A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Noël Coward, Hycroft & The Mystery Bassoonist
Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Excuses sometimes happen for very good reasons. For example it is very pleasant to be depressed if one then has the excuse to ameliorate it with the purchase of a pair of shoes or a thick chocolate milkshake at The Red Onion on 41st Avenue in Kerrisdale.

In the case here the excuse is hazy. The excuse is a book I bought for a quarter not too long ago at a book bin in Safeway at Oakridge Centre. It came as a discard from the West Vancouver Memorial Library. It is a 1982 British Edition (Butler & Tanner Ltd) of The Noël Coward Diaries edited by Graham Payn & Sheridan Morley. The picture of Noël Coward may have been taken in the 60s judging by the tie and the vintage typewriter (could it be a Hermes or an Olivetti?). But the other photos could represent the Coward years earlier in the 20s and 30s.

The diary covers from 1941 to 1969 which is way off, to match the look of the photographs I took perhaps 15 years ago at Hycroft (the University Women's Club of Vancouver) at 16th and MacRae Avenue. The clothing and underwear came from the collection of Ivan Sayers and the Vancouver Museum.

But the excuse is sufficient for me to note here some of my favourite entries of this book that never leaves my bedside table.

Saturday August 6 1960 Paris

....I have just read carefully, Waiting for Godot, and in my considered opinion it is pretentious giberish, without any claim of importance whatsoever. I know that it received great critical acclaim and I also know that it's silly to go on saying how stupid the critics are, but this really enrages me. It is nothing but phoney surrealism with occasional references to Christ and mankind. It has no form, no basic philosopy and absolutely no lucidity. It's too conscious to be written off as mad. It's just a waste of everybody's time and it made me ashamed to think that such balls could be taken seriously for the moment.

To continue in this carping vein, I have also read The Charioteer by Miss Mary Renault. Oh dear, I do wish well-intentioned ladies would not write books about homosexuality. This one is turgid, unreal and so ghastly earnest. It takes the hero - soi-disant - three hundred pages to reconcile himself to being queer as a coot, and his soul-searching and deep, deep introspection is truly awful. There are 'queer' parties in which everyone calls everyone 'my dear' a good deal, and over the whole book is a shimmering lack of understanding of the subject. I'm sure the poor woman meant well but I wish she'd stick to recreating the glory that was Greece and not fuck about with dear old modern homos.

Tuesday 11 December 1962 London

....On Monday I lunched with Joyce and did some shopping, and in the evening took Rebecca to the premiere of Lawrence of Arabia. It was a grand gala for the Queen, Prince Philip and all. A truly magnificent picture, brilliantly directed and acted and superbly photographed. Peter O'Toole very fine and far, far more attractive than Lawrence could ever hope to be. I said to him afterwards that if Lawrence had looked like him there would have been many more than twelve Turks queueing up for the buggering session....

The woman (right) on the first photograph above is Patricia Keen one of the bassoonists of the Vancouver Philharmonic Orchestra. She is also the woman in the second photograph, right.


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