And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

21 February

Henry Pelham-Clinton,

‘The waters being very low to lay the ways for the launch of the ‘Lincoln’, I took the opportunity of fishing the end of the lake head. We found nothing but pike and not a great many of them, the mud and weeds were so thick that the net rolled and not a single carp or tench was in the net. There were 232 pike and a few large perch in the net. I put all the former into the [sleu?] below the cascade.’

My courage failed


John Henry Newman,

‘Ambrose sang Mass - went over with him to Rednall and planted Mulberry and Nuts.’

The pithy diary of a saint


Isaac Albéniz,

‘Those who search for God, those who discuss him, seem to me like those who wish to find a three-legged cat; they forget that it has four, and that God does not exist except in the here and now, that is to say while we live, think and express ourselves; thus we are God, and everything else is songs!!!’

Albéniz and Liszt (or not)


Ivan Bunin,

‘Andrei (my brother Yuly’s servant) is acting more and more insane. It is even horrifying to watch. He has served my brother for almost twenty years, and he has always been simple, kind, reasonable, polite, and devoted to us. Now he’s gone completely crazy. He still does his job carefully, but it is apparent that he’s forcing himself to do so. He cannot look at us and shies away from our conversations. His whole body inwardly shakes from anger; and when he can keep silent no longer, he lets loose with wild nonsense.

For instance, this morning, when we were visiting Yuly, N. N. said, as always, that everything has perished and that Russia was flying into an abyss. Andrei was setting the table for tea. He suddenly began waving his arms, his face aflame: “Yes, yes, Russia’s flying into an abyss, all right! But who’s to blame, who? The bourgeois, that’s who! Just you wait, you’ll see how they’ll be cut to pieces!” ’

Flying into an abyss


Paul Klee,

‘This week we had three fatal casualties; one man was smashed by the propeller, the other two crashed from the air! Yesterday, a fourth came ploughing with a loud bang into the roof of the workshop. Had been flying too low, caught on a telephone pole, bounced on the roof of the factory, turned a somersault, and collapsed upside down in a heap of wreckage.’

Colour possesses me


Alex Babine,

‘Robberies of supplies from our trains are so frequent, the transportation so bad, cooperation on the part of the railroad authorities, employees, and the Soviets in general so luke-warm and inefficient, that both Kinne and Cobb feel very much discouraged and want to leave the country as soon as they can. Our town transport agent (a young German-Russian) has been reported as removing, with the connivance and cooperation of the railroad service, supplies from the care of ARA before making out his statements of shortages. He is being watched by Soviet secret service men - who know too well on which side the bread is buttered.’

Jailed for making soap


Aleksander Rodchenko,

‘I wrote a farewell letter to Zh. Drew a little. The feeling is like I just got home alter the hospital, and I’m not myself. I keep rifling around the shelves looking for something . . . And I’m looking for my certainty and calm . . . I look at magazines, read about painting . . . I want to start everything from the beginning. . .’

Photos to surprise and amaze


Robert Menzies,

‘Up to London. Snow still lying. First type of balloon barrage - silvery looking “blimps” a few thousand feet up. Not in rows, but singly or in small groups.

So to the Dorchester, where, on the 1st floor, I have the suite which was occupied by Wendell Willkie. As the building is modern and there are seven floors above me, it is considered as good as an air raid shelter. Curtains are closely drawn at sunset: the windows are coated with some anti-shatter mixture. Day raids have for the time [being] been practically discontinued, and the street traffic on the way to the Dept of Information (London University) and Australia House seemed almost normal.

So far I have seen only a few bombed places, including the house in Piccadilly where the Duke of York lived. Sandbags everywhere; barbed wire; the front (to the Mall) of Carlton House Terrace rather battered; King Charles at Charing Cross in a corrugated iron container; police in tin hats; not many people carrying their gas masks; AIR RAID SHELTER, or AIR RAID TRENCHES signs everywhere; windows bricked or boarded up. At Information Dept I have a guard of Honour of the Home Guard (who work in offices and do their stuff as guards so many nights a week!) and some Australians still left here

At Australia House, meet the whole staff and thank them for prompt and devoted work. This timely and much appreciated.’

Churchill grows on me


Brian Boydell,

‘It turned out to be quite a big job preparing the candles for the Haydn symphony spent the greater part of the morning at it ... At 4.30 yesterday the army rang up Charles to inform him that no instruments would be available for the DOP concerts after three weeks’ notice! So I had to rush down to the Phoenix Hall to collar two trumpets, an oboe and timpani player. It was like trying to catch kittens - for when the rehearsal finished they all made for the door at once; however I managed to book them - so that there is a great weight off my mind as regards the brass section of The Buried Moon Suite.

... [lessons to singing pupils in the afternoon] ... Wind rehearsal at the Academy at 7.30. Unfortunately a number of the section could not attend, so that it was not as useful as it might have been. We worked hard until 10.00.’

Rebellious ferment


Howard Brenton,

‘Late at night. Just back to the flat I’m staying in from reading the play at the Citizens.

It was sweet, sweet, sweet. A marvellous theatre. On its stage you feel like a knife. You can carve any word on any part of the auditorium. For half an hour I felt myself overworking, a mess, sweating and straining, knowing that all I had to do was - do it.

You could let the book levitate out of your hand and make the play up on the spot.

I’m high, I must calm down.

The northern audience laughed at the southern dialects, the Legate and Tom Chichester. British audiences have perfect pitch when it comes to regional speech and class.

I did feel tonight I was performing the play. Really I’m only sitting there for two and three-quarter hours, reading it. But by some kind of sleight of hand, or mutual agreement, it’s a performance. Odd.

Someone said to me afterwards, ‘How the hell did they stage it?’ Good.

In the dressing room 1 remembered an acting exercise to fix on characters by thinking of them as animals. A crude but fierce ‘talisman’ of a character. I did that and it helped. I remember the director, Barry Kyle, after eight weeks’ work with Ray Westwell in the RSC rehearsals of The Churchill Play, saying one word to Ray, about to play my Churchill on the opening night: ‘Bulldog.’

The Citizens have every show watched by the assistant director, Kim Dambaek, so notes are given every evening. My reading was no exception. A good system: the National have it, the RSC don’t. Kim said I could syncopate more, go further with throwing my voice about. He also soothed my paranoia about the reading being boring. It is not boring. (Why the hell isn’t it? It should be the most boring thing on earth, someone reading a play at enormous length. Perhaps the expectation is so low that you start on the floor, so everything and anything you can do for the audience, is a plus. I certainly sense the apprehension at the beginning of the reading: ‘Oh my God he’s going to read it - all of it.’ Then ten minutes on, ‘Oh. A woman with a strange hair-do and six dogs at her heels. Oh. I see.’ And you’re away.)

Now, food! Bath! The white wine the Citizens staff gave me to take to my lonely bed.’

You feel like a knife


Brian Eno,

‘Out to swim (8.20-8.45) in local pool, but a less lovely experience than Berlin. To studio early for tapes for RCA. Another difficult day. I thought Laurie’s tapes would do the job, but the reaction was cautious. In the end, some good ideas.

Clemente show. Very uneven work - some really lovely things and some really incomprehensibly flat things. The pastels are beautiful - his medium for sure. The Upanishads! Eye-smashingly lovely. The kind of show that makes you think, ‘Fuck me! What have I been doing with my life?’ Saw Diego Cortez there! Felt oddly torn not to go to Groucho with Diego et al. Perhaps I was missing a possible future.

But a lovely dinner with Anthea. Her unthinkable future = ‘people of different signs go to war with each other’ - from our delicious evening dinner at L’Altro. Conversation about cities, pragmatism v. ideology, NGO’s, management.

Got home - message from Maria: she says I can go to Egypt (sleeping above the engine room). Now it’s time to decide - things to move and change; Self-Storage project a problem. Anthea says everybody should visit Egypt and I should go (she went years ago).’

Happy birthday Brian Eno


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In general, these diary extracts are quoted as given in the published (book or online) source referred to in the reference articles. Each extract may be all, a large part of, or a small part of the complete entry for that day. I have tried to indicate where text has been removed from within a quote by the use of trailing dots in square bracket.

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