Tuesday, May 19, 2009
visitor, party, changes
Rhododendron bud with visitor.
Three years and few days ago I came across Clare Grant's blog Three Beautiful Things, which inspired my own, blog now nearing its third anniversary, and a number of other blogs all over the world, which have adopted the same formula.
Yesterday, Clare presided at a party in a pub in Tunbridge Wells to celebrate four years of Three Beautiful Things. Part of the pleasure of being at the party was to spot some of the characters, who feature in her daily notes, and to learn that a book, drawing on them, is to appear in the Autumn. As I have said here before, I still remember my surprise, when, having begun to visit Three Beautiful Things, and having encountered it entirely by chance, I realized that Clare lived, not as I had first supposed in San Francisco or New York or Sydney, but in Tunbridge Wells, where she turned out to be a virtually a neighbour.
How social behaviour has changed strikes me this morning when I finish reading an Inspector Maigret detective story by Georges Simenon. The novel interests me in particular because part of it is set in the Savoy Hotel in London, where my journalistic work often used to take me. It is clear that the author, in describing the French policeman's pursuit of wrong-doers, knew the Savoy well, its location, its atmosphere, its decor and its internal plan. Simenon wrote the book in 1952, which does not seem a long time ago to me, though it may to others. What especially interests me is the attitude to smoking, in the bedrooms, the bars and the dining rooms - including the Savoy Grill. It is in the Grill that the Maitre d' whispers in Maigret's ear to ask him not to smoke his pipe, but profers him a cigar instead, where all round people appear to enjoying post-prandial cigarettes. It is true. I remember people smoking all the time and everywhere in those days. Non-smokers were the exception. It's hard to believe nowadays, when the smell of public places has changed, for the better probably, for want of tobacco, but changed nevetheless.
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What I could never understand in those days was why pipes (which often emitted plum-pudding like odours) were frowned upon while acrid-smelling cigarettes were thought acceptable. Saw A bout de souffle recently, fifty years old and a hilariously exaggerated take on the French love affair with the Gauloise (only exceeded in intensity in Tokyo). The exigencies of cinematic close-ups mean that the lighted end is in danger of burning off the nose-tip of the other person in the frame. I've no doubt Jean-Paul Belmondo was awarded Smoker of the Century, following this performance.
Always loved the smell of pipe smoke, never cigarettes, and cigars were much worse. And I remember standing in line in the grocery store with my mother, and people would be smoking. I'm very glad this nastiness is not ok anymore.
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