Monday, 16 January 2012

Plus ça change...

I'm currently reading Kenneth Williams' diaries which I'm enjoying but, it has to be said, is a pretty hefty tome! I intend to review it on completion.

Throughout, however, there have been a number of moments where things have been said which could have been written in the last year, rather than in the fifties, sixties or seventies (I'm currently up to 1978). Here's just three examples which have stuck in my mind.

First, an excerpt from an extended entry regarding his purpose in professional life and a section which discusses the Arts Council, although that is not what grabbed me about this particular bit, as will be clear:
"Of course, like so much else which starts out nobly (viz. News of the World newspaper) it seems that the years lend corruption and lay a glazed meaning or interpretation over original motives."
Friday-Wednesday 2nd-7th February 1951
Next, an excerpt which could have relevance in today's economic climate:
"Went in to Louie [his mother] and saw the State Opening of Parliament on TV. It was terribly funny. The Queen in fabulous robes talking about 'my government's need to economise because of balance of payments deficits' and wearing a Crown with enough precious stones to raise several millions."
Tuesday 29th October 1974
(That entry concludes with "When she came to the bit about a Wealth Tax, I thought she ought to stop, point to the crown and say, 'I hope you're not going to include this?' It would have got a big laugh.")

Finally, I imagine we'll see sentiment to this effect from some quarters a little later in the year:
"Everything seems utterly bleak to me and all these jubilee celebrations malapropos; in a time of economic recession, the Queen should have set an example of austerity: thousands of pounds wasted on processions and bonfires, which could have been used for better purposes."
Tuesday 7th June 1977
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. That's your actual French, that is.



Stephen Chapman said...

Actual French?! You is so clevva!

You get a mention in the blog entry I have prepared for tomorrow!

Raybeard said...

I think you're reading a more complete version of the diaries than the one I read about 20 years ago, which was wonderful in itself. Sure I would have recalled those references to the incongruity between the Queen's own sumptuous robes and bejewelled 'head gear', while espousing the doctrine of austerity.
Williams was a compelling writer, wonderfully bitchy and totally honest. He never held back from saying what he thought - which is, essentially, the true value of what diaries ought to be. You've given me the inclination to acquire this particular publication. Meanwhile I look forward to your further thoughts on it.

Btw: This morning, like all Monday morns, I've just listened to 'Round the Horne', from 1968 on Radio 4 Extra. Do you listen to them? The innuendo used then is virtually absent from today's comedy, curiously making that show, even in these wiser and more open-minded days, still just about the 'filthiest' and certainly the funniest, show on any radio at all. They are now broadcasting what was to be the final series of 'RTH', Kenneth Horne suddenly dying in early 1969. I do hope they go back to the beginning and play them again, starting with its predecessor, 'Beyond Our Ken'. Though none of the programmes may be 100% hilarious throughout, just about ALL of them have some screamingly rib-tickling moments.
Now, go carefully and mind you don't you don't nadger your cordwangle on your moolies!

oneexwidow said...

Stephen, "That's your actual French" was a catchphrase in Round the Horne, whcih Williams' was a key cast member of.

Look forward to seeing what you've said about me, albeit with some trepidation.

Raybeard, I don't listen to the Round the Hornes on 4 Extra but do love the show. Have a number of CDs, which I greatly enjoy. 'Tis not only amazing how filthy it is, but that they got away with it given the moral climate at the time.

Stephen Chapman said...

Dont fret - you get a passing mention.

I have heard Round The Horn - but only a couple of episodes. I heard a few bits of the diaries on radio 4 and was a bit sad that he didn't really push himself. I understood that he could have been a top theatre director.

Raybeard said...

Andrew, you are absolutely right. It was extraordinary to listen to the stuff they got away with then. Pity that Williams was of the 'old school' of gays who thought that there was something 'wrong' with the attribute and shouldn't be talked about openly. I don't know it for a fact, and I may indeed be wrong, but I wouldn't be surprised to read if K.W. thought that it should NOT be de-criminalised. Certainly a significant number of the more vocal yet repressed gays of around his age subscribed to that view. (I met a few myself!)

But back to 'Round the Horne'. Yes, I too have got 4 or 5 of the tapes, but there are so many progs of both RTH and BOK that it's good to try to catch them all.
I recall one particular outlandish moment when they were originally broadcast, which I've yet to catch on these replays. It was during one of the 'Fiona and Charles' sketches with Betty Marsden and Hugh Paddick:-

Charles had just made some kind of quip -

Fiona: "Ha ha ha! Oh, Charles - You are one!"

Charles: "I'm NOT!"

(I can even now hear the sharp intake of breath from the studio audience.)

Enjoy the rest of the book, Andrew. Why do I even bother to say it? Of course you will!

oneexwidow said...

Ah, whatever his own morality and personal issues - he seems to have simultaneously to have desired and reviled sexual contact but to have really craved love and companionship - he does record support for (at least a certain amount of) Homosexual Equality.

Raybeard said...

There'll certainly never be another like him - and more's the pity as the loss is ours.