Sunday 13 January 2019

A sort of synchronicity - before I came here my two funniest stories concerned Romania

The funniest line in literature is spoken by Thora Hird in Alan Bennett's 'Me, I'm Afraid of Virginia Woolf'. She is his mam who has descended on him unannounced in the poly where he lectures because she was 
'making some purchases in the vicinity.' 
He loses his temper with her in the canteen and she retreats behind the Daily Mirror, then says: 
'I see the President of Romania's mother has died.'
 'Always trouble for someone.'
I saw that play when I was 20 and the line has always stayed with me. A friend whom I hadn't seen for ten years until last month reminded me of it. 

Oddly enough the second funniest piece of writing I know, the obituary of Denisa, Lady Newborough, also concerns a Romanian and Romanians were a very obscure nation in England in the 1980s. These things have a meaning, though we cannot understand it.

Lady Newborough was a femme fatale. Romania has a very strong line in femmes fatales. Her obituary in the Daily Telegraph began:
"Denisa, Lady Newborough, who has died aged 79, was many things: wire-walker, nightclub girl, nude dancer, air pilot. She said that she only refused to be two things - a whore and a spy - 'and there were attempts to make me both'.
 She spoke 14 languages and designed a hat covered in half-smoking cigarettes.
 Her admirers included the Kings of Spain and Bulgaria, Adolf Hitler…Benito Mussolini…and Sheikh ben Ghana, who gave her 500 sheep. By conventional standards, her morality matched her flaming red hair but she remained as proud of one as the other."

That's all I can find on the net. My yellow cutting of the original is in some box in England and even when included in a book of Telegraph obituaries it was condensed. It gets better after that though....

Lord 'Tommy' Newborough began proceedings to dissolve the marriage less than twenty-four hours after it took place, which it did the morning after a night spent playing cards at Monte Carlo. 

I remember word for word:

".....she published her memoirs, the character of which can be gleaned from such chapter headings as 'Down and Out in Sofia' and 'Elegant Sin in Bucharest' "
I did not know when I pinned this obituary to my otherwise empty noticeboard in my civil service office in Queen Anne's Gate and watched it slowly turn yellow that my destiny would lie in Bucharest, which in those days sounded the most obscure and exotic possible location.

The obituary ended, sublimely: 

Lady Newborough is survived by a daughter, June, who is married to a dentist and lives in Brentwood.

This is a sort of synchronicity or something or other too. It wouldn't be so funny were she called Carol or lived in Shenfield or were married to a chiropodist. 

I once met the author of this masterpiece, who was introduced to me by the late and very great Hugh Montgomery-Massingbird simply as Jones. They offered me work on the Telegraph and I very much regret not making a career there - except that had I done so I should not be here in the country I so much love.

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