And Gutenberg Lived Here: And All Points West

I know-

actually I’m hoping-

that some of you have wondered why my blog was not up in the last couple of days-

answer:

busman’s holiday.

Make that:

a last-minute secretive midnight-ish invite,

a crazy three-day preparation period,

during which I had to handle the usual-

and unusual-

things everyone goes through in this biz

like buying daily contacts since the regular ones bog down in the city dust,

actually not so bad this time,

a plasticized raincoat that is not only anti-peasouper,

but also warm,

I didn’t need either,

heavy-duty black hiking shoes that aren’t too disgusting when being introduced to one of the ones who invited you,

when traveling as a musician to:

London.

Yes.

London.

Land of mystic,

mystery,

Michael Caine accents,

the mouth of the Thames,

and the weighted feet of the South Bank book-sellers’ tables,

Cleopatra and her lion-watched Needle,

mothers and prams at Kew,

marvelous comedies-

recycled from the sixties since the backers know they are about the only thing that will run right now:

carefully redone, of course,

to massive hoopla

and “three days only” advertising-

until they extend it for another half-year run:

in the “every detail exactly like the original historic premiere night in 1969”,

sniff-

Once you see all this again,

you  really start to miss that old yellowed polaroid-snapshot-style scenery,

the paisley hippie clothes,

high-heeled courage boots,

wide paisley ties,

and mutton-chop sideburns

And then, of course,

there were the massively speeded up versions,

to prove how good the actors are,

and they are,

And,

just to keep us all hopping,

the oddly modernized classics,

where the most serious dramatic action suddenly stops dead,

as someone,

(with VERY impressive actor/producer credentials

breaks into traditional vaudeville song and dance-

(the Bollywood effect?)

apparently meant to dehumanize the actor to the purveyor of his trade only.

(Anyone remember the actor as puppet in “Chicago?”)

Not that it wasn’t fascinating-

especially when Branagh is involved.

Now I’ve said the name.

And playing John Osbourne, no less.

Just more than a wee bit unexpected, unfortunately.

And unnerving.

But with a brilliant and laser-like concise focusing on the meaning of the play.

More about it in the next blog.

And then there was the fact that there were musicals everywhere-

all consisting of the autobiography of the creative process-

ie

what was this person doing at this time in their lives that they wrote Pleasant Valley Sunday.

And for whom they wrote it.

As I said-

more in the next blogs.

And then there were the outer-limits-like confrontations

with a continuous series of mysterious markings-

a sort of dead sea scrolls type of ranking system on anything being sold,

vended,

advertised,

methods of transport,

music in the tube station-

and all in a language that sometimes resembled,

vaguely,

on a good day,

the one the majority of  Americans speak.

(The closest is North Carolina, where they still speak the Queen’s English-

the queen being Elizabeth the First.

(This was told to me by a wonderful gentleman named Dewey,

a real North Carolinian of the old school whom I once taught German to.

And who was actually quite brilliant at it.

He said it was because he had to listen intently when talking to anyone who didn’t speak the Queen’s English.

From the intensity of how he watched me teach,

I must have learned mine watching Flipper.)

At least the Brits,

you have to give them credit,

are wonderfully kind while laughing at you-

sorry, but we Americans have no level stress in our language, all you Londoners,

ie the stop Mansion House  is, to us, Mansion house,

and not Mansion HOUSE.

(By the way, in London, it’s Peanut BUTTER,

which doesn’t matter anyway,

since they usually eat Marmite on toast.)

(And if you really want a laugh, read the Vegemite Diaries,

written by an Australian playwright living in London at the time he wrote it.)

Thank heavens I have a husband who had ten years of British English at school.

Still, it was wonderful in London,

and grand,

and somebody else paid a part of it,

so…

thoughts on London:

it has changed.

It has  changed.

It has changed.

We were last there two years ago,

and in the intervening time,

the prices are madly up,

and also down with a crash.

Ie,

we paid less for a theatre ticket, by a long shot, than we have ever paid before.

Just don’t ask what the stall seats would now have cost

had we been so intrepid.

The biggest change, though,

was that we saw fewer people on the streets than ever before.

And we have been doing this for a while.

The trains were more or less empty,

with seats to be had, even at rush hour.

And no one had packages with them that smelled of take-away curry.

Not that there is a shortage of junk food-

just that all of it is highly sugared.

Like flap jack for lunch-

un-baked oatmeal cookie dough, for you uninitiated.

Not bad,

but I now know why meals here are served with mushy peas.

They don’t roll off the fork,

and after eating a flapjack for lunch,

anything with protein is like water in the desert.

(with one exception and one exception only-

I’m not a picky eater, unfortunately-

the one exception:

a quarter of a head of lettuce,

a quarter of a ghastly white naked boiled chicken,

and a bottle of salad dressing we were once served as “chicken salad”

As my Dad used to say-

“It’s clean, it’s food, eat it.”

On the other hand…

See,

it’s not really the same language.

So anyway, meanwhile back to the lack of smells in London-

except for Herman Ze German and his sausage place in Villier street,

there are almost none.

Or maybe  there is a problem with taking packages on the tube?

(There are no signs)

Or perhaps there is a general forbid of food,

since we saw no one munching-

or drinking-

this time.

Not even the tourists.

What we also didn’t see,

thank heavens, I think,

and I don’t really know the reason for this,

no one we asked was able to tell us,

were as many homeless on the streets at night.

The answer, when asked, seems to be “really?”

Although perhaps it is still warm enough and they are sleeping somewhere else?

Instead of over the heating grills.

At the same time,

there were demos outside of embassies,

and one,

outside of Charing Cross every night-

well-organized,

from the point of view of the fact that there was a,

sometimes two,

complete trap sets,

ie drums and cymbals,

a thudding bass guitar line,

and a huge lot of yelling.

And that’s all I’m going to say about the streets,

except for the beauty of the trees,

even if some have been weeded out and bushes removed-

for safety reasons?

And the fact that nearly all  of the little places we have been having tea at,

or a cheap chinese meal

seem to have vanished.

The Italian family that bought the Stockpot and called it Nonna

in honor of their grandmother,

are now are no longer there,

the Chinese family that ran a small place for four generations at Bayswater,

the booksellers who knew so much about books it was a thrill just to talk to them,

and Lovejoy’s,

now extinct,

run by three fascinating gentlemen who knew everything about everything.

Yes, of course things change,

and modernize,

and move on,

but is it only me who thinks that,

as much as I adore Dr Who,

with its bizarre and creative who-niverse,

brilliant writing,

and what it stands for,

it is the people of London,

like the kind gentleman who showed me how to open one of the new bag carriers you have to  rub four times,

blow into,

then pull apart

before you can use it,

who then grinned,

handed it to me,

and said,

“new world, Luv. Got to keep up-”

he looked about eighty-

who make this great place what it is.

And you can’t get that on a cell phone.

More tomorrow.

copyright Dunnasead.co 2016

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