I regret that I never heard the late Jan Luyt, Cape Town’s first locally trained carillonneur, give one of his popular concerts in the bell tower of the City Hall before it fell silent for 17 years.
However I’ve recently enjoyed re-reading how Luyt, the former Town Clerk of Cape Town, sorted out my father with good humour and tact over his letter of complaint that “his quiet, aged and well-trained spaniel, Towser had been forcibly removed from a Sunday night concert in the Grand Hall.
The “culprit” was a “granite-jawed, beady-eyed, lofty gentleman who ushers us audiences with masterly authority and offensive efficiency”.
In his letter to Luyt on December 19, 1960, Dad described how Towser had followed the car some distance so he had no option but to bring him along to hear Adolph Hallis play the Rachmaninov Paganini Rhapsody (“one of his favourites”!)
“He promptly went to sleep under my chair, where he was spotted by the lofty dead-pan usher who informed us in no whisper that dogs were not allowed in the City Hall and ordered him to be removed instantly.
“Your super usher then hung around in an offensive manner and as people around were beginning to show a lively interest in the scene, my wife – mad as hell – rose from her seat and led Towser out of the hall and back home. This is not my first barge with this usher… and it would be a kindness to me and many other members of your audience if he were to be replaced.”
Luyt displayed remarkable tolerance with his light, tongue-in-cheek response.
He apologised that the concert had been marred by an unfortunate series of incidents “but the point remains that dogs are not admitted to orchestral concerts nor can we make any exceptions however well-trained and musical Towser may be.
“The usher, to whom you have referred in rather uncomplimentary terms, was only doing his duty. So making exceptions or replacing him is not an option.
“I hope by now your temper, as well as Towser’s dignity has been restored and that your good lady is no longer as mad as hell. If this is so, and I repeat I hope it is so, perhaps we may regard this matter as closed as I would not like anything to mar the good relationship which exists between us.”
Even if you have never seen a performance of Agatha Christie’s stage play The Mousetrap, which opens on Monday December 10 at the Theatre on the Bay, you surely know it’s the longest running play in the history of London’s West End. The world premiere took place on October 6, 1952.
However Christie never expected it to be so popular. In her autobiography, she reports a conversation with Peter Saunders, the producer of the original production: “Fourteen months I am going to give it,” said Saunders. To which Christie replied, “It won’t run that long. Eight months perhaps. Yes, I think eight months.”
In September 1957 when it broke the record for the longest run of a play, Christie received a mildly grudging telegram from fellow playwright Noël Coward: “Much as it pains me, I really must congratulate you…”
This is according to a long-lost telegram discovered in 2011 by a Cotswold furniture maker who was renovating a bureau purchased by a client from the Christie estate. By that time, The Mousetrap had been running for almost 59 years.
The original West End cast included Richard Attenborough as Detective Sergeant Trotter and his wife, Sheila Sim, as Mollie Ralston. They took a 10% profit-participation in the production, paid for out of their combined weekly salary. It proved to be the wisest business decision Attenborough had ever made but foolishly he sold some of his share to open a short-lived Mayfair restaurant called “The Little Elephant”.
Later still, he disposed of the remainder in order to keep his movie, Gandhi, afloat.
Pieter Toerien’s production will be directed by Jonathan Tafler and the roles played by the Attenboroughs will be filled by Aiden Scott and Melissa Haiden. Look out for Malcolm Terrey as Major Metcalf. He’s bound to make it good fun.
It was a horrible shock to read the Bulletin article by Karen Watkins about the 2.5 million bees which Brendan Ashley-Cooper has lost to the pesticide Fipronil. Some of those poisoned may have been the descendants of the bees I once kept at “Oude Raapkraal”.
When I married Brendan’s grandfather in 1967, he made it clear that no husband should teach his wife to sail a boat or keep bees as it usually ended in tears. So my bee mentor was the late Peter Tomlinson, who promised to pay me R1 for every sting I sustained. He wrapped me up so well on my first bee outing at Kommetjie with his two friends, “Aunt Em” Ormsby and Miss Marshall, that he did not fork out a cent.
After my first glimpse inside the fascinating and ordered activity of a busy hive, I was hooked, and Peter generously came to “Oude Raapkraal” on many a Sunday to help me look after our 10 old hives.
Believe me, there is no fragrance to beat a bucket full of your own honey! Particularly when followed by a glass of chilled bubbly after all the sweating in protective clothing and turning the handle of the extractor!
Better with age
An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have: the older she gets, the more interested he is in her – Agatha Christie.