John Lawrence

Regent Street lights 12.64Reindeer was the theme of 1964’s Regent Street lights.  I was there that December, never dreaming I would one day send the image around the world as an advent calendar picture.

I very rarely read a book twice, especially by accident.  In my ‘Bookmarks’ post I explained one of my methods for ensuring this.  When I recently began to read the Folio Society ‘The Best of Raconteurs, I felt sure I had read this collection of anecdotes, but a quick glance didn’t trigger any memories, except for one extract from Jessica Mitford and another from Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle.  I knew that I had read the books from which they were taken.  Not only that, but there appeared to be no marker enclosed.  Imagine my dismay, then, when last night between pages 236 and 237 I found a very thin till receipt from Headmasters (my hairdressers at the time)  of Wimbledon Village dated 11.11.10.  There is no escaping the fact that I have almost finished reading a book twice.

Pondering the receipt’s date I realise that I read the book in my post-operative state in our Ridgway flat.  Still on pain relief and precautionary blood-thinner; suffering from an infection picked up in my two nights and one day in hospital; and recovering from the anaesthetic required for a hip replacement, I wasn’t really very with it.  That’s my excuse, any way.  It is absolutely nothing whatever to do with my age.  Now, where was I?

Enhanced by John Lawrence’s delightful illustrations, the selection made by Sheridan Morley and Tim Heald consists of snippets of a few lines, or pieces ten or more pages long; some humorous, some descriptive, some historical, some salutary.

The artist is one of my favourite book illustrators.  His deceptively sketchy style belies the careful work that has gone into making the numerous humorous and lively little vignettes scattered amidst the text.  The cover boards of the slender volume bear representations of examples of some of the contributors seated around an after dinner table. Folio Raconteurs As the front cover alone shows, Lawrence has provided images of such articulate accuracy that we immediately know that we will be treated to pieces from the pens or the mouths of, clockwise from top left, Joyce Grenfell, Groucho Marx, Woody Allen, George Bernard Shaw, Robert Morley and Dr Samuel Johnson.

This afternoon I made a start on Voltaire’s ‘Le blanc et le noir’.

Threatened with a storm to render our journey dangerous, we set off earlier than usual for the annual prebendal choristers’ carol service at Chichester Cathedral, after which, along with Becky, Flo, and Ian we are booked into The Crown at Emsworth for our dinner.  By the time we return home it will be too late to post the events, so I will report again toorrow.

Taking A Hint

Emily is now a nineteen year old student of Art History at Nottingham University.  As I gazed skywards this morning, whilst waiting for Jackie to unlock the car to take me to the station for my London trip for visits to Norman and Carol, I saw one of my granddaughter’s first drawings.  When asked what she had reproduced with a white chalk line across black paper, she replied ‘an aeroplane’.  She was about two. Jet plane Such are the advances in technology in the intervening years that the camera can now clearly show the two jet streams and the plane itself, not so visible to even the two year old naked eye.

The quiet coach on the outward journey wasn’t.  Halfway along the carriage were seated three elderly women, at least one probably hard of hearing.  One didn’t get much of a word in, but the other two more than made up for her.  Intimate domestic arrangements; stories of cruises; the layout of London streets; how to care for nails; and many other enlightening topics distracted me from my Susan Hill.  Although packed, the return train was much quieter and I was able to finish reading ‘The Magic Apple Tree’, being a record of a year in the country.  I don’t know when blogs began, but this delightful book, first published in 1982, has all the ingredients of one.  The writer even describes gardening; growing, cooking, and eating food; and offers various recipes of her own.  She takes us through the changing seasons and their affects.  I was reading one of my late friend Ann’s volumes. John Lawrence's Winter I bought my own copy as much for John Lawrence’s marvellous engravings as for anything else.

I walked the usual route from Waterloo to Green Park and took the Jubilee Line to Neasden. From Waterloo Station road bridge A footbridge spans the road from Waterloo Station and the South Bank of the River Thames.  Crossing a square and descending some rather loose steps takes one to the London Eye.  At the top of these steps stood a young woman with a child in a buggy.  Her older companion, looking past me, the only person in sight, observed ‘we are going to have to get someone to help you.  I can’t, because of my back’.  Undeterred by my apparent invisibility , I took the hint and the bottom of the buggy.

Piper on Westminster BridgeThe gilt on the Westminster Bridge lamp stands glinted behind the lone piper as he mopped his brow and swigged some bottled water.  He has stood on that spot, puffing away, all through the recent cold months.  Now in shirt sleeves, ‘I’m not complaining’, he said of the warmer weather.

In St James’s Park, I was just in time to alert a woman crouching to be photographed with a little girl that her strawberries and cream were sliding off the folded over cardboard plate clutched in her downward stretched right hand as she concentrated on putting her left arm around the child.  It probably would have made a great picture, but it would have been rather cruel just to let it happen, even for the sake of art.

An authentically dressed, youngish, woman stood at her easel endeavouring to capture in pastels a gorgeous display of flowering cherry blossom. Pastel Painter, St. James's Park When asked if I could photograph her she said she wasn’t happy with the painting.  She had one with which she was much more satisfied in her portfolio case.  It was clearly a day for taking a hint, so I asked if I could see it.  She took pleasure in unwrapping it for a private viewing.  It was indeed very good, but of a different scene.  I explained that I was more interested in her and her activity than in simply recording the result.  She was both happy and relieved.

For a change, Norman having had an operation four days ago, I brought the food and he produced the wine.  Jackie had selected and bought the stilton and cauliflower soup; the gala pie salad; and the brioche bread and butter pudding.  The wine was an excellent Greek cabernet sauvignon.

Afterwards I visited Carol, then returned home by the usual routes, Jackie waiting at Southampton Airport Parkway to drive me to our flat.