INDEX May 23, 1987.

May 23, 1987.

3 St Helier's Road,
London E10 6BH

Dear Frank & Jenny,

I'm writing mostly because I met Scarlett McGwire the other day and she mentioned Jenny. In fact she said she'd gone to the same university as Jenny. I didn't even know you went to university Jenny------or maybe I did and I forgot.

Anyhow the circumstances of my meeting Scarlett were somewhat unusual. In fact she, interviewed me in front of the cameras. Admittedly they were cameras owned by the London Borough of Waltham Forest but it was still quite an experience. The council had decided to run a media training course for councillors and naturally I put my name down------though I didn't think they would be able to teach me too much. In fact about half the day was spent mucking about in a mock up tv studio and I did learn an awful lot about tv. Scarlett, by the way, is a damn good tv interviewer though a somewhat prickly character. She treated me as if I was a cross between Uncle Sam and Atilla the Hun but I guess I was messing about a bit.

The other half of the course was run by Francis Beckett, who used to be a president of the NUJ some years back. He asked us to write a press release so I wrote it out in shorthand and then transcribed it. "How do you know I don't read shorthand," said the man who trained as an NUS press officer (I mean National Union of Students not National Union of Seaman).

Paddy Joyce was there looking just like he did ten years ago. Age has not wearied him and ceaseless toil has not ground him down. Paddy's getting a new department though it's an open question who is going to be the boss.

The council has been embroiled in public controversy lately. In fact, according to Norman Tebbit who is now chairman of the Conservative Party and the man who runs their campaign (well with a few others), Waltham Forest is firmly in the loony left category. He pilloried us in a party political broadcast on tv a couple of weeks before the election. The reason: we put the rates up 62% and as a result 5,000 people demonstrated outside the town hall during one council meeting and 6,000 during the next. There have been posters up in many of the shops, tonnes of hate mail to councillors, anonymous phone calls-- some very indecent or threatening------Neil Gerrard has had his house fire bombed (only the door was damaged), a hearse arrived to take Vi Smith's body away which annoyed her since she is still using it, a brick went through one councillor's front door window, etc etc. We have not suffered much but my name and address did go up along with all the other councillors on posters inviting angry ratepayers to let us know what they thought of us. We put up a smoke alarm in the hall just in case.

We are expecting an invitation to go to the High Court any day now. The ratepayers action group sent a solicitor's letter round threatening that we would be personally surcharged.

Arthur celebrated his sixth birthday last week. Laura, our eldest, is seven. But you remember Laura she was born before you left. She has a hamster which spends all its waking hours (the night) running inside a creaking wheel. It makes the most eerie noise but it doesn't disturb her sleep and seems to have been a good influence on her.

The election is currently in full swing. Labour is doing reasonably well in the opinion polls (the last one was Tories 41%, Labour 33% which sounds ghastly but is a lot better than some lately) and is running a good campaign. But the Tories are so far in front in terms of the seats they hold (they have about 400 while Labour has about 200) that the chances of Labour winning the election are pretty remote. It is a lot easier for a sitting MP, even a dodo, to hold on to a seat than it is for someone to come along and capture it. So it looks like we are going to have another four years of Thatcher, which is the best reason for living in Australia that I can think of. Still judging from Doug's last letter you have a few loony politicians in Aus as well!

Return to autobiography See theatre & criticism