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The Warp

Everyday Life in the Studio

We have now moved all the furniture out of the studio. Its floor is bare except for the mattress on which I sleep, the easels belonging to Patrick and Bruce Proudfoot, and the table at which I sit to write. Patrick sleeps on a camp bed which by day he hauls up into the rafters and Bruce, when he is here, on a mattress in the paint store.

The gramophone plays ‘Les Noces’, that savage work of Stravinski, with which the voice of the minah bird Ozymandias mixes in curious shrieks and liquid cries. The bird has influenced Patrick in his bodily movements so that he now stands at his easel with his head held for long periods on one side. Silently he contemplates the portrait he’s doing of Clarissa. Bruce also is silent as he regards intently a plaster cast he has just stolen from a nearby art school. At intervals he lays this down and takes up in his other hand a woman’s mirror in which he gazes long at his own face.

As well as liking Stravinski, Ozymandias is inspired to song by the telephone. When it rings, and long after it has ceased ringing because someone has lifted the receiver and is talking down it, he continues trilling in a song that is an impressionistic imitation of a tinkling telephone bell.

I plan to work for the whole of the day,’ I say.

Evening. Aunt Rob rings up and asks, hearing Ozymandias, ‘Darling, have you had a baby?’

Now it is getting cold in the studio. Bruce puts on his threadbare overcoat and sets off on one of his mysterious nocturnal prowls through the city. Patrick and I continue to work in silence. A few hours later he suggests we go out to eat. We pile into his car and begin to drive.

However, we have not gone more than fifty yards when we catch sight of the huge frosted glass windowed pub on the corner of the street where our studio is. Its lounge is filled with what we call the local smart set,’ (now they would be called ‘yuppies’) ‘talking over their beers and cocktails. We go through the lounge into a large brown room with an open fire, flanked with philodendrons, and order steaks with pint glasses of lager. The latter makes us sentimental and he talks of his military service. He was an army officer involved in the maintenance of order in post war Berlin.

The most extraordinary thing about Berlin,’ says Patrick, ‘far more than I’ve ever found in any other town, was its impermanence. At any rate, in England, if you leave some friends in a house in town, and come back a year later, you expect them still to be there. In Berlin, it was never like that. Even if you went back a few weeks later, you would find a completely different family there, or that it had all been pulled down altogether, with a different building already going up in its place. Once you’d lost them, you didn’t find people again. They wouldn’t be in the same place as they had been before.’

He told me about a girlfriend he had then, ‘She was adorable, very young and pretty and innocent, everything you could possibly want. And I sometimes wonder, you know, about falling in love, if I ever did want to leave Clarissa and fall in love with another girl and marry her, I would go back and find her. She lived in a garret that you approached through acres and acres of gable and scaffolding and boards going along beside which you couldn’t step in the darkness for fear of falling into the rooms underneath and all absolutely filthy, and then you came to a place where rough boards had been put up but just like the rest in other respects, and you were there.

I adored her. In the summer we used to bathe together. We stopped going to the English place because she said she didn’t like the English. Whichever place we went to, English or German, she didn’t have any proper bathing things, just two sort of scarves which she draped over her, one over her breasts and one over her bottom, transparent as soon as they got wet. Out of the water she shielded herself with her hands, like fig leaves, completely ineffectual and very charming.’

Next morning Clarissa comes for another sitting for her portrait. For what seems like hours she poses in the dark studio, whose large round topped window gives onto the assembled trees outside. Huge leaves drift from the tree branches and clog the streets. The sky is dark and as I step out onto the studio balcony, I am assailed with cold rain and the first sharp winds of winter.’


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