A fuzzy iPad photo of Jonathan Meades giving a talk about brutalist architecture to the Regency Society in the spectacular music room of Brighton Pavilion. For months Jon (jermynsavile) and I had been as excited about this as small children going to Disneyland. There was a tense moment when Jon's tickets failed to materialise but it all turned out well in the end and we sat there in our coats at the beginning grinning at each other like idiots. Like many Meades fans, his programmes are one of the few reasons I will ever tune into broadcast TV. To those of you unfamiliar with Meades, he has created a sort of Reservoir Dogs screen persona and delivers his programmes as verbal barrages which, oddly, despite the extremely visual subject matter, are more akin to radio than television. Somewhat slower and unedited in real life he was, if anything, even more bizarre. Tiny, irritable eyes embedded in that big flaccid face it soon became evident that he was going to deliver nothing less than, verbatim, the entire script of his last two TV episodes. Spontaneous and engaging are not qualities he's bothered to cultivate and I don't suppose he needs to either. After an hour and a half of this the charming chairman of the Regency Society hesitantly placed a note on Meades's lectern which, we gathered, read something along the lines of "Brighton City Council are going to turf us out of here at 9pm." Meades froze as if in terror, but more likely rage, and then, in stony silence, turned over the last five pages of his script like sheets of lead and wound up the lecture; an episode of comic drama which Jon reckons was worth the whole £10 ticket price. There was a brief Q&A session during which I asked him if there was a better name for brutalism and he shot back "chummy, matey concrete".
Meades didn't join us for wine afterwards in the fancy kitchen with its iron columns disguised as palm trees. His loss. I found that the Regency Society is made up mostly of immensely literate, witty conversational retired people and I will make an effort to meet them again I think.
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