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Monday, September 23, 2013

Remembering Louis Fussell- Part 2

Christmas at 35 Rutland Road was interesting. I think Louis rather liked the Christmas season. He didn't have any children of his own, and liked to make a fuss of the children of families who had children who came to learn violin with him, together with any other people around him. I was  to learn quite soon that it wasn't to be anything ordinary. Over the weeks of the Christmas period itself he went to stay with friends in Germany, and in the weeks leading up to his travelling over to Germany he made cakes and food, particularly a Hansel and Gretel house made of ginger bread. It seems amazing when I look back on this particular period and think that he made all this in pieces and then packed it up carefully and then took it to Germany and constructed this house over there, quite why he had to do this as it was rather like taking 'coals to Newcastle' as no doubt the shops there would have been full of such gingerbread houses. The cost of taking it on a plane must have been more than the cost of actually buying one in Germany, but that was one of the eccentricites of Mr Fussell. In German the gingerbread is called 'pfefferkuchen' (translating as 'peppercake') or 'lebkuchen' (translating as 'life-loaf.')
In the weeks leading up to Christmas there was no end of activity as Louis decorated the house. He didn't drive, only possessing a bicycle, and to obtain a Christmas tree he went off somewhere to the depths of Bedfordshire (I thinking about it with hind sight  perhaps the Whitbread Estate at Southill.) and came back with a huge Christmas tree strapped to the bicycle. I can't imagine how he managed to ride a bicycle all that distance with a pine tree tied to the side of the machine. Seems incredible to me. He could have had it delivered somehow or got one of his friends who had a car to drive him there and bring it back on a roof-rack or something. But, no, he was obviously determined to do it on his own. Then this huge piece of fir tree was assembled in his front room along with a vast array of ancient Christmas decorations and lights. The rest of the house was also festooned with ancient decorations which had really seen better days. He spent weeks rehearsing this weird Christmas entertainment with the children and this was put on at the party he held in the last week before he departed for Germany. The first year of my time living in the house I was somewhat shell-shocked by the whole Christmas party process, and in particular the strange game he played with the children. I came home one day to find that there were pieces of paper stuck on doors and other odd places throughout the house, with the names of places on them, mostly British towns and cities. My room door had one on it, but now I'm not sure what place it was, Edinburgh or Glasgow perhaps but I can't actually remember. The afternoon of the party I was in my room when the children began to arrive. Part-way through the afternoon there was the sound of children charging up and down the stairs and banging on my door. I think it had something to do with a game where the names of railways stations were read out and the children had to find that station's name on the bits of paper pinned to the doors all around the house, my door included. I soon learned in future years to be elsewhere when this party was on so as to avoid this assault on my room door!
As Louis was a member of the Bedfordshire Orchestra (I'm not sure of the exact name, so apologies if this is wrong.) and during their season of concerts he would be playing viola. On these occasions he would make a great deal of fuss and I occasionally attended some of these concerts, being a classical music fan. He also wrote music and had some of his symphonies performed in Bedford Corn Exchange. He would often have parties in his lounge and invite people along and spent a great deal of time and effort preparing food. Unfortunately Louis's hygiene standards weren't up to much and as a result I think a lot of the food got uneaten
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