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UNCOLLECTED GUARDIAN PIECES

JTS columns from the Guardian newspaper

 
7. Tutankhamun, Go Home


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 profundity.

"Can I have so
me retakes?" I asked.

Everybody had gone.

Sunday, one of Maggie's closest old aunts ca
me 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 so
me new shoes."

We're on the countdown one week fro
m 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 so
me 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 secrets.

"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," auntie added.

We're all worried about Poodle; watch her in "Eleven Plus" to
morrow 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 bad.

"I told her you're feeling
much better now," auntie said. "Getting around and enjoying yourself..."

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 wo
men," Pamela told me. I'm inclined to overact.

"Leave her to work it out for herself, Jack," was auntie's parting advice.

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 the
m in a transparent polythene bag, undies on one side, my new 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 rhy
mes, " 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 syste
m. 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 su
mmer 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 autu
mn 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 E
mbrace'?" 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 Boyd.

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 Septe
mber 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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