A Pot Of Tea

Source: Jackie

Writer: Unknown

Date: 1973

Gilbert O'Sullivan is a very private person.  In fact, if he was asked what he most valued now that he's a successful singer/songwriter, it would undoubtedly be his privacy.

This one reason why he's moving from his neat little cottage a few minutes up a tree-shaded drive from Weybridge station in Surrey.  Not that everyone locally knows who he is.  The one taxi, driven by a very elderly taxi-driver, waiting at the station, didn't take me automatically to Gilbert's home.

"No, I've not heard of him," said the cab driver as we searched through the private estate for the right home.  And when we did get the right address, I almost left without knocking, because, although it was only tea-time and still light outside, all the curtains were drawn.

Then, another tap at the peeling painted front door, there he was, absentmindedly welcoming me and peering out into the light to see if anyone else was around.

Gilbert took me into his workroom - the kitchen - where I'd interrupted him writing yet more new songs.  The words of future Gilbert O'Sullivan compositions were scrawled in ballpoint pen across lots of sheets of paper cluttering and already crowded circular table.  In front of him was a mug in which there were more pens and pencils.

Gilbert's kitchen-cum-workroom is an amazing place, an Aladdin's cave of cuttings from newspapers and magazines: on every inch of two main walls are stuck pieces out of newspapers, old letters and bills, restaurant menus and photographs, some of them of Gilbert himself from publicity material.

The kitchen is a very business-like place, obviously lived in, not like the kitchen of many pop stars.

"Shall I make you a cup of tea?" asked Gilbert, eagerly switching on the electric kettle and rummaging among some tins to find some tea bags.

He sees me "reading" his wall and says "That's one of the reasons I do all that.  I never talk much, so if someone comes to see me they spend half the time looking at what's on the wall and it's like a conversation-maker.  we talk about the wall.  If anyone needed to analyse me, they could just go through the things on the walls.

"I just like stinking things on walls.  I suppose it stems from my bed-sit days.  It brightens it up, makes it more homely for me.  I never liked the wallpaper anyway.  besides I can never keep diaries, so I'll stick an address or phone number on the walls and there it is when I want it.  I know where everything is up there."

Despite Gilbert saying that it would be easier to interview the wall than him, I pressed on and asked why there was such a big photo of such an un-Gilbert O'Sullivan-like thing as a cricketer up there?

"I suppose that dates from the days I was at art college and there was this large painting there of cricketers.  So when I saw that photo in the paper, I cut it out and stuck it up there.  That's all."

Gilbert is a very domesticated, self sufficient person.  After he has served the tea in great big mugs, he agrees that he really does enjoy doing all his own housework.

"There's nothing I like better than getting down on my hands and knees and giving the kitchen floor a good scrub," he says, pointing to the black and white chequered flooring.

"For instance if I'm going out in the evening I always give the place a good going over so it's nice when I come back to it.  I'd hate it to be all untidy when I come back."

To the right of the sink there's a washing machine, and there's a fridge, oven and a lot of cupboards as well.  He doesn't get up early and likes to take his time over breakfast.

"My favorite is to have a boiled or poached egg, fresh bread and a lot of tea.  I don't usually get up until midday because I like working at night when it's really quiet.

"And I always have plenty of tea to drink.  Do you know, if I was stranded on a desert island and was allowed to take one thing I'd choose tea!  Eggs and bread are all I really eat when I'm working at home, but that's because I like them, not because I can't cook anything else."

While we talked, Gilbert was also worrying about the time the local shop would close because he had to buy some more tea for his breakfast.  In the end he did miss the shop, arriving just as it was being locked up.  He had to be persuaded that as he was spending the evening nearby at his manager Gordon Mills's house, the Mills family could obviously lend him some before he went home!

The kitchen curtains are dark plum coloured and are drawn, like all the other curtains in the house.

"I have to draw them for privacy when I'm working," says Gilbert.  "Only the other day I got up, prepared my breakfast, brought it over here to the table and drew the curtains, and there were all these little faces peering at me!  I don't mind fans, but my work is very hard and you have to concentrate, so I'd prefer to find a place where I wasn't known.

"Gordon is trying to persuade me to buy a place at the moment.  the only trouble is that I only want a small place like this one, which is easy to run.  if I bought myself a big house I'd have to have housekeepers and such in to run it, and I'd lose a bit more of my privacy.

"As it is, I know where everything is in this cottage, but if someone came in and cleared up after me each day it would be different."


Thanks JB