Graham Greene and a floating neon message in a bottle
Yesterday, the rabbit hole that is Youtube pulled me into watching an occasionally wibbly VHS (adjust the tracking!), early nineties documentary about Graham Greene, one of those Arena ones that start with a lit-up floating bottle (health and safety!) that takes me right back to a teenager not wanting to go to bed. I was happy to put up with the quality as soon as I saw ‘readings by Alec Guinness’ and ‘narrated by Robert Powell’. There is opinion from John le Carré (who thought Greene was great) and Anthony Burgess (who thought he was a bit meh, and a sell out).
There is lots of old, slightly spooky photos of neat-looking schoolchildren and Oxford students larking about, and a rich old lady relative who refers to herself as ‘one’, and speaks in clipped, plummy tones. Many posh people speak terribly these days, an awful haughty drawl that make me want to shout Annunciate! at them. I miss old fashioned posh people. And how wearing a hat was normal in the old days. And by that I mean proper hats with shape and style. I’d look great with a wide Edwardian brim, feathers and silk flowers on my bonce.
Greene may not have been the best writer ever, but he was prolific, and that’s always risky, as some of it is likely to compare unfavourably. But, he was consistent when it came to being a fascinating man. When he was young he played Russian Roulette until it became dull (???). He was once a member of the communist party. He had secret ‘visits’ to prostitutes, which made me visualise Greene turning up on an East End doorstep with a Battenberg and a bunch of daffodils, ready for an afternoon of polite conversation and looking through photo albums.
England Made Me, uploaded in four parts, forms part of a Graham Greene Arena trilogy, along with The Dangerous Edge and A World Of My Own. All are on Youtube.