November 22nd 2014
I have known about the connection between Noel Coward and Jamaica for many years and it has always been my dream to make a pilgrimage to his home. There are mausoleums for Peter Tosh and Bob Marley on the island but I can’t imagine they have the astonishing view of Firefly.
Coward bought the property in 1948. He had a much larger house where he entertained on the shoreline below but he wanted a retreat so he built a one bedroom cottage high above Porto Maria Bay which included the famous “Room With a View”. Here it is…
I hope this picture does it some justice. It is breathtaking. The red concrete you see (no glass, open to the breeze) is the swimming pool, now covered over. It is the view he had when he was writing and his desk and chair are where he left them… although writing was just one of his artistic endeavours. He concentrated a lot of his time on painting and became quite gifted, always interpreting the landscape and people of Jamaica. He didn’t write any plays here (he wrote his only novel) but he did have two pianos (one on which he composed and the other on which an associate transposed) and I was allowed to sit at Sir Noel’s keyboard, in his cozy living room, with signed pictures of Marlene Dietrich etc. It’s corny but I was thrilled. Theatre people are superstitious.
I think, secretly, I was hoping some of his talent would rub off on me.
Coward died here in 1973 and is buried at the foot of the garden – a large, flat marble slab with the bare facts: his name, birth and death. No aphorism. No witty comment. No thoughtful reflection on life. Perhaps death caught him unprepared. He was in his early seventies, or maybe he had nothing more to say. Certainly I was awed by the vista he lived with, the ocean below, the Joe Jack’s soaring above, surrounded by gardens and nature.
Update: I got a note back from Marc this week. He likes the lyrics for the new song and thinks they fit well with the music. I, of course, think I can do better but no time now – I am on to draft two of Lysistrata.
Have a good weekend.