is! I offer to drop Micia off in Cheyne Walk,
Chelsea in a taxi. She accepts. Hugs and warm goodbyes. We also thank
Giles, Michael and Heidi.
Taxi speeds Westward. Micia bails out and I continue to Silver Crescent.
Slip inside and go straight to bed. The rest of the house sleeps.
Once again up at 8 and another breakfast feast. Dorota reports there is
a cleaning woman coming this morning. A young attractive girl from a small
town in Poland arrives and we are introduced. I go up and have a shower.
Then walk to Chiswick Park tube station, but the ticket window is closed.
Continue to walk to the 94 bus stop.
Make my way to Queensway and walk to Ernie Eban's flat in Gloucester Terrace.
Get a call from Séamas as I am walking to Ernie's and suggest we
meet at Ernie's place and then later go for a walkabout in Covent Garden.
Séamas joins us and we call Daniel Topolski and arrange to meet
at Pizza Express.We three are the first to arrive and Dan is soon with
us. Silly and delightful lunch. Then Dan goes to a meeting, Séamas
and I take a bus and Ernie returns to his flat. Near Paddington, Séamas
jumps out and we agree to meet later. I continue to the Alydwich. Get
out and walk up Drury Lane to check out what has happened to the Arts
Lab. Purchase some filofax paper and wander down Long Acre pass my old
flat. Give Séamas a call and we agree to meet in a café
in St. Martin's Lane at 16.30. I arrive first and have a hot chocolate.
Then about 30 minutes later, Séamas arrives and we elect to go
to a pub. But first we chat with our waitress who is from Zagreb. In the
pub, we both order cranberry juice. Then we walk to the Strand and jump
on a bus that takes us to Waterloo.
People are beginning to arrive for the Big Event. It's a modest crowd.
John admits to feeling a lot better. Emma's delightful brother, Tom Hope,
arrives early and we sit and talk. And then it is time to start. John
makes some opening remarks and then throws the ball to me. We cover lots
of ground including The Paperback Bookshop and the burning of Lady
Chatterley's Lover, the Traverse Theatre, the Writers' and Drama Conferences,
the London Traverse Theatre Company, The Arts Lab, I.T., Suck,
Wet Dream Film Festival, Handshake Editions, the People to People guides
and the Sunday dinners. John throws it open to questions and they come
thick and fast. Afterwards people come up to me and ask me to sign copies
of White Washing Fences. To my surprise, Mary Clemmey hands me
ten pounds. It seems I gave her two copies in Frankfurt during the Book
Fair. Michael McEvoy has come to this evening with the lovely Sara Butterfield.
I suggest that they come to dinner with us afterwards. Also ask Mary Clemmey
and Tom Hope. Mary agrees but Tom cannot. But I do introduce Tom and Michael
to each other. Michael had already met Emma Hope at a Sunday dinner in
Paris. Earlier I had talked with John Calder about Michael McEvoy performing
his Shakespeare play in John's shop one Thursday in January. Everyone
seems to like the idea. Michael is off to tour his Shakespeare play in
Pakistan on the 17th of November. Then I spot Jessica Craig. She is the
Rights Director for Canongate. I suggest she join us and she agrees. She
is very lovely.
After the wine drinking and book-signing, we go next door to Paradiso
for an Italian dinner. John has reserved a table for ten, but we end up
being eleven: John Calder and a friend of his from Oklahoma called Elisabeth,
Michael McEvoy and Sara Butterfield, Emma Hope, Séamas McSwiney,
Liza Dimbleby and Cornelius Weber, Jessica Craig, Mary Clemmey and yours
truly. Both Liza and Cornelius are students of Russian language and both
have spent time in Moscow. Liza and I discuss Charlotte Hobson's book,
Black Earth City, which we have both read and enjoyed. It is about
a year Charlotte spent in a university in Voronegh, a provincial town
in Russia. I tell Liza that I wrote Charlotte a letter of congratulations
and later met her at the Edinburgh Book Festival. I also talk to her about
Sally Belfrage's A Room in Moscow. It was published in the late
50s. I sold it in my bookshop. And I also wrote Sally a letter of congratulations.
She and I became close friends until her early untimely death. Dear dear
Sally, all of your friends miss you! It turns out to be a fun dinner.
I am so pleased that I invited Liza and Cornelius to join us. Even our
lovely waitress, Valentina from Italy, is fun and attractive.
Take the tube and then the bus to Chiswick. Discover the door is locked
and am forced to ring the doorbell. Dorota lets me inside and we talk
briefly. Then fall into bed
Friday, 4th: This morning I must
get up at 7 in order to catch the Eurostar to Paris. Quickly pack, dress
and go down for my last breakfast with Dorota, Tim, Joe and Lila. Tim
will drive me to Chiswick train station; there it is a direct train to
Waterloo. He will drop Joe off at his school at the same time. Thank everyone
for the hospitality and we are on our way. It's a smooth painless ride
to Waterloo. Quickly clear the French passport control. Board the 10.40
train to Paris. Another uneventful trip. Read The Independent and
manage to get some sleep. A long queue for a taxi, so decide to take the
No.38 bus to Alésia. But spot a taxi and we are soon speeding South.
A clean and empty atelier welcomes me. Good to be home again. Anna Skochilenko
arrives and we talk about the trip to London and her past few days in
Paris. What a lovely person she is!
In the evening meet John Calder, Karolina Blåberg, Varda Ducovny
and Mary Folliet at Terminus Nord for a feast. Varda reports she goes
to Boston to be with her son for Thanksgiving and will be back here within
a week. Karolina goes to Beirut to participate in a Book Festival. Mary
stays in Paris until the beginning of December and then returns to Manhattan.
John stays in Paris until Tuesday morning and will be back the end of
November for our "double act" in the Village Voice Bookshop
on the 29th. John insists upon treating our dinner. We put him in a taxi
afterwards and then find a taxi who will take us four to our various destinations.
John Calder calls to say that Darty has delivered his new fridge this
morning and to say that someone called him, but that he did not manage
to make it to the phone in time. Could it have been Galina? I call Galina
and it was not her. She tells me that she did not get John's telephone
number from me. Give it to her and tell her to call him straight away.
Back to bed and hear the family from Budapest go out. Olga gets up and
calls a number about a possible job. A man is looking for a Russian woman.
She manages to talk with him and he can see her straight away. She quickly
dresses and prepares to depart. I ask, out of curiosity, to tell me the
man's name and telephone number. It turns out to be old friend, Robert
Cordier. Very funny. I tell her to give Robert my best wishes. Make myself
a cup of coffee and begin to answer the telephone with people calling
to make reservations for tomorrow night. Then Eric from next door arrives
with two boxes of veggies for tomorrow's dinner. Cathy Monnet is making
a red cabbage salad with apples and walnuts, a pork ragout, and banana
and coconut cream pies for tomorrow's dinner. Mary Bartlett arrives to
assist. Even Olga Kovshanova and Anna Skochilenko help. I mainly answer
the telephone as more and more people call to book for tomorrow's dinner.
Mary also shows us her new version of the A2 Cookbook and I like it. Maybe
we can have it published in a small edition in the next few weeks.
In the evening I go out for a Chinese takeaway for Evgenija Demnievska
and Olga and myself.
Quiet day at home only interrupted by telephone calls. I begin to panic
as the numbers for tonight's dinner climbs toward 80. Cathy arrives about
6.30 to make the last minute preparations. Dressing for the salad and
whipped cream for the pies. The atelier looks great! In the end we are
33 men and 38 women for a grand total of 71.
Future events: John Calder and I will resume our double act the 29th
of November at the Village Voice Bookshop in Paris (6, rue Princesse in
the 6th) at 7pm. Assuming, of course, that the riots do not continue and
spread to the Latin Quarter. I will interview John about his autobiography
(and life and loves) and he will do the same to me. It should be an interesting
Our annual Thanksgiving dinner is scheduled for Sunday the 20th of November.
Cathy Monnet and Mary Bartlett will direct a vast kitchen staff of volunteer
labor and will produce two large turkeys, vast amounts of stuffing and
other goodies plus pumpkin and pecan pies. Book early to avoid disappointment.
And if you are at a loss for an appropriate Xmas gift (Bah humbug),
Handshake Editions can supply you will lots of stimulating books by young
Jim Haynes including the just published White Washing Fences (edited
by Howard Aster and published by Mosaic Books). WWF is a Festschrift
honoring yours truly and contains essays, photographs, drawings by some
thirty individuals. I have added a chronology covering 1933 to 2005.
Let's hope all the mess in the world is soon put right, that peace reigns
and that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. Now come
and visit while there still is a Paris to visit.
83 rue de la tombe Issoire,