Coales'Notes: And now, the end is clear

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The Independent Culture
MONDAY The week off. Good to be back home and out of London. I have spent Christmas weekend quietly at Rowena's. A slight cloud last night, as we discussed my plans. I told her I'd completely had it with Ars Longa, and Di was proposing something to do with arts sponsorship, but really I wasn't sure. Personally I thought a period of not doing anything at all might be the best thing for me - just to stick around up here, re-establish old contacts, take stock.

I said, look at Archie Ogg. He hadn't done anything for a couple of years since his Arts Centre went down - a bit dotty, but basically OK. Or there was she herself, writing books and carrying on pretty self-sufficiently. She said: 'Oh yes. There's something I've been meaning to show you.' She went upstairs and came down with a box. She unpacked the contents, which I would have described as an array of miscellaneous rubbish, on to the table, and began to sort them out according to some principle. Then she said: 'So. Each player has three pieces.'

After a lengthy explication, I asked how the game ended. She replied: 'Oh, it doesn't have an end. That's the thing about it. Now, d'you want to play?' We played. Two hours in, a quite insuperable inconsistency in the rules emerged - due, she insisted, to my 'trying to play too rationally'. I have never felt that devising board-games was a very healthy sign in a person.

WEDNESDAY I had a drink with Fiona. I told her I was pleasantly surprised to find her still around, a year now after the Wormwood Centre had closed. Was she finding things to do up here? She said: 'Oh plenty, plenty to do - up here.'

I said it was just that I was always half-expecting to run into her at some arts do in London. She replied: 'London? You must be joking. Of course I wouldn't know how it looks from London, but things are happening up here. Perhaps you hadn't noticed, but a couple of very exciting new cafes have opened in the last six months.' I thought: Oh lord, gone local.

She went on: 'And I mean, god, this year we're going to be celebrating the Rusk bicentenary. So there's all that.' I asked, Rusk? She gaped: 'I don't believe this Gordon, you worked here for 20 years. Samuel Rusk? 1794-1853? 'The Baulkster's Testament?' No?'

I said, oh yes, local poet, right? She said: 'Right. The so-called 'Baulkster Bard' as they called him - in London. So, he was a baulkster. But if you actually read it, it's all about round here. And we're going to celebrate that with a community project I'm doing.'

I said I was astonished to hear this, she'd always been so sod-the-public in the past. She shook her head pityingly: 'Gordon, let me break this to you gently. You have to work with people. Right? With people. And it involves a real commitment. And if you think you can bring some commitment to this project, I'd be very happy to work with you again. Up here.'

I declined her invitation to a Folk Night at the Cafe Barcelona. It is rather tragic.

NEW YEAR'S EVE I received a distressing phone call from Archie. He began: 'Now Gordon, simple question, d'you want to be on a committee?' He was almost incoherently drunk. I asked, what committee? He replied: 'Now this is very, very hush- hush. I am now referring to a very secret, very powerful, very inner committee of the Arts Council of Great Britain, which has just been established in the utmost secrecy by Lord Gowrie himself, on which I have been invited to sit, by a route, a certain route, and which I can barely speak about, because - because it is so secret.'

I asked how he had heard of his appointment. He said: 'On the radio. And if you would like, I can put your name forward. Because I've been waiting for two years for this, and now, after two years, they've finally realised the kind of man who is required to put the arts in order, in Great Britain.'

No. Not that. I shall ring Di first thing next week.

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