Credit where it's due. "Crying Makes
Your Nose Run",
my neurotic's guide to the broken relationship which will be
published round about the time of the Brussels Book Fair - though too explicit I should think to
get through Customs - (all about this lover, Edgar R Wallace, who tries to be a
cripple so that his girl-friend won't leave him),
is dedicated to that truly lovely person, leaping onion, temps delight, M'sieur Paul.
Said: "Don't you think that's a bit vindictive?" Said: "Yes, I think so."
Said: "You're a bad loser." Said: "I haven't lost yet." Said: "If you open
that parcel and your book's inside it you'll be lost." Said: "An egg is
not bad until it's broken."
The greatest decision you can
make, Father Jack replied to his lad, is never to accept other
people's great decisions until you're certain they are of sound
mind and judgement and not
just temporarily annoyed at something you might have said or done though
heaven knows what.
Margot, my Mary Poppins copywriter, spread her fairy tale dress around her
and with the point of her little parasol searched the grass around our
feet by the park bench for something I might have said in one of my
fusillade of whimsical or sad or funny or illustrated or pleading or
casual and uncaring letters and postcards.
"You tell her that you love her?" All the time. "You never say you forgive
her or anything chauvinistic like that?" Gracious no, why should I? I was
going to die anyway. "Does she know that you know that you're different
people now?" I've completely altered
my signature. "Do you remind
her of old times?" Sometimes though I seldom mention poodle or her castor
oil plant which would be, as we say in the
movies, a cut-price tearjerker. "Does she know that everything is as
she left it?"
That's the last thing I'd tell Maggie. I
mean she knows, but I haven't
told her. A month ago I was going to live in Paris over the Shakespeare
bookshop, then I had this 70ft. converted barge on the Sussex Ouse. The
first thing you do if you want to change your life completely is buy Exchange and Mart. I've thrown up vague, shadowy images
of log cabins, heeland crofts, me swinging sheep into the dip, carving a
herb garden out of bare rock with my bare hands. Jack Straw's Castle in
the sun is the place to do it. What better name for my local?
Said: "What about you and other women?" Said: "I'm always honest with
Maggie. I wouldn't want her to feel rotten."
The point of the parasol
missed a worm by the skin of its tail. I think it also
missed the point; my purity is
of no more consequence in Brussels than how often I cut my toenails.
Perhaps I've caused some kind of embarrassment, I do hope not. But I've
never quite believed in Richard's 300-mile journey to report the Avenue Molière disruption. I never had so
much as a postcard from
him either before or since.
Said: "She wouldn't want you to annoy Paul whether they've broken up or
When Maggie cuts she cuts. After Soapy Joe and his debt collection,
picking her up for a bar lunch every Friday for 15 months, I caught her
looking sad and suggested a return visit to the Islington pub, Said: "What
for?" No use getting sentimental for her. When Maggie charts a new course, you have got to be
a new star.
"Said" is one of her little anecdotal waggish things like "Cup tea!"
without the "of". This week being the first anniversary of the drive to
Dover, I've been playing her tape. You can hear this tin alarm
clock ticking and there's a television programme about Edith Piaf in
background. Crockery noises crash over a good deal of her bright, unaware
conversation and towards the end, late at night, she keeps asking me a
question which never got answered.
"What happened?" asks Albert in the play I've just finished. Eleanor says:
"Everything. I still love him," "I've got some like that," says Albert.
So there was big Peter,
my Peter, Lee, Lee girl, Haidi, Tony, Harry, Bob, Geoffrey, Debby
and her chap and a beautiful giantess who nobody knew
much about. When you get your
head up after a writing stint you check the fences, see if everyone's
still there. Oh yes, Mary was there, an old Maggie disciple. They looked
at me and then at each other and then I got the reason.
"Mum's in the loo..."
That's twice in the past six
months to my certain knowledge she's been in a pub. "Hallo!" she said, when
she joined us. "Hallo!" I said. There was
more emotion round the dart
board. Marriage and after is war and peace. It's like Irish Tony
describing the dead, which I have never yet seen, which he was anxious to
assure me held no terrors. "It's beauty. It's peace. Everything gone. All
the agony and the grasping."
"Here," said mum, as if
wracking her brains for something to talk about, "are we divorced?" I
don't think so. She said: "I never heard anything more after that first
letter from your solicitor."
I really ought to open some of those letters with windows.
Sunday teatime I
dreamed a terrible aeroplane crash. It roared up, no wings, no tail, no
fuselage, just a noisy, flat crumpet with three propellers spaced across
the front. The one closest to
me had stopped turning and everybody knew it was doomed
though there was a feeling that if I could have climbed to the top of a
precarious trellis-work bridge in time it would have
missed the ground. Poodle slipped between the holes and with
my arms full of something I
only just managed to grab her by an ear and the ball of fire burst up from beyond the trees.
Laying and thinking about it afterwards I got the last act of the play,
which is all set in a pub.
Said: "How do you write?" Said: "You have to keep going to sleep."
fishing the air, old worms, old voices.
"What's that stink?" asked Maggie, this week last year. She had gone to
the Isle of Wight for Whitsun but got bored and came home on the Saturday
morning. It had been one of those really unlucky nights for
me, two girls right out of the
blue on my only free night, one sick in the car. Vomit and Jeyes Fluid
remained with us right up to the final hug by the hovercraft bus, a
football team waiting to come past.
"Even after a week I didn't feel the same about you. It depressed me. I
"She didn't know yet that splendour was something in the heart..." there you
are, that's good old Scott Fitzgerald in love with Lois Moran and writing
"Jacob's Ladder". I mean that's your actual poet. What do girls know about how they
feel? I'm in charge of
this affair, Maggie, so just hang around the
and wait for the book - and don't send it back this time.
"Silently, as the night hours went by, he
moulded her over into an image
of love - an image that would endure as long as love itself, or even
longer - not to perish till he could say, 'I never really loved her'.
Slowly he created it with this and that illusion from his youth, this and
that sad old yearning, until she stood before him identical with her old
self only by name..."
(The Guardian, Saturday 9 June 1973)