Despite his nickname, Tex Maule does not daydream about retiring to a ranch by the Pedernales or a beach on Padre Island. He is a Texan all right, from San Antonio, and as is natural in a state where football is the largest of the Protestant denominations, he grew up loving the gridiron. But in his secret actual identity as Hamilton Prieleaux Bee Maule, he is really an incurable Anglophile, and what he daydreams about is someday having a flat in Chelsea or Mayfair.
Fortunately for Tex, numerous SI assignments have sent him to or through London, his favorite city, the most recent being his visit to the undefeated Leeds soccer team (page 56). He has covered World Cup soccer in Britain and written about sport and the average Englishman. Even on his way back to New York from a story in South Africa he somehow managed to pass through London. Also on his way back from Russia and on his way back from Spain. In a year without an SI excuse, he would pay his own way.
"The people there are so much less abrasive than in New York City," says Tex. "Englishmen are supposed to be reserved, but I can go into any pub and easily strike up a conversation. And it's such a clean city. You don't have garbage up to your ankles. The air used to be dirty, but not now.
"And I love the theater. This trip I went five times in the six nights I was there. Even in Leeds there is good theater. I saw Trevor Howard in Waltz of the Toreadors."
February 24, 1974
Maule first visited London when he was in the Merchant Marine in World War II and his ship docked in Liverpool. He has seen multitudes of changes since then: less pollution, better food—and higher prices. The latter hurt because Maule really does intend to retire there. One flat he knows of would have cost ¬£5,000 (about $12,500) six years ago. Last spring it was up to ¬£24,000 and still rising.
But Tex feels that the British are bearing up well under the energy and general economic crises that have hit them hard.
"London is dim now. Not completely dark, but about a third as many lights on theater marquees and in Piccadilly and places like that," he says. "Hotel rooms and restaurants and offices are chilly. In the theaters you might as well wear a topcoat."
But it is still a pleasant place to jog. This time Maule stayed away from the route he had developed on earlier visits—a block and a half from Sloane Avenue to King's Road, to Sloane Square, across the Albert Bridge, around Battersea Park, back across the Thames on the Chelsea Bridge—a little more than four miles. Instead, he used the track at the Duke of York headquarters, leaving spike prints in the snow. In Leeds he jogged on the streets, something he would be reluctant to do in New York.
About the only semi-unpleasant thing Maule can remember about London, other than high prices, is a taxi ride he took with his wife Dorothy. London taxis are models of spaciousness and comfort, and normally they are superbly driven. But this time the driver had to make a quick stop, and the Maules were propelled onto the floor. At their destination the cabby looked around apologetically and said. "No charge for this ride, governor."
It doesn't sound much like New York, at that.