Thursday, 20 March 2014

20th March 1934 - Terrick to Mary



Thanks for your letters.  I hope you can come to Wensley.  Surely your mother will see enough of you in a month!

I discovered that Sadler's Wells is not open on Mondays, so Rosemary and I shall be coming on Thursday, it being the only day we can both manage.  Shall we meet outside the theatre?  What seats were you thinking of taking?

I don't see anything funny in Rosemary suggesting you should come too.  She has heard all about you from me.  She and I are like you and Verney - as much friends as cousins.

I had a scream of a time last night.  I saw an advertisement in the Daily Worker, the communist paper, of the inaugural meeting of "The West-London Workers' Arts Club" at 8 p.m. in Hammersmith.  So I went down to see if there was any likelihood of my finding a market for some of the kind of stuff I enjoy writing.  I got to the place at a quarter to eight.  It was a private house of a most respectable kind in a most respectable road, but though many of the houses were lit up, No 34, the one in question, was as black as the grave.  There was only one light coming from the back-door in the area-basement.  I thought this odd and decided to wait and see other people going in.  But nobody did.

At three minutes to eight when, in spite of the fact that I had checked the name and number of the road most carefully, I came I came to the conclusion that this must be the wrong house, a fellow came up wheeling a bicycle and said: "Is this Hazlitt Rd?"  I said "Yes" and he looked up to the dark fanlight over the front door and said: "This is number 34".

"Have you come to a meeting?" I asked.  He said he had and I told him that we appeared to be the only people who had.  He had an educated voice, but was very poorly dressed with a sweater instead of collar and tie, and was as ugly as sin.  About my own age.

He said that he would wait with me and that if nobody had come by 8 o'clock he would slip round to the offices of the local Communist Party and verify the place and time.

Eventually we waited till nearly five past eight and then decided to go and ask at the back-door.  He chained up his bike to the area railings and down we went.

                         A girl in a red jumper answered the door.
                         "Have you come for Sloane?" she asked.
                         "Well we've come to a meeting".
                         "Yes, Sloane is waiting for you".
And in we went.

Have you ever read the Modern Arabian nights? (I think that is the name) by R.L. Stevenson? The situation exactly reminded me of it.

The girl showed us into a kitchen, complete with stove and dresser with flowered china plates and hard kitchen chairs.  The only unkitcheny thing about it was that the table was covered with a dark red cloth.  By the stove another woman sat knitting.  She was about 35 and dressed in a flowered-overall.  "Come in" she said "Sloane's not here yet.  he's always late. When he gets married his bride will wait at the church all night ofr him.  He hasn't had anything to eat since breakfast.  Sit down.  You won't grow good.  You're past that, aren't you."

We took off our coats and sat down.  Then the woman said: "Well, we'll leave you now", and she and the girl in the red jumper went out.

The ugly fellow and I sat one on each side of the stove and talked, till after five minutes or so we heard voices and footsteps upstairs on the ground floor.  The woman was calling out: "Down the stairs! Now to your left!  The second door". Several people seemed to be coming downstairs and walking up and down the passage in a hesitant sort of way, so I called out: "Here we are!" There was a knock a the door.  I said, "Come in", and a man's face appeared round the side of the door.  It was decorated with spectacles one glass of which was black!

I repeated "come in" and the man came round the door holding a bowler hat nervously in front of him.  A woman and a girl came in after him.

                  "Is this the meeting?" asked the man.
                  "We don't know", I said as cryptically as possibly
                  "Who's the host?"
                  "He hasn't arrived"

A minute or two later, after the same calling from upstairs a man of about 28 with a most charming smile and attractive brown eyes came in.  He beamed at us and I thought that this must be the mysterious Sloane.  However, his first words were:

                  "Which is the host?"
                  "He hasn't arrived": I said
                  "Who is he?"
                  "Sloane", said I as if that explained everything.
                  "But Sloane's in Moscow! I was talking to him there only a fortnight ago."

It was only after he had spoken a bit that one could tell that this fellow was a foreigner.  His name I found later was Osakiavski.

More people trickled in.  One looked like the pictures of Maxim Gorki, another was the kind of woman who runs the G.F.S. and a third was the typical headmistress of an aristocratic girl's school.  It was most incongruous to hear her say later in her high-falutin' accent: "It is essential that it should be revolutionary in it's tendency".

When there were nine of us, Sloane suddenly burst in.  He was a rather handsome young Jew.

"I'm awfully sorry to be late.  Have you been waiting long?" ("No", said somebody) "Do you mind waiting now while I get some grub?" (No, said somebody again) and out he went, leaving us to talk for about quarter of an hour till he came back.

And this is where things should reach a climax, and also where they don't.  The tone of the evening switches from being intriguing to being amusing.  The meeting was a gem but quite different from the incidents leading up to it.  If you feel inventive you can supply a good exciting end to the above and send it to the magazines.  It is all exactly true, for while it was happening I kept thinking "Oh, wouldn't Mary love this! I must tell her all about it" and I noted all the interesting bits most carefully.

Here is a selection of books that I should like for my birthday:

                           1) The Face of London                              7/6
                           2) The Psalms for Modern Life               6/6
                           3) The Philosophy of Communism           ?
First Edition of 4) Three Plays by Bernard Shaw            7/6    (On the Rocks, Too True to    )
                           5) Words & Places (Everyman Edition)  2/-    (be Good, The Village Wooing)
                           6) The Study of Words (   "             "    )  2/-
                           7) Anglo-Saxon Poetry (   "             "    )  2/-
                           8) Thesaraus of English Words & Phrase 4/- (Everyman Ed. 2 vols)

5 & 6 will be useful for "Robin Hood", 7 will be useful for Edwy, I want a real Anglo-Saxon song to take the place of my uninspired verse in Act II, 8 will be useful for every kind of writing, 1 is to increase my pleasure in my trips about London, 2 is for the fine wood-cuts that bring the psalms to life again, 4 is for pleasure and also for examples of dramatic technique, 3 is of course political.  You can take your pick.

How did you like "the Wind and the Rain"?  have pity on poor Andrew Pairs.  You seem to have started again leading him up the garden.  Hit someone your own size.

I must stop now and get down to work at Edwy.

This time last year I was doing midnight bathes at Mentone! Ugh! This morning the fog at Hampstead was so dense that we had to have breakfast by electric light.  But I wouldn't swop for a hundred pounds.

Goodbye, dear, till tomorrow evening.

I love you.


No comments:

Post a Comment