Smiling in Slow Motion
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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Derek kept his handwritten journals in thirty-three black-bound handmade watercolour books, just small enough to slip into his jacket pocket. All bore the legend 'Reward if found', although two volumes were lost and have yet to surface. He seemed ambivalent about publication, once instructing me that on his death he would like them to be burnt, yet he continued to write and each volume bears a tentative title: Heart's Ease, A Fit of Amnesia, A Great War of Poppies, Saint's Days...
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For days now I have tried to start this diary, but the clatter of my existence has interrupted; the first mark on the page eludes me, it is easy to put off. HB drove to Dungeness, it grew so cold we muffled up to visit the swans' nest, at the Long Pits, with its seven small cygnets. A dead fox decomposing in the shallows, a swaying mass of green algae surrounded by flotillas of voracious black tadpoles, devouring it to the bone. HB throws a stone in the water, sending...
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Warm. The wind died away. HB slept away the morning. I painted the garden, all the flowers start to bloom. After lunch he built a bath for the bees swarming around the kitchen drain so they can drink elsewhere. At teatime John Vere Brown arrived with friends. He seemed well, in spite of his recent heart attack. While he took photos we went up to El Ray and talked to Pat in the garden she's growing. It's years since her railway carriage home was accidentally blown up by a film company - she still hasn't received any compensation...
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Once more into his breeches, dear friend. Actors can never make good politicians, as they will betray you for the applause. The Labour MPs should be Outed first because they are the ones who should be helping us. I'd turn the key on the Tories and leave them in the closet. As for myself, I always believed in High Art, made my films in that Establishment - my...
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The Outing campaign by FROGS called off - they said it was a media hoax, I can't believe anyone will be happy about that. They should have left the heat on over the weekend and seen the line of MPs who would have voluntarily Outed themselves...
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I'm wearing HB's blue shirt. I met Aiden Shaw this morning as I went into Bar Italia. He said he'd got a very big dick, slightly hooked for his 'punters'. Much talk of the Conservative Family Association. They have been writing articles...
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Sky bright as Giotto blue all day, all the stones in the garden a-glitter. A host of letters, including one from a seventy-nine-year-old gran, with nine grandchildren, who went to Sebastiane - 'quite something' she said. All the plants that Howard and I brought back from Madrona nursery are planted by the time the fishing boats return across the bright deep, rocking back and forth...
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I've been here for nearly two weeks with the days spent rather fitfully. I've planted to no great ends, been rather more successful hauling manure; read Richardson's book on Picasso and The Beggar's Opera and, of course, tended the fires and scrubbed...
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I woke early this morning washed out and rather dazed. The old year broken like the waves that are running high along the Ness. I'm wondering where Derek could have ended up, perhaps corkscrewed on a sofa with some of the art school boys. He certainly hit Littlestone like a bomb from another decade and rocked the old house - he primed himself before going on a curious mixture of Nina Simone (rather maudlin) and a scratchy rendition...
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A cold, foggy day. Jet-lagged, slept fitfully. HB and I returned this morning from two weeks in the States where we made new friends and lost old ones. Five days at Sundance Film Festival in Deer Park — a little town near Salt Lake City. We were met by Pat, who wore a fur jacket and a miniskirt in the sub-zero temperatures. She said she had visited London to see a Lloyd Webber musical. Pat carried a crocodile skin briefcase and her fur turned out to be the first of many. Deer Park ladies look like groups of furry lemmings in a great slaughter. Our...
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Long telephone conversation with Nicky, he's certain my phone is tapped -He felt that Sir Ian, whom he described as 'impossibly grand', shouldretire to the Isle of Man. Norman Tebbit was on the radio advocating gaylaw reform, no doubt he's had one of those visits from Sir Ian. Tories andtheir fag friends conspiring to win the election. I said I'd sell up at Dungeness...
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A clear, cold day. The bees have settled, I cleared the hive - last night I dropped a honey super and they got so angry they chased me up to the house. I extricated myself from the beekeeper's suit with only one sting. HB and Howard arrived at eleven. They brought the papers, the court case of Jason Donovan - Straight as Hell, while the rest of us are Queer as Fuck. If Jason makes any...
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HB's in Newcastle, I'm in Dungeness. It is cold but the sun is out. The house extension is up to the roof, you get a very good idea of how it will look, a very bright, sunny room. Clement Freud arrived this afternoon with a smashing cake. I'm afraid I was a bit of a culinary desert, I've never cooked, never wanted to, Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of burnt toast, I find myself hard-pressed to...
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Dawn came in a great, grey, dewy mist, it drizzled all night, the grey washesan intense colour into the garden. The poppies bow their heads, the mulleincaterpillars are back, bright green-yellow and black, there are metallic bluelackeys on the roses and my friendly tiger moth caterpillar is now very large.The glazier came after lunch and then we drove into Rye and bought a...
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It rained very heavily in the night, the garden looks refreshed. I planted and cleared the beds. I worked on Wittgenstein - I've made huge alterations to Alan and Gingerbits drove over from Canterbury. We took off almost immediately to New Romney and bought raspberries. They are restoring the splendid tower of the church, which was literally crumbling away after 900...
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Up at seven, a stifling-hot day, too hot by nine to be in the garden, breathless, though last night a sea mist sprinkled dew across the garden. Now even the white butterflies flutter lazily through the bugloss. Mr Crow is hopping around looking expectant, much more fun than a cat or a dog and also rather more pretty. Isaac and Topher....
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Stayed in all day. By ten in the evening the colour manuscript had doubled to over ninety pages. We had two small breaks. I rebuilt the garden sculptures and Gingerbits cleared the last of the wood from the building, it all looks quite smart..
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The legal and police professions are crowned with dishonour today - Eric Bentley is to be pardoned, the death rot creeps through the dying hulk. I have a friend who joined the Freemasons, he was caught speeding. The lodge assured him the policeman would not appear at the court case - dismissed in Kent. Eric Bentley was not so lucky. Anyone who plans to commit a murder should become a Freemason first. HB says the police have no reputation after...
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All Hallows. The dead circle the cottage in a high grey wind. I walk along the shore, the maroons go off and the lifeboat topples into the surf; all those lost at sea in the iron-grey waves. A calm has swept in. I'm not feeling so out of sorts this morning, only my sightless eye, absent in the morning, stares across the waves, but there is nothing there - no galleon with its masts down, no passenger...
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Slept well and ate a good breakfast. The doctor came and said that hardly anyone went totally blind with toxoplasmosis. This put my mind at rest,as I feared it would gallop in from the night like drawing black velvet curtains. Wheeled through the hospital for an X-ray. If that's OK, after eye tests at Mary's I will be out on Thursday. God what a lot to keep in the air. I'm the...
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Up at seven on a freezing, frost-bound morning, the nuclear power station floating above the mists, which hug the ground. The cold has flattened the broad-leaved plants; they lie collapsed like dishcloths in the silvery frosted rime. The frost as blue-grey as the santolina. Nigel Terry telephones - says he can't stand London any longer and is contemplating...
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No sign of HB in the night. I forgot he told me he was not returning till this evening, so my sleep was restless, full of haunted imaginings about what could have happened to him. I am absolutely dependent upon his living here. He will joke I just want my clothes pressed, but at three a.m. I decided that..
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Bart's by eight. My dressings were changed, a new needle put into my arm; dripped with Gancyclovir, I escaped to my permanent haze. At eleven to the sound dub for Blue at De Lane Lea. My face is aflame and my stomach went in the night so I was up endlessly. I bought a walking stick to menace the wandering pedestrians on...
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HB has pestered the doctors and I have a complete new drug regime. What is it that burns? Is it Dapsone or Fansidar? Now I am on Foscarnet, please God this works. My life is becoming a nightmare, would it just be a bad dream...
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I lost my hospital diary in a taxi this morning, something I've always dreaded. We will see if 'Reward if found' means anything. I had gone to buy materials for the re-upholstering of the chairs in Dungeness, the colours were hopeless in John...
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Up early, a most beautiful warm day. We planted up the new raised bed with French vegetables: pissenlit, black radish, salsify and other exotics. The garden is very battered by winds this May, one of the foxgloves is blown quite flat and the poppies look a little frazzled, but in spite of that it is looking more beautiful...
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...Life staggers on into a new day. I sat for hours, waiting to be dripped, in a dingy, illuminated - fluorescents behind frosted plastic - corridor, with all the other patients at strange angles on wheelchairs. The wait was endless. I started to fall asleep. A boy was wheeled past on a bed with a beautiful face, looking as if he had been to a beautician. He...
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I wasn't bathed or dressed before eleven as the drip fell off the wall while I was asleep, HB discovered it on the floor. I then did the rounds: Bar Italia to Bertaux's, ham rolls, cheese. Michelle gave me a choux pastry from an enormous conical sugar cake they had made for Madame's daughter's second wedding. Madame told Michelle she had to wear a hat. Michelle read out part of...
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I've been at Bart's for nearly two weeks. My kidneys and bone marrow are monitored under the deluge of Gancyclovir and Foscarnet. I have an injection each day to bolster my neutrophils, the infection has not cleared up yet but is on the way. Two weeks ago I had an eye operation, very sore and painful, and I have another on Thursday. I am almost blind and have...
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Miracle of miracles! I was finally discharged yesterday and I'm sitting waiting for take-off on a Virgin jumbo via Newark to NY. The ups and downs of these weeks have left me with enough sight to get by, though it is HB is carrying an enormous bag of drugs to keep me dripped; God alone...
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HB led us a dance about his birthday. He made such a fuss about not getting presents that he ensured he was given them by all his friends and admirers.Then, in the middle of the day, he knocked down the wall between the bathroom and the living room, to make a bathroom cupboard so I don't hit my head on the shelves again. The noise was indescribable! I went to...
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Off to Brussels to see the play of Modern Nature, it was very well done. The actor, Chris, was compulsive viewing. I think we should organise it for Edinburgh. I like Brussels, a homely little town, perfect for an invalid. Very good food, I've started to restore my appetite. We were back before we went, it was cold and...
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Howard and Sarah are off to London. The play is doing well in Brussels....
A great glow of friends
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Special thanks to Tony Peake who freely gave his time, encouragement and advice, without him Smiling in Slow Motion would not have been written, or published. Turning Derek's handwritten diaries into this volume has taken many hours and would not have been possible without the help and support of many patient friends: Derek Ball; Alan Beck; Robyn Beeche, for the photograph of Andrew...
Page Count: 400
Publication Year: 2011