No, not Terry Pratchett, (sad loss but I never met him) but Christopher Hogwood, musician and so much more.
I know he died in September last year, but the sale of his collection of keyboard instruments which happened yesterday reminded me of my brief meeting with him.
In 1976 or 77 he gave a performance at Cardiff University on harpsichord. To my shame I have no idea whether it was with his Academy of Ancient Music or not. One of my flatmates met him in the Students Union after rehearsals and they struck up a conversation. Christopher wanted to know if there was a decent place to eat in the vicinity. My flatmate suggested his flat as he knew someone who cooked a fantastic omelette.
Now I was flattered and I did cook a pretty mean omelette but for full disclosure; my flatmate was from somewhere in the Outback and his idea of sophisticated eating was to cut back on the ketchup with his Vegemite.
I was not used to cooking to order for strangers however, and was rather nervous about my ability to live up to the hype. After asking ‘what sort of omelette?’ a few times and receiving the immensely helpful (particularly to someone with ASD) ‘whatever you think’, I refrained from Hippopotamus omelette but beyond that sound decision, rather panicked and put most of the contents of the fridge into my creation.
Christopher was obviously rather more interested in my flatmate than the omelette in any case and paid it scant attention. He was also too polite to mention how disgusting it was. My flat mate invited me and our other flatmates along to the performance, but we all had other things planned. I have several of Christopher’s recordings and would have enjoyed the evening’s music, but apart from any prior commitments I didn’t want to be a third wheel. It was noticeable that Christopher’s seconding of my flat mate’s invitation seemed remarkably lacking in enthusiasm for someone who should have been trying to boost the attendance at his recital.
The two of them departed and my flatmates and I shared a raised eyebrow together. This was the 70s and views were less enlightened than they are now, but even a naïve youth such as I was realised there was rather more to Christopher’s interest in my flatmate than his witty erudition regarding early 18th Century music (of which he knew nothing).
Later that night the two returned after a successful performance and few drinks. The heartburn Christopher no doubt suffered as a result of my attempts to poison him, seemed not to have dampened his enthusiasm. After a long chat over coffee in our living room the two disappeared in to the hallway and the sounds of a long conversation were heard. Christopher put his head around the door after a while and said he had to leave to go to Oxford where he had to be the next day.
We said goodbye and my flat mate went to see him off.
A few seconds later the outer door crashed shut and our flatmate burst into the room appearing somewhat flushed, to announce in a slightly broader than usual Aussie accent;
‘Jesus Christ fellers! He just fucking kissed me!’
We all fell about laughing, as he had been the only one who had not recognised a gentle seduction routine when he saw it.
Apparently Christopher had tried to persuade my flat mate to go to Oxford with him and see the sights. He had been tempted but had some serious catching up to do on lectures anyway so had to decline. Christopher had then said that he should come up and spend some time there another time and they could get to know each other more slowly. He had then leant in and given his good night kiss.
After the surprise had worn off our flat mate was a bit mortified he hadn’t realised and wondered if he had given off the wrong message in some way. We said he should be flattered. He was a bit cagey with us for a few days after, especially as we kept asking if he had been in touch yet.
Don’t go away thinking that the amusement comes from any concerns about the sexuality of any party involved. It was simply the fact that it was so obvious that Christopher was smitten and yet the idea was so far outside my flatmate’s experience that he never even realised what was going on until the end made it obvious and so deliciously shocking to him.
I had no idea how concerned or otherwise Christopher he would have been about the story being retailed whilst he was alive, but I have never made it public before. I know he was quite unconcerned about his preferences, which is exactly as it ought to be, but it seemed irrelevant to life to bother mentioning it. I only tell it now because it makes me smile and it reminds me how much I enjoy his music and puts a human gloss on someone whose works exude perfection. I have enjoyed listening to many of Christopher Hogwood’s performances, recordings and conducting over the years. As I listened to him playing Bach or Handel I revelled of course in his musical ability, but I always enjoyed the experience that little bit more knowing that I hadn’t killed him with my cooking, and remembering the memory of the look on my friend’s face as he threw open the living room door that evening.
RIP Christopher Hogwood.