This bank holiday
there were a number of good things followed by a number of bad things. On
Friday the sun shone. That's always a stroke of luck, the way things have
been going lately. Unfortunately none of
my cast of 13 players could turn up for the film
I was shooting so I did it on Saturday morning which was, as you'll
remember, cold, dark and horrible. Since there was to be no editing all
my cleverly worked out shots had to be done consecutively - which,
at one mid-morning
stage meant waiting half-an-hour for the poodle to wipe her bottom, an essential part of the plot - which
may give you some idea of its
"Can I have some retakes?" I asked.
Everybody had gone.
Sunday, one of Maggie's closest old aunts came
in. "I've had a letter from Maggie..." When I saw her through the window I
tried to lock the door but she beat me to it. I knew I was about to get
the coup de grace, as they say in Brussels. Is she, isn't she, will
she, won't she? My great dread has been arriving home one day and finding
all her things gone; a museum full of nothing must be worse.
I said: "What did she say?"
"She's bought some new shoes."
We're on the countdown one week from
zero and she buys shoes? Nothing about this? Nothing about that? Me? Him? Poodle's future?
"She liked those beads I sent her..."
What made them close
was Sunday mornings in Petticoat Lane before I came on the scene. This
accounts for the five years I spent trailing around junk shops; not
unwillingly, for I like a girl who enjoys being a girl.
"Don't need some intellectual stimulation?" Jean-Claud asked
me. "An interest in writing?
Support for your career?" That's the last thing I need. Who I love is a
peaceful girl, content within herself. She is also likely to be full of
"Maggie has always been set on marrying an anthropologist," said auntie,
"so you don't have to worry about this Belgium."
I didn't know that, did you?
"Even last Whitsun when we went to the Isle of Wight she was in love with
that man who was just going off digging somewhere." I've an idea she's
talking about archaeologists, dear old thing. You think you know somebody
through and through but you don't; all those years I had
more competition than I knew. "Though she's quite worried about the dog,"
We're all worried about Poodle; watch her in "Eleven Plus" tomorrow
night streak across Hampstead Heath to the nearest woman. I have to
apologise sometimes which makes friends. And wherever she goes she carries
Maggie's rubber bathroom sandals; I find them under my pillow. She sleeps with her nose pressed down on the sole; in the
daytime, that is. At
night it's my turn.
"She told me nothing about what she's doing," said auntie. I'm
not surprised. "But she was very anxious for me to reply quickly."
You're getting the message, I hope. Maggie is getting homesick;
buying new shoes is just a front. Well, that's good news, but now for the
"I told her you're feeling
much better now," auntie said. "Getting around and enjoying
In one brief letter auntie has destroyed twenty-thousand words of
my carefully documented misery
of the past three months. From 13 and a half happy stone I've wasted away
to 11 and three-quarters,
my old clothes are useless and need replacing. I not only need
Maggie, I need her wages.
"What made you lie to
her?" I asked auntie. I've only seen the old girl twice this summer. "I
got it all from your articles," she said. I swear she gets me confused
with Jill Tweedie.
From her non-Scottie dialect you'll detect that she's not a real but an
honorary relative who, nevertheless, has known and cared ever since Maggie
left the farm. "I didn't like you at first," auntie confessed, just to
round off the bank holiday.
How little we know of our closest friends came out quite dramatically at a
game of revelations recently. I didn't know - after nearly 20 years - that
Bill won't touch fish or
meat chops (they're all bone), that Mick cries over weepy films
and books, that Patty is a Catholic, Di is secretly in love with her
professor and that Jan's pretty nose was caused by a fall. They didn't
know that I had never actually seen a woman naked until I met Maggie.
"I always thought of you as being very experienced with women,"
Pamela told me. I'm inclined to overact.
"Leave her to work it out for herself, Jack," was auntie's parting
This "sleeping dogs" attitude puts my back up. What I did was have one,
last mad fling at precipitating a cross-channel decision. I made a
careful selection of Maggie's prettiest clothes and put them in a transparent polythene bag, undies on one side,
Jack-and-Maggie-and-apple-blossom book-jacket on the other. I sent it to
Paul c/o the British Embassy in Brussels.
"I don't know what you hope to gain from that," Bill said. Well one day
Maggie will have something to tell her grandchildren.
"Come to your nanny, my little babby," she used to sing to me on our
long drives, "I'll gi' ye a bauble to buy a candy bar." She was a great
sentimentalist up until the time she changed her nationality. That
little "heeland" bull on the windscreen shelf of our car, made of kind
of clothes-pegs and gingery-hair, is called Kilbreck after a
mountain we drove around for three days in August 1968.
"If you're going to wait for a girl to sing you Scottish nursery rhymes,
" Eileen told me, "you've got a long, hard search ahead of you." For
your sake as well as mine I'll find somebody new by the Spring; I'm
starting snoring auditions when the nights draw in.
Eileen is one of our
many friends now returning from
their arduous holidays all over the world with their snapshots and their
little triangular white patches. Stephanie for instance has come hotfoot from Larry in Los
Angeles. I'm not surprised to find that he is the power behind most of
the big election stories from the US. Who pays him?
Stephanie said: "Oh, he works part-time in a drug store and gets social
food." Instead of national security money they get food vouchers; pay 35
cents for one and it's worth $35 in food. I don't know why he's trying
to change such a benevolent system. If we had the same thing here we'd just about break even, though nobody would accept
it except the aristocracy, who have no pride. We were brought up on
parcels from the
NSPCC, partly because my mother was in love with Inspector Cook.
Before I forget, I've got a date in the Coach with Pamela for August 28,
1973. What's happened to us this summer we now blame on Tutankhamun and God help
Moscow when he arrives there. "One year tonight, ask me to marry you
again," Pamela said. By that time she'll be a schoolteacher and probably
glad of a little light relief. I'd like to get my third family started
now so they're ready to take over in case my boys' photographic business
falls off; I might be writing poetry by then (I seem to be running out
of quotations) and there's no money in that.
Meanwhile my millionaire son Peter Lang has asked me to buy a nice old
farmhouse for him which we can all use at convenient times and share our
chattels. It's a good reason for my hitting the road tomorrow. We won't
be picking blackberries in Portreath this autumn and I don't want to be here on "D" for deportation day.
"What shall I tell Leslie Grade if he wants to take an option on 'One
Last Mad Embrace'?"
Linda Seifert just asked me. Tell him no options; what we want at this
stage is money. I've had so many offers for that book - starting with
Clive Donner when it first came out - and not once has anybody
mentioned money. Talking to
Patricia Roc yesterday (Wicked Lady) she told
me her husband's in the grain business. I think he's
made a wise choice.
The good thing that followed the bad things is seeing a rough-cut of
this little 8mm movie for London Weekend. It's another of my audition
films made with the sole object of launching me and Bill and the rest of
my column into a new comedy series called "Who Needs Enemies". Missing
from the cast, unhappily, is you-know-who and also my good friend Joyce
who lives in Brussels, and has kept me that much closer to old Scottie
Personal footnote to Maggie: if you want to get into the pad, the key is
with Rodney. Don't use the butter - it's two months old.
(The Guardian, Saturday 2 September 1972)