Sailor Duval Did Not Go Out Into That Big Sleep Last Night

Well, I just got back from a weekend up in Lancaster, a town in the north of England not far from that hotbed of Romanticism known as the Lake District. Perhaps I imbibed rather too copiously from the well of romance, which might account for the strange dreams I had while there. Few things are more tiresome, I know, than someone else’s dreams, unless they are recalled by a poet, a painter, or a psychoanalyst. Being none of the above, I ought to know better than to dabble in such recollections; but this tidbit of mental television so closely relates to my general musings as recorded in this journal—and the plans I have for it—that I deem it worth sharing.

Being removed from a wireless network and the up-to-dateness it affords, I had plenty of time to linger in and dwell on the past, a return trip that began at the Ruskin Library. Exhibited there were sketches and daguerrotypes by the noted Victorian art critic (whom I had just mentioned in my discussion of Quiet Please).

At a second-hand bookstore in Carnforth, I happened on a fine copy of One Year of Grace (1950), a small volume of travel impressions by BBC radio drama producer Val Gielgud, composed while he visited the United States in the late 1940s. A brother of noted stage and screen actor John Gielgud, the author frequently commented on American radio acting and production techniques, deploring commercially sponsored broadcast dramatics and their wastefulness. So, I am looking forward to reading and contradicting his remarks, responses I might share in a future instalment of this journal.

While in Carnforth, I also got to look at the town’s train station. It was here that the location shots were taken for my favorite British film melodrama, the previously discussed Brief Encounter. Unfortunately, I did not recognize the scene as such, even though I arrived at it on a suitably bleak and misty day. Nor does the town seem particularly interested in advertising its landmark.

After visiting a gallery in the town of Kendal, where quite a few painting by erstwhile resident George Romney are on display (though few truly outstanding ones), I was on my way to Lake Windermere, picturesquely shrouded in a haze the feeble winter sun was not able to dispel. My camera refused its services; but I did manage to take the photograph featured in the collage above.

Wordsworth found much to dream and write about on this lake:

There, while through half an afternoon we played
On the smooth platform, whether skill prevailed
Or happy blunder triumphed, bursts of glee
Made all the mountains ring. But ere night-fall,
When in our pinnace we returned, at leisure
Over the shadowy Lake, and to the beach
Of some small Island steered our course with one,
The Minstrel of our Troop, and left him there,
And rowed off gently, while he blew his flute
Alone upon the rock,—Oh then the calm
And dead still water lay upon my mind
Even with a weight of pleasure, and the sky,
Never before so beautiful, sank down
Into my heart, and held me like a dream!

I went to bed early that night, set my ears for a while on “Library Book,” a Suspense play starring the none-too-phonogenic Myrna Loy, but soon drifted beyond earshot and reason. I was not beyond gossip, however, and awoke with the feeling—the knowledge—that Hollywood had lost someone far grander than good old Grandpa of The Munsters—and someone rather more formidable at that. Upon my return home, I opened to my laptop and eagerly checked the Internet Movie Database for facts, only to realize that I had merely imagined it all: imagined that I had read a headline pronouncing the death of Ms. Lauren Bacall. As of today, 5 February 2006, Ms. Bacall is alive and, I trust, well. Exhale in relief, and marvel at my murderous revision. “You know how to whistle, don’t you?”

In the murkier recesses of my mind, I had somehow made up this story of her passing and believed it, too, mainly because I saw it all in print, however fictive. Sad to say, my immediate response was that I saw in this imaginary headline ample material for a new journal entry, as well as occasion for some exciting listening. I was prepared to write about Sailor Duval and the Bold Venture, the boat on which Bacall (as “Sailor”) and her husband, Humphrey Bogart (as Slate Shannon, her guardian), took off for some tropical adventure each week in their 1950s radio series of the same name. . . .

Not that I require an obituary to revisit the ladies, dames, and gals of the air, the heroines of old-time radio whom I had planned all along to feature over the next couple of weeks, and to whom my first quiz is dedicated. For now, I am going to close the creaking door on this day (and that vision) like Raymond shutting up the Inner Sanctum: “Good night. Pleasant dreams, hmmmmmmmmm?”

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