26 May, 2010
"Never knowingly understood"
The photograph immediately above will be instantly recognizable (to all that have fallen under his spell over the years) as Ivor Cutler . . . of blessed memory. The, probably unfinished, portrait above was painted by Hans Schwarz (who was a neighbour and purveyor of weird and wonderful prints, books, antiques and all sorts when we lived in Blackheath during our 'life' in London) and discovered by us recently.
Here are a couple more photographs of the great man whom I first saw in 1963 in London's Comedy Theatre at An Evening of British Rubbish with Bruce Lacey (with his robots) and The Alberts. His long-faced songs, unique Scottish accent and tortured portable harmonium combined to keep me (and thousands of others) in stitches of laughter.
A song entitled "Shoplifters" involved (naturally) a request to know whether you would like your shop lifted - high, up in the sky.
I now get to the reason for this post. A number of years ago Frances and I were part of a Private Press Book Fair being held in The Royal Festival Hall. Suddenly I looked up and realized that Ivor (or Mister Cutler as he insisted with a twinkle on being addressed by those he had not been introduced to) Cutler was walking down the aisle straight towards us. I was instantly turned to jelly. I almost ran away and perhaps that would have been better than the ludicrously awful performance of shyness and nerves that I subjected the poor man to. Believe me, it was dreadful. He was most understanding.
The next year, the same event happened again and there was Mr Cutler bearing down upon us. This time, the dear man came straight up to me, shook my hand and suggested a little walk. We walked and talked and ended up in The Poetry Library (which used to be within the RFH) and compared notes on poets we liked. Then he was on his way leaving me to realize that this whole exercise had been to put me at my ease and to expunge my blithering idiotness of last year.
He did also introduce us to the wallet which contained his famous Able-label 'publications' and he handed over to us ones that he thought we would enjoy. I have always thought this one of the most powerful publishing formats ever devised and a study of the internet shows that there are many others who treasure the tiny tracts that were solemnly handed to them.
As one and then another were passed to us, Frances said she was sad not to have something to give to him. He retorted that he did not give things to be given something back and that Frances looked the sort of person who would appreciate the gift and share it with others.
We kept the treasures in a pot on our mantlepiece and they came out regularly to be shown to visitors. About a year ago I looked in the pot and found nothing. Had some over-zealous cleaner (which we do not have) thrown them away? No amount of searching revealed them.
Then suddenly, just the other day, when looking for something quite other, there they were . . . 'tidied away'. They are now safely returned to the pot to delight suitable visitors but also I was able to photograph them. I hope this shot can be clicked big enough to allow you to read every word.