EVELYN CONCLUDED?

or

ASK ALASTAIR


I've been meaning to write this essay for three years or more. When I first got the idea it seemed such an obvious thing to do - telling the whole story of Evelyn Waugh's adulthood from this particular angle. From his one-time lover Alastair Graham's point of view.

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Alastair Graham lived in Barford House in Warwickshire from the age of 13. He went to a day school close to Leamington Spa and then to Wellington School for a year and then to Oxford in 1922 where he met Evelyn Waugh. Alastair was sent down from Brasenose College for not passing his first year exams, but he and Evelyn spent much of 1923 in each other's company, both at Barford House and at Oxford. This is not well documented because Evelyn destroyed the diaries he kept at Oxford. Why? Probably because homosexuality was then illegal and Evelyn didn't fancy going to jail much. It would have played havoc with his average daily alcohol consumption.

The diary is extant from June 1924, and so we know that immediately post-Oxford, Evelyn lived with his parents in Hampstead, and - as relations were at a low ebb with Alastair's mother - in a caravan in a pub car park with Alastair. They spent August together, sharing double-rooms in hotels in Ireland. This was just after the filming of
The Scarlet Woman in which Evelyn camped it up for the camera. Either that or he simply behaved as he was in the habit of doing with Alastair.

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Still from The Scarlet Woman directed by Terence Greenberg, 1925.

In autumn of 1924 Alastair was converting to Roman Catholicism and visiting his sister in Africa, while Evelyn was briefly attending art school and then looking for a job. Teaching then dominated Evelyn's life for a couple of years. Between terms, Evelyn and Alastair spent some time together in 1925 (Evelyn was also seeing a lot of the Plunket Greene family), and they went on a summer holiday together in 1926. The page 'Evelyn and Alastair's Grand Tour' concerns the trip made with Alastair's mother to the Carlisle and River Esk area. Here, in Cumberland, at the beginning of the 20th Century, the Graham family owned a large house, Netherby Hall, though Hugh Graham and Jessie Graham, Alastair's parents, lived in rented accommodation until Alastair was 13, at which time the family (Alastair had a brother and two sisters) bought the aforementioned Barford House in Warwickshire.

Occasionally, in their heyday, Alastair wrote Evelyn an undated letter. Here is an extract from one probably written in 1924:
'I do not know whether I ought to come to Oxford or not next week. It depends on money and other little complications. If I come, will you come and drink with me somewhere? on Saturday. If it is a nice day we might carry some bottles into a wood or some bucolic place, and drink like Horace.'

In an envelope called 'sentimental friendships', Evelyn kept this letter and a photograph of Alastair all his life.

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Photograph of Alastair Graham. taken from Philip Eade's Evelyn Waugh: A Life Revisited, where the credit is to Alexander Waugh.

By the time of the motor trip to Netherby and on to Scotland in August 1926, Alastair and Evelyn's relationship had climaxed (excuse the pun), though they were still friends. At Christmas 1926, Evelyn visited Alastair in Athens and was disturbed by the sordid scene he observed at the flat Alastair shared with Leonard Bower, an attaché at the British Embassy. It distressed Evelyn that all the talk was about male prostitutes who slept with the English colony for 25 drachmas a night.

Clearly, Evelyn and Alastair were travelling in opposite directions, because Evelyn met well-to-do She-Evelyn in April 1927 and they were married in June 1928. Alastair took photographs of the Evelyns together in the grounds of Barford House that summer, so Evelyn and Alastair's moving apart was a gradual and an amicable thing. Everyone was in on it. How they all really felt about it, that's a different matter...

She-Evelyn: "I wish you would forget about Alastair and show me some physical affection."
Alastair: "Ah, but you can't forget me, can you, Evelyn? My body haunts you!"

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Photograph of Evelyn Waugh and Evelyn Gardner by Alastair Graham, 1928. Courtesy of Alexander Waugh.

A few months prior to the Evelyns' wedding, and following several years' travel in the Levant, Alastair had joined the Diplomatic Service, taking over from Leonard Bowers. He was honorary attaché to the British Minister, Sir Percy Loraine. Sir Percy was rumoured to have a liking for young men and low life and to have had an affair with the young Francis Bacon. It cannot be emphasised too much that homosexuality was illegal in Britain until the 1960s and the diplomatic service in the Middle East was staffed by men escaping repressed British society. They slept around: with each other and with as many locals as they could seduce or bribe.

Alastair was 'serving' (his duties were not onerous, he was in charge of organising Sir Percy's hospitality) in Athens, when the Evelyns' Mediterranean cruise of spring 1929 went badly wrong. Alastair travelled to Port Said where She-Evelyn was ill and He-Evelyn needed help with the situation. Together they explored the red light district together. Not sure how much help that was to She-Evelyn, but it seemed to lift He-Evelyn's spirits.

The Evelyns then went on to Athens, where Alastair and Mark Ogilvie Grant hosted them. Alastair and Mark were known as 'the Embassy girls' in colonial society. In
Labels, the travel book that Waugh managed to put together out of his Mediterranean cruise, Mark and Alastair are named but not shamed.

When Sir Percy Loraine became British High Commissioner in Cairo in 1929, Alastair went along with him as honorary attaché in September of that year. After all Sir Percy would have still needed his martinis stirring. Mark Ogilvie-Grant was appointed to a similar post in December 1930. And a third character, Vivian Cornelius, in January of 1931. But let's leave that colourful lot to settle into a laid back Egyptian lifestyle and get back to straight, grey Britain.

After the breakdown of the Evelyns' marriage in the summer of 1929, Alastair was still in Evelyn's life. In the summer of 1930 (Alastair would have been on holiday) they stayed at the Sitwells' country house at Renishaw, moving on to Pakenham Hall in Ireland.

There is a photograph of the pair together at Pakenham which appears in Philip Eade's biography of Waugh. But first the setting. The group photo was taken in front of the ground floor window with arched lintel that can be seen in the photo below.

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The white-topped black railings also appear in the historic photo, below:

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Photograph of Alastair Graham and Evelyn Waugh at Pakenham Hall, 1930. Taken from Evelyn Waugh: A Life Revisited by Philip Eade. Where the credit is Thomas Pakenham..

Let's ignore Elizabeth Hardman and the tennis racket wielding John Betjeman, and concentrate on Evelyn and Alastair. After all, this is the one and only extant photograph of the pair in each other's company. And they're at their zenith: Alastair 26 and Evelyn 27.

Look at Alastair's exquisite clothes! I wonder if that ensemble has any relation to the dove grey flannel suit and white crepe de Chine shirt that Sebastian was wearing when he and Charles went on their first outing to Brideshead. On that occasion, Sebastian was wearing a tie with a postage stamp motif that he'd borrowed from Charles. On this occasion, maybe it's the scarf worn ostentatiously over the shoulder that Alastair has borrowed from Evelyn. Note Alastair's white fingernails, that's a detail that will recur more than once before the end of this narrative.

Evelyn is standing on a block of stone so that he towers above Alastair. Why so?

Evelyn: "It reflects our achievements in life, Alastair. I am the lionised author of
Decline and Fall and Vile Bodies. You are the sodomised server of drinks to the English colony in the Med."

Alastair gets a mention in
Vile Bodies. He, under the name of Miles Malpractice, is of the party that travel to a motor race, written up in November 1929, just as Alastair was of the party that went to a motor race in Belfast in September of 1929.

Of course, by then Alastair would have been well aware of how the Evelyns' marriage had foundered, humiliating He-Ev. At Pakenham Hall, Evelyn would no doubt have been sure to inform Alastair that Audrey Lucas was pursuing him, and that he was fucking her whenever he wanted. However, it's reported that Evelyn behaved in a very camp way during the stay at Pakenham Hall, sticking close to Alastair, so that it was presumed their relationship was back on again.

It was here in Ireland that Alastair suggested that Evelyn, looking for experience that he could write about, attend Haile Selassie's coronation in Ethiopia, a trip which led to the travel book
Remote People and Waugh's third novel, Black Mischief. It also led to Evelyn's temporary falling out with Alastair's mother as, prior to making the trip, he tore the map of Africa out of her Times Atlas of the World.

Evelyn did stay at Barford again, and his last entry in the visitors' book there is in August 1932. By then,
Black Mischief would have been written, partly at Madresfield, where Waugh's new chums the Lygons lived. However, he wasn't having any success with his pursuit of Teresa Jungman and that winter would set off in despair for the Amazon jungle in search of more new experiences and literary copy.

According to Duncan Fallowell, when asked why he lost touch with Evelyn, Alastair answered that once Evelyn had tasted success as a writer, he became a snob and a bore. Can we take that at face value? No, but let's bear it in mind.

Diplomatically speaking, things came to an end for Alastair in Egypt. All three of the honorary attachés had their appointments terminated over a year or so, the third being Alastair's in May 1933. First in, last out, which says something for him. Did he look for another job in the diplomatic service? Or had his time in the Levant run its course?

Before the end of
How to Disappear, Fallowell tells us that he's seen letters from Sir Percy Lorraine making it clear he very much wanted Alastair with him in Ankara, but that Alastair turned down the invitation. Perhaps he'd had enough of the lifestyle.

Shortly after, it seems that Alastair got into a spot of bother in London. There was a scandal involving himself and a rich member of the aristocracy. As Philip Eade puts it: '
Soon after leaving the diplomatic service in 1933, when Sir Percy Loraine was transferred to Ankara, Alastair had been warned by the police to leave London or go to prison following the discovery of his illicit affair with the Welsh poet Ewan Morgan, soon to be Viscount Tredegar.'

They're liaison was in the Cavendish Hotel, whose proprietress Rosa Lewis had connections with Alastair's family. This was the hotel that Waugh had written about in
Vile Bodies - as Shepheard's Hotel run by Lottie Crump. At Shepheard's the Italian waiter is gay, but Evelyn remained shy of writing about gay activity amongst his set or in English society in general. The occasion when police become involved is after one of the chambermaids dies after swinging from the chandelier. A judge's sexual peccadilloes are implied but certainly not punished.

Who was Ewan Morgan? Ten years older than Alastair, he went to Eton and Christ Church and was a Roman Catholic convert. He was a poet who had a collection of animals at his country pile and a room dedicated to the black arts. Alastair and he would have had a lot in common.

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Evelyn came back from the Amazon in March 1933 and spent a few months at Diana Cooper's house in Bognor Regis, on the south coast of England, writing up his third travel book, Ninety-two Days. By the beginning of 1934, Waugh was in Fez, Morocco, An ideal circumstance in which to invite Alastair, one might have thought, as gay sex was tolerated there. But I don't think that happened. Once a week, Evelyn was 'rogering' a local prostitute called Fatima and the rest of the time he was concentrating on his fourth novel, A Handful of Dust.

In May 1934, Alastair's mother died and he inherited Barford House. But he didn't want to go on living there. I suspect he was still travelling in the Mediterranean at this time. Basically, we don't know where Alastair Graham was for a year or two. Maybe he
was in Fez. When a reunion of the railway Club form Oxford was mooted in 1962, Evelyn wondered if Alastair Graham would be there, noting that he hadn't seen him for twenty-five years. If Waugh had been talking precisely, that would have meant 1937, but, as Duncan Fallowell points out, he was more likely being vague.

Let's not lose sight of Ewan Tredegar. Below he is with Blue Boy, his pet macaw, at a garden party at Tredegar House around 1935.

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There is a story, which I imagine is apocryphal, that this bird was trained by its owner to climb up the inside of his trouser leg and stick its head out of his lordship's fly. Though the other faces in the above picture seem to suggest that some such outrage has indeed just happened. Perhaps, Blue Boy has spoken:

"Where the fuck is Alastair? We want to fuck the Embassy girl. We want to fuck her good."

Back to the historical record. In 1936, Alastair was staying with Clough Williams-Ellis (the architect who Evelyn had met while staying with She-Evelyn's sister, Alathea, prior to writing
Decline and Fall) in Portmeiron, when he heard that a house called Wern was for sale, two miles from New Quay on the west coast of Wales. Alastair bought it and moved there in 1937, taking with him Mrs Cooke, the housekeeper at Barford, and George Wood, the butler. They joined the incumbent gardener and his teenage daughter, Lottie Evans, as staff. New Quay is not so very far away from Newport, where Alastair's ex-lover lived. Perhaps that influenced his choice of location.

Lord Tredegar was obviously a bit nuts, as well as being into art and animals. Who does that remind one of? Lord Berners, who Evelyn was friendly with at about this time. Both Berners and Tredegar were gay and had inherited huge houses; one painted a horse in his drawing room and the other walked around with a parrot on his shoulder or up his trousers. One wrote poetry and the other was the author of
The Girls of Radcliffe Hall. So maybe, as far as taste in men and money and culture were concerned, Evelyn and Alastair hadn't grown apart that much.

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Alastair Graham lived in the above house from 1937 to 1958, with the help of four servants, just as Evelyn Waugh owned Piers Court from 1937 to 1956, employing four or more servants. Alastair's house was inherited from his mother, Evelyn's was paid for by his wife's mother. Funny how the world works.

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In some ways Alastair and Evelyn weren't so far apart in their maturity. Here's The Map of Alastair and Evelyn, showing Oxford (olive circle), Barford (orange), Piers Court (maroon) and Plas Wern (green).

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Not far apart also in terms of style. Below is a photo of the drawing room at Plas Wern. Though this photo is not from Alastair Graham's day, he was into luxurious style and fine furniture. Lottie Evans described the house as 'full of big paintings' in Alastair's time.

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Piers Court was full of Victorian paintings and furniture. Evelyn and Alastair had similar tastes, one might conclude. I guess Evelyn would have been as comfortable living a secluded, quasi-country life at Plas Wern as he was at Piers Court. Actually, Evelyn needed regular forays to London, something that Alastair found himself barred from. And living in west Wales would have been no good for that.

Of course, the Second World War came along and interfered with both their seclusions. According to Duncan Fallowell, Alastair sailed in a boat for the relief of Dunkirk. He also joined the Royal Observer Corps and for a time was liaison officer with the US Navy. Evelyn's war record fills three books, Alastair's not even that many lines. One was so much more private than the other.

The following quote from a letter written by Alastair to Evelyn seems pertinent:
'...all the beautiful things that I have seen, heard or thought of, grow like bright flowers and musky herbs in a garden where I can enjoy their presence, and where I can sit in peace and banish the unpleasant things of life. A kind of fortified retreat that no one can enter except myself.'

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But it is not as simple (and private) as that. Unlike Evelyn, who had a respectable family to raise, Alastair gave wild parties while living at Plas Wern. Dylan Thomas went to some of these when he was living in New Quay from autumn 1944 to spring 1945. Alastair wasn't too keen on the poet, as DT tended to get boring when he drank too much. He didn't seem to get what the parties were about: letting go of one's self. Alastair preferred the poet's company when the two of them plus Thomas Herbert, the local vet, simply talked about books in the local pub.

It was this Thomas Herbert that described Alastair's parties in an essay that David N. Thomas quotes from in his
Dylan Thomas: A Farm, Two Mansions and a Bungalow. Herbert paints a vivid picture. Plas Wern had no mains electricity. Revellers would tumble out of their cars and be directed to the house by Alastair holding a hurricane lamp. Inside, a polished oak staircase reflected the weak light of lanterns placed on the banister posts leading up to the library. In that large room, mellow and inviting, full of thousands of books, the party happened in the half-dark, with Alastair producing jars of pickled herring to help the various kinds of drink go down. As the night went on, the adjoining bedrooms were made good use of. As Herbert puts it: 'We fell on each other... in an all consuming animal lust.'

Just imagine that sort of party going on in the library at Piers Court! First editions of Evelyn's books being used as coasters. A jar of pickled herring standing on Evelyn's desk next to the bust of Queen Victoria. Lord Tredegar pursuing Alastair with amorous intent. I can just about hear Evelyn's voice protesting: "Over my dead body."

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David N Thomas argues convincingly that in
Under Milk Wood, written a few years later, the character Lord Cut-Glass was based on Alastair Graham. Lord Cut-Glass was a development of 'thin-vowelled laird', Dylan Thomas's description of Alastair Graham in a letter.

According to the poem, Lord Cut-Glass 'lives in a house and a life at siege,' which may refer to Graham's misanthropy and his expulsion from London society over the Tredegar affair.

The reference to Cut-Glass's 'fishy kitchen' also suggests Alastair Graham, who was famous locally for his fish dishes and was responsible for a pamphlet: '20 Different Ways to Cook New Quay Mackerel'.

Lord Cut Glass has a collection of clocks. Apparently, Alastair Graham was obsessed with timekeeping, expecting his bath to be drawn at precisely the same time each morning, always rolling up to The Dolau Inn at exactly the same time in the evening.

Dylan Thomas left the area in March 1945. In May 1945,
Brideshead Revisted was published. Alastair would have been bound to read it. After all, Evelyn had written his first novel partly at Barford House, Alastair appeared in the second novel and he made an important suggestion regarding the subject of the third.

For sure, Alastair would have read
Brideshead soon after publication And he would have immediately clocked how vivid and deeply felt were the scenes at Oxford, involving a thinly disguised Evelyn and himself. Surely he would have been charmed and flattered. He might not have liked the way that Sebastian faded away to a presumed early death in the Middle East, but surely he would have preferred that to Waugh saying that, in fact, Sebastian came back to live a life of seclusion (wild parties excepted) on the west coast of Wales.

There was not much probing of the characters' real identities back then, as no biographical material was to hand for the press to work on. So Alastair was able to keep his low profile despite the massive success of the book.

Below are three pictures of Alastair from David N. Thomas's book on Dylan Thomas. Duncan Fallowell also has photos of Alastair in the Levant and in New Quay. These were sent to him by Alastair's niece. But the author of
How To Disappear couldn't put his hands on them when I asked about them. Hopefully, they'll end up in the Waugh Archive rather than disappear.

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The above pic is from 1947. Alastair Graham is centre.

The pic below shows that Alastair (centre, again) was still sporting white fingernails in his forties. See his right hand. A cosmetic thing or a natural feature?

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The pic below is from 1949. It was taken at the launching of the St Albans lifeboat, something that Alastair had helped fund. Again, he's in the centre of the picture. He did not like his photo being taken according to New Quay residents. So these are rarities.

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Duncan Fallowell was told by Lottie Evans (in 1990) that when Mrs Cooke and George Wood died, Alastair couldn't get replacement staff (the house still had no mains water or electricity). So he decided to sell up and downsize. He had a marquee installed on the lawn and there was a house sale.

The family that bought Plas Wern from Alastair rescued very personal books that had been put out with the rubbish. Alastair's mother's Prayer Book. A Book of Ballads inscribed to his father. And two more Prayer Books inscribed by Alastair's mother on the occasion of her son's First Communion. This suggests a rejection of both family and religion. The very things that Evelyn built the second half of his life around.

Here is a 2016 photograph of 8 Rock Street, on the waterfront at New Quay, the house that Alastair moved to in 1958.

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If Alastair had successfully downsized his house, Evelyn was upsizing himself in the most dramatic way. Below is his picture in 1961, when his son Auberon got married, Wife Laura seems mortified to be seen in public with Evelyn.

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And in 1962, when it was his favourite daughter Meg's turn to get married, here stands Undead Evelyn.

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In 1963, when there was a reunion of The Railway Club, which Alastair had been part of at its inauguration back in 1923, Evelyn expressed curiosity about only one person: Alastair Graham. But, no, Alastair did not attend the event. And so saved himself from this horrific sight. That's to say, Evelyn Waugh, John Sutro and Cyril Connolly standing dicky to dicky, chin to chin.

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Alastair did well to keep his distance. Breathe in the clean sea air, Alastair. Have a pint in your lovely local. Get a bit of exercise. Above all, stick to what you said back in the early 1920s:

'...all the beautiful things that I have seen, heard or thought of, grow like bright flowers and musky herbs in a garden where I can enjoy their presence, and where I can sit in peace and banish the unpleasant things of life. A kind of fortified retreat that no one can enter except myself.'

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8 Rock Street is where Alastair would have been living in 1964 when A Little Learning, intended to be the first volume of Waugh's autobiography, appeared. I expect Alastair would have read that book. According to Lottie Evans - who had been Alastair's housekeeper at Plas Wern and now came over every day to clean from 10am until noon - the little house was crammed with fine furniture, paintings and books that continued to arrive from London. Alastair would read in a room at the back of the house, not either of the front rooms.

Evelyn Waugh wrote candidly of his relatives and friends in
A Little Learning. However, he did give Alastair anonymity, referring to him as Hamish Lennox. Of Hamish, Evelyn wrote fondly:

'During Hamish's visits to Oxford we saw little of the university, spending our days driving in his motor round the surrounding villages and our evenings in the Oxford inns frequented by townees - the Turf, the nag's Head, the Druid's Head, the Chequers and many others.

'I could not have fallen under an influence better designed to encourage my natural frivolity, dilettantism and dissipation, or to expose as vulgar and futile any promptings I may have felt to worldly ambition.'


8 Rock Street has a great view:

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Perhaps Alastair sat on the bench by his front door and took in this view in spring 1966 when he heard the news that Evelyn had died. His former lover's demise might have caused him to think of the early days of their relationship. It might even have brought to Alastair's mind this passage of writing:

'That is the full account of my first brief visit to Brideshead; could I have known that it would one day be remembered with tears by a middle-aged captain of infantry.'

1966 looks back on 1944, looks back on 1923. A retired sixty-year-old looks back on a serving soldier looks back on a pair of undergraduates.

Fast forward to 1973 when extracts of
The Diaries of Evelyn Waugh were serialised in The Observer. The debauchery of many of the entries, including some from the early 1920s, caused scandal. Was Alastair Graham mentioned by name? (I think he was, but will need to somehow check.) How did Alastair feel about this? I expect he felt exposed.

Fast forward to the late 1970s, which is when Duncan Fallowell believes it was when he travelled to New Quay, walked into the Dolau Inn and nodded at a character sitting on a high stool at the end of the bar. Eventually, they exchanged a few words. Here are a few quotes to set the scene:

'He was getting on in years and bald, with a trim grey beard, and dressed spotlessly in yachting clothes.'

'His nails, perfectly manicured, were white from base to tip.'

'He held his head down bashfully and from time to time, when speaking, cast blue lugubrious eyes upwards from beneath a lowered brow. The voice, issuing from slightly pursed lips, was fastidious but not affected, and his manner of expression had that casual charm which suggests a great deal and is utterly unrevealing.'


Fallowell mentioned that he'd abandoned London and the other said he'd done the same long ago, only returning during the Suez crisis because he was asked to. (That would be because of his Egyptian experience.)

The conversation moved on to writers. Fallowell revealed that he'd been reading the early novels of Evelyn Waugh. He said that the more serious Waugh's tone became, the worse his writing was. The other nodded. Fallowell suggested that although Waugh was well-endowed as a writer, later work was undermined by a progressive narrowing of his sympathies. At which point the old man came up with: "He wasn't well-endowed in the other sense, I'm afraid."

Fallowell was taken aback by this comment and, possibly as a result of communicating his surprise, wasn't able to get anything more out of the conversation. The other mumbled his apologies and slid away.

Fallowell at first assumed that this man he'd bumped into by chance was claiming that Evelyn Waugh had a small cock. Later, having established that he'd been talking to Alastair Graham, Fallowell accepted that Graham may have been referring to Evelyn's financial situation throughout those first years of their acquaintance. Alastair was always lending him money, guaranteeing his overdraft, and the like.

Let's leave that to sink in. And carry on with a chronological unrolling of Alastair's perspective.

In 1981,
Brideshead Revisited was shown in 12 weekly episodes from October to December. Evelyn and Alastair, transformed into Charles and Sebastian, were represented by Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews. The programme was a tremendous success.

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Everybody watched it. Including Alastair Graham. He didn't have a television, but a Dr. Vasey collected him by car so that Alastair could watch it at the Vasey household. Apparently, he loved the show at first. Well, what was there not to love about those Oxford scenes between Charles and Sebastian? The music, the visuals, the acting, the writing... But by this time it was suspected that Alastair Graham may have been the model for Sebastian and the press descended on New Quay.

The press included Duncan Fallowell. Because by his own admission it was in October 1981 that he made his follow-up visit. Let's go through that in detail with the help of the Street View feature on Google Maps. First stop, the Dolua Inn:

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Here Fallowell was told that Graham hardly ever came round any more. He hadn't been well and he wouldn't let anyone into his house which was referred to locally as 'the Kremlin'.

Fallowell, accompanied by his friend, Nick Jones-Evans, decided to walk to the house anyway, which was just round the corner. In the picture below, you can see - in the distance, on the left side of the road - it's distinctive pink frontage.

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Although the Google Street View photos are from 2016, it seems that nothing much changes in New Quay, for Fallowell wrote about October 1981, 35 years earlier: 'We walked over to Rock Street and to number 8 which was painted dark pink, with an eighteenth century porch... I knocked on the front door which was blue.'

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The door was opened. Fallowell recognised the old man via his sad blue eyes and his neat grey beard. When the visitor explained that they'd met before and why he'd come, Alastair Grahaam 'started to flap like a cornered bird and became quite desperate.'

"I've had a stroke. I can't remember anything. I've nothing to say."

Not knowing quite how to respond, Fallowell asked if Alastair would like to join them for dinner. He recalls the answer to have been: "Oh, no! I can't go out, I'm not fit to be seen! I'm an invalid, I can't think at all, everything was so long ago - he was older than me you know."

Alastair Graham began to fiddle with the doorknob. Slender red hands with white fingernails. Fallowell gave it another go, asking Alastair if he wasn't the inspiration for Sebastain Flyte.

"No, no, not me. It was a friend of mine."

But hadn't Waugh written Alastair in place of Sebastian in the manuscript?

"Please no, I'm an invalid. I can't remember anything."

The old man seemed to be in great fear of exposure. Fallowell bowed to the inevitable and bade him farewell, feeling more than a little shabby about having forced such an encounter.

And later? Picture Alastair sitting on the bench in front of his house, looking west, trying to calm down.

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Alastair's health declined soon after the Brideshaed hullabaloo. The following year he had to enter an old people's home up the coast at Aberaeron. He hated it and managed to return to Rock Street.

Soon after getting home, he started to cough up blood. Tuberculosis was suspected and he was taken to the chest hospital at Machynlleth. It wasn't TB but cancer of the pancreas and Alastair died in hospital in October 1982, aged 78.

Surely by then he realised what joy the transmission of
Brideshead Revisited had given him. Hadn't it given back to him, shortly before his death, the very best time of his life?

I like to think that, at his bedside in the hospital, Alastair had a copy of
Brideshead Revisited that would open easily at certain pages. For example, the one with this quote:

'I could tell him, too, that to know and love one other human being is the root of all wisdom.'

And the one with this:

'Just the place to bury a crock of gold," said Sebastian. "I should like to bury something precious in every place where I've been happy and then, when I was old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and remember.'

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Photograph of Alastair Graham taken from Philip Eade's Evelyn Waugh: A Life Revisited, where the credit is to Alexander Waugh.

Evelyn Waugh had buried a crock of gold in 1923. In 1944 he'd dug it up in 400-page book form. And remembered. In 1981 someone else had dug it up as a 12-hour film. And it was left to Alastair to do the remembering.

Perhaps that it is a sentimental perspective. Through Lottie Evans, Duncan Fallowell got into contact with Alastair's surviving family. A brother and sister had died young, but Alastair's other sister had married and was the mother of two girls. One of Alastair's nieces spoke with Fallowell, the one who had cleared the house at Rock Street. She told him that Alastair had kept no papers concerning Evelyn Waugh. She herself had fond memories of staying at Barford House in her childhood, when on holiday with her parents from their home in Africa.

Indeed, she crops up in Evelyn's diary, first in August 1924 where he says that Jane Hickson was extremely friendly to him and led him about the grounds of Barford House 'burbling incoherent narrations. I liked her'.

Indeed, he liked her so much he created the character Cordelia in her memory. Or so it seems to me.

By the time Duncan Fallowell spoke to her in 1990, Jane's surname was Davidson. She told him:

"Oh, I remember Evelyn very well! he was awfully nice - very quiet but amusing. I only saw him when I came to England on holidays from Kenya where we lived but he used to lift me up through the skylight at Barford, which was that dome which you saw, and we'd go out onto the roof together where there was a marvellous view of the garden and the Greek temple which was the garden's main feature. Mrs G made a goldfish pond - Evelyn helped her build it - in front of the temple and they put a statue of Mercury in it like they have at Christ Church in Oxford."

 - 13
Photograph of the grounds of Barford House by Alastair Graham. Courtesy of Alexander Waugh.

When Charles Ryder first meets Cordelia they are on the roof at Brideshead. Charles and Sebastian are naked and have been watching goings on (an Agricultural Show) in the grounds. Cordelia appears from behind chimneystacks, a ten or eleven year old child. Her first speech is led into by Sebastian/Alastair:

"Go away, Cordelia, We've got no clothes on."

"Why? You're quite decent. I guessed you were here. You didn't know I was about, did you? I came down with Bridey and stopped to see Francis Xavier." (To me) "He's my pig. Then we had lunch with Colonel Fender and then the show. Francis Xavier got a special mention. That beast Randal got first with a mangy animal.
Darling Sebastian, I am pleased to see you again. How's you poor foot?"

In August 1927, the Hudsons were again at Barford House. Evelyn writes in his diary. 'Jane very voluble about the 'Vermin Mary'. Did this get translated into Cordelia's particularly intense relationship with God?

It is this Jane/Cordelia that in 1990 gave Duncan Fallowell photos of Alastair Graham that Fallowell has put away somewhere and which may or may not see the light of day again.

As for this Duncan, I am happy to have landed up at 8 Rock Street. As a sixty-year-old man with no children, I relate more to Alastair Graham than Evelyn Waugh at this age. Why should I travel to Combe Florey, the house in Somerset that Waugh bought in his late fifties, a house large enough to contain both his fast-growing and fully grown children?

Six of them, for goodness sake. What hard work! No wonder Waugh's writing - as well as his health - suffered in that last decade,
Unconditional Surrender, apart.

Screen shot 2018-04-20 at 21.39.09

Yes, I think I'll stay here. What was good enough for 33-year-old Alastair is good enough for me now. There is a view to die for. There is a pub. The set-up reminds me a bit of Appledore, the lovely seaside town in Devon that young Evelyn fled to in 1929 in order to finish
Vile Bodies. What was the pub there called again? The Royal George. Closed now.

Pub and view. The set-up also reminds me of Llandullas, the seaside place in North Wales that Evelyn found himself in 1925 and which inspired certain scenes in
Decline and Fall. The Fair View Inn was the name of the pub there. On the point of closing, if I remember rightly.

If I wander along to the Dolau Inn here in New Quay, I'll find a Dick Young or an Alastair Graham to reminisce with. Absolutely bound to. So let's go.





Notes
1) This essay is, in part, an attempt to put together what's known about the life of Alastair Graham. The books that are of most use in this respect are
How To Disappear, a memoir for misfits by Duncan Fallowell, 2013. Also, Dylan Thomas: A Farm, Two Mansions and a Bungalow by Dylan N Thomas, 2000. Both books are recommended for their own sakes.

2) It's also an attempt to round off this website. Though I may come back to it. Especially if some new Evelyn Waugh-related photograph comes my way. That's often what fires my creative juices. So if you have one, please send me a scan, I'll be all over it. I mean, I'll be eternally grateful.