Dick French: On The Town – January 2017

“For we know it’s right, it’s in black and white, and it’s written down in his diary.”

The immortal words of Benny Hill came to mind as I purchased the complete set of Samuel Pepys’s diaries for fifty quid. This pleased me exceedingly as such a set can usually cost – the venality of bookmongers being so great – well over a hundred. In an old box outside the same shop I discovered a full set of Reginald Perrin videos for just £2. “I didn’t get where I am today without rummaging around in old boxes.”

Up very betimes and to my workroom and then by omnibus to the alehouse in St Martin’s Lane for my morning draught. By and by comes Mrs Cravat and Calamity Jane. The daughter, a comely wench who weareth the lipsticke, is a rug muncher withal, so dalliance is ill-advised. She runs an alehouse on Warren Street clept The Smugglers and is needed become so tattooed that she resembles a very privateer herself. They provide there a cocke-tail called The Black Spot of rum coffee, sassafrass and jaggery – a vicious little nip. They dined upon neat’s tongue and an udder which did please them exceedingly. But I demurred as my appetite is grown delicate betimes and doth not revive until the evening.

Returning to my workroom I continue my series of diverse, lewd, impious and obscene drawings, representing men and women in the act of carnal copulation.

I pondered awhile on that cunning jade Miss Prickens, whose proclivities are the talk of both Whitehall and Covent Garden. She hath abilities beyond those of most women and is said to perform The Whirligig. I decided to send her a message by my boy, e’en though I knew she would be busy.

To Hampstead to purchase art materials. Whatever happened to Bird and Davis of Kentish Towne? I went there one morning and they had disappeared. The art shop in Hampstead provides carrier bags bearing the legend “Let’s fill this town with artists!” What a horrible thought.

Just downhill from the art shoppe is an alehouse, The Flask. I was enjoying a morning livener of winter warmer when I noticed that a new beauty salon had opened across the way. It advertised “wart and verruca removal”. I had no idea the good folk of Hampstead suffered such low afflictions. So much for the Chalybeate spring waters… obviously not all they’re cracked up to be. And so I begin to learn modern expressions.

Down river to Bankside, there to attend an exhibition of curious art pictures in a converted power station. They are by an American fellow, Robert Rauschenberg. To enter this show one must part with £15. I could hire an able bodied seaman at 21 shillings a month for well over a year for this exorbitant sum. A socialite with a finger in many a pie, and a bugger withal, Rauschenberg could not fail, nor did he. The paintings are a congeries of sundry miscellaneous rubbidge, two of which, Charlene and Gold Standard, I liked exceedingly. That latter incorporates a small dog of the sort to be found on record labels. Yellow overall; and projecting some distance from the wall and across the floor. Charlene is mostly a red piece with a segmented circle in the top right hand corner. Both works look much better in photographs, the cheap paint having deteriorated unpleasantly.

In another room a collection of drawings with not a line in sight. Instead they are transferred from newspaper cuttings with the aid of lighter fluid. They are said ‘to deal with’ Dante’s Inferno. This technique has for decades been used by schoolchildren and I remember it being much discouraged as lazy.

A most amusing piece is a large shallow tank filled with streaming and occasionally erupting sloppy clay. It reminded me of the snood of porridge looked after lovingly by Adam Lambsbreath in Cold Comfort Farm. “Nat nay nivver say that Robert Poste’s child and to think that I cowdled thee as a mommet.”

A number of ballet performances are displayed link on televisions. The dancers are trolloping about with