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UNCOLLECTED GUARDIAN PIECES

JTS columns from the Guardian newspaper

 
23. This Little Piggy


Okay Cats, wipe the
marmalade off your fingers, we've got to have this out. As Mr Faulkner used to tell us fen louts before he threw the chalk at us, I'm not going to come here week after week wasting my precious time, giving up the chance of a rich marriage - Story! - just in order to talk to blocks of wood. Hands up who wrote this:

"Dear Mr Story - I have glanced at some of your bits in the Guardian over the past few years and I a
m much exercised in my mind (as we say) as to the nature of the underlying ethos of your psychic motivation or, in other words, the philosophic mechanism of your bio-intellectual synthesis. Let me put it this way: what the effing hell are you on about, old mate?"

I
might have known. R C Hope of Blackheath Grove, SE3. Go and stand in the corner with the rest of this week's disappointments; Barbara's boyfriend John, a solicitor with all his clauses in the right order, my old friend Rose of temple Fortune (what a lovely combination of names) and Margo's mum. Now get out that lovely album devoted to the Essays of Kruger (my boyhood nickname, though heavens above you should be capable of guessing that) and turn to last week's perfectly straightforward lesson - Hope! - "Squirrel Juice".

First the title. You should know that I like Fats Waller and I am seriously in love with Maggie, who done left me; right, Rose, put on that old 78:

"Oh I love
my baby but my baby she don't love me.
She fills me full of squirrel juice, got me climbing up a tree..."

From the lesson itself you will also notice that I am concerned that this neo-totalitarian Government, passing this law and that, seems intent on running the country single-handed, that is without the help of the electorate who may as well get back in the trees with the squirrels. Jesus, clear writing is very hard work. And that's only the title.

John will know that They are going to meter our domestic water supply and will therefore understand my reference to the summer air in the first paragraph "still being free and un
metered". Margo's mum will understand the supermarket sketch that follows if she thinks of mimic Joyce Grenfell and provides her own visuals. The content refers to those loving mums we have all overheard bellowing at Dickie lamb who, in Freudian fact, only ever wanted a Sooty doll and only love the idea of children - not the hard, dirty, end-of-your-tether reality. And what the hell would Viscount Barrington in the next paragraph know about it anyway; hence the piece evolves from the back page of the New Statesman where the seminar was advertised.

Now Rose, you should know this,
married to "On The Buses" and Ronny being my old bench mate at Marconi's: every now and then you want to remind your friends that writing is about living. We are not strange animals or eccentrics or layabouts simply because we don't go out to work. We are talking for the most part to people who think a half-hour play takes half-an-hour to write. Better to get the conversation back to engineering and collect that extra status. This is the pub bit with Eric Morecambe added as a bonus.

The tax thing is a running gag I have with Inveresk House which takes us - Hope! What are you doing? - takes us fairly naturally to an attack on faceless bureaucracy with an excerpt fro
m "Little Dog's Day". I quote from my own forty-odd books not to advertise them but because there is no copyright problem. Also they often say things I said better then.

Margo's mum will notice that grammar is accurately misused - feeling before fetish - and cliches must be apt or scrapped. My own personal counterpoint of
mental aids to thought and expression consists of old song lyrics, my mental ambiences are steamy and strawhatted, Baton Rouge, circa 1925 say, my writing tone-of-voice Negro. I don't know why this is, but it keeps me one happy remove from the clock, the calendar and the 24 bus to Camden Town.

All right, Hope, just a
minute. Yes, I can see you are writing some very good poetry, but so am I. Finally I apologise to Virginia for using her question to make my final point last week. that humour is just as profound as a mortician's catalogue. Particularly when the voice of the policeman is heard in the land (ha ha ha, hee hee hee). Now we can look at what Hope has written on the blackboard.


"The stars look down behind
my back on little women in a slum,
Who slyly scan the al
manac
To see the shape of things to co
me..."

A cute poe
m made of book titles, which brings me without too much of a jerk, I hope, to H G Wells, his lovely old millstream house at Digswell, then coming up for air through the eczema of housing development we arrive at the semi-detached council house where "The Trouble With Harry" was written in the hot summer of 1947.

"You're just in ti
me to cut the lawn, Mr Story!" cries my old neighbour Mr Williams, not without a certain friendly cynical humour. This is not shared by Joe, however, who works hard cultivating what is, I suppose, still officially my garden, on a share-cropping basis with Evelyn. "What him? He don't know what a garden looks like!"

I don't think
Joe likes me. I know you find that incredible. I find it incredible.

You can quite understand Orwell forbidding a biography. Look what's happening to Wells in the Sunday Ti
mes at the moment. Worse if Isabel had gone on washing his socks in Wandsworth, Bertie turning up with birds in big cars over the next 30 years; Jane, Catherine, Wild Violet Hunt, Forever Amber. How fruitful, them, to question friends and neighbours for posterity?

"I don't know about his regenerated State, he never put a bloody hand to spade or fork..."

But the sensitive writer, full of galloping appetites and thirsts, sublimating every morsel of himself to the product, a pig made of pork chops (as I have said elsewhere) must expect to make other pigs nervous, an alien in his own sty. I say, that's rather unfortunate, isn't it, in the whole context. Don't want to offend
Joe. Let's make it lambs. No, I've used lambs. I'll start again - oh shit, it's half past one. Writing for money is a race against time now; if you chew too fast you can come out in the red. (Meaning: hour for hour you can eat more than you earn.)

Tell you what, it's the sensitive writer's business to understand and sympathise with the human condition, the common lot. I always start getting intellectual when I'
m in a bit of a rush. Last week's article about group living (not to be confused in any way at all with shared flatting) brought understandable protest. Sexual intercourse is not easy. Having mastered it with one person you are not going to go through the whole thing again with somebody new if you can help it. This is the principle cause of monogamy and why couples hold hands.

They've got their ho
mes and gardens, I've got 18 odd socks. Class dismissed.



(The Guardian, Saturday 2 June, 1973)

 

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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