Let other people review 1972. I'll
pick a reasonable year. Take a name and a date from the dead mail, dead flies and dust in the hall. The worst example
of socialism and the community spirit lies in the decay and neglect of
mansions now divided into units where nobody accepts responsibility for
the bit he's not paying for. Mine and Maggie's mail will soon be lying
here together, unburied with the rest.
"If you guys do this bit we'll do the stairs and maybe who's that with the
helicopter cleaner will take care of the trash area..." Unsigned treaties of
good intent that never last but it takes me to 1971, the summer of the
American invasion which has at least one happy ending. David and Genevieve
are getting married today in San Francisco. Their "joyous invitation"
classically illuminated by Greg arrived and I sent in on to
Brussels as a possible
"somewhere to slip across to" this weekend.
The European tour is sometimes and endurance test for young Americans
and this union was not predictable. "We've got nothing in common except a
weight problem," Genevieve confided to Maggie. And David, explaining why
he couldn't finish his play, told me: "I can't write unless I'm totally in
Love as a required condition would be hard to maintain. Like money, all
you need is enough for comfort. I find that the broken relationship
provides a good head of creative steam over a far longer distance. David
found this too for when they returned to the States they split up.
Genevieve going home to Chicago and David starting work in a small room
near Golden Gate Park.
"Wouldn't it be awful if that happened to us?" Maggie said. "I'm okay
alone but you've got something I need," sang Melanie from the flat
upstairs. I managed to calm Maggie's unlikely fears. From the sheer
emotion of it I wrote a story of young love called "Native Air" which you
may have read in the Guardian last April (Gout Easter).
Later in 1971 there were a couple of letters from Greg's mother. The first
was about a recent tour of
Germany when she
failed to find a single friend or relation who could remember her dead
uncle, Herman Goering. The second said that David had written a play about
a porpoise stranded on a beach.
"It's really a nude actress who listens to a long discussion by some
socially confused trippers about whether to put her back in the water or
leave her to die. Vern says come on out here and bring your guitar..."
Only Americans have parents who play jazz guitar, run a nightclub,
organise community theatre or are related to Herman Goering. So Maggie and
I decided to do our American tour with the possibility of something more
permanent. There was no shortage of hosts: Ian and Judy in
Ohio, Larry in LA, then up to
Palo Alto and San Francisco
with perhaps the chance of meeting William Saroyan in his home town,
But reading Saroyan is going to America. Well it is to me - it
wasn't to Maggie. Instead of meeting him in California I take him now from
an Advance Laundry box; how to pack seven years in the boot of one car.
The white American convertible is part of the Hollywood dream and just two
years ago I waited with some excitement for Maggie to come out of Terminal
1 after spending Christmas in Scotland. I'd bought the car as a surprise.
"It's that one," she said, unerringly.
Well, the rest were taxies. And anyway Poodle was skidding around trying
to find out where she was supposed to sit now. I remember no books in
1971, no plays or films memorable enough to survive the night, no songs
except the ones we sang. We saw snow on Snowdon that Easter, lit out first
calor gas stove for a blowy cup of tea by Lake Bala and the clutch went in
the Black Mountains. But wait a minute, that was with the old Capri so it
couldn't have been 1971. But we did see the first
moon landing through somebody's
parlour window as we walked up from the North beach at Salcombe. That's
not quite right, either; if we were walking it was the year I lost my
"The first moon landing was 1968," says Ellie. She has come
to say goodbye to Poodle and take down her drawings. She has already
started her first novel.
"That's only fact," I told her.
Last year, whatever wonderfully reasonable year that was, turned into 1972
as day turns into night. There was the New Year's party in the hotel at
Puerto de la Cruz with streamers, pea-shooters, bugles, paper-hats, funny noses and too
much champagne. Maggie was so
ill I should have guessed that 1972 was coming. If you want to find out how welcome
you are at a package tour hotel, have a sick guest in bed when she should
be at the airport on change-over day.
"You're not coming in and we're not coming
out," I told a succession of Spanish idiots.
At various times I have nursed eight children through a lot of sickness
without losing one. We got to the airport by last call.
"You did it!" Maggie said, flying back to winter. She was not talking
about her recovery, but
mine. This was a holiday I'd cancelled three times
at the thought of a crowded charter flight. Then Peter got back from taking advertising pictures at Fyffe's banana plantation - rather
inconsiderately I thought - and it had to be on. It was not just a holiday
but a test flight that
might make the world available.
"Now we can fly anywhere," Maggie said, on
Saturday the first of January,
1972. On this subject Rupert Brooke, who seems
to have got into the food box, says:
"Proud we were
And laughed, that had such brave true things to say,
- And then you suddenly cried, and turned away."
(The Guardian, Saturday 23 December 1972)