The Old Un’s Notes

The Oldie - - NEWS -

STOP PRESS! There has been a knock­out new ad­di­tion to the Alexan­der Chan­cel­lor event at Le­ices­ter Univer­sity on 15th Novem­ber.

Step for­ward Anne Robin­son, Weak­est Link supremo and new Oldie colum­nist, who is writ­ing about the mir­a­cle of mini­hear­ing aids in this edi­tion.

She was a great friend of Alexan­der, our late, much missed editor. The panel also in­cludes satirist Craig Brown, writ­ers Fer­di­nand Mount and Ge­of­frey Wheatcroft, and writer Alexan­der Waugh, Chan­cel­lor’s son-in-law. Tick­ets for the Lit­er­ary Le­ices­ter Fes­ti­val are free, and Oldie read­ers are very wel­come. The event starts at 4pm in the At­ten­bor­ough Film Theatre in Le­ices­ter.

De­tails at www2.le.ac.uk/in­sti­tu­tion/lit­er­ary-le­ices­ter

On a re­lated front, Alexan­der Waugh has been the busiest of bees.

In Septem­ber, he re­leased the first five vol­umes of The Com­plete Works of Eve­lyn Waugh, Alexan­der Waugh’s grand­fa­ther. Once com­pleted, there will be 43 vol­umes, pub­lished by Ox­ford Univer­sity Press, in as­so­ci­a­tion with the Univer­sity of Le­ices­ter.

This is the first time all Waugh’s ex­tant writ­ings and graphic art have been brought to­gether. There are nov­els, bi­ogra­phies, es­says, let­ters, re­portage, travel writ­ings, re­views, di­aries, poems, draw­ings, and de­signs.

With his checked suits, Som­er­set pile, ear trum­pet and at­tach­ment to White’s club, Waugh is lam­pooned as a metropoli­tan loafer and pre­tend coun­try gent. In fact, he was an ex­traor­di­nar­ily hard worker – as well as be­ing the supreme nov­el­ist of the 20th cen­tury.

Auberon Waugh, his son and one of the Oldie’s found­ing deities, was also a worka­holic. His charm, jokes and keen so­cial­is­ing dis­guised a se­ri­ous work rate. And now Alexan­der, a pro­lific au­thor him­self, has pre­served the fam­ily’s hid­den ded­i­ca­tion to ex­treme hard work.

To cel­e­brate the new pub­li­ca­tions, the Bodleian Li­brary is putting on a show de­voted to Eve­lyn Waugh’s Ox­ford. Ac­cord­ing to the Bodleian, the ‘City of Aquatint’ ex­hi­bi­tion will fo­cus on ‘the 1920s city that hosted Waugh’s drunken ado­les­cence’ and in­spired Brideshead Re­vis­ited. It runs un­til 22nd Oc­to­ber at the Black­well Hall in the We­ston Li­brary. Teddy bears op­tional.

AN Wil­son’s Charles Dar­win: Vic­to­rian Myth­maker was pub­lished on 7th Septem­ber.

The book is bril­liant on Dar­win’s great bad­ger of a

beard – the height of mid19th cen­tury fash­ion. ‘Whiskers, which had been sprout­ing from English male cheeks since the 1840s, crept round dur­ing the Crimean War (1854-6) to cover the chin,’ Wil­son writes, ‘The dif­fi­culty of ob­tain­ing shav­ing soap and ra­zors – and the even greater dif­fi­culty of shav­ing in the win­try bl­iz­zards above Sev­astopol – led to a re­lax­ation of mil­i­tary dis­ci­pline.’

Be­fore the war, only ec­centrics, mad­men and labour­ers wore beards. Af­ter, a beard meant you were a war hero. Cue the mighty beards of Trol­lope, Ten­nyson, Ruskin and Lord Sal­is­bury.

Fun­nily enough, the re­cent hip­ster pop­u­lar­ity of the beard has been at­trib­uted to glam­orous army of­fi­cers re­turn­ing from Afghanistan, where they were en­cour­aged to grow beards to frater­nise with the lo­cals.

A Legacy of Spies, John le Carré’s lat­est novel, was also pub­lished on 7th Septem­ber, herald­ing the re­turn of Ge­orge Smi­ley OBE. He hasn’t been seen since 1990.

To wel­come Smi­ley back, Pen­guin has re­leased a de­light­ful ‘Smi­ley’s London’ map, iden­ti­fy­ing key lo­ca­tions, in­clud­ing Smi­ley’s Chelsea home (9 By­wa­ter Street), the Cam­bridge Cir­cus HQ (as in ‘the Cir­cus’), and a Blooms­bury safe house (14 Dis­raeli Street).

Mapped and il­lus­trated by Mike Hall, you can print it out or down­load it on your phone.

The Old Un reck­ons you could do the walk in a gen­tle Sun­day. Make sure no one’s tail­ing you.

The Old Un has it on the best author­ity – Ann Th­waite, bi­og­ra­pher of AA Milne – that the new film ‘Good­bye Christo­pher Robin’, re­leased on 13th Oc­to­ber, is ‘re­ally good’.

The real Christo­pher Robin Milne, a gen­tle, mod­est Cam­bridge maths scholar and Sec­ond World War vet­eran, be­came a De­von book­seller and died in 1996, aged 75.

He had told Mrs Th­waite she must write her book as if he were not go­ing to read it, but of course he did. And he sent an ad­mir­ing let­ter: ‘For me, it is as if a por­trait had be­come three-di­men­sional. No great sur­prises, thank good­ness, but much I hadn’t known.’

Christo­pher Robin, who sold his share to set up a trust for his hand­i­capped daugh­ter, did not, ul­ti­mately, re­sent hav­ing had his child­hood mythol­o­gised.

The film deals with the 1920s, when the Pooh phe­nom­e­non com­pletely eclipsed his fa­ther’s rep­u­ta­tion as a play­wright and Punch hu­morist. Ann Th­waite thinks Christo­pher Robin would have been de­lighted by the pro­duc­tion. The Clive­den Lit­er­ary Fes­ti­val takes place on 14th-15th Oc­to­ber at the Berk­shire coun­try house. The great and the good will be there, from Robert Harris to Se­bas­tian Faulks.

The fes­ti­val or­gan­is­ers have rooted through the archives for pic­tures of the house in its hey­day, when Clive­den’s chate­laine was Nancy As­tor, the first fe­male MP to take her seat.

Pic­tured at Clive­den in 1931 are, from left to right, Amy John­son (the first fe­male pilot to fly solo from Bri­tain to Aus­tralia), Char­lie Chap­lin, Nancy As­tor and Ge­orge Bernard Shaw.

Chap­lin re­called the week­end in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy: ‘To­wards the end of a par­tic­u­lar lun­cheon party also at­tended by GB Shaw and Lloyd Ge­orge, Lady As­tor put in some com­edy buck teeth that cov­ered her own and gave an imi­ta­tion of a Vic­to­rian lady speak­ing at an eques­trian club. The teeth dis­torted her face with a most com­i­cal ex­pres­sion. Lady As­tor would have made a won­der­ful ac­tress.’

What a coun­try house party! Even Down­ton Abbey doesn’t pull in as many stars.

As all oldies know, they re­ally have much more get up and go than youn­gies.

A new Bar­clays sur­vey has shown that the fastest­grow­ing age group of busi­ness own­ers be­tween 2006 and 2015 was the over-65s.

It’s only log­i­cal. When The Oldie was set up 25 years ago, Auberon Waugh noted that the over-fifties ‘con­trol nearly all the wealth and en­joy most of the free dis­pos­able in­come in the coun­try, [but] ad­ver­tis­ing agen­cies have been slow to ac­knowl­edge this truth’.

A quar­ter of a cen­tury on, the over-fifties re­main much richer than the young – and now they are ex­pand­ing their busi­ness em­pire. All bow down be­fore the Mighty Grey Pound!

The Oldie post­man has been weighed down by cor­re­spon­dence on Wil­fred De’ath’s ap­pear­ance in the school play in Queen El­iz­a­beth’s Gram­mar School, Bar­net. The Old Un ad­mired Wil­fred’s turn as a young girl, de­light­ful ringlets and all.

Wil­fred him­self wrote to fill in the gaps about the pro­duc­tion.

‘The play was Molière’s Le Bour­geois gen­til­homme (The Would-be Gentle­man),’ writes Wil­fred, ‘I played the lead­ing part of Dorimène, Mar­quise de Mon­tignac. One mas­ter, per­haps un­sur­pris­ingly, fell in love with me. I was 14, not 12 [as another ac­tor in the play tes­ti­fied in Septem­ber’s Oldie]. The year was 1952.’

Another cor­re­spon­dent, Michael Rose, who played the ti­tle role, M. Jour­dain, kindly sent in a copy of the orig­i­nal pro­gramme for the play.

The Oldie would love to hear from any­one else who trod the boards with Wil­fred 65 years ago.

Thank God, au­tumn is here. It means a fond farewell to peo­ple send­ing emails, say­ing they are on

‘an­nual leave’. Yes, you take leave if you’re in the armed forces. But, oth­er­wise, call it what it is – a hol­i­day.

‘Leave’ has the im­pli­ca­tion of some heroic oc­cu­pa­tion – and well-de­served rest from some ar­du­ous en­deav­our. It should not be ap­plied to a fort­night off by the Med, a break from star­ing at a com­puter screen in an of­fice.

Ray­mond Briggs’s ar­ti­cle on Desert Is­land Discs in the last Oldie pro­voked me­mories of Plom­ley’s first cast­away, Vic Oliver, the for­ties and fifties ra­dio en­ter­tainer.

In 1936, Oliver mar­ried Win­ston Churchill’s re­bel­lious daugh­ter Sarah. Churchill was not amused, call­ing his son-in-law ‘com­mon as dirt’, a view shared by Sarah’s in­suf­fer­able brother, Ran­dolph.

Ran­dolph was once in­volved in an al­ter­ca­tion with a naval of­fi­cer who re­fused to do his bid­ding.

‘Do you know who I am?’ splut­tered Ran­dolph.

‘Yes,’ replied the sailor. ‘You’re Vic Oliver’s broth­erin-law.’

There will be two London shows for Dafydd Jones, pho­tog­ra­pher of The Oldie’s ‘The Way We Live Now’ se­ries.

‘A Week­end in Wash­ing­ton’ (Ber­mond­sey Project Space, 20th Septem­ber-1st Oc­to­ber) fo­cuses on Pres­i­dent Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion. In ‘Here We Are’ (Old Ses­sions House, Clerken­well, 18th Septem­ber1st Oc­to­ber), more than 30 pho­tog­ra­phers, in­clud­ing Dafydd, ex­plore the Bri­tish char­ac­ter. Pic­tured is one of Dafydd’s ‘Sleep­ers’ se­ries.

In the ‘Memo­rial Ser­vice’ col­umn in the Au­gust Oldie, the Old Un mis­tak­enly knighted Si­mon Parker Bowles, restaurateur.

By chance, the ‘Memo­rial Ser­vice’ colum­nist, James Hughes-on­slow, bumped into ‘Sir’ Si­mon at a pub in Arun­del, where he was at­tend­ing the Thanks­giv­ing Mass for Lady Her­ries (see ‘Memo­rial Ser­vice’, this is­sue). In a cor­ner sat Si­mon Parker Bowles and Robert Fel­lowes, the Queen’s Pri­vate Sec­re­tary from 1990 to 1999, and now, gen­uinely, Lord Fel­lowes.

‘Parker Bowles told me he was pleased to have been knighted by The Oldie,’ says Hughes-on­slow, ‘“I know,” I said, “It wasn’t my fault.” I told him the Royal Fam­ily owed him a knight­hood as they pinched his sis­ter-in-law [Camilla Parker Bowles], then his res­tau­rant in Duke Street.’

The lease on Parker Bowles’s res­tau­rant – Green’s in St James’s – has re­verted to the Crown Es­tate.

‘Do you think I de­serve one for that?’ asked Parker Bowles.

‘Yes,’ said Hughes-on­slow, sug­gest­ing Lord Fel­lowes, might be able to fix it for him.

Then Hughes-on­slow re­called that Prince Charles pinched Lord Fel­lowes’s sis­ter-in-law – Princess Diana. Lord Fel­lowes is wed to Lady Jane Spencer, Diana’s sis­ter.

‘He can’t come to the phone right now - he’s binge si­lenc­ing’

War – the ori­gin of the beard

‘There. Now, close and get my lawyer on the phone’

‘How many times have I told you not to put your feet on the chairs?’

Clive­den – the real Down­ton

‘Enid’s hus­band wanted his ashes scat­tered at sea – ac­tu­ally, they couldn’t stand each other’

Mag­dalen Ball, Ox­ford, 1988

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