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 handmadewatercolour books, just small enough to slip into his jacket pocket. All borethe legend 'Reward if found', although two volumes were lost and have yetHe seemed ambivalent about publication, once instructing me that on hisdeath he would like them to be burnt, yet he continued to write and each...
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For days now I have tried to start this diary, but the clatter of my existencehas 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 decomposingin the shallows, a swaying mass of green algae surrounded by flotillas of...
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Warm. The wind died away. HB slept away the morning. I painted thegarden, all the flowers start to bloom. After lunch he built a bath for the beesAt teatime John Vere Brown arrived with friends. He seemed well, in spiteof his recent heart attack. While he took photos we went up to El Ray andtalked to Pat in the garden she's growing. It's years since her railway carriage...
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Actors can never make good politicians, as they will betray you for theapplause. The Labour MPs should be Outed first because they are the oneswho should be helping us. I'd turn the key on the Tories and leave them inthe closet. As for myself, I always believed in High Art, made my films in thatEstablishment - my critics were too stupid to understand this; and 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 theheat on over the weekend and seen the line of MPs who would haveTo Dungeness with Howard Sooley. We visited Joanna at the wild-flowernursery. Tucked the bees up after opening the hive — they have exploded in...
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Alan Beck arrived and explained at length why Prosperous Books was trulydreadful - middle-class tits and arse makes a nonsense. A 'P' and TwoAll go, phones buzzing, the sun still shining. I'm feeling fine, my face noSleeping at Phoenix House like the old days - a futon on the floor - a goodMeeting with Howard Sooley and Stephen Pickles to find a photo for the...
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Sky bright as Giotto blue all day, all the stones in the garden a-glitter. A hostof letters, including one from a seventy-nine-year-old gran, with ninegrandchildren, who went to Sebastiane - 'quite something' she said.All the plants that Howard and I brought back from Madrona nursery areplanted by the time the fishing boats return across the bright deep, rocking...
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I've been here for nearly two weeks with the days spent rather fitfully. I'veplanted to no great ends, been rather more successful hauling manure; readRichardson's book on Picasso and The Beggar's Opera and, of course,Christmas! It's over, thank Bethlehem, no good time to be Queer. Soalienating celebrating the super-celestial family, the family's family with...
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I woke early this morning washed out and rather dazed. The old year brokenI'm wondering where Derek could have ended up, perhaps corkscrewedon a sofa with some of the art school boys. He certainly hit Littlestone likea bomb from another decade and rocked the old house - he primed himselfbefore going on a curious mixture of Nina Simone (rather maudlin) and a...
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A cold, foggy day. Jet-lagged, slept fitfully. HB and I returned this morningfrom 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 SaltWe were met by Pat, who wore a fur jacket and a miniskirt in the sub-zerotemperatures. She said she had visited London to see a Lloyd Webber...
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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 Idropped a honey super and they got so angry they chased me up to thehouse. I extricated myself from the beekeeper's suit with only one sting.HB and Howard arrived at eleven. They brought the papers, the court caseof Jason Donovan - Straight as Hell, while the rest of us are Queer as Fuck....
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HB's in Newcastle, I'm in Dungeness. It is cold but the sun is out. The houseextension is up to the roof, you get a very good idea of how it will look, aClement Freud arrived this afternoon with a smashing cake. I'm afraid Iwas a bit of a culinary desert, I've never cooked, never wanted to, Yeathough I walk through the valley of the shadow of burnt toast, I find myself...
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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 andcleared the beds. I worked on Wittgenstein - I've made huge alterations toAlan and Gingerbits drove over from Canterbury. We took off almostimmediately to New Romney and bought raspberries. They are restoring thesplendid 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 catIsaac and Topher arrived with Julian and we talked queer matters. Isaac...
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Stayed in all day. By ten in the evening the colour manuscript had doubledto over ninety pages. We had two small breaks. I rebuilt the gardensculptures and Gingerbits cleared the last of the wood from the building, itOn the way back from the Light Railway Cafe we found several of thecorkscrew tank defences and a rusted bicycle seat that became a dragon to...
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The legal and police professions are crowned with dishonour today - EricBentley is to be pardoned, the death rot creeps through the dying hulk.I have a friend who joined the Freemasons, he was caught speeding. Thelodge assured him the policeman would not appear at the court case -dismissed in Kent. Eric Bentley was not so lucky. Anyone who plans to...
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All Hallows. The dead circle the cottage in a high grey wind. I walk alongthe shore, the maroons go off and the lifeboat topples into the surf; all thoselost at sea in the iron-grey waves. A calm has swept in. I'm not feeling so outof sorts this morning, only my sightless eye, absent in the morning, staresacross the waves, but there is nothing there - no galleon with its masts...
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Slept well and ate a good breakfast. The doctor came and said that hardlyanyone went totally blind with toxoplasmosis. This put my mind at rest,as I feared it would gallop in from the night like drawing black velvetWheeled through the hospital for an X-ray. If that's OK, after eye tests atMary'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 stationfloating above the mists, which hug the ground. The cold has flattened thebroad-leaved plants; they lie collapsed like dishcloths in the silvery frostedNigel Terry telephones - says he can't stand London any longer and iscontemplating moving back to Cornwall. Thirty years of the city growing...
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No sign of HB in the night. I forgot he told me he was not returning till thisevening, so my sleep was restless, full of haunted imaginings about whatcould 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 thatIn the morning one of his lovely cards arrived with hugs and kisses - he...
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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 thesound dub for Blue at De Lane Lea. My face is aflame and my stomach wentin the night so I was up endlessly. I bought a walking stick to menace theA telephone message to say that Mark McCormick had committed suicide....
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HB has pestered the doctors and I have a complete new drug regime. Whatis it that burns? Is it Dapsone or Fansidar? Now I am on Foscarnet, pleaseGod this works. My life is becoming a nightmare, would it just be a badHoward and HB at Prospect, they have gone to Starvecrow Lane. I sit hereWe are going to Ely for the day, Ken, Tariq and myself. My skin, St...
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I lost my hospital diary in a taxi this morning, something I've alwaysdreaded. We will see if 'Reward if found' means anything. I had gone to buymaterials for the re-upholstering of the chairs in Dungeness, the coloursI bought a solid gold Movado 1940s watch in Smithfield. I gave theshopkeeper cash so I got a very good deal. I'd never heard of Movado -...
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Up early, a most beautiful warm day. We planted up the new raised bed withFrench vegetables: pissenlit, black radish, salsify and other exotics. Thegarden is very battered by winds this May, one of the foxgloves is blownquite flat and the poppies look a little frazzled, but in spite of that it islooking more beautiful than I remember. The sage covered by hungry...
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A blizzard of poppies. The sun's up and Nick and Julian are at work in theI slept all day. Richard came with supper, told me not to give in to theBart's. Waiting to be dripped. Strange dreams that grip my mind and hangThe BBC is broadcasting a dreadful service, full of silly hymns and evenIt's boiling hot, the drip takes hours, and I end up watching Kind Hearts...
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I wasn't bathed or dressed before eleven as the drip fell off the wall while Iwas asleep, HB discovered it on the floor. I then did the rounds: Bar Italia toBertaux's, ham rolls, cheese. Michelle gave me a choux pastry from anenormous conical sugar cake they had made for Madame's daughter'ssecond wedding. Madame told Michelle she had to wear a hat. Michelle...
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I've been at Bart's for nearly two weeks. My kidneys and bone marrow aremonitored under the deluge of Gancyclovir and Foscarnet. I have aninjection each day to bolster my neutrophils, the infection has not cleared upyet but is on the way. Two weeks ago I had an eye operation, very sore andpainful, 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 sittingwaiting for take-off on a Virgin jumbo via Newark to NY. The ups anddowns of these weeks have left me with enough sight to get by, though it isHB is carrying an enormous bag of drugs to keep me dripped; God aloneI'm quite merry today as I'm finally off the Foscarnet and already feel a little...
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HB led us a dance about his birthday. He made such a fuss about not gettingpresents 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 thebathroom and the living room, to make a bathroom cupboard so I don't hitmy 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. Theactor, Chris, was compulsive viewing. I think we should organise it forI like Brussels, a homely little town, perfect for an invalid. Very goodfood, I've started to restore my appetite. We were back before we went, itJulian and Sarah are getting my drip organised, very methodical, five times...
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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