Quotable, moi?

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been going to the Nuffield Theatre to see Tonight at 8:30 – a sequence of nine one-act plays written by Nöel Coward.  They were presented in three groups of three and the first set really did start at 8:30 – subsequent batches started at 7:30, I think due to audience pressure for an earlier finish which I can’t see Nöel approving (but perhaps he was more keen on an early night than I imagine).

I’ve enjoyed Mr C’s songs for some time, but this was my first exposure to his plays.  I enjoyed most of them – preferring the comic ones to their more serious siblings, though one of the latter was the basis for the film Brief Encounter.  Pleasingly, characters were often terribly brittle and terribly witty (I hope you read those last words in an appropriate accent) – but there were also a couple of unexpected working-class themed plays.  In several, characters break into song for no particularly obvious reason – prefiguring Mamma Mia and its ilk by a good 80 years – but generally I feel they hold up very well and remaining entertaining.  On the subject of predicting the future, in one play a large cast of characters largely ignores one another to converse with characters-unseen via the telephone – admittedly, this was a landline but it did go to show that technology changes people far less than we like to imagine.

Last night, I found myself setting next to a lady who was writing a piece for The Times about whether Coward is still relevant to a modern audience.  As we had (sort of) been introduced as she made her way past me to her seat and given my convenient proximity she interviewed me for the piece in the intervals.  Obviously, I was pleased to be considered relevant to a piece on a “modern” audience: amazing what dim lighting can do for a chap!  Luckily, I am more than willing to bang-on at any audience (or in the case of this blog, little or no audience) and so had no difficulty rustling up some opinions which she rapidly attempted to capture in short-hand (or, perhaps, just really bad handwriting).  She seemed pleased with the mini-interviews and said that I was “very quotable”.  So, you may see my name in the Thunderer at some point in the future – the final nail in the coffin of a once august publication.

Very quotable, eh?  Those of you who have mocked this blog, clearly didn’t realise the pearls that were being cast before you.  I have this from a professional writer!  Perhaps my dream of being the Oscar Wilde de nos jours (or at least the Neal Caffery) is not entirely dead.  Weeeee. “Clear!”  Bang. (For the assistance of those who find it difficult to follow my train of thought – warning: it derailed many years ago – you should just have imagined defibrillator pads being applied to my dream).  At the very least, Nigel Rees has to retire one day and I must be a shoo-in for the vacant chair of Quote, Unquote.

Clearly, I will be quite impossible from here on in and my ego is now so inflated that I have needed to widen all the doors in the flat – though that may have more to do with the width of my manly shoulders or my general inability to manoeuvre my body successfully through standard doorframes given my inherited clumsiness (you decide).  I did ponder whether I should continue to hurl my bon mots into the void for free, but ultimately decided I could not abandon you, my adoring public.

We’ve been lied to…

As readers will be aware, I am recently returned from Norfolk: one time home of the Iceni (though I don’t think there is any issue with Italian visitors these days).  Prior to my visit, I knew little about the county – and most of that was the line “Very flat, Norfolk” spoken by Amanda to Elyot in Private Lives, but written by Noël Coward.

I took my bike to Norfolk – though, as it transpired, it never left a rather stylish cycle rack at Wymondham station (but it seemed to enjoy its holiday).  However, even without using my velocipede, my keen cyclist’s eye was able to detect that Norfolk is far from flat: compared to South Cambs, the scenery is positively Alpine!  If you can’t trust an interwar comedy of manners for geographical information, where can you turn?  What next? Will I discover that insane canines and those from the south-eastern portion of the UK prefer to remain indoors at noon on sunny days?

Despite its relative abundance of contour lines, Norfolk is much flatter or more rural (or both) than my usual choice of holiday destination (which would either have mountains or be a city).  Nonetheless, it is not without appeal: it is home to some rather fine country houses and many very attractive towns and villages (most with churches of quite excessive size) and some rather fine scenery, often in close proximity to water.

Many places are the proud possessors of quite splendid, if somewhat overblown (and rather unexpectedly pronounced) names: as just a single example, I regularly passed through Swanton Morley which must surely be Sheridan’s younger brother.  However, Watton provided the best place name I saw on my travels – it is twinned with the Rhineland town of Weeze, though sadly the Germans would lose a lot of the fun with their soi-disant “correct” pronunciation of the word.

As I was on holiday, I undertook my self-imposed mission to sample the local cakemakers’ arts: it’s tough work, but someone has to make the sacrifice.  Many decent offerings, but my top venue recommendation would be the Tea House in Norwich (just off the very picturesque Elm Hill).  Not only fine cakes, but an attractive location and lovely staff.  In fact, I rather liked the city of Norwich – though as with so many of our cities, you wouldn’t want to drive there – and could imagine living there quite happily.  The only downside is the fact that it’s a little remote, in fact Norfolk as a whole isn’t really on the way to anywhere: well, not since the North Sea formed some 8000 years back.  Talking of which, Norfolk does seem to be shrinking as a county through the erosive power of the waves: I’m not saying anyone needs to hurry unduly to see Norwich while they still can but you might want to get your skates on if you have an interest in Happisburgh.