Living and Sitting with Charlotte
I am cat sitting for Friend H, in London at the moment, while she winters in Cape Town for a few months. Charlotte is a sweet, shy creature and views me, like all cats, with a disdainful eye, rather as if I were a particularly difficult staff member who is unlikely to come up to scratch. And that’s the thing of course: dogs are managed but cats are staffed. I think I may have posted about this before as she and I have looked after each other in the past. Sometimes she melts a little and will present her little, slim, black-furred body for strokings and has even been known to purr during these moments of ecstasy. Then I feel privileged and to an extent, vindicated in my role as loyal carer and Equerry to this Duchess of Hammersmith.
Charlotte’s domain is behind Kensington Olympia and its been revelatory to live here these few weeks. When I came to live in London 42 years ago, I shared a flat with dear Friend L. in Westgate Terrace a few hundred yards from the Earl’s Court Underground station.
I knew no-one here at all really. Just Friend L., a ways away in West Hampstead Friend P. and, here in this very house, where I now slave for “herself”, friends R & H were a godsend for a lonely, barely-outed gay actor from the sticks of Apartheid South Africa.
I got to know West London very well; this was my first stamping ground before I moved into the arms of my beloved Tony in Camden via Pimlico and Amsterdam.
The Reguliersgracht in Amsterdam where I lived for several months while rehearsing and playing in Anthony Akerman’s Somewhere on the Border the audition script for which I picked up from Tony Peake’s office at Cori Films in July 1983 – which is how we first met.
Notorious Dolphin Square! In Pimlico:
Its been bright and sunny and not very cold while I’ve been here and I have not let the grass grow. How it has all changed in these forty years.
Vast shopping complexes have opened in Shepherd’s Bush, the Hammersmith roundabout has become a huge conglomerate of marbled office blocks, bus and rail stations gyrating traffic in all directions. In the olden days, in between theatre and television jobs I helped run the Riverside Studio Box office under the then auspices of Tammy Collins (FOH) and Peter Gill (AD) where many acclaimed productions went on under the most ramshackle conditions in those cavernous old film & TV studios.
Each year the Dance Umbrella had its festival, with particularly complicated, un-computerised ticketing arrangements, all manual; charts with thick red felt-tipped ticks and crosses, awkward books of tickets, COBOs and Comps; the telephone endlessly shrilling.
Friends R & H helped me into this welcome cash-in-hand job and the wonderful Christopher Hahn (now General Director of the Pittsburgh Opera via the San Francisco & Los Angeles Opera Houses) aided and abetted. I would not have been able to remain an actor without these sorts of jobs.
To-day I lunched at Sam’s in Crisp Walk with Friend A. and I was absolutely amazed at the changes that have taken place since I appeared there a few years ago in Sylvester Stein’s Who Killed Mr. Drum.
The place is unrecognisable. The studios are still there; the cinemas are still there but the entire building has been turned outward toward the river, with views of Hammersmith Bridge, there is a promenade linking the bridge all the way down to Fulham, south-facing, glassed apartments line the Cote de Thames and there is light everywhere.
Sam’s is great. Thank you for introducing me to it dear Friend A. and for the perfect seating, the sun pouring in and that beautiful, albeit broken-down bridge, its larger Doppler traversing the Danube in Budapest, elegantly swooping across the river.
“People have been very kind,” John Gielgud was once heard to say though under very dissimilar circumstances to my own. He had been charged with indecency and was referring to the warmth and support from actor friends in rehearsals.
“You’ve been a naughty boy, Johnny,” Coral Browne was reputed to have said, “now come on and lets get back to rehearsals….!”
I am only a temporary widow as Tony visits our family in Canada and I staff the Charlottery.
But friends have wined and dined me; I have been schooled further in the complexities of Jazz by Friends C & R; an evening at Kings Place last Monday – Chick Corea : The Vigil Songbook with Tim Garland, Jason Rebello & Friends – revelatory for me as a newboy.
Ceviche at Canary Wharf
To Brentford for pasta with Friend J; to Canary Warf for Friend R’s. wonderful company and glorious Ceviche, the best in the world; dinner in Dulwich; an evening in Southfields : much discussion, argy-bargy and fab food with Friends D & D and P & O (sic); luncheon in Streatham – see the movie – and of course far too many Martinis at the American Bar with Friend L. wining and dining at the Wolesley followed by an introduction to The 2 to 5 Hertford Street Club where baroque eccentricity meets chic chintz in a labyrinth of Georgian drawing and dining rooms, bars and other crannies.
To bed with Nurofen and goodnight diary!
And I’ve not forgotten Dame MM……and our Ivy lunch in Kensington on Saturday. Far too much chatter!
Nor have I forgotten bridge dates in Sheen and Clapham with Families H and R-W. Splendid all – especially if I win, which in the case of the R-Ws I didn’t – but a fine evening nonetheless.
Lunch in Streatham with Flempots!
A whirlwind of friendship. Thank you all for your kindness and generosity. I think I shall cat sit more often! I am promised Loulou’s in the next tranche of Charlottery!
Charlotte likes to watch television though she has been rather bored by The Morning Show finding Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston a little over the top and Succession and the horrendous shenanigans of the Roy Family left her in shock and she retired to bed. I did not and watched them both as one would a Cobra, bingeing Apple TV+ for The Morning Show to complete before the trial week is up. Twenty hours of freebie. Am I a cheapskate?