Incontrovertible Clarification

In recent days I have begun reading Neal Ascherson’s ‘Black Sea’.
Last night on BBC iPlayer Jackie and I watched John Landis’s 2010 send-up of the ‘Burke and Hare’ tragedy. I thought it perhaps questionable that such an horrific story based on two real serial killers should be thought fitting for comedy. Nevertheless I did, indeed find it funny. All credit to the director; the writers, Piers Ashworth and Nick Moorcroft; and the cast, for achieving that. Andy Serkis and Simon Pegg play the two villains; Pegg the somewhat perplexed follower struggling with his conscience; and Serkis the devious opportunist lacking such a thing. Isla Fisher is the scheming love object, and Tom Wilkinson the crafty surgeon who turns a blind eye to the means of death of the supply of bodies he commissions. Bill Bailey fulfils the classical chorus role, and a score of other well-known faces enjoy taking part in this scurrilous romp. Mind you, not much movement is required from Christopher Lee. This was undemanding light entertainment for someone who had been working at the computer all day.
Regular readers will know I had been retrieving and scanning Covent Garden negatives from my archives. I finished that particular roll of film this morning.  In 1982, when I think I took the photographs, that now very salubrious area of London was still in the process of transformation from the fruit and vegetable market dating back to the seventeenth century into an enclave that boasts numerous outlets for dining on its former produce, as well as meat from Smithfield, fish from Billingsgate, and culinary delights from all over the world. Guitarist 9.82The redevelopment of Nine Elms in Vauxhall, to house the New Covent Garden Market, began in 1971.  Trading began there in 1974.
When we lived in Soho, the old Covent Garden was ripe for speculators who moved in steadily to change what had become a daily craft market where people sold their own work into an outlet for more manufactured goods; and to convert some of the old buildings into classy shops and restaurants. It remains a thriving area, if lacking the old world charm of the ’70s and ’80s. Bustling cafes have open-air seating, and buskers, like my guitarist, still perform to enthralled crowds, such as those I pictured in September 1982. Boy on shoulders in crowd 9.82What my former neighbour John Bussell, a radio 2 producer, would have called ‘serious music’, was also presented to rapt crowds. Musicians Covent Garden 9.82John believed ‘classical’ was a misguided term for what should more accurately be termed serious. I’m sure the more decoratively dressed guitarist would have taken his music just as seriously as those who played with the aid of sheet music.
It seems to be a time for unearthing lost treasures. Slips on stall 6.83Today’s discovery should please my granddaughter Alice, for it was the negative of the framed print she ‘snaffled’ on 2nd September last year. It featured one of the craft stalls mentioned above. Perhaps I had Smithfield Market in mind when I saw this as a visual pun and hung the enlargement on the wall of the dining room in Lindum House. In my post of the following day I recorded that I had been unable to trace the colour slide from which the print was made. That is hardly surprising, because I should have been searching for a negative. I also erroneously dated this in the mid 1970s. This morning’s discovery came with an incontrovertible clarification in the form of the previous frame on the strip.Louisa 6.83 That is a picture of Louisa, born on 24th May 1982, lolling in a large armchair. I think you can work it out for yourself.
Well into the afternoon we took a drive out to The Foresters Arms at Frogham. Incessant rain, with gathering momentum, had fallen throughout the day. Much of it lay across the lanes of the north of the forest; surrounding the trees in vast pools; and turning the heathland into a few dryish winding strips between acres of water. Noisy torrents rushed over the fords. Those few ponies in view looked bedraggled as they squelched about in search of fodder.
Ford overflowing
At Blissford we came to a standstill. Water roared over the concrete and into the swollen stream, sending a wave back up the road as it ricocheted on the teeming surface. In the distance men in an emergency van’s gondola attended to overhead wires.  There was no choice but to turn back and take a wide diversion. Customers in the pub could not believe the photos I showed them were of Blissford. Only when Michelle, the manager, pointed out the telltale farm machinery at the roadside were they convinced.
Headlights in floodwater
The return journey, in the dark, with oncoming vehicles’ blinding headlights magnified by water on our windscreen and by the waves thrown up by Jackie’s own car, and reflected in the lakes the car had to skate through, was even more nerve-wracking for my chauffeuse.
Back in the safety of our flat we dined on Jackie’s tasty and tender heart casserole, cabbage, carrots, and mashed potato and parsnip with a sprinkling of paprika.

9 comments

  1. I remember the Covent Garden area of the late 70s well, as I had a short term job at a publishers in Soho, and later at a legal firm nearby. It was one of my favourite parts of London. Cute Louisa, totally out to it.

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