Friday, 21 October 2011

Ealing, Belgravia and News from Elsewhere 3

Belgravia is not Ealing, nor is Ealing Belgravia. It is when they riot in Belgravia that we can start talking of revolution. At Knightsbridge I get off and plod my weary way towards Belgrave Square and The Grenadier pub where I am to meet Elizabeth, the producer of the Liszt programme at 5pm. The Grenadiers is very small and very crowded and while there are rooms at the back I am not allowed to enter. I buy a Jamesons and ask for a glass of tap water as I have pills to take. Elizabeth arrives very soon after. She is very heavily pregnant now and while nobody offers her a seat a table falls vacant and she is allowed to take precedence. I join her. She is talking about the 1851 Great Exhibition programme of Words and Music that she is currently producing. Our Liszt programme is this weekend. I am hot and keep coughing, not in her general direction of course. When we leave she kindly walks me to the Romanian Cultural Institute which is practically opposite.

All embassies and cultural institutions resemble each other. Chandeliers, marble pillars, and gilded mirrors are the rule. A nice 18th century or Regency staircase is ideal, a few portraits, a small exhibition space, some 'below stairs', a half-hearted washroom for visitors, and above all, a general air of temporary tenancy, combined with a very faint touch of dissipation and bureaucracy. That is the whole romance of them. I wouldn't really have it another way. I don't think I have ever been awed by magnificence. The expression 'all fur coat and no knickers' comforts me. I know that no institution of magnificence has a full set of knickers.

This is very nice. I use the half-hearted washroom, leave my coat and bags in the official little under-stairs cloakroom and drift upstairs, passing the gallery where Andrea B is doing an interview. The hall is set out with chair, magnificent windows, chandeliers, marble columns and gilded etceteras, but the library behind us is reassuringly untidy. Miss Scarlet could be murdering Colonel Mustard in there and has probably done so in the long history of the building.

I do an interview too and little by little the audience arrives as does Amanda. Alan Brownjohn is there in the front row in his fawn coloured suit. The event consists of Andrea reading his poems in Romanian, a very nice actress reading them in English and every so often (six times to be precise, about one poem to Andrea's three) me chiming in with a poem that in some way responds to one of Andrea's. That is as it should be. He is the guest. I am the Welcome to England sign. He's a very good funny, sad, realist poet with a lovely touch of fantasy. I recognise the world he depicts and he, I think, recognises the one I present him with. It's a good combination.

Afterwards we drift down and I talk to some people, including one of my current MA students and his father who have come along; a couple of artists; Dorian, the director of the Institute; and Safina, a young Pakistani born poet working for Poet in the City and Graham Henderson, who have organised the event as one of series. I refrain from coughing over everyone.

I intend to walk to Victoria but see a taxi and hop in. C meets me at Stevenage. Home about 12:30am. Dozy,not quite firm on my legs. A little out of it in fact. Today transitional. Mustn't grumble.

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