Monday, 9 May 2011

Where is Big Daddy?




I am in UEA for one tutorial and odds and ends, meeting Turkish visiting scholar and writer, B, in the corridor. I had taken him for lunch before in town, so we talk for about half an hour, and I begin to tell him about British style wrestling, which seems a mystery to him. Wrestling is serious business in Turkey, a proper sport with deep history, so the British fairground variety is a puzzle. I say I must take him to a local bill. Then my tutorial turns up, a very promising poet about to resume her PhD and we talk intensely for half an hour. After she goes I do some of the odds and ends and, passing a door in the corridor, see N, young poet, publisher, editor, ex-student, working at a desk, so I ask him to lunch along with B.

B tells us he went to see the royal wedding, that he stood for ten hours and found himself at the front of Buck House watching the kiss. Ten hours is a long time, he says, and the crowds so packed there was no chance to go to the toilet. But three elderly British ladies adopted him. Before the prince and princess appeared they spent three hours speculating about the dress, he says. We talk about clothes and royalty. I mention friend Linda and her interest in clothes, and books on clothes. N is not a monarchist and is bemused that B should have gone to the trouble of standing there so long. B says it is history and culture, and since he was here at the time, he felt he just had to go to this unique occasion. We talk about Atatürk and the Turkish republic, Turkey and modernity, Turkey and Europe. But, he says, I'd quite like the idea of a Sultan. Think of the status.

At the end of lunch, outside, B and N light up and I move on and home, but in the evening we go to the readings at Cafe Writers where a current student, A, has won the big poetry competition. A is a wrestler. He is reading his poems about wrestling. B should be here, I think. I vow to take him to the wrestling, and maybe Cab too, the Vietnamese-American writer-fellow. Britain starts here and at Buck House. Where is Big Daddy when you need him?



5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well.... he has been dead for fourteen years, so I wouldn't go looking for him. As a child, I never understood why he was always the good guy, was it simply the union jack flag on his costume that encouraged such support? Why was giant haystacks considered a baddie? Does it come down to words, that daddy sounds more friendly, protective and familial where as giant haystacks has a more threatening tone. I am sure writers think hard before they give themselves a pen name, just in case they inadvertently illicit bad feeling towards themselves or discourage book sales because their name sounds too dull.

sewa mobil said...

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George S said...

Oh I know he is dead, Anon. I interviewed his brother Max some seven or eight years ago for a project. He told me stories about Shirley 'Big Daddy' Crabtree. But it is fascinating how his Union Jack costume became an emblem of the country for many, including Margaret Thatcher.

Gwilym Williams said...

Anon says "as a child I never understood why he was always the good guy" and that's interesting because as a child I instinctively understood in my own way why he was always the good guy, and it was because he always won kind of in the end - like the good guys are to a child supposed to do, like they always did in the films.

George S said...

Hmm, not sure about that Gwilym. To a child, yes, a winner might well be a good guy, but Big Daddy became a hero to adults as well (Mrs Thatcher to BD: I wish there were more men like you, Big Daddy). I suspect he appealed to the British Bulldog ideal, part Winston Churchill, part John Bull, part Alf Garnett. Homely and rough but Ours!