Saturday, January 18, 2020




I can't post the one I wanted - it's on FB- so have to make do with these.

Monday, January 13, 2020


An Imperfect Life

 

Chapter 39

 

Déjà vu

 

My new son soon got bored with staring at his adoring Mum and just wanted to nod off so I put him back in his cot.  What now?  I was too excited to sleep so I wrote to everyone I knew to tell them the news.  As the morning wore on I was taken with baby to join eight other mothers and babies in the maternity ward.  I quickly bonded with a tall lanky girl whose amazing feat had been to increase her weight by no more than the weight of her baby and could have concealed her pregnancy right up to the birth – had she wished.

 We seemed to have alternate days when we would be on top of the world one day and down in the depths the next.  If one of the babies needed to be examined, the staff would remove all the babies from the ward so that instead of one mother being upset and worried, we all were.

“More flowers for you,” announced Sister.  I had been inundated with bouquets and the nurses had piled them round my bed like a flowery bower which was embarrassing so I asked Sister to spread them round the ward.  It was lovely getting flowers but now I had dozens of thank you letters to write.

“Oh no,” I gasped in horror when I saw the latest arrival, “Red and white flowers!  Please Sister don’t bring them on the ward!”

“Don’t get upset now –‘red and white flowers means death’ -that is an old superstition.  I’m NOT superstitious and will be happy to have them in my room.”  Phew!

After a few days when baby was putting on weight I was told I could go home.

“William bring my black and white tweed suit please.  The jacket is loose and it’s warm.”  Alas no way could I get into it.

“It’ll be 18 months before you get your shape back, “one of the nurses told me – but she was wrong.  Breast feeding is the best way to get back in shape.  Best for Baba too.  You can actually feel the pull on your uterus as the baby sucks (especially when you have cat-gut stitches like I had).  The other slimming factor was that the benign, happy Pat of pregnancy had become a stressed nervous wreck who fretted when baby cried and prodded him when he was asleep to make sure he was OK.  And me an R.S.C.N!

What one didn’t realise is that normal babies can have alarming symptoms one minute and back to normal the next.  I had a bad case of P.N.D. which wasn’t recognised in those days.  I thought I was going mad.

  The Health Visitor realised something was wrong.

“Put all your ornaments away in a cupboard and don’t fret about house work.”

 That wasn’t the problem - I had an excellent daily help who was now living in – with her son - as her house had been repossessed.  Probably if I had more to do I would have had less time to fret.

   The Health Visitor's kindness reduced me to tears; it was a relief to have someone who seemed to understand how I was feeling.  And then she did a magical thing which really saved my bacon.  She introduced me to two mothers with baby boys – roughly the same age - who lived close by.

  Every night after the 6pm feed (when breast milk was at its weakest) my son would yell his head off- sometimes till midnight, and it was driving me demented.  When he was 4 months old the girls - my new friends - finally persuaded me to have a night off:  I left William in charge and we went to the pictures to see ‘High Society’ with Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Satchmo and Bing Crosby.  For the first time since the birth I laughed and had fun.  Back home William said our son had slept soundly all night and from then on things improved; baby thrived and I got back in shape - physically and mentally.

  It was a great sadness that Gran died before ever seeing my new son but she always believed her natural span was three score years and ten and died at 70.  Always believing that breast was best I managed to quell the pangs of grief to keep the milk flowing for the first 12 months.  As he thrived and got bigger I started to shrink and at 11 months got a period

“That’s a sign to stop nursing,” said Mum – so I did – content that he must have got most of my immunities.  It seemed to work; the childhood diseases both boys succumbed to were ones I never had.

One of the best things I ever did was to teach William how to bathe the newborn baby and from then on he was a devoted hands–on father.  What was missing in our relationship was compensated by our relationship with our children – total, unconditional love.  Life was pleasant enough; I have always thrived on routine and so did baby.  We had our new friends and their babies to go for walks on the downs and have tea parties whilst our boys sat, crawled or rolled about according to their different abilities.

I had no intention of doing any more modelling but then a favourite photographer – Neil Nimmo asked if he could come to photograph the baby.   I said yes because he was a charming man and it would be lovely to have some first-rate photographs which would have cost us a bomb.  Then we heard that Heinz wanted to use us as the 'Heinz mother and baby'.  I refused – politely, telling them I was nursing him and I didn’t want to interfere with his routine.  They assured me that everything would be done around him and nothing would be allowed to interfere with his routine; they would send a chauffeur driven car, I would have the privacy to feed him – de dah de dah!

After much discussion William and I decided to give it a go with the proviso that if it was upsetting him we stopped.

  We were to appear on TV using me as myself – a well known model.  I was given a script and I proceeded to learn it – as I thought.  It was easy – just introducing myself, telling them about my baby and how he enjoyed Heinz baby food, which happened to be true. (And his Mum adored the chocolate mousse.)

  The car was a Silver Shadow- very posh and quite a few neighbours happened to be around when we were picked up.  I was tempted to give the Royal wave but fearing it might affect future relations restrained myself.

  At the studio they were as good as their word and baby’s well being came first.  I settled him in his carry cot whilst I did my piece to camera.  The director – a friendly young chap asked if I would like it broken up into short bits but I said no - I would do it all in one piece – easy peasy!

They took some time adjusting the lights using light meters with me brilliantly lit and blinded so I couldn’t see all the people talking around me and I became a little unnerved.

“Right- we’re going for a take!”   A hush descended.

“Okay Pat! Action!”

I smiled at the camera.

“Hello!  My name is Pat------“

And then to my acute embarrassment I dried.  So we broke it up into little bits and I finally got it right.  Lesson learned.

  The second part of the shoot was to be me feeding baby the wonderful Heinz sieved carrots, which he quite liked.  The camera and the director were up really close with the opened tin of carrots in full view, so I went into nurse mode and wrapped him in his swaddling piece of cashmere - as was my wont when he was having anything to eat other than breast- so his attention would be totally focused.

“Oh Pat!  Don’t do that!”

I looked at the director enquiringly.

“Just let his arms be free – it looks more natural!”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, yes.  OK fine!  Action! “

“Oh bloody ‘ell!  Jesus!” 

One swipe from baby and the director’ pristine white shirt was generously splattered with the wonderful Heinz sieved carrot.  Baby goo-gooed and smiled his gummy grin.  Back to swaddling!   This time all seemed to be going smoothly when I felt a silent PING and a TINGLE and I knew the milk was coming in.

“CUT!”

The director was actually blushing.

“Er Pat er…your buttons have come undone.”

I looked down and was relieved to see the milk hadn’t come through but my shirt was wide open revealing a nursing bra –not unlike a straight jacket.  By this time I was beyond embarrassment and handed my son to an assistant whilst I adjusted my dress and then pinioned him to my bosom.  We carried on – this time without interruption and everybody was pleased when we watched it later on TV although I thought I sounded a bit posh.  All those years of watching Phyllis Calvert and Margaret Lockwood no doubt.

  As we drove back through Chelsea I couldn’t resist asking the driver to stop by the  hospital where Vanessa was theatre Sister.  Amazingly she was free and we had a cup of tea together and arranged that she and her doctor husband would come and visit.

I settled down to being a housewife and mummy and life was very pleasant.

Our garden backed onto the garden of a large house owned by a National Hunt jockey.  We had got into conversation, when I met him on the train, before my son was born and discovered we lived in close proximity.  He was great fun – a real charmer and when our families got together I was delighted that William also liked him.  Before long the two men had made a gate in the fence to save us all a long twenty minute walk to reach each other’s houses.  Through him we were introduced to the racing fraternity and our social life stepped up a notch.  And then there were my two new friends Anne and Eileen and their babies.  We had become a strong trio and saw each other almost every day.

Then William dropped a bomb shell.  He told me he had applied for another job and if he was accepted we would have to move.  I couldn’t believe it.  Déjà vu all over again. 
 In Altrincham just when I had become embroiled in the local theatre group and we had a lovely circle of friends it was up sticks and off we went down south.  I know I was probably being selfish and not seeing the bigger picture.  I just don’t like change- especially when we seemed to be reasonably happy.

But this was when the wife was a kept woman, the husband the bread winner so his job took precedence.  I just wasn’t convinced it was vital for his job to be changed and for us to move to another county.

 

 

 
 


 

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Andrew during his very brief modelling career.  I was appalled when a waiter gave him a ginger biscuit.  Andrew though he was in Heaven

Saturday, November 09, 2019


An Imperfect Life

Chapter 38

Ice cold Milk and Deep Green Apples

 Pregnant and so happy I wanted to shout it from the house tops.
“No!”  Mum was adamant.

“Nine months is a long time and folk get bored.”

So a secret.  Ha!  Fat chance – overnight my metabolism had changed and from being a nervy, edgy, highly strung girl I became a placid, happy cow.  With serenity came avoir dupois and William had the wife he’d always wanted.  Had we lived on a boat his cup would have runneth over.

“You know William - Spotlight has really earned its keep.  Ben Lyons and Bebe Daniels want me for ‘Life with the Lyons’ as Richard’s girl friend.  And H.M Tennant have offered me a job.”

“Paula will be pleased,” William observed.

“She’s thrilled.  I’ve got to tell her about the baby.  I just don’t know how she’ll react.”

“Why don’t we ask her – AND her husband down at the week-end?  We can wine and dine them – away from the phones she’ll be more relaxed.”

Great!  Now we had a plan I could function.  It was the first time Paula had visited – I had never met her solicitor husband and everything had to be perfect.  My excellent housekeeper Doreen made the house glisten with fragrant lavender polish, the brass and copper gleamed and the table looked a picture with starched napkins, most of Dodie’s silver and fresh flowers.  William looked reasonably respectable in a laid back ’I’m in the garden rather than the office’ way but when I came to get dressed I couldn’t do up my skirt.  All I could do was safety pin my skirt and cover it up with one of William’s white shirts loosely belted over the bump.  It wasn’t supposed to show for ages yet but no-one seemed to have told ‘it’.

When the car rolled up I got a shock – Paula’s husband was not what I expected.  He was a good ten years younger with a tooth brush moustache and dressed as if he had stepped out of ‘Country Life’ – discreetly checked shirt, cravat and camel waistcoat, thorn proof jacket, beige cord trousers and suede brothel creeper shoes – all brand spanking new.  Paula was her usual chaotic self but she had made an effort with a hat, fur coat, heels and a voluminous silk dress.  We greeted each other warmly, made the introductions and got them drinks before the inevitable gap in the conversation.  I had seen Paula’s piercing look and as soon as she had tasted her G and T I blurted out-

“We’ve got some news to tell you.  We’re going to have a baby in November,”

Paula roared with laughter, gave me a big hug and there were congratulations all round.

  Lunch was a success with wine flowing, the men happy talking about cars – how to get to A from B and bottlenecks.  After lunch it was sunny so we had coffee in the garden.  I told Paula I planned to work as long as possible and after ‘it’ was born nurse for 6 months and then go back to work.  We agreed that my contract should lapse during this period and then start again.  Paula said she would vet any jobs in the coming months to ensure I wasn’t overdoing things and the day ended happily. I think at the time we both believed this would all come about.  I just had a faint worry that I was showing so soon.  Twins?  Or a baby elephant?

  My rich SIL Fleur came up trumps- her layette had been in the family for years and she said I was now to use them and then hand them back again.  There was a lovely cot covered in pink and white organdie, ancient cot blankets which I renovated with fresh ribbon, a lovely piece of swaddling cashmere and a play pen.  It was the time of very smart prams a la Princess Grace of Monaco and I just didn’t have the nerve to wheel the offered pram round Epsom.  It looked as if it dated from the year dot with its cavernous body and tiny wheels. I bought Viyella baby gowns which opened down the back, stencilled designs on the bodice and embroidered them - sewing lace round the neck and wrists.  Mum couldn’t believe it.

  William and I were blissfully happy – for the very first time.  My only problem was indigestion which possibly was due to my propensity for ice cold milk and deep green apples at bedtime.  I did as much work as possible the first month and then it became difficult to hide my blooming- ness.  Also I didn’t enjoy racing round town with luggage so I told Paula I would book myself out until baby was 6 months old.

It was a time for reflection and for seeing family.  Gran was getting older and not so eager to visit her daughter and family in the States, so to give Mum and Dad a break I had her to stay for a couple of weeks.  She was convinced that her natural life span was three score years and ten and sure enough soon after the birth she died - aged seventy.

Jamie’s brother Liam and family were over from the States and visiting Maddie.  Apparently Jamie now had a daughter and was living in Essex.  He had dropped out of my consciousness although I still had the odd dream about him.  Maddie asked if she could bring Liam and family over for the day along with their child who was getting over German measles.  She said I should be out of the danger period for harming the baby.

I couldn’t believe she would even ask.  As if I was going to take the slightest risk with my baby.

  We had very little in the way of monitoring in those days but I did go to relaxation classes and became a dab hand at deep breathing.

  I was beginning to get to know the neighbours.  At first they treated me ‘the model’ as something from outer space but soon realised I was just an ordinary young woman.  We were both wildly excited about the baby and found the last long months dragging interminably.  My increased weight gave me back–ache and when Mum saw me waddling with one hand behind me, clutching my back she said I needed a corset for support.  So I got a horrid pink thing with laces and it really helped.  I did have a chat with a midwife and told her I was worried about my waters breaking.  She roared with laughter.

“They’re not going to suddenly break and flood Epsom Market love!”

I continued to gain weight.  One was meant to put on a maximum of 21lbs: 7for the baby, 7 for the mother and I can’t remember what the last 7 lbs are for.  At last the date arrived but no baby.  By now I was thoroughly fed up and wished I could change my mind and have it some other time.  After a further 9 days I got the bus to the hospital and they decided to weigh me – for the first time.  They were horrified.  I had gone from7stone 4 ounces to 11 and a half stones.  Clearly it was too late to do anything about it, but they told me to lay off salt and sent me home.  I decided to walk into Epsom to get the bus home.  This was a strain- not only was I suddenly very tired, my stomach felt hard and tight as if it was going to burst and I was involuntarily grunting with the effort of walking.  I got home about the same time as William.

“Go and lie down Pat and I’ll bring you some supper.”

  We had an early night and I must have fallen asleep.  Suddenly I was awake with this tight pressure feeling and to my horror the bed was awash.

“William! Wake up! That mid-wife was wrong.  I could easily have flooded Epsom Market!”

We blessed great aunt Rose who had given her favourite nephew her Austin 7 which she used to drive on the crown of the road yelling “Road Hog!” to every car that overtook her.

“William we must go very carefully because the baby no longer has that great cushion of water to protect it.”

At the hospital William was sent home and told he could phone in the morning.  I realise things are rather different these days what with birthing partners and all but all I wanted was a nurse who knew what she was about; I had a job to do and I didn’t want any distractions.  I was put in quite a pleasant room and told to get into bed.  Then I was left alone and was aware that, from time to time, people looked trough the glass panel on the door.  Every time I got a contraction I could feel my face flushing with discomfort.  This went on for some time with me stolidly deep breathing, and trying to relax in between.  Eventually a nurse came in and was surprised to find me fully dilated.  She had seen me lying peacefully – as she thought- and assumed I was a long way off giving birth.  I was rushed down to the labour ward where the doctor had just delivered a baby and was ready to go home.  Tough!

  Throughout the birth he and the nurse were chatting, in a playful way to each other, except when they gave me instructions.  Finally when my baby was born I was so exhausted that I sank back when I had meant to look at the baby emerging.  My relief was short-lived.

“I’m afraid she’s torn.  I’ll have to put some sutures in.”

 There was just time to get a fleeting glimpse of my son and then he was whisked away.

“We won’t bother with a local –she’ll be numb down there.”

I had been so proud of myself and now this arrogant clot of a doctor put me through what I can only describe as medieval torture and I screamed and sobbed.  I have been wary of male doctors ever since.  The anger is still there although I no longer imagine attacking his nether regions with a large cutting needle to see if he was ‘numb down there’.

  At last I was back in the room with my son in a cot beside me.  I took him in my arms and gazed at him.  It was instant, deep, everlasting, unconditional love.  He was long and skinny, pink and white with a silken down on his head the colour of golden treacle toffee.  We stared at each other.  Such a serious little face with navy blue eyes.  He clamped on to the breast to the manner born- no problems there.  When daylight came I looked out of the window and there below on the forecourt was William.  His face lit up when he saw me and he waved violently so I could tell he knew the good news.  The nurse told me – in a disapproving manner that he had phoned the hospital three or four times during the night.  And why not?  Now he had to wait for visiting hours in the evening to see our son.  I returned to my favourite occupation- staring at the newcomer.

This little creature had changed my life and I was supposed after six months to leave him in the care of somebody else?  Not bloody likely!

Sunday, September 08, 2019


An Imperfect Life

 
Chapter 37

 
I make a decision

 
“I have to see Paula tomorrow.”

“Any particular reason?”  William was interested enough to put his book down.

 “It’s time to settle our finances - she owes me quite a bit of money – minus the fees
 
from the studios who paid me direct.  And she wants me to fill her in on the Pickles’

  affair.”
 
“Well don’t be getting upset.  Remember they didn’t even know you so don’t take it

 personally.”

 Easy for William to say but my confidence had taken a blow.  Anyway my carapace

 was too thin -  Jamie’s rejection had been enough for one lifetime.  I felt it was only
 
fair to tell Paula I didn’t consider this a job for life – it wasn’t a passion and I would
 
like to wind down preparatory to starting a family.

  Next day sitting outside Paula’s office I was rehearsing what I was going to say when I noticed a youngish man waiting.  He didn’t look like either a model or an actor and when Paula herself ushered him in, I was even more curious.  At last the secretary popped her head round the door and asked me to go in.  To my surprise the mystery man was still there, sitting alongside Paula.

“Pat dear, I want you to meet Mr X of X nylons.”

This was Paula at her most charming.  Mr X stood up and we shook hands.  It appeared he was starting an advertising campaign, had observed me in the waiting room and wanted to use me for his ads.  I nearly laughed out loud but slowly I was learning a bit of common sense.  I had always had a thing about my skinny long legs which tended to be a bit knock kneed.  The fashion then was for more muscular, curvy pins and mine didn’t cut the mustard.   A modelling chum had recently been on the town with a party that included the ‘leg’endary star Marlene Dietrich- her legs were insured for thousands of pounds and according to my friend, the precious pins were encased in the palest, sheerest nylons which blended seamlessly with the colour of her high heeled shoes making her legs seemingly go on for ever.  This seemed like a good idea to me and I was trying it out this very day.  The result was a contract – Mr X was happy, Paula was happy and I decided to keep my worries to myself and carry on a while longer.  Paula had already worked out my nice large cheque so I didn’t need to hang around and future plans were put on hold for now.  When I spoke to Paula that evening there were lots of bookings and she said it was time to get a photo in Spotlight.

“What’s Spotlight” demanded William?

“It’s supposed to be world famous for its casting directories and Paula reckons it’s a must if you want to get anywhere in the media.  It’s expensive…”

“But you have to speculate to accumulate…” William added.

“Don’t forget Mum’s coming down tomorrow so I’m going to book myself out for a couple of days.  I’ve got plans.”

I really wanted to do something about her hair.  It was soft and silky- a lovely strawberry blonde colour – that’s titian in my book- but she wore it in a long plait which she wrapped round her head like a hairy Alice band.  My own hair was done by top stylists for modelling jobs but my personal choice was a Mr Ralph who was employed by a new up and coming stylist – Vidal Sassoon.  Although hairdressers were keen to use me they found my hair (soft, fine and fly away) difficult until they got used to it.  I would tell them the best way to cope with it, but hairdressers never listen – it’s in their DNA and once a whole photo session was ruined when the stylist put brilliantine on my hair in spite of my warning her what would happen.  Not only did I look like a drowned rat the sticky goo had to be endlessly washed out again.  Mr Ralph was different - quiet, unassuming and a gifted stylist.  Mum was doubtful about having her long hair cut so I suggested she watch him do mine and then see how she felt.  Thoroughly reassured she decided to go ahead.  I rejoiced as I saw her lose the dreaded plait and at least fifteen years in the process.  She now had a short pretty style which allowed her natural curl the freedom it had been denied for years.  Everybody was delighted and she never had long hair again.  I just hoped Dad would feel the same.

  I had chosen Vidal’s salon as my regular salon because it was a fun place with rocking music, a real buzz and discounts for the modelling profession - in contrast to some of the Mayfair salons full of ladies dripping with mink and diamonds.  I first met Vidal when he was a young apprentice and had been given the unenviable task of attaching a solid rubber ring to my hair to represent a ‘Juliet‘ hair style.  It was an impossible task and the brushing got more and more violent until finally he flung down the brush and flounced out saying he was a hair stylist – not an ‘effing genius.’

He became world famous for his geometric styles- closely associated with the fashion icon Mary Quant.  My type of hair was anathema to him and we had a friendly agreement for the rest of my modelling days that I would never ask him to cope with my hair again.  My favourites of the many famous stylists were Steiner, who did wonderfully romantic styles and French of London.

  It was lovely having Mum to stay and we had lots of chats but I didn’t talk about my marriage- I remembered her retort when Maddie was in trouble:

“You’ve made your bed – you must lie on it.”

On my recent birthday I had asked William if – as a birthday treat - we could go up to town and see the latest Ava Gardner film and he refused.  Of course he came up with an alternative but it wasn’t anything I was interested in so I in turn refused.

  Mum and I did talk about starting a family- she was just eighteen when she got pregnant and Maddie about the same.  I suddenly realised the next birthday I would be twenty-six; the bookings were pouring in and unless I made a stand, another year would fly by- but how would I break it to Paula?  A fait accompli seemed the only answer; so I made a decision and my New Year’s resolution was to start a family.  For once William was in complete agreement and we set about the task with gusto.  We didn’t have pregnancy tests then so after I missed a period I trotted down to the local hospital.  They told me I was pregnant and gave me a resounding telling off; I should have – they said – waited at least a couple of months before seeing them.  I explained I often had to chase around London carrying cases with accessories and I didn’t want to risk having a miscarriage.  A month or so earlier I had had a shock when I fell backwards off a chair balanced on a table.  I was working with one of my favourite photographers; he was expert in colour, had come down from the north and we bonded.  I was touched when he said he and his wife used colour transparencies of me to put round their lamp shades.  Sometimes he was like a bull in a china shop, but I found that quite endearing.

I can’t remember what the shoot was for but Jim persuaded me to wear shorts and sweater and balance on a chair which was balanced on a table.  As usual he was darting between me and the camera; tweaking and rearranging until he got the right shot and suddenly I felt myself going A over T backwards, crashed on the floor and passed out.  I was taken to the nearest hospital and felt such an idiot dressed as I was.

I was seen by a sweet young doctor with black curly hair and freckles.  I was reluctant to let him examine my spine as I was very self conscious - still am – about a birth mark I have.  He finally persuaded me and assured me the birth mark was nothing to worry about.  After X-rays he said I had bruised my coccyx, there would be no permanent damage but I should rest for a few days.  As he left the room I noticed he had a club foot and felt thoroughly ashamed of my stupid embarrassment.

These were not litigious days and I don’t think it occurred to Jim that I could sue him; it certainly never occurred to me.  He showed me a series of photos which illustrated how he had pushed the chair closer and closer to the edge of the table with the inevitable results.  The studio insisted on paying me the equivalent of two weeks work which I was happy to accept. From now on – as a pregnant woman I would be more careful.

 

Friday, August 16, 2019

Sorry to be absent so long.
There's been a wedding - my grand-daughter Alice and her beloved Tom.
 
 
 

 Tom and Alice after nuptials
 The small bridesmaids - there were four fully grown ones also
  1.  Alice and my son Andrew - her Dad.
Left to right Dani my grandson Tom's partner, Andrew, Tom the bridegroom, Jenny Alice's Mum' and another Tom my grandson
Alice and Tom as kids with Alastair.


Wednesday, June 12, 2019