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JTS columns from the Guardian newspaper

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10. Between Affairs


Lord Longford's on the
march again, intent on putting us all out of work. This column will be the first thing they chop. "Is that really an ordinary cigarette he's holding?"

"Why don't you have a new photo taken for your colu
mn?" Sara asked me. "You look ten years younger now." She used to live in the flat - they never stop coming back as you know. She threw out one or two hints about possible vacancies at the moment. I told her I was engaged. Well, quite honestly I don't know whether I am or not without reading my last few pieces. My cuttings are all back in London. What did I tell Jane? Whatever it was I just got this beautiful letter. She's failed to get a place at university, the holiday camp closes today (your today) and like me she's at a crossroads.

"Please try to write to
me before Saturday giving me an idea of where you'll be so that I can send you a more settled address..."

It was signed with love and three - wait a
minute - no, four kisses. Nothing like this has happened to me since July and it's changed the shape of the world. What a challenge it all is again. Dear Jane, I suggest you tell your mother that you're emigrating and may strike gold. I can't think of anywhere more settled than Hampstead though D H Lawrence who lived opposite during the first war spent all his time on the run. From a Bournemouth boarding house he wrote: "Here I get mixed up in people's lives - it's very interesting, sometimes a bit painful, often jolly..."

What a great writer he was, though I wish I'd got so
mebody to water the plants. The connection here for those who need it is that this is just the kind of niggling worry that gets in the way of serious writing. Still, ho! ho!, I'm bashing out fifteen thousand words a week. Somewhat slower than Lawrence, who produced the 300-page idyll "Sea and Sardinia" in the same six weeks he was living it. Like Scott Fitzgerald he had the knack of transferring his material straight from bed to verse:

"Through the straight gate of passion,
Between the bickering fire
Where the fla
mes of fierce love tremble
On the body of fierce desire..."

"Hurry up, darling, I've got this deadline!" You really feel for them, he and Frieda puffing away with mounting anxiety about Martin Secker's next cheque. No quick "Doctor Who" script for him.

"Would you be interested in scripting a series for two dogs and a cat?" asked producer/writer Bernard March on the phone yesterday. "I've already got George Melly and N F Simpson interested." That's funny, I always thought they were people. I wonder who the cat is? Anyway I'm enjoying the narrative kick at the moment (page 130). It's nice to write without a head full of ca
mera angles.

Although not suicidal any
more I do get the Maggiewobbles whenever there's a surface chatter of more than two people. You need to meet somebody's eyes for security. For your sake I should have finished this piece last night. I woke up this morning with gout. It was during my last attack in Salcombe at Easter when it was raining and we couldn't get the right hotel that the rot set in. There's something uniquely depressing about gout that makes a girl think twice. Perhaps it should be called Flout or Pout.

Do you remember I couldn't get her to take off her life jacket for weeks after that? You'd think out of a million readers somebody might have dropped me a hint that the crunch was only three months ahead.

"And how's your creeping paralysis?" my doctor asked, gaily, when I telephoned London for my special 24-hour cure. I told her it wasn't good; I can't even play the guitar properly now. "But surely that's good. I mean that you want to."

There's always a cru
mb of comfort somewhere, I suppose. This incommunicado stunt has become a bit of a laugh, for instance. "Another call for you," Betty says. "For God's sake don't let them reverse the charges or we'll be bankrupt."

"Between affairs," Barney says, with all her expatriate experience, "you're inclined to reach for all sorts of new people and find nothing. You build what isn't there."


I know what she
means. I fell in love last week with a beautiful, waify girl with blonde corkscrew curls on a Gordon Frazer birthday card. I bought it for Lorel but couldn't bear to send it. Nothing will come of it, I'm certain. Barney's right. Elaine, Pamela, Sara, Jolanta, Daphne, Barby, Eulalia, Janice, Sally, Rosemary - they all have their own lives selfishly mapped out. What a writer needs is a bit of virgin clay he can mould into shape and write a good plot for; even put her on a pedestal if pressed. Somebody, somewhere, must still be wet behind the ears.

"Where are you? Now that I need you? Now that I want you so badly, I could die..." I used to sing that so well, people cried. I wasn't even looking for anybody.

"Let
me go! Let me go! Let me go, lover," my neighbour's wife used to sing back; we hadn't been introduced.

"Lacking talent, but needing poetic expression subjects would often resort to popular lyrics; writing the
m, quoting them or singing them. Arranged in order of age groupings the songs vary in content according to the subject's attitude to his or her broken relationship. 'I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden' would indicate regret mingled with self-absolvement. 'Could have loved you better. Didn't mean to be unkind' expressed total regret and total guilt. This is a potentially dangerous state of mind and such subjects would be encouraged into aggression, either with drugs (see appendix W) or psycho-analysis. The object would be to apportion blame more fairly and reduce self-hate..."

This quotation fro
m the Stroh's anthropological work, "The Survivors", is unlikely to be very well-known yet since it's part of my new book; I mean, don't expect me to get too far away from it on this weekly excursion into the hard cold real-life world of the Saturday Guardian. But besides songs, a short story that still touches my heart when I think about it is L A G Strong's "A Nice Cup of Tea".   


It's about this stick of a chap who nobody understands Kathy going with at all for it puts a silence on the old gang every ti
me she brings him along and there's far better men would break off their right arm and give it to her. But then when, sadly, she grows sick and dies they find him one day dead by her grave - or something like that. Time there was a good biography of L A G Strong, though the only person I knew who knew him was Joan, his housekeeper at one time in Surrey. She used to sing:

"Our day will co
me, Then we'll have everything..." I don't know why. Some people do very well without songs and Jane, a Norfolk girl you may remember, is one of these. "Six days to go," she writes, "and nothing settled as yet. I just keep everything out of my mind and desperately cling on to the present which is fast fleeing..."

Charging up there last
month in my white Galaxie with the object of making it flee a bit faster, I took her to dinner at the Golden Galleon on the edge of Oulton Broad. It seemed to me that with such a lovely, Indian-like creature, the quiet face drawn as with a child's crayon with all the dark depths in the eyes, what I needed to suggest was something entirely different. "You pretend you can't speak English and always walk three paces behind me. I'll be your Guru."

"That sounds like practical common sense," she said. Surely there's a ray of hope there for so
mebody like me?



(The Guardian, Saturday 30 Septe
mber 1972)

 

Jack Trevor Story's texts copyright   the estate of Jack Trevor Story 2002. Not for reproduction. Copyright in all work by Jack Trevor Story is the property of the author's heirs. Permission for use of this material can be obtained through Jackie Edwards (Story), Peter Story, Lee Story or Michael Moorcock. Reproduction of copyright material whether in text, visual or audio form by unauthorised sources strictly forbidden.

 

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