Keeping up with the Joneses
With two small boys and a large house to look after I was kept pretty busy and the milk dried up at six months. Son# 1 was active as ever and we decided to send him to a little nursery school for a few hours in the morning to prevent him killing himself or his brother. It was run by a vibrant mother of three boys who was determined that her children would be privately educated. This involved sending them to a nearby private school until they were old enough to go to prep school from whence she expected them to go to a famous public school. I believe these names mean different things in the States; suffice it to say that this was going to cost an enormous amount of money and meant a degree of privation for the family.
She and I became friendly and she almost convinced me this was the way to go. I even bought a small red blazer as part of the private school uniform. William and I had long discussions about it and he pointed out that we would have to sacrifice family holidays in order to afford it. I remembered my childhood – Blackpool when we were tots, cycling holidays, youth hostelling and the unforgettable camping holidays in the Lake District. I couldn’t deprive my boys of that sort of childhood. We were both agreed about this so I started to investigate the local state schools.
Cynthia, the nursery school owner was quite a social creature and we were invited to one of her Sunday morning sherry parties. The house was even bigger than ours and twice as draughty and to compensate I drank rather more sherry than was good for me. It seemed to me that all the people there were on a different plane with different aspirations. They knew of my brief moment of fame so I was welcomed but I didn’t feel comfortable and I resolved I wasn’t going to become what I can only describe as a snob. In spite of the drink we got home safely but I hated the feeling of the ground coming up to meet me and decided fortified wines were not for me.
The money I earned modelling had disappeared, mainly on buying things for the house and I was now financially dependant on William. I didn’t enjoy this at all and matters came to a head when I asked for money to buy a new bathing costume for our holiday and - after quite a lengthy campaign - he said no. I remember going out into the garden, staring up at the sky – choked with tears and vowing I would never go hungry again. No of course that was Scarlett O’Hara - I was hardly hungry but I made myself a pledge that somehow how I would become independent again.
Married women then, had a duty to look after their husbands, children, house and garden. That was women’s work; so we cooked and cleaned, bottled and preserved, laundered and ironed, knitted and darned and made do and mended. Hubby would be greeted in the evening with a fresh, pretty little wifey and after a restorative snifter he would kiss the children goodnight and sit down to a delicious home-cooked meal prepared by the lady of the house. It didn’t always work out quite like that. There was a feeling of unrest in the air. We were into the sixties and about to have Women’s Lib make waves and change our lives for ever.
I had a lovely home, a good husband and two delightful little boys and I was unhappy. Maddie and her husband used to come over most week-ends – first shopping in Tunbridge Wells and then dropping in to play with the children and share our supper. They usually brought little gifts for the boys and a bottle of wine and I looked forward to their visits. One evening Maddie and I were washing up after eating a nourishing goulash; she asked me what was wrong and I started to weep. I got a ‘no nonsense ‘ pep talk from her and she suggested I should take a part- time job, have driving lessons, join a theatre club and take a lover. I remember feeling quite shocked. Within a month I had done as she suggested. As she said later
‘I didn’t mean all at once.’
And I didn’t quite do everything she suggested. Naturally.