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’

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


 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

Monday, June 03, 2019

A Knock-back

An Imperfect Life

Chapter 36

A Knock-back.


 “Hi Paula – we’re back!

 “Good – you’ve got a lot of bookings.  Be in the office at 9am tomorrow and I’ll fill
you in.”
No polite conversation with Paula – just get on with the job!  I was in the office bright

and early to hear I had a variety of jobs modelling sweaters, toothpaste, shampoos but

Paula told me she also wanted me to work in films and get ‘spotted’.  To this end she

had put me up for a bridesmaid for Rex Harrison and Kay Kendall in ‘The Constant

Husband’, and as a guest at the ball with Vivien Leigh in ‘The Deep Blue Sea.’

As a film fan I was delighted to be on the same set as these gifted actors.  Rex Harrison was adored by the film crew and behaved like an enfant terrible.  As bridesmaids we stood for hours in a bunch with the stars.  It was obvious that he and Kay were attracted to each other – Rex did however take one of the bridesmaids out to dinner.  Kay teased him about his toupee: at one stage she had to hit him with her bouquet and wondered impishly if this would dislodge the rug.  She was gorgeous and I found her looks extraordinary and tried to get my eyebrows to look like hers until Marta pointed out that the shape of our faces were different and it looked silly on me.
  Rex and Kay became lovers then tragically, Kay was diagnosed with leukaemia.

Legend has it that Rex promised to take care of her for the time she had left and they

married but sadly Kay died in 1959.

  I was very excited at the prospect of seeing the divine Vivien on the set of ‘The Deep Blue Sea’.  She was a wondrous film actor –far better than her husband, Laurence Olivier.  Sadly I didn’t recognise her at first as ill health had taken its toll.  Although she was still beautiful on screen – in the flesh she was a shadow of her former self.  I’ve noticed plain girls sort of grow into their faces with age, and become more attractive, whilst great beauties tend to fade.  Vivien had no illusions about herself and said she felt like a large peach in her beautiful ball gown.

Paula clearly had her spies on the set because afterwards she demanded to know what the director Anatole Litvak – had said to me.  What he said- in his heavy Ukrainian accent to me and my partner was :-

“If I hit your legs with this stick you are going out of shot so GET BACK IN!”

Poor Paula – I think I was a great disappointment to her – not least because I couldn’t blag – talk myself up and be economical with the truth.

  One job I remember fondly was when three girls chosen out of hundreds of glamour girls spent the day in a studio wearing four different glamorous costumes miming a jingle whilst Dorothy Carless provided the vocals three times over.  The voices were then combined and the result looked as if we were a version of the Andrews sisters.  We were miming:-

“Who do you know?  Who do you know?  Who do you know?

Who doesn’t like Kellogg’s Corn Flakes?” Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

It was such a fun day.  The other girls were Maria - a beautiful Danish model and Celia – a descendant of Mrs Kepple (wonder if she knew the Duchess of Cornwall who is also a descendant.)

A lifetime later whilst staying at our cottage with an old black and white TV set I was amazed to hear the same jingle and the same three girls.  Why on earth would

 they be using an ancient black and white ad for Kellogg’s?  Apparently the advertising agency had been trying to find us to ask permission to use the ad for a 30 year anniversary.  I was happy to give permission, a new contract was negotiated and I got a welcome windfall and a copy of the tape - which amused the family.

  Back to 1955 everything was going well, my bank balance was increasing, studios were booking me on a regular basis- something had to go wrong soon, and it did.

“Pat I know you have two bookings tomorrow but there is an important audition at Illustrated magazine at 3pm sharp.  Make sure you get there looking gorgeous.”

  Illustrated specialised in photo journalism similar to Picture Post.

I wondered if Paula had any flippin’ idea how long it took to get from A to B in London.  Half the time I would be agonising in the back of a taxi as we got stuck in yet another traffic jam.  No wonder I started getting migraines.  The morning was booked for an on going women’s magazine serial – a poor little girl in Paris spotted by this mature couturier and groomed to be his muse.  Such fun – one had to act and wear beautiful clothes but by the end of the session with all the changing, hair and make-up I was usually exhausted.  After that was a straight forward shoot at 2pm which usually lasted an hour.  How the hell could I get over to Illustrated by 3pm?  Of course I couldn’t and when I arrived the auditions were over.  The room was full of gorgeous creatures including –to my amazement – Marta.

“You’re late,” she snapped. I explained I couldn’t help it as my last booking ended at 3pm and I had to cross London.

“Well you’d better tell someone you’re here.  They’ve taken all the names.

Jut then a woman with a clip board came in and I explained what had happened.  I said Paula Day had sent me and she told me to wait and disappeared into the interview room.

“Mr B has finished seeing people but you can pop in briefly.”  I grimaced at Marta and followed the secretary into the room.

The man behind the desk cut short my apologies.

“Hang on a minute.  You could be just what we’re looking for.”

He made a phone call and shortly two younger men appeared.

“Sit down and tell us something about yourself.”  I sat down and started babbling on, apologising at the same time and feeling my cheeks getting pink.

“Right!  What we’re looking for is the ‘girl next door’.    This is Ben the journalist and Phil the photographer, who you would be working with.  The job involves going up to Morecambe next week-end and being photographed with a famous person.  If we decide to use you would you be available?

My week-ends were usually spent pottering round the garden in scruffy clothes but this sounded interesting so I said yes.  He asked me to wait outside and I joined Marta.

“How did you get on?”

“Well they seemed quite interested.”

“Listen Pat- we haven’t had a chance to talk for ages.  When this is over come round to my house – my mother would like to meet you and we can have a good gossip.”

Of course I agreed- I couldn’t say no to Marta after all she had done for me; taking me under her wing and introducing me to Paula, although I was longing to get home to Epsom and relax.  The girl with the clip board came in and thanked everyone for coming and asked me to stay behind.

“I’ll see you in the foyer,” Marta hissed.

Back in the interview room the man behind the desk was smiling.

“Congratulations Pat.  We’ve decided you are the right girl for us.  You’ll be travelling up with Ben and Phil.  Sally will give you all the details.  Is there anything you want to ask?”

Er - I should think so!

“May I ask who is the famous person?”  My imagination was running riot.

“It’s Wilfred.  Wilfred Pickles.”

During the war Wilfred was the first BBC announcer to have a regional accent; he was a Yorkshire man and used to end his broadcasts with “and to all the people in the north- good neet!”

Some people, accustomed to the mellifluous tones of such as Alvar Lidell complained.  He was sacked and became a radio celebrity and host of a BBC programme ‘Have a go!’ which ran from 1946-1967.  His wife Mabel was his partner on the show and one of the many catch phrases was ‘Give ‘im the money Mabel!’

I adjusted my expectations and went to meet Marta.

  It was good to meet her parents; they were such opposites - her Italian father sitting quietly like a somnolent Picasso, and her mother- bright as a button, full of Irish charm, as she made the tea.  She and I had a scatty conversation about the joys of living in the southeast with its ready access to that wonderful place – Brighton.  After both of us had exhausted the charms of the old Prince Regent’s love nest, we discovered that neither of us had ever set foot in Brighton and dissolved into giggles.

It was obvious that Marta wanted to talk and I was whisked off to her room clutching my tea.  She studied me carefully and then fired a barrage of questions about my hair, makeup, clothes – every possible detail about my personal appearance.  Then the penny dropped: she couldn’t understand why I had got the audition instead of her, or indeed any of the other lovelies.  What was so ironic- just over a year ago- she had instructed me on all these details, and I had blindly followed her instructions.  It took some time to convince her I had been chosen for my very ordinariness.

  Marta had changed since I first met her.  She was burning the candle at both ends – she had the sophistication of a 30yr old but was still barely 20.  She was mixing with a very fast set and it wasn’t really benefiting her or her career.  I realised racing home to Epsom every night saved me from a lot of inappropriate behaviour.

  It was late when I got home and William was in bed asleep.  In the morning when I told him about the Morecambe job, he was pleased for me and laughed like a drain when I told him who the famous person was, and a Yorkshire man to boot.

On the way up to Morecambe, Phil and Ben told me about the job;  Wilfred was going to make the dream of an ordinary girl (me) come true and be photographed doing it-rather in the style of an early ‘Jim’ll fix it!’   This would be a feature in the magazine.  It sounded fun - it was always preferable to use ones imagination - or even a few brain cells rather than just exercising one’s facial muscles.  I liked the boys, as I called them – both older than me; Ben bespectacled and studious and Phil an attractive family man.  I loved the hotel – right beside the sea and built in 1933 in the style of my favourite art-deco.

“Pat settle yourself in and we’ll go and arrange a schedule with Wilfred.”  I unpacked, wandered round the hotel and was just wondering if I had time to walk along the beach, when the boys returned.  As soon as I saw their faces I knew something was wrong.

“Pat lets go and have some tea.”

“No! I know something is wrong.  Please tell me what it is.”  Phil insisted we sat down and gradually I discovered what had happened.  Mabel had been present and straight away told them that they’d have to think again and no way was this ‘London glamour girl going to horn in on the act.'  Wilfred was – they said drinking beer with whisky chasers.  It was a nasty shock for them and they assured Mabel that I wasn’t a glamour girl and indeed, came from the north – Lancashire in fact.  Mabel was immovable so finally they left and returned to the hotel.  I could feel myself getting really upset, so I excused myself and fled to my room.  I had a jolly good cry and then rinsed my face in cold water and tried to repair the damage.  The phone went – it was Phil; he had phoned head office and they said that Phil and Ben should insist that Wilfred should at least meet me and that is what they would arrange, if I were agreeable.  I said yes because at least it wasn’t personal- how could it be when the Pickles hadn’t even met me.  Inside I was pretty angry but for everybody’s sake, I wanted to do the job.

  When we got there it was just Wilfred for which I was grateful.  He had aged somewhat and was puffy around the eyes, but at least was civil and when I told him where I was born and bred, he said he remembered the Morris Dancing there.  I wondered if he was confusing it with somewhere else.  He tried to be kind and pleasant but there was no way he was going to go against what Mabel wanted.

  After this, head office said we should lie low, and I should leave the next day. They were desperately sorry about my treatment but they would try to salvage the project after I had left.  Talk about feeling like a pariah.  I went to my room and tried to phone William.  He said all the right things and told me not to worry – just put it down to experience.  When I went down to rejoin the boys, they were looking wretched and asked if there was anything they could do to make it up to me,  It would be some time before I got over this knock- back but I felt cheered after speaking to William and with the resilience of youth, looked on the bright side.  Here I was in a delightful place with a free evening and two charming men, so I suggested we had a drink followed by dinner, followed by dancing.  They laughed and drew the line at dancing but we had a really good evening and I felt lucky I wasn’t the one who would have to pick up the pieces the next day.  I certainly planned to do a lot of thinking about my future.


Sunday, March 24, 2019

Messing about in boats

An Imperfect Life
Chapter 35
Messing about in boats


An Imperfect life


Chapter 35

Messing about in boats.

We picked up the boat from Maldon – in Essex, not New Maldon in Surrey.  Judy was a lovely wooden 2-berth sailing boat where one’s rear would meld safely to the wood whilst sailing– unlike today’s fibre glass monsters.  I loved the Black Water estuary rich in wildlife with its dramatic wide skies, estuary views and migrating birds.   There were lonely salt marshes, lovely creeks, mud flats and occasional views of the majestic Thames barges; flat-bottomed - which once ferried goods along the east coast to London.  As usual William became happy as Larry once on the boat and as the weather was kind I slung a mattress in the dinghy we trailed behind us and read and sunbathed, enjoying the plop-plopping in William’s wake.  Judy had to be anchored in deep water (she didn’t have a flat bottom) to maintain stability and the pram was needed to row ashore.  One day near West Mersea Island, we dropped anchor and rowed ashore to get some shopping.  We hadn’t realised the strength of the tide and on the way back were rapidly swept past our boat and out to sea.  Fortunately some chaps anchored in a large sailing boat saw our plight and managed to catch us before we were swept past them. They pulled us aboard and we spent a jolly day with them until the tide took us back to Judy.  They told us of how they had been becalmed for days in the Doldrums and suddenly were delighted to hear the swish of water and thought hooray – at last they could get under way – only to discover it was Trudy- the only female member of the crew- washing her smalls.

  Things were going terribly well and then:-

“Let’s ask Wallace and Fleur down for the week-end.”  Much as I like William’s brother and sister in law it didn’t seem feasible.

“But William it’s a two berth - how are we going to sleep four people?”

“No problem! You and I will share one berth, Fleur can have the other and there is a pipe cot for’ard near the anchor chain.  Wally will be quite happy there.”

To my amazement they accepted and said they would bring some stores and we would meet up in the pub.  We had made friends with another sailing couple – Harry and Jean so we looked forward to a jolly party.  I have never knowingly been under-dressed and this night was no exception.  I wore a halter necked Horrocks cotton in black, white and green with a bouffant skirt boosted by a scratchy, buckram petticoat.

With my pale honey tan I felt like the Queen of Sheba- perched in the dinghy, as William rowed us ashore.  True to form Wallace and Fleur arrived on the dot, we introduced everybody and settled down to a lovely boozy evening.  The pub was full of gorgeous hunks in thick polo necks and gum boots and we were having fun.

At about 7.30pm Fleur started to get twitchy.

“It’s almost supper time Pat – we need to get on doing the potatoes and so forth.”  My jaw hit the floor- we were all having such a splendid time -  the tales were getting wilder and wilder, why did we have to stop and think about potatoes?

The men solved the problem.  They would row Fleur out to Judy with most of the stores.  It wasn’t all food; Fleur – quite wisely - had brought for herself three fluffy blankets and a hottie.  The blankets on board were congenitally damp and so rough, they left a red chafing rash round the chin.  After a short while we would follow on with the rest of the stores. That was the plan.  I can’t remember what it was that prompted one of us to suggest it was time to make tracks and my goodness, the call

“Time Gentlemen Puleeze!” confirmed this.

Outside the pub the four of us looked out to our respective boats, ours and Harry’s which were now settled in a sea of black, soft, squelchy mud- the tide had gone out!  Much further out we spotted Judy gently bobbing in the moonlight.  I find at times like these it is politic to say nothing at all.

  It was decided that I – with my bouffant ensemble should sit in the dinghy guarding the stores and clothes (Jean’s skirt and the men’s trousers – they had all stripped off with unusual alacrity) and Willy, Wally, Harry and Jean would push the boat through the thigh high mud until we had reached our respective boats.  Once ensconced in the boat I confess that the sight of the four of them in their y-fronts (Jean had big pants encasing her quite large thighs) caused me to giggle so hard I got hiccups.  It was ‘The African Queen’ all over again.  Minus the leeches thank goodness.  I laughed so hard- well after all that drink you can guess what happened.  Unfortunately I was sitting on Fleur’s lemon meringue pie at the time.

  As we neared the boat our hysterical laughter died away as we realised that Fleur would not be amused and had every right to be absolutely livid with us.  After a whispered good night to Harry and Jean we clambered aboard - William and Wally dripping the evil mud in their wake.  Thinking on my feet I urged Wally to go below where, presumably Fleur would be nestled in her pink fluffy blankets clutching her hottie and- please God - asleep.  This would give him privacy to scramble into the wretched pipe cot whilst we disrobed on deck.  There was gentle snoring from Fleur as we crept aboard; in fact she was the only one who had a good night’s sleep proving there was some justice in the world.  There was a bit of a popple on the water and a swell, so although there was to be no conjugal nonsense over the weekend I spent the night clinging for dear life to William to avoid falling out of the narrow bunk.  Poor Wally had the wandering anchor chain for a bed fellow and didn’t sleep a wink.  He was up at crack of dawn with a conciliatory mug of tea for Fleur and one for each of us but we had to get up in order to drink it.  We all apologised to Fleur with lots of excuses re time and tide but we didn’t fool her for a moment and she knew full well that for the rest of the week-end she would rule and we would behave impeccably.

  Today we were going to venture out seawards and as time and tide were right the men decided we should set sail immediately and I would cook breakfast en route.  The stove was on gimbals and I was a dab hand at cooking under way.  Everybody enjoyed eating in the fresh air- whilst scudding through the waves, but Fleur objected to my doing bacon and eggs AND tomatoes.

“So extravagant Pat – and not at all necessary!”

Fleur hello!  The war is over!  I think she was quite cross that I could actually do something useful.  She was such a competent and thrifty person she stuck me – in the early days - into a ‘useless blonde’ compartment.  And who can blame her?  Later – over the years - we came to appreciate each other and respect our differences.

  Fleur had no interest in sailing so it didn’t occur to Wally that I might like to man the tiller occasionally.  So different to William who was the most generous of sailors and was always delighted to let me have a go.  Quite illuminating.  The adage ‘climb a mountain with someone if you really want to get to know them’ is equally true of sharing a small boat.

  Judy had no mod cons.  There was an enamel bowl for washes and a tin bucket of the ‘bucket and chuck it’ variety.  The etiquette was that the men went for’ard to pee and we girls were given a private bucket.  Anything more complicated had to be dealt with ashore in the pub and it all worked perfectly well until we had that dodgy ice cream at Felixstowe.  Oddly, for a naval officer, Wally was often sea-sick – not such a rarity as one would thing in the navy.

  It was a glorious sail up the coast and we were in high spirits as we went ashore for lunch.  The fish and chips were delectable and then came the fatal ice-cream.  I don’t want to labour the point and list the gory details but the four of us, that week –end reached a level of intimacy that can take years of married life to achieve.  We didn’t linger in Felixstowe as we knew we would have a hard beat against the wind to return Fleur and Wally to where they had left their car.  It would have been difficult enough tacking (zigzagging trying to find the wind) but with the onset of D and V it was sheer hell.  To find which way the wind is blowing you have to stick a wet finger in the air and see which side dries first but when one is being violently sick there is no time for such niceties.  The sea became very rough and we were tossed around mercilessly by the violence of the waves.  How bizarre I thought – here we are on the brink of disaster and a watery grave yet across the turbulent seas were the happy holiday makers of Clacton sunning themselves in deck chairs- oblivious to the life and death struggle taking place before them.  Life jackets?  What lifejackets?  This was the fifties before Health and Safety ruled.

  We didn’t drown, we didn’t die and we finally reached port – exhausted and chastened.  As Wally and Fleur tottered towards their car, shadows of their former selves and trailing the now sodden blankets I wondered if Fleur would ever take to the water again.  I wondered if I would ever take to the water again.  Fortunately for me – what with the sickness and all - the lemon meringue pie was never brought up.

  After a good night’s sleep  in our own bunks enthusiasm was restored and we convalesced exploring medieval Maldon, pottering round the salt marshes, relishing the birds and the terra cotta sails of the beautiful Thames barges.  By the end of the fortnight I could truly say that I had not been ‘bored witless.’










Sunday, February 10, 2019

An Imperfect Life

Stills and Movies

Chapter 34

“Paula phoned whilst you were out.  She wants to see you in the office ASAP.”

 “Did she say what it was about?”
“She said it was important.”

I groaned and thought back over the last few weeks.  I could think of at least three instances when I could have upset my agent.  Recently I had called on a large studio – Carlton where there were lots of excellent photographers.  They were about to do a campaign for MacLean’s toothpaste and were keen to look at my photograph and my teeth.  With my ’talk first – think later’ habit I told them that my teeth weren’t perfectly straight and they all lined up to have a look.  Feeling like a prospect for the Grand National I submitted to the examination and the consensus of opinion was that a slight imperfection would be charming and I did the job and all were pleased.

They were having a large party for models, agents and clients and I was invited.  Paula said it was important that I should appear, that I should look my best and she also would be there.  No pressure then.

  Obviously I had to buy a new dress and went to Harrods where their new department was said to be way out.  Unfortunately it was entitled ‘Way Out’ and I mistook it for an exit before the penny finally dropped.  The result was a red lace dress which I adored.  It had a tiny waist and a billowing skirt and made me feel like a million dollars.

  At the party I started off with Paula and some of her best girls - much more glam than me – and then got caught up in an intoxicating whirl – dancing – meeting new people – drinking the odd glass of wine and having a ball.  The truth was for the first time for ages I was having fun.  Married life was quite serious and earnest and something seemed to be missing.    One of the chaps I met at the party escorted me to the station after the party – it was all jolly and nice and nothing untoward. But what did Paula think?

When I walked in her office she was on the phone – as usual – and motioned me to sit down.  When she had finished she looked at me thoughtfully and said,

“At the Carlton party I had people coming up to me asking who was the girl in the red dress - where did you get it by the way?”

“Harrods at Way…” I started…

“And also I’ve been getting feed back from the studios.”

I wondered what was coming and took a deep breath.

“I’ve decided to put you under contract – that’s if you accept of course and quite frankly you’d be mad not to.  I have only one other person under contract and that’s Marta and if you work hard and do exactly as I say there is no reason why you couldn’t be an international star.  Talk it over with your husband- here is the contract – try not to lose it – and you can tell me when you phone in tomorrow.”

Bloody ‘ell!

William and I talked it over.  Paula would have complete control over me and my work and I could not work for any other agent without her permission.  In return she would guide my career and ensure I had a certain amount of money each month.  As our plans were to start a family when I had earned enough money we decided to accept it.   Lots of photographic work was coming in but Paula thought I would have more chance of being ‘spotted’ on a film set so I became a ‘special’ which is a step up from an extra and required auditions until you were known.  I had worked with lots of ‘resting’ actors on photo shoots and they were in a cleft stick – not able to get an acting job until they joined Equity and unable to join Equity until they had a job.  Here was I made to join and given the precious Equity card.  Ironic, because I had always been against unions.  The thought of a nurse going on strike- especially a sick children’s nurse was abhorrent to me and unheard of in my day.  Thing have changed a great deal in the last 60 years – not always for the better.

The first film job was as a ‘glamorous sixth former’ in one of the St Trinian’s films.

We spent ages in make- up having false eye lashes applied and were dressed in skimpy gym slips and black silk stockings.  My hair was short and curly so I was dubbed ‘Bubbles’.

We were given boxes containing our lunch and I was the last to leave.  The grounds were very pretty – I think it was Shepperton –and I could see a group of people sitting outside a summer house so I thought I would have a quiet lunch on my own.  I settled under a tree and opened the box full of goodies.  No sooner was my mouth full of salmon and cucumber than the whole group seemed to be shouting and gesticulating and one of them came running towards me.  It seemed all had been ready for the shot for some time and they were just waiting for Bubbles to pour the tea.  By the time I had teetered there on my high heels the whole set was rocking with laughter which helped to calm my nerves.  Maybe they should have named me Dopey

  The scene was outside the summer house where a group of teachers were being served tea by sixth formers.  Having been trained over the last few months to freeze for the camera I found it odd at first to actually move whilst being filmed.  There would be a little bit of action and then long, long periods of hanging around.  At one time I felt Joyce Grenfell staring at me and started twisting my wedding ring around.

“That’s telepathy!” she proclaimed with her lovely brilliant smile.

“I was just thinking – Bubbles can’t possibly be married- she’s far too young.”

One of the sixth formers said “She ought to be in films with that bone structure.”

“Oh she’s not interested,” said another.

I realised I should be careful what I said – Paula would not be pleased to hear I wasn’t interested in a film career.

  During another quiet spell the male masters Leslie Howard’s brother and - I think - Guy Middleton were content sitting quaffing the tea I had poured whilst Joyce was advancing towards us using her hockey mistress walk which kept her in character.

“Oh God!  Not that walk again,” said one of them.  Who said women were the bitchy ones?

I was starting my ‘fifteen minutes of fame.’  I was interviewed as me by various magazines and asked to judge competitions.  ‘Bonniest baby’ comps were to be avoided.  One made a friend for life and at least thirty enemies.  Even Mum was interviewed by the local rag and managed to find a photo for them to use which made me look 50.  Thanks Mum.

  I enjoyed having money to spend and bought our first fridge, (we never needed them in Rossendale – the stone built houses had north facing larders as cold as any fridge,) a food mixer and whilst visiting a large store heard ‘A Lark Ascending’ played on a radiogram so I bought that – the radiogram and the record.  Then I pulled my horns in and started saving.

One day I was modelling for a brilliant artist illustrating short stories – I think it was Rex.  He was good company and encouraged me to prattle on about my life and marriage.  Finally he put down his brush and said, “You sound as if you’re bored witless.”

  William said we had both been working very hard and deserved a holiday I must book myself out from the agency and we would go on a sailing holiday.  I thought this an excellent idea.  William was a different person on a sailing boat- contented, relaxed and happy to pass on his expertise.  When Paula agreed to my two weeks leave I began to get excited. William chartered a small wooden boat from Maldon in Essex.

Two weeks of being able to slob around without makeup or stilettos.  Lovely!

We were both ready for a holiday.  William had been settling into his job with BISRA and I had been scuttling round studios getting established in modelling and now film work.  Two weeks with no pressure for either of us.  Bliss!


Friday, January 04, 2019

January 5th 1979
The day that changed my life for ever.
I know this is jumping the gun sequence wise so please forgive me but I can’t ignore the 40th anniversary of the day that changed my life forever.

We met at the Charing Cross Hotel - right next to the station. He was leaning against a pillar - apparently absorbed in a newspaper just like he had been when Maddie and I met him outside his college in Oxford - decades earlier. He looked nice in a blue-grey suit with a blue and white checked shirt. His hair was still dark and curly but when I looked closely my heart went out to him and I could see the lines of stress and grief etched on his face.  We repaired to Eleanor’s Bar in the hotel, where he was staying. He had a gin and I had a scotch.  He said he liked whiskey too much. We talked - he said I‘d find he didn’t talk much and from then on I could hardly get a word in edgeways. He had a quaint habit of using a note book to illustrate what he was saying.  He was explaining the hierarchy in his work place. His job was as important and responsible as William’s but more business orientated. Our politics had come closer over the years based on the thesis ‘if you don’t vote labour under 30 you haven’t got a heart and if you do over 30 you haven’t got a head.

I could tell from the tremor in his hand that he was even more nervous than I was. 

We had lunch in the large formal dining room and we both had fish but it might as well have been cotton wool. We were in a sort of bubble - cocooned from the rest of the world. Still talking we walked down to the river and when Jamie was greeted by an acquaintance, I could see by the man’s face that he was aware of the bubble even though we weren’t holding hands.   After tea we went to his room to freshen up: he told me he had to shave twice a day and we continued chatting through the bathroom door whilst he shaved and I powdered my nose. All we did was talk; there was so much to catch up with. Neither of us were hungry so we continued walking and talking until it was time for my last train at 11pm - we had been together for almost twelve hours. During the day we covered 30 years happenings at random: we talked about our five children and how lucky we were to each have close loving relations with them. He told me about being in the RAF and I told him about nursing. He had seen some of my modelling photos and we talked about my sister and his brother who were old friends and lived in the same NY state. We discovered that I had gone to live in the south as he gone to live in the north and he kept a cottage in Yorkshire - just over the border from my parent’s home.  I visited New York just after he had been. Once we had stayed at a children’s hotel in Bournemouth - the Broughty Ferry - the same year. We had both taken our children on holidays to the Lake District and to Wales. I told him that since the boys left home William and I were considering separate establishments. He asked me if there was anyone else and I told him no, which was the truth.

Eventually I told him of every relationship I had had with a man and he realised the only one of any importance was Tim.
 At our meeting we had given each other an ‘old friend type kiss on the cheek’ and at the end of the evening we again exchanged an O.F.T.K.O.T.C. but he hugged me and held me close and sighed ‘Ah Pat... ’ and as I rested my head against his chest I felt a momentary panic. Supposing it all went wrong again. He was so vulnerable. Was I about to leap from the frying pan into the fire? I knew this was not an ending but the start of something that would change my life for ever. I think we left it that he would get in touch when he was coming to London again,
As for our parting words - like the beginning it was sight, touch and smell that I remember and we were both a bit overwhelmed by our goodbye hug.
When I got on the last train I slowly came down to earth. It had been a long, intensive, emotional day and I started to panic. After 28 years of marriage I was looking forward to being free - not jumping straight into a relationship with anyone, let alone someone so vulnerable. I couldn’t bear the thought of possibly hurting him.

 I must have written to Jamie and tried to slow things down, because he wrote that he fully accepted and agreed that further meetings should be understood to be on the basis of unqualified, relaxed (and perhaps hopefully increasing) friendship.
With each meeting I got a little more confident and we became closer and then at our fifth meeting in April, I arranged to visit my parents stopping off at Jamie’s house on the way there and on the way back. I felt it wasn’t fair to involve my parents at this stage so told them I was seeing a friend in Manchester who would give me a lift home.  Jamie dropped me at the end of the lane out of sight of Mum’s house so I was absolutely flabbergasted when she greeted me with:
‘Oh isn’t Jamie coming in?’ I think Maddie must have been at work but it was a blessed relief and they did meet him when he picked me up on the Sunday.  It still makes me smile when I remember it.  Trust Mum.

  My great sadness when I was younger was that we had never been lovers - that’s just how it was then. After this week-end our fate was sealed - there was rapture and total commitment. Our plan was to be together forever - and to Jamie this meant getting married as soon as possible. Both of us wanted to bring this about causing as little hurt and upset to other people as possible.   The next few weeks were spent preparing to leave my marriage, my home, my friends and my business.  I wanted to leave everything in order and told the theatre club I was unable to do a production in the Spring.  I told Mary and we arranged that I would come down to the shop once a month and do the books and employ one of our assistants to do my hours.  I longed to tell the boys but felt I should tell William first.

Finally the day came - the house was immaculate the larder stocked with groceries and I had defrosted the fridge and freezer.  I told William I needed to talk to him and we sat down together in his study.  I had planned to keep it on a sensible unemotional plane but as soon as I started my throat seized up and I could barely control my voice for the sobs which were erupting.  In contrast William stayed calm and impassive as if he knew already.  Perhaps he did.  I told him I had met someone and was leaving home.  I had written to the boys so they would know today.  I didn’t want my share of the house and there was no need for him to leave.

William asked me if it was anyone he knew and I said no.  He asked where would I be living because he wouldn’t like it if we lived locally and I said there was no chance of that - I would be going to live in Cheshire and I promised we would never come back to live in the same area.  In the event William insisted on selling the house and giving me half the value.  He then bought a house in a nearby village which he had occasionally spoken of doing.  We agreed that he would divorce me.  Our solicitor had said the main problems of divorce were concerning children and money and as the children had left home and I didn’t want any money it should be straight forward and it was.

We split our possessions sensibly and without rancour.  There was a bust I had bought many years ago and William said he had grown fond of it and suggested I should toss a coin and tell him the result.  It was a measure of our relationship and mutual respect that he trusted me.  I tossed the coin, lost and William kept the bust.

 William had said he wouldn’t be happy about us living in the same area so when Jamie took early retirement we travelled to the places we loved in England, deciding where to settle and eschewed Kent and Sussex - in spite of my friends and my business being in the area.  I never saw him again.

Five was our lucky number.  We had five children between us;  Jamie’s house and cottage were both number five as was my own house in Kent and on our fifth meeting we plighted out troth.  I think the fifth of January became more important to us than even our wedding anniversary.