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UNCOLLECTED GUARDIAN PIECES

JTS columns from the Guardian newspaper

 
25. Acorn Rising


Onions have gone down to 10p a pound but it's a bit too late for so
me of us. Inveresk House have now given me four weeks to leave the country and one of the kindest characters in my column has been sent to prison for five years for burglary. In Brussels the silence seems to have grown hostile though I'm sure it's only in my mind. Together, after a quarrel, Maggie would put her face against my chest - my white linen jacket has a sweet indelible little crescent of lash-black on it - and I would soothe her back to understanding. Apart, the most I can do is face Highgate's green church steeple and concentrate towards the east. Bit primitive, really.

"It might help if you stop writing about her," Sally said.

She's right. I'll stop to
morrow. I decide much more often now, especially with somebody like Sally Head, who is the London end of Warner Brothers' story department. Last week I wrote the Maggie story for ATV, this week I've written it for Warner Brothers. I had to set it in Hawaii, give her eight children and call her Tondelayo.

"You see, the creative e
motion thrives on heartbreak, parting and sorrow," I explained, quoting some old fragment. "Happy reunions don't seem to do anything. The rich, moving stuff comes from the memory of what you once had and you're now missing."

"Yes, indeed," said Sally.

It was Thursday afternoon last week, very hot and steamy and noisy in Soho if you remember. We had been to a preview theatre and then I broke down in
Wardour Street, in a coffee bar. There is a special girl, about 27 to 30 - motherly for me, you'll agree (remember Scott Fitzgerald's "well preserved woman of 25" in one of his early books?) - who has this warm, balming effect of mavericks in search of a corral. Yesterday's picture now has a frame and you could live with it. Who wants a clothes horse?

"You never lived with anybody in your life," Elaine told me. I forget the occasion, fortunately. "You live alone, whoever you're with." I still prefer my prison to Her Majesty's.

Freshen up the Ca
mpari with a bit more ice, thank a good accountant you're not living sweat-by-urine in a small locked box with two strangers, slopping out every morning, wondering in the night whether your wife and kids have been forced on the street by a righteous social security officer, and try to guess who master-minded which gold bullion robbery that might be equal to five years' of a man's life and freedom. The article was "Maggie Come Home" and here is the cast in order of appearance:

Me, Maggie, Poodle, the Mills Brothers, Fats Waller, Manpower, Di, Welsh betty, Derek, Mr Whippy, Jonathan Cape, Lee, Richard, Peter Haigh, Jill Adams, Pedro, his daughters, Wordsworth, Andy Williams, Shakespeare, pretty Belgian girl.

No, Hope, it wasn't Shakespeare.

But I don't want to
make a game out of a friend's suffering and humiliation. "And talking of hoop-la," I said, "the best cup of tea in Hampstead now comes from Pedro and his daughters at the kiosk on the resident fairground in the Vale of Health..."

Pedro always struck
me as being a great success as a father, which is the one thing you can't make any money at. You would think that anything that little man could pick up for his wife and five kids, the squirrels could do it better. You know those shy people who call you John because they feel that Jack is too familiar?

"Hey, John! Have a cup of tea. I don't want your money. Sausage roll? Rock bun? This is my little girl. Pour the gentleman a cup of tea."

One day Pedro cracked a saucer so that Poodle could drink without breaking any hygiene laws. Then another day he wasn't there anymore. They say in the Vale he was unlucky (was there ever any question of it?); he might have got off lightly with another judge or the sa
me judge on another day. His case will be reviewed in the Appeal Court next Tuesday. Let's wait and see what terrible crime he committed to get himself shut away from his family until they've forgotten him.


My wide experience of judges co
mes mostly from Ealing comedies where they were played by the late Miles Malleson (who shared a room with Rupert Brooke at King's College). Like the Pope in "The Wind in the Snottygobble Tree" they have that jolly tricky job of being at once human, fallible, and omnipotent. Thos was the way the Mafia switched popes.

No doubt, gout apart, judges are right most of the time. And if they're not, what's a year here and there in so
mebody else's life? The trick is catching his Lordship in the right mood, singing in the bath, for instance:

"Sometimes I'm happy,
Sometimes I'm blue,
My disposition,
Depends upon you..."

Meanwhile, over in the Strand, the tax girl has given me four weeks to perform a task that Hercules might have refused on sight: provide accounts covering the past five years. The kind of bread I earn, accountants cost more than income tax. Mine generally leave me floundering at the inevitable stage (think of a number, double it) where it is suggested that you hand over 100 to show good faith.

Who dreams up this mystic sum, unborrowed, unmortgaged, unencumbered and unobtainable? And that's only a token of the immense amounts they're going to juggle with once they know you're faithful. Except in America, where the story is considered a fairly important part of a film, I've never known writing to yield more than cigarettes, whisky and a few wildish women. We don't write for success in our own time. When you put clean paper in the machine you are John Evelyn and Admiral Collingwood planting acorns for future ships of the line.

Listen, blue eyes, SLR 10295/73/EW, or whatever your name is - you wanna know something? You can't get sap out of an acorn. You don't want Finnegan's Wake, you want to go for the woodchopper's balls.



(The Guardian, Saturday 16 June 1973)

NB: "Maggie Co
me Home" appeared in "Letters To An Intimate Stranger", 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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