National Geographic : 1972 Jan
buried alive for eight hours in World War I, but that he'd had an even more horrendous experience in peacetime. "I was married at 70," he told me. "You can't come in here if you have family to support. Well, the gov ernor gave me a fright. 'I see you're married,' he said. 'Yes, sir,' I said, 'but she fell in love with her own daughter's young man and left. 'Twas a great relief to me!' " Each year two traditional events are staged at the Royal Hospital. On the Sunday closest to Charles II's birthday, on May 29, the pen sioners march in the Founder's Day Parade. When I saw those "boys of the old brigade" in their scarlet coats and tricorn hats file past their governor, saluting smartly-unmili taristic as I am-a lump rose in my throat. The other event, the Chelsea Flower Show in May, has been for more than half a cen tury as much a social as a horticultural attrac tion. From the day I saw the Queen visit it, to its close four days later, when many exhibits were sold to the visitors, pageantry never flagged. On that last afternoon, as I watched the public march off, en masse, with its bar gain plants-many ten feet high-I quailed as Macbeth did when he beheld Birnam Wood come to Dunsinane, borne branch by branch by just such an indomitable army. Julie's Just Another Neighbor To quiet my nerves, I repaired to my fa vorite Chelsea pub, the Queen's Elm. There the plump, jolly proprietor, red-mous tached Sean Treacy (page 52), told me: "The idea of this pub is to keep it looking like an English pub-no thick carpets and chrome plating, no go-go girls. That's why we attract all classes of people-plumbers, writers, clergymen, actors, artists, lords, laborers." He rattled off an astounding list of celebrated customers, ending with the bibulous writer Brendan Behan-"I had to ask him to cool his rough language a bit." Then, taking thought, he said: "Oh, yes Julie Christie lives right across the street. Sure, I don't think of Julie as a celebrity-she's just PUCKISH VAGABOND, one of hundreds who pass through each week, flashes the peace sign from a King's Road bench. When his gypsy soul pulls him away from Chelsea, he will take with him the memory of a pulsing village that-as always-conforms to only one standard: nonconformity. a neighbor, in and out for this and that. Well I remember last winter when she came over on a raw Saturday night. " 'Sean,' she said, 'I want a bucket of coke.' " 'And will you be having it with ice, Julie?' I asked. " 'Why, you poor fool,' she said, 'who would be wanting to drink Coke on a night like this? 'Tis the kind I'm wanting to burn, you idjut!' " Of course, like many, I had fallen in love with Julie Christie as Lara, the beautiful, titanic blonde of the movie Doctor Zhivago. To meet her would be drama; to touch her hand, glorious theater. "Sure, it's easy. I'll arrange it," Sean prom ised, but the weeks went by and always I had just missed her. Finally, my last night in Chelsea, I was at the Queen's Elm, drinking good-bye at 10:30, when Bill Thomson re marked, "Julie's been in here twice today."