Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"The English will tell you they're English. They Lie."

                Our constant table companion, Ken Nichol, a Scots aerodynamic physicist, who was leaving Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study to work on trans-sonic flow on the supersonic Concorde, said, "the drink's so cheap, if you're not drinking, you're losing money."
               We didn't loose a dime.  After five days of non stop party, we were happy to leave the the SS France.  On our way down the gangplank in Southhampton, his wife Sue said, "one thing you'll find about Britain.  Nothing is convenient."  

                 Nothing was. We had a lot of luggage because we were moving from NY to London. By the time we gathered up our stuff, got it on a train for Euston Station, got it all off the train and got a taxi and found our temporary flat just off Sloane Square in London it was cold, dark and raining.
                   The address said Sloane Gardens, which is a very posh part of the West End.  Except for this part which is facing rows of dingy, brick Victorian houses divvied up into bed sits.  
  A bed sit, if you don't know, is a narrow one room flat with a sofa bed, a sink, three kinds of wallpaper on the walls, and an enduring scent of cabbage.  I was paying the cabbie, when Karen came back down the steps.  "What's wrong?"
                  "You could say it's rather charming in a revolting, sordid sort of way," she said.
                    There was a note on the sofabed.  "Come to a flat warming party."  Which we did.  It wasn't far away, and it was a real flat with several rooms, lots of guests and drink and no furniture.  

                     I sat down on the floor next to an unsually handsome gent who was talking to a slender, breathtakingly beautiful teenager.

                      "Obviously, the gent said, turning to me, "you're new here."

                      I allowed as how yes, I'd just got off the boat.
                      "My name," he said in the orotund tones of one who trod the boards, "is Peter Finch.  And I am Australian.  Let me give you a piece of advice."
                        Even then,  Finch was famous as a gifted and distinguished actor.
   His last role, as a newscaster in Network, had him saying "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it any more." 

  That would be years later. 
   Now he carefully placed his glass on the floor and leaned forward. 

           "The English," he said, "will tell you they are English.  They lie.  They are ancient Chinese.  And once you accept that you will never participate in their Mandarin Ceremonies, you will get along fine."

                       It was excellent advice.  

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