Odd this day

Coates
3 min readDec 19, 2022

Well, happy 76th anniversary to a diary entry describing a day in London in which then 43-year-old Evelyn Waugh drinks enough to incapacitate a yeti:

…and, because I can’t possibly fit all that into alt text, here it is in all its glory:

Thursday 19 December 1946

I went to London by the early train. I have now reached an age when any disturbance of routine is disagreeable, and I sat misanthropic, smoking cigars, while the train lost more and more time until it halted for three-quarters of an hour in a snowstorm just outside the Paddington station. I had time to try on a suit which has taken six months to make and then went to luncheon at the Beefsteak where I talked to Harold Nicolson and Clive Bell and drank enough wine to fuddle me slightly. In that condition I went to Duckworth and signed sixteen copies of When the Going was Good for Christmas presents. Also to the travel agency who are sending me to Hollywood. At 5 o’clock there was the Beefsteak committee meeting. My candidates Maurice Bowra, Ran Antrim and Randolph Churchill all got in the latter after long discussion in which 1 Hugh Sherwood made a spirited defence and overbore two men who had come with the firm purpose of blackballing him. During the meeting I drank a lot of whisky and went rather drunk to a cocktail party given by John Murray’ where I got very drunk. Rose Macaulay attempted a serious conversation in which I did not shine. I spent most of the time with Hermione Ranfurly jeering at people who were introduced to me and ended by bearing off a diminutive man called Gibbings to White’s for champagne cocktails. From then my memory is vague but I went to bed early I think at the Hyde Park Hotel.

The Hermione Ranfurly he mentions is a Countess who published a WWII diary in 1994 — accurately described by The Times as “a madcap, aristocratic window behind the lines of war”.

Through her I heard of Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart, who “served in the Boer War, WWI and WWII … shot in the face … through the skull, hip, leg, ankle and ear”, and has one of the most extraordinary life stories you’ll ever read.

I can also highly recommend his own autobiography, Happy Odyssey, which I write about more in my review of the year.

But I think the most important point to make is that if any of this should prompt you to wonder what Evelyn Waugh looked like while deploying an ear trumpet, I can help you with that:

A middle-aged man in tweeds (or at least a slightly fusty smart suit), with moustache and brylcreemed hair, with an ear trumpet in one hand which he is holding up to his right ear

(To be precise, I can help you with that thanks to Ian Penman, whose book It Gets Me Home, This Curving Track, I can also recommend.)

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Coates

Purveyor of niche drivel; marker of odd anniversaries