Last weekend Uli & I flew down to the French Riviera for a very special rendez-vous. We had been invited to lunch by Ronald Searle and his wife Monica. Excited and nervous we made the drive up into the mountains to the remote village where the Searles have lived for 40 years. We were to meet them at their favourite restaurant at noon on Saturday.
I had met Mr Searle previously but not his wife & Uli was only known to them through my written introduction. However the Searles soon made us feel like old friends as the anecdotes flowed as easily as the champagne. Ronald and Monica entertained us with tales of travel adventures, ghost-stories and famous friends. Amongst a wide range of subjects we talked about Fabergé eggs, a Welsh version of King Lear,Tony Curtis, cemetaries, Albrecht Durer and Diaghelev, the eskimo technique to cure seal skin with urine, sketching in the theatre with a telescope, Viennese ballet and both World Wars!
I realised meeting Ronald Searle previously on his own is to know only half of a couple that are inextribably linked & depend on the other for support, physically & emotionally. Monica is extremely charming company-a vivacious, strong woman who adores her husband and his art (and an accomplished artist & jewellry maker in her own right). It was clear that they're still very much in love after 50 years. They're a couple who value their privacy highly & welcoming us into their home was a rare privelege. Both Uli & I felt honoured to spend time with them. Ronald told me they had set aside the entire afternoon to answer our questions. Later at the house we were delighted to be able to peruse a couple of sketchbooks that Ronald had brought down for us. A rare treat for any Searle fan.
What's more Ronald presented me with a lovely gift - a cel set-up from Mr.Magoo -originally given to him in 1957 from the UPA crew. Monica also gave Uli & I a copy each of the catalogue from their joint exhibition held at the Wilhelm-Busch-Museum in Hanover.
The day was sheer joy for two Searle fans but it was Ronald & Monica's generosity & kindness that made the meeting so memorable & enjoyable.
Uli & I are both writing down as much as we can remember & plan to make further posts on our respective blogs. Ronald kindly allowed me to photograph the pages of his sketchbooks so I have a wealth of material to come on the Searle Tribute blog . . .
I could never have predicted dressing up like an eskimo in Ronald Searle's lounge!