I ended up at my old friend Vera's house today. I'd been on something of an epic journey which involved a trip to Primrose Hill which is a very lovely part of London. It's one of those fancy bits of town which is almost exclusively the reserve of pop musicians. Its beautiful Georgian streets hum with happening privilege! It's very cut off from its surroundings, "protected" by a railway line to the north, Camden Market to the east and Regents Park to the south. No one passes through Primrose Hill. It's a bit like Dartmouth Park in that regard. You go there if you live there or if you're the right sort of person to visit one of its fancy pubs or bars.
Vera suddenly popped into my head and it struck me that I was close enough to her house to pop in. I last saw her at Arnold's funeral last year and it was the first time I'd seen her in an age. I promised to visit her more regularly and have felt bad for some time for not yet popping by. I didn't want to drop in unannounced, so spent the longest time trying to dredge up her phone number from the dark recesses of my mind. A number sprung to mind and I decided that I'd call it. I wasn't at all convinced it would be the right one.
I was fairly astonished therefore when Vera's husband Bob answered and I immediately organised to pop in. Bob said that he'd talked about me only that morning, so I felt as though I'd made the right decision.
He opened the door. He looks fantastic. He must be way over 90, but he's incredibly upright and vital. If anything I think he looked younger than he had when I last saw him. Vera also looks well, but she doesn't talk much. I think she understands everything. She seemed thrilled to see me. Sometimes you get the impression that she's struggling a little to follow the gist of the conversation. Other times I felt perhaps that talking was just a bit too much effort. And God knows we've all been there!
We were joined by a very pleasant Chatty Cathy called Doris for the second half of the visit. She was a German journalist who'd know Vera since 1980 and didn't seem at all impressed that I'd known her for "just" 22 years!
The time flew. We had a cup of tea, and then I felt it was time to go home. I left the house with past memories crashing through my mind. It was at Vera's house that I first met my idol, Billie Whitelaw. I remember trying to tie knots in cherry stalks there with my partner Stephen Twigg. I remember learning the word "kedgeree"' there, and watching poor Nathan eating tripe, and reading poetry with Sam Becker. Days with Arnold and Dusty Wesker. And Hedi. And Fritz. And Sandy Lean. There was always something going on. Highbrow conversations. Wonderful roast dinners.
Whilst I'm in a wistful mood, I discovered yesterday that Doreen Brigham has died at the astonishingly ripe old age of 105. Yorkshire folk in particular will know Doreen as the wonderful Harrogate woman who provided lyrics for Sing a Song of Yorkshire, the last movement of my Symphony for Yorkshire. She was 98 at the time, and the good folk of the county absolutely took her to their hearts on account of the moving third verse of her poem, which I leave as a tribute to her:
"And when I’ve done my roaming, and when my step grows slow;
When heart and mind assure me that will soon be time to go,
Then let me rest in Yorkshire, for it’s there I want to lie
‘Neath the sun and the wind and the heather… and a gleaming Yorkshire sky."
Sleep well under the Yorkshire sky, Doreen.