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UNCOLLECTED GUARDIAN PIECES

JTS columns from the Guardian newspaper

 
11. Natural Hazards


Suspended 12,000 feet above the
Cherbourg peninsular one feels so much more important than nature. Particularly when your captain is advising you to re-fasten your safety belt. Then from the dangerous to the familiar, an hour later I was sitting in Hangar Lane with engine trouble.

"I understand fro
m your son that you don't feel very well!" the AA emergency operator said, anxiously. "What's your car number?"

This is the kind of thing that
makes you feel humble; not flying or standing on mountains. That somebody, somewhere, cares, among all London's traffic jams in torrential rain and with an articulated lorry hanging over Hammersmith flyover. And in future they're going to have a No Barking sign in Hangar Lane public library which turned itself into a first-aid post. "Jack Trevor Story - I recognised Poodle," said the librarian, making us tea, organising the rescue, explaining why they haven't got my books: "They're always out..."

"Drink this," said Lee girl who had been alerted through the fa
mily grapevine and arrived bearing whisky; oddly enough it started the engine and she followed me safely home. "Tell me the news," I requested.

Apparently Gina found a nest of tiny mice in her studio cupboard and Lee boy drove them from Soho all the way up to Hampstead to release them on the heath.

"Now what about you?" she asked.

I told her my new novel had been rejected.

"That's a good sign, isn't it?" she said, knowledgeably. Well, Lee's been in the family a long time now one way and another and once shared a flat with Maggie even. "Nobody's heard anything," was the only news on that front.

There was an elderly tra
mp person in the kitchen drinking a cup of water; he smiled as at a friend. " 'Ello, back again, Mitter Towry?" Therese spoke to him one day on the heath and he's been coming in ever since. When he went he said: " 'Ope you enjoyed your twip." We ought to get a lock on that door. What a rotten thought.

"You get what you give," my mother used to say.

This includes, as of this
moment, sitting down with pristine mind and desk to start the autumn term, a collection of unpleasant bills, marginally offset by a request from Rosalind Bell to review a book for Penguinnews for 12.50. Some people are not meant to be rich, except in friendship. Coincidentally in the back-mail several people want to know if I'm real. I wish I could deny it and stop them worrying.

"Funny thing about Jack," said John to Bill, the way your best friends talk about you behind your back and tell you afterwards, "he chats to me quite happily on the phone but when I hand it over to Patricia she's in tears. You'd think she was talking to somebody else."

This is the knack of keeping the status quo hanging in your mind like so many contrasting carpets ready to be flipped over in the
market place of compassion; women like the purples. Incidentally, thank you Jan for the bedspread; she was given my column as part of a speed-reading test at university and you can practically smell the burning rubber when she caught the first delaying sentence and dropped her anchors. "Holding her sleeping what...???"

I'm amazed at speed-readers like, for instance, Guilio, who could run his eye in a straight line down the centre of the page and still quote anything you like to mention. The closest I get is the boredom that glazes the page into geometric patterns; then you see if you can make funny faces out of them. This happens reading September 15 issue of "Twin Circle", the National Catholic Press of A
merica in which I am mentioned on page 10 and Rebecca West is quoted on page 8:

"Dame Rebecca's raisin brown eyes snapped indignantly over Lt Caley's trial: 'Awful. If you expose people who aren't accustomed to army tradition and conditions not foreseeable in the world, you have to take half the blame if you are going to prosecute them. Murder of civilians is a very wicked thing. But a soldier who
murders has a guilty man behind him. That's you and me. If you are not guilty then he cannot be'."


In lighter vein and proving that not everybody reads the Guardian either, there's a gay flamenco dancing card here from Maggie's brother: "Having a great time. Weather lovely. Have you and Jack been away yet? Will write when we get back..."

Well, you know how families write: they'll be surprised when they turn up at our golden wedding and find nobody there. What happened to Poodle then? She died in 1980. Och, I a
m sorry! But remember, somewhere there's somebody waiting for a letter from you, too. What a fandango it all is. When I find the right brave publisher you'll read all about the dancing summer of 1972 in "Crying Makes Your Nose Run".

"I certainly cannot submit your MS to Sir William Collins," wrote my agent at my alternative suggestion. "He may be as straight-laced as the others, but..."

Talking to Sir William at a recent Cosmo luncheon I didn't find him at all straight-laced; he claimed, rather proudly I thought, to be personally responsible for the annual "Bedside Guardian". He said it contained a pick of Guardian pieces. "I don't want to frighten you," I said, "but I think we've got the same book coming out this Christmas."

There's a great fog of fallacies about writing and writers of which the most perennial is that once an author is established his books automatically go into print. Author and publisher are no more likely to stay on the same beam than any other married pair.

"Thanks for showing me your brilliant short story," writes Joyce Hopkirk of Cosmopolitan. "Sorry we can't use it."

This was the (I feel) delicately treated theme of the suburban housewife who found she's got VD although neither she nor dad had left the fold.

And if you still want to be a writer: maintain a decent conceit, be prepared for turbulence, don't be humbled by mountains - but will you please re-fasten your safety belt.


(The Guardian, Saturday 21 October 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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