2021, 7 October

I haven’t written anything in my blog since Rosemary died in June 2019 so there is a lot to catch up on. Here is the last photograph I took of her. We are waiting for a cab outside Tate Britain after seeing the last day of the Anni Albers show. Rosemary loved her ‘pictorial weavings’ and, looking back after having seen the Sophie Taeuber-Arp show, I now find them more enjoyable. 

This is probably the last picture taken of Rosemary. She was at a reunion lunch for Engineering Today staff held at Zedel, in Soho on February 5th. This was the magazine that she was writing for when I first met her back in 1978. Her editor, Simon Caulkin, remains a close friend. From left to right: Rosemary, Mike Orme, Philip Beresford. 

Theo, my son, and I, were helped enormously by our friends after Rosemary died; I don’t know what we would have done without their love and support. Here is a typical evening in March 2019 with Theo discussing film with Ginette Vincendeau, professor of film at Kings, London. They stuck to English though Ginette is French and Theo was educated there.

On 23rd March 2019 there was an anti-Brexit march through London, ending at Parliament Square. I went with Andrew Wilson, then still at the Tate, and Ingrid Swenson, from the Peer Gallery in Hoxton. Some of the right wing press claimed that the demo was violent; on the contrary, it was a very polite demonstration, possibly too polite. Someone compared it to a long queue at their local Waitrose.

In May, Catherine Marcangeli put on an exhibition of the work of Adrian Henri at the Whitechapel Gallery. This was supported by a number of musical events organised by Thurston Moore and also a very nice lunch in the gallery attended by, among others, Brian Eno and Ann Waldman. Ann later gave a reading. Here I am with Brian and Ann after we had been fed. 

While Catherine was in town (she is a prof of fine art at the Sorbonne) we visited the Lee Krasner show at the Barbican. Much of the work was derivative but when she did her own thing the results were wonderful, as in this example. 

In early August we held a celebration for Rosemary in Martha Stevns’s beautiful garden in Mosset, in the Pyrenees Oriental. Rosemary always loved it there and it was a chance for all of Rosemary’s French friends, and friends who lived in France, to get together to remember her. Some people came from some distance, such as Ken Weaver and Maxine, who stayed with friend. I first met Ken when he was the drummer with The Fugs, in New York in 1967, so we go back a bit. This is him in a restaurant in Eus, a nearby village. The celebration went on until late, with our friend Zig playing trombone and people drinking. The Mayor of Mosset fell over on the way home and had to take a few days off work so it was a good party.

A few days later, on August 6th, a small group of us, some of Rosemary’s family and a few close friends, walked half an hour into the woods to a small pool, fed by a waterfall, the cascade Salt Gros, where Rosemary sometimes swam. It was here Theo scattered Rosemary’s ashes into La Castellane. It was a place that she loved and a perfect place for her to complete her journey through life.

It was the season of the summer fetes. Catllar is known locally as ‘the dancing village’ and in the central square, just around the corner from our house, the local residents celebrated with line-dancing, as they do every year. There is nothing they like better than for the whole village to get up and dance the ‘Macarena’. Later the atmosphere turns more sombre and they form rings to dance the Sardana, the mysterious 600 year old national dance of the Catalans, with old people teaching the young it’s intricate steps. It is not for tourists, it is part of their village culture and enormously popular.

On October 1st, the European Beat Studies Network held an event at the old Beat Hotel on the rue Git le Coeur. There were drinks at the hotel, presided over by the owner, Madame Odillard and her son followed by a proper Parisian banquet at a nearby bistro. It was great to meet some of the Beat Generation scholars whose work I had read, but who I never met. Oliver Harris presided over the affair with care and attention. Here is the line-up, followed by myself with Frank Rynne, and a snap from the banquet of Pauline and Catherine.  

October 19th, 2019 saw yet another protest against Brexit. 60% of Londoners voted Remain with all of the central London boroughs voting between 69% and 79% to stay in the EU: 2 ¼ million Londoners voted remain and 1 ½ million to leave, a 60/40 split. Once again I was on the march with Andrew and Ingrid.

Also in October there was a planning lunch with Luzius Martin, Udo Breger and Ton Neurath to discuss Soft Need 23, in fact the fourth and final issue of the magazine which Udo started back in 1973. It was great to see Tom again. A few years back we flew to Germany to give a talk on, of all things, Swinging London at the ZKM arts complex in Karlsruhe. We did it in English and had a full house. Tom is one of the few remaining residents of the original Beat Hotel (and also the owner of Thames & Hudson publishers). The discussions with Udo continued over a few bottles of wine. 

Rather unexpectedly, the University of Gloucestershire, which has in some unspeakable way absorbed my old art college, awarded me with an Honorary Doctorate of Letters, which was very nice of them. I rather liked the idea of being a doctor, though I would never use it in case I was called in when someone collapsed on a plane or in a restaurant. Theo and I went down to Cheltenham and put up at the Queens Hotel, the fanciest gaff in town when I was at art college there and totally out of any art student’s league but now cheap by London standards. I got to wear some faux-medieval costume and was presented with my scroll after all the actual graduates had received theirs. As there were about a thousand people there, all desperate to get out and have a drink, I did not give a speech. Just thanked them very much and had my picture taken. The event was held at Cheltenham Race Track, home of the Gold Cup steeplechase. Cheltenham is known for only two things: spies and horses. The graduation ceremony seemed heavy on horses; everyone we talked to ran a stable or trained jockeys or some such. The 5000+ people who work at GCHQ don’t advertise the fact in the way they used to. When I was an art student in the early sixties they often wore their laminate IDs on a ribbon round their neck and were an easy target for free drinks in the town centre pubs. They were from all over, many of them American, of course, and all the ones I ever met were very well read and multi-lingual. Perhaps all the equestrian talk of paddocks was just a cover.

While we were there I took Theo, my son, to see where I spent much of my childhood. A small house at 92 Alstone Lane, near the railway track, which, in those days, had an outside lavatory like all the other houses in the row. It was neater when my Aunt Olly lived there and was then in the middle of a market garden. Now suburbs stretch away to the west. I also showed him the famous paedophile statue – as it used to be known – at the top end of the Promenade of the King, guiding a little girl’s hand to his flies, or so it seems from some angles. 

I finished the year at Marianne Faithfull’s birthday on December 29th. Bella Freud and Harriet Vyner organised a dinner at Bibendum – Marianne’s choice – which was of course delightful and the waiters brought her a cake with a birthday candle. Of the six of us, I was the only one drinking. 

It was lovely to see her; we had known each other since she was 18 years old. We could not even begin to catch up as it had been years since I last saw her. I hadn’t even known she’d moved back to London from Paris.

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