|Interval Drinks: Frank Spragg|
He was a good mimic, so could accurately satirise anyone’s walk, pet phrase or accent so his Indian landlady came in for a drubbing, with hilarious consequences. But she took that well. He had a series of Spraggianisms for which he became famous. One he'd say was ‘Abbysinia, instead of 'I'll be seeing you'- as he left you at the station, and his listing of Italian girls names "Pamela, Carlotta, Maria, Laura, Federica, Giulia...Cinderella," in a class provoked mirth. It was just the way he did it with a kindly, but waspish edge. His aim was to entertain people, so he loved nothing
|Lady in Mauve: Frank Spragg|
He devoured books but only toyed with food which he dribbled across the plate like a footballer in training. He loathed onions, green peppers, and could eat only bland foods, like omelettes, and poached eggs, but was overly fond of tea and cake, and Italian ice cream. He read shelf loads of biographies, novels, histories, but had a special fondness for Stendhal. He adored glamourous femme fatales from the 30s and 40s Hollywood period and had even written a biography of Barbara Stanwyck, whom he said was the greatest noir vamp. He could remember every line from every film she made: "I need him like the axe needs a turkey" from 'The Lady Eve' (1941). Stanwyck was most likely his obsession, possibly even his alter ego, but the manuscript was lost in all his moonlight flits from flat to flat.
|Strolling Along: Frank Spragg|
While others struggled to express themselves, Frank had already taken the prize and wandered off with the money. That was the sense of humour that, unless you laughed hard, you could be on the wrong side of. He was a prolific letter writer and artist. After he died I realised I still had the letters he’d sent to me rammed to the margins with illustrations. I’m not very good at throwing things away. The artworks were distributed among friends, but I was given some of them.
Frank had only one exhibition in a small hotel in Paris. The manageress had invited him to display his work. I don't think he sold any but it marked a new height in his confidence. He used crayons a lot, and while the drawings are simple and direct, his powers of observation are sharp, often getting the character through people’s gestures. He would sit in the park and draw whoever happened to be lounging around or picnicking. Only occasionally, he asked people to pose for portraits, so a lot of them are faceless, as he just wanted to capture the fleeting glance, and observation casually from a distance suited him best. He would work up the drawings later using ink, more intense colours, including a characteristic black outline. There is a series of elegant legs in shoes which owes something to Andy Warhol’s though I’m sure he would have feigned never having seen the Warhol shoe series from the 1950s. Completed mostly in the eighties and nineties, these drawings and sketches bring back Frank to me as if he were still here. They have a unique flourish that is Frank's.
|Bearded Man: Frank Spragg|
Once I remember his saying that he wanted something of his, to a charity in Africa. Giving money to charity should come with all the usual warnings, since there have been scams. Charity also brings up the question of whether it does not substitute for real justice, it just deals with symptoms and not causes, and that it serves to keep people helpless and codependent, and the whole system is riddles with scams, but the story of the boy with the starfish should settle this score:
Once upon a time, a man walking along a beach saw a boy picking up starfish and throwing them into the sea.
He asked the boy why he was throwing starfish into the sea.
The boy replied, "The tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll dry up and die."
The man smiled patronisingly and said, "But, there are miles of beach and thousands of starfish on every mile. You can't possibly make a difference!"
The boy smiled, bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it into the sea.
"Well," he said, "I made a difference for that one."
These are just some suggestions of where you might send money should the spirit move you:
Get water to African Villages: The Water Project
Sponsor a child or orphan: Sponsor a Child
Provide basic literacy in places where it is not common: Room to Read at www.roomtoread.org
Sponsor children (site is German) African Angel
And of course - why not - Tom Daley's charity efforts Just Giving Page. I feel sure Frank would have approved of Tom Daley.
So little is known about Frank that it might have to be made up, something that would make him smile as long as it was flattering. So what can I make up? He managed to convince everyone that he was 20 years younger than he was even without ever dying his hair- to discover his age when he died was a shock- but he died young at heart, but no one would believe that.
chuckle. He always had the last word and it does not have to be a bad one. The voices of friends who've passed on stay with us, alarmingly to some, but not so alarmingly when you consider that they are part of consciousness, so their wishes are still somehow intimately connected with our own and for this to manifest now only shows that it can take a long time, but it still may bear some fruit.
© Kieron Devlin, 2014
all rights reserved