July 5th, 2007


Blue note

And so farewell! George Melly.

A wonderful if campy singer of traditional jazz; a memoirist who managed to make me laugh out loud on many occasions; an expert on surrealism; the author of Revolt into Style, one of the best books on why there should be no gap between popular and high culture, nor is there when properly considered.

I heard him sing once in a bar in West London - the consequences of that evening in the mid-70s were such that I never went to hear him live again for fear of another attack of selfish madness like the one that possessed me then. From time to time, I saw him across rooms and never had the guts to go over and tell him how much I admired him; the last time I saw him was on the steps of Tate Britain a year or two ago, by which time he was already known to be dying and somewhat frail. I could have spoken to him by then, because he probably even knew who I was as a result of the Buffy book - he was known to admire the show - but it seemed an intrusion.

And now he is dead, alas! so that decision is without appeal to subsequent oppurtunity.


Which makes me even gladder that I have managed to track down Helena Reckitt whom I used to know years and years ago when she was Talks Officer at the ICA and is now a curator in Toronto. Helena is one of those people who turn out to have affected the eventual direction of my life. Like Melly, she helped me feel that my fascination with popular culture was an intellectually valid pursuit, and I owe her a debt of gratitude, which, having tracked her down, I got to express yesterday.

When in doubt, cross that rooom and make that call.

Have I ever remarked?

How much I love my life sometimes?

I got a call this afternoon from my friend Rachel Pollack who was passing through town on her way to some Tarot thing and to visit mevennen and so I headed off into town and had an extended teatime with her in Coffee, Cake and Kink which is probably my favourite art gallery/teashop/fetish bookshop in spite of having the most perverse and bizarre staircase in the whole of London - as you would expect.

Rachel - wonderful novelist, expert on Tarot to an extent that has been known to shake my agnosticism - is one of my very dearest and oldest friends apart from Oxford people; I met her in late 1971. Which is a scary thought.

(Actually, she read my cards once and predicted accurately that none of the people I thought I was in love with were relevant, but that I was already unknowingly involved with someone who was important, though not necessarily in a good and fulfilling way. Now, that's what I call prediction, and I am on the whole clear I never want a prediction that accurate again, because they mess up your next moves rather a lot. And yes, I know this is the sort of thing that happens to Angel and Wesley all the time - hence my sympathy for them.)

Then I jumped on a bus, with THE RUDEST DRIVER IN THE WORLD, up to Islington. Or rather to Rosebery Avenue. Do you look at the destination when you run for a bus? I thought not. Do people who get on a bus from behind go to the front and check? I think not. Do people who are already on a bus when it changes its destination have any way of knowing that fact? Obviously not.

He kept saying 'I'm not going to Finsbury Park' but wouldn't say where he was going - asking people if they could read which, if they were already on the bus, was hardly helpful since they would have to have got off the bus to do it. As I said to him, you know, it would cost you nothing to tell the bus over the PA system where you are going, since half your passengers seem not to know. He said if I didn't like it, I should get off.

And then he stopped a stop short of where the front of the bus said he was going to - at the New River Works rather than at Sadlers Wells. When I asked for the number so I could report him for this, he gave me the wrong phone number - I have, however, written his bus number down and will complain in the morning, I think.

I know people were harrassed today, but he took being difficult and grumpy into a new area...

And then I had a plate of vegetables at Carluccio's with various breads to mop them up - yummy.

My friend Errollyn has written an opera for the Almeida, about the Silent Twins, those two adolescents who were sent to Broadmoor and communicated in private language. I'll be writing about it in the morning, so will not say much here, except that it was one of the best new operatic scores I have heard in ages. Anyone who can get tickets, should get tickets - an hour and a half of beautiful and haunting sounds embedded in a deeply moving story about communication and loss.