THE GREEN DIARY : Friday, 10 July 2020.

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

The Bright Field : R S Thomas

I have become a real hayseed, so say some of you! A country mouse. The 4th of July is only six days ago and already the itchy feet are beginning to stir; though perhaps not mine, quite. Thank you for all your comments. One of the reasons for keeping this diary going during lockdown is to stay in touch with my wide family of friends everywhere and its good to hear from you. As I navigate my way through the widgets, platforms and instances of Web-making and attend more zooms and webinars, the construction becomes slightly easier though I do still find this algorithmic world confusing and frustrating – so if there are mistakes please forgive me. You can always unsubscribe which would be sad. Anything you say onsite passes through “Admin” – such a terrifying thought! “Admin” is me; it turns me into a sort of private censor board so all comments and replies come to my email address first and anything too private can be discreetly handled, shall I say? Some of you prefer simply emailing me and that’s lovely too.

So – the 4th July (not a good day for the USA this year) but we went for our first outing to The Thorn Hotel, our local Gastro-Hot-Pub and Flagship of the Friends  Sherri & David Singleton-McKay Leisure Empire. A sort of belated birthday treat: its been closed all these months and its opening has been met with great rejoicing.

Tony and I adore oysters. Wherever we go on our travels we try them. These, last Saturday, were simply the best ever – better even than the Oysterie in New York Grand Central where it is true you get the widest possible variety, but not always the tastiest. Was it because we’d not had an oyster for so long? Well, I don’t care; they were just brilliant. Sherri really pulled the stops out and all the courses were wonderful. Of course the pandemic constraints make it slightly disconcerting  – all the staff were masked and aproned; the tables were bare; no napery, cutlery, glasses or condiments; very clinical and lots of spaced tables with mainly dining couples, made for a quiet, quite isolating experience.

Oh! The joy of eating food prepared by someone else! I am always counting meals here I realise, but apart from a garden barbecue with children and grandchildren three weeks ago, this was our first dining out. Lets see how these new measures play and we will try again. Next week I am going up to London on the train to meet a friend for lunch and to an exhibition at the Barbican. Firsts all round.

The “great Manningtree ox with a pudding in its belly….” Hal of Falstaff, Henry IV Pt 1

We are still cautious. We endlessly discuss the pros and cons of the shuttered, introverted life; playing bridge with friends the other evening, online, and the mention of dinner parties in London suddenly made me have a pang of anxiety that we were somehow missing out on something; being left behind – hay seeds lost in breeze blown field never to be seen again! Does it matter? Does slowing down matter? There’s no live theatre to visit, home visits are restricted anyway, so what is to be done? Nothing much really.  A more reclusive existence is not necessarily poorer.

Tony and I had coffee in Manningtree this morning under the famous “Manningtree Ox with a pudding in its belly” (Hal to Falstaff in Henry IV Part 1) and were asked by the masked, gloved, young man who served us outside to give us our contact details for the Track & Trace programme. Apparently some are willing some are not. There is no fixed rule so one wonders whether it would serve any purpose anyway? 

The weather has closed down. It is drizzly and cool. A good excuse to hunker and bother your friends with blogs!

We continue with the walks and get rather wet sometimes. We were slightly horrified when we came across this sign outside The Anchor, a pub (closed) about three hundred yards up the road – ALL LIVES MATTER – a definite reference to the BLM initiative and a reminder that we live in a very conservative, rather xenophobic county. The sign had been vandalised but almost immediately repainted and repaired. There was a warning sign further back along the road as you approached that was dressed up like a traffic triangle which read IGORANCE AHEAD but it did not survive and was removed. 

Suddenly after years of silence one of my agents from long past tracked me down this week through the auspices of Equity. What a shock. Apparently I am owed money from a contract long ago; a repeat fee. Perhaps POIROT? I doubt it though as ITV use the BECS Collecting Agency. I am so intrigued. My mind runs away with numbers! Will it be millions? Ha!

Of course not? How much will it be. I shall have to let you know in the next posting.They needed my bank details and when I went into my records I of course found that these have never changed in forty years!  Speaking of repeat fees I must tell you that the first professional engagement I ever had in Britain was to play the small role of a CI5 officer in one episode of THE PROFESSIONALS in July 1980 with Gordon Jackson, Lew Collins and Martin Shaw, directed by none other than Phil Meheux.

I received the then fantastic sum of £500 for the shoot with repeat fees based on this sum. In 1980 you could live easily for several months on £500, and rather well. The series was repeated and cheques tumbled through the post box getting smaller and smaller as the years went by. The last repeat fee I had in cheque form was many years ago for the grand sum of 0.58p ! I kid you not. I fear my agent may have tracked me down after all these years to send me a pittance. Lets wait and see.

Finally many of you remarked on my Pixies on The Green. The damp weather has chased them indoors and I have not seen them much this week.  I glimpsed them briefly from the car and saw that the barbers are now open and that their wonderful heads of blond and dark hair have been trimmed and cut; and their perfect tousled innocence gone. I long for the sun to come out and for them to dance once more on the greensward.  The three-legged-iron cauldron still hangs there and spells will continue to be mixed for a while; but how quickly the future flies towards us. 

“Children’s Song” read by R.S.Thomas

19 Replies to “THE GREEN DIARY : Friday, 10 July 2020.”

  1. Is it a terrible sign of the times, Pedro, that my first reaction to your agent asking for your bank details after such a long time was ‘gawd I hope it’s not a scam’. There are, sadly, so many stories of people being ripped off – hope he/she is properly honest ! We wait with bated breath to learn how much you’ll trouser and for what !

    1. Thanks Naughty Belinda for the warning and yes, you are right, it might have been but in fact isn’t. I checked first.

  2. Did RS Thomas (a favourite poet of mine) write that as a child? it is not a poem I’d come across before – thank you for including it. As to your mysterious repeat fee – lets hope it is enough to buy you and Tone a good dinner out!
    Here in Sconnie Botland we are still fairly tightly locked down. In any case, because Lord Spouse is immune suppressed, my health is shite and Mum is 96 we are very cautious about roaming further afield to restaurants (which can re-open next week). I don’t miss dinner parties etc – all the conversation would likely be Covid, Trump, Dom Cummings, Boris and Brexit. It would drive me crazy. Seeing friends – at a suitable distance – for a drink or two and then going home suits me these days.

  3. Your piece brought back some wonderful memories. Over the years I’ve had many a great lunch at the Oyster Bar in New York’s Grand Central. My memories are how large they were! I loved that place but I’m sure it’s very different now from what it was in the 80s and 90s. (I know I am!)

    Anyway, thanks for the recollections and good luck with your repeat fee!

  4. I enjoyed your diary posting. It’s incredible what you have to report when life is actually moving at quite a slow pace. It’s slightly rambling but fun and cheerful – it’s almost like being with you!

    José and I made a lucky escape to Spain some two weeks ago. We’ve spent a lot of time getting the house in order but now we’re more or less there.
    Hans Peter

    1. I am so jealous you got to Spain. I have heard that “the full catastrophe” (as Zorba the Greek would have called it) are descending on you in August? They are so lucky.

      Thanks for your encouraging remarks and much love to you both – take care!

      P x

  5. I was told that it’s called “panning for gold” the habit of finding something wonderful each day to marvel at. I have been conscious of it for a long time but not given it a name. One of the best moments was taking the dogs for their constitutional in the pitch dark of the Australian Rain Forest. I had a torch of course to avoid the large pythons. I saw a pale purple light at the base of a large tree. Investigation showed a small nondiscript mushroom with a glorious purple light flooding down from its gills. I never saw that sight again.

    1. Stu, that is extraordinary. I wonder what the energy source is in the mushrooms? I bet they were poisonous.

      The pythons sound horrendous. You once sent me pictures of them. Didn’t a family of them live in your roof?

      P x

      1. Yes. A number of different families in the ceiling. At the end of winter you could here them sliding over the ceiling boards and you would find there old skins in cupboards or behind the stove! We also gave shelter to goannas, that’s the 6 – 8 foot lizards with large talons and log purple tongues!

  6. Oh dearest Bulgy your poetical turns of phrase warm the heart with their cadences of a lost sense of innocence!
    Hope the tousled pixies flit cross the greensward once more!
    Sorry can’t offer you anything in the next Bond movie.
    Will note your fluency in Hungarisch for any future castings.
    Love as ever,
    Nina from Argentina xx

  7. Thanks so much Peter for including me in your “diary” – it’s really refreshing to hear your news which is interesting and different to ours which of course is so medically based and we live on our nerves most of the time, hoping and praying that we can maintain our high standards and keep the dreaded virus out of Birtley. As from next week, staff will be tested weekly and Residents monthly but, and there’s always a but! Our Registered Manager & our Deputy will be devoting 2 days every week to carry out this testing at huge cost to us and extra work for them. All the recording of each test will be time consuming too ! But it’s what we should have had months ago. As for Boris’s comments last week about Care Homes………..appalling to say the least. Simon was asked about it when speaking on BBC Surrey on Thursday morning! Simon chose his words with care in the reply but got the point across! Our long planned trip to SA in August with Phil & Robert to be with Andy for his 60th year are obviously cancelled which is hugely disappointing but has to be. It is just beginning to spike in SA especially in the Cape and Jo’burg I gather. Phil, Andy and I have Zoomed each other every Friday since lockdown – what a fantastic communication device it is, as is FaceTime. We should have a chat sometime?! Maybe after I have had a haircut!!
    Now I must stop waffling, and please tell me if I am meant to keep these replies short and sweet! You know me, “ Good but chatty” according to my first school report!! Great to keep in touch and much love from us both, Cangie xxxx

  8. Finally the sun is out!
    Loved your missive as always; I’m also sort of missing the easy routine of lockdown everything busy and getting full now as the tourists descend, I did enjoy a couple of days on the beach before rain stopped play, but might retreat again now! Your oysters looked delicious, I would like to have drooled over the rest of the menu.
    Now going to continue re painting garden furniture, actually may have a cup of coffee first and so the procrastination continues!!
    Love to you both, I hope the fairies are out today….xxxxx

  9. Pedro! I loved the Thomas poem. Well played. Apropos oysters. My father-in-law and I were at best on cordial terms. A military man to the core he approved little of long hair taking his daughter away. It changed when he visited us in Scotland and I showed him a thing or two about malt whisky, for he loved the stuff. The circle was complete when a joint love of oysters was revealed. He loved fine dining as indeed do I but I think that it was the last great meal we had before he had a stroke and could no longer engage in such activities that did it. If I remember it was a restaurant in Durban called The Colony. The maitre ‘d confidentially said they had an hour or so ago received a fresh load of oysters. Would Sir like to order some? Sir would indeed. A dozen please, and the same for his son-in-law. We have both East and West Coast, the Maitre went on, which would Sir prefer? Ooooh, a dozen of each then…..he was as he liked to put it, a good trencher man. I myself did well until about halfway through the second dozen, where after it did become something of a challenge. I remember we had a crisp sharp sauvignon blanc. He and I did for that one on its own. I have always struggled to match wine with oysters but that one was perfect.Happy days….

    1. The Oysters from Namibia are fantastic I remember – and enormous. I cannot get enough of them but they are very expensive here so its always a treat.

      P x

  10. Ah yes, the roasted Manningtree ox with the pudding in his belly…
    Swearest thou, ungracious boy? henceforth ne’er look
    on me. Thou art violently carried away from grace:
    there is a devil haunts thee in the likeness of an
    old fat man; a tun of man is thy companion. Why
    dost thou converse with that trunk of humours, that
    bolting-hutch of beastliness, that swollen parcel
    of dropsies, that huge bombard of sack, that stuffed
    cloak-bag of guts, that roasted Manningtree ox with
    the pudding in his belly, that reverend vice, that
    grey iniquity, that father ruffian, that vanity in
    years? Wherein is he good, but to taste sack and
    drink it? wherein neat and cleanly, but to carve a
    capon and eat it? wherein cunning, but in craft?
    wherein crafty, but in villany? wherein villanous,
    but in all things? wherein worthy, but in nothing?
    I would your grace would take me with you: whom
    means your grace?
    That villanous abominable misleader of youth,
    Falstaff, that old white-bearded Satan.
    My lord, the man I know.

    ..and Hal replies, with dripping sarcasm “I know thou dost”
    and finally, after Falstaff says “banish plump Jack and banish all the world”, he says, fatalistically, “I know. I will”.

    You and Edward were incredibly good together – unforgettable. And to think, there is a pub in England called the Manningtree Ox.
    Worth a visit, I daresday.

  11. Peter, darling. I always love your missives. So beautifully written. I am so impressed that you have put all of this together. Something good to come out of Covid 19.
    You will enjoy the oysters at Mojo Market, down the road from us. Namibian, I think. It is an Oyster and Mussel bar. Very reasonable. With a glass of bubbly.
    Let’s hope our borders open soon.
    Big hugs to you both.
    Constantly coming and going AKA Liz 🥰

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