In denial memoriam …
You’ve left the building.
You didn’t let us know you were going.
I was hoping to see you do another Moliere, another Plank, another something unexpected.
Don’t mistake me, I hardly saw you in half the stuff you did – but the little I saw, I remember with affection and a wish to see more; that quirkiness, that sense of surrealism – something quietly trotting by, like a genteel tabby cat which suddenly stands up and tickles you under the chin, saying: ‘There, you weren’t expecting that, were you?’ before padding on its way, turning half-way down the road with backward glance to see if you’ve caught on.
As they say, the eyes have it. And it’s never over-played. Add to that, the sheer devilish delight in surrealism for the sake of it, a ceaseless creativity… and a cross-word puzzler to boot. Now why doesn’t that surprise me?
‘Desperate charm of a con-man on the run’
‘King of the visual gag’
‘Angel of the Age’
You’ve heard it all already.
I am just grateful they showed that programme about you – with some choice excerpts from your works. There’s an early black and white clip from that series you did with your ‘identical twin sister’ – you were the driver, she the conductress – only in this episode, you’d had your bus taken away from you. Undaunted, you both went out, and collected your passengers, the conductress tingling the bell at each stop, all walking in unison, greeting and saluting the commuters as they hopped on and off on their three-hour walk – staunch in the face of obstruction and petty bureaucracy, nothing was going to prevent them on their morning ritual, however long it might take. A brief clip, but immediately evocative of classics such as Passport to Pimlico; – that impishness, born of an untrammelled imagination, combined with a sense of quiet, civil anarchy that comes naturally to a nation which has seen its own evolution pass through both civility and anarchy in fairly recurring circles over several centuries. You managed to encapsulate all that in a few seconds of film. How? How did you do that?
But never mind how, – just keep it up, I would say – only …
You’ve left the building.
Without a word.
Without so much as a by-your-leave.
Some of us were only just getting to know you. More, I hope, will get to know you. Was it interval-time at the theatre? An unfinished game of golf you had suddenly remembered? I hope you had sandwiches ready-packed. And a full thermos-flask.
So, happy tee-off, in your lunch break. Mind, we shall expect you back soon, somehow.
Meanwhile, many happy chuckles of the day to you, wherever it is you have gone. (What did happen to the goldfish, I wonder? Oh, and the cuckoo clock ….You see? So many questions left unanswered ….)