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No Time Like the Present (I take my stand) MERVYN LEVY PEOPLE HAvE AN embarrassing habit of spilling over from one decade into another like the froth on a detergent. Long after the linen has been washed, dried, ironed and, in most cases laid away in the airing cup- boards of limbo for the quiet moths of time, they are still with us, dog- eyed with self-pity, and hopeful still of recognition. From the grey depths of the 'thirties hungry shadows tug at me sometimes, rattling the window frames on the long, dark evenings, while the idiot's lan- tern laps its drivel sounding sea over the shadowed eyes of the family, half daft with watching, half smudged in sleep. There were no loonies lanterns then, of course, so perhaps that is why they come, tapping at the panes of my space age window in Wimbledon, half in curiosity, half in the desperate hope that the lantern's light will illumine for a moment their cold, crumbling countenances. Who comes thus? Roger Roughton, surrealist writer, who I thought to be still locked in the lavatory of a flat in Coleherne Road, Chelsea: Dylan, wiping a neck- lace of snot across the freshly painted kitchen door of a mutual friend and grinning through the broken brown bars of his teeth in impish defiance of all newly painted kitchen doors. But the lantern's light is lovely, really lovely, and in its pearly depths one can see, as in olden days one could in the fire, images of vanished space and time. Like Huxley's resplendant visionary jewels, it is a per- fect point of departure. But we had no lantern in the 'thirties, and meeting Mr MacNeice in his lop sided smile and black leather coat, or Mr C R W Nevison, broad hatted and brooding in the darkest comer of a Hampstead party, smacked of a tingling reality which hardly exists nowadays. Today, the sacred cows of the B B c, Dimbleby, Harding & Co., straddle the islands, blotting out the real people. But I T v, God be praised, is restoring the hairs of personality to the bald pate of British television and providing once more an avenue through which forthright and fearless opinions may again be expressed. Even if they do offend the generals and the bishops and the Presidents of the