Tuesday, August 14, 2007

When I was one I was just begun...

When I was one I was just begun
When I was two I nearly new
When I was three I was nearly me
When I was four I was that much more
When I was five I was just alive
Now that I am six I'm as clever as clever
I think I'll stay six for ever and ever.

Had the world stayed the same as it was when I was six - well it didn't, so I had to hop out of a Golsworthy life into the wide open spaces of a totally changed environment.
No more does the muffin man ring his bell on a Sunday afternoon, no more do the days pass in secure stateliness with a fat cook whose cream buns delighted, and a charming butler secretly donating coffee sugar as he cleaned the silver. Queens Gate, where I came into this life early on a June morning, is now chopped up by developers. The house I was born in was destroyed by the only V2 which dropped on South Kensington and only a dip in the kerb shows where it stood. A large glass building towers there instead. My father had an uncanny foreknowledge which no doubt aided his ability as the broker for Royal Dutch Oil and Shell Mex - this made him move out all the furniture, much to my mothers amazement because during the bombing of London he refused to go to a shelter, declaring that he would prefer to die in his own bed. So they dressed for dinner and ate with plaster falling in the soup.

My girl friends at the Canberwell all considered being a virgin was a handicap, I had never really considered it at all, but joining in was of paramount importance so I set about it. Not very difficult in the pub society. From Wheatsheaf to Black Horse only a step or two apart in Rathbone Place north Soho. All the bohemians were there en masse and when a typographer called Anthony Froshaugh accosted me his craggy profile printed north west and up to Hampstead they repaired. He was very modern in style - typographically that it - never a capital letter besmirched his letter headings - lower case for him all the way. I'll say, he was for sure a case! I had very little idea of what was to occur but I had not reckoned with his musical tastes. In the corner among the letter press mess was a large horned gramophone which played seventy eight seconds with a special green wooden needle, which had to be clipped after each side - this was no ancient heirloom, oh no, it was for perfect sound. That may very well be, but seventy eight seconds only played for a short time and the needle clipping etc took ages - he chose Bachs fifth Brandenbury concerto as a fitting deflowering accompaniment and repeatedly leapt up to change the second. In my innocence I wondered if this was what always happened and did not think so much of it. This the event of song and stary - the prize - the guarded secret etc etc.

Next morning he dashed away to produce more lower case masterpieces and locked me into his flat. All I had to look at was as unkept garden and highbrow books with of course the great horn and the letter press. Having very long hair I beguiled the long weary hours by weaving it in tiny plaits all over my head until I looked like Milly Molly Mandy.

When he returned he did not like it. 'What have you done' he roared and and I escaped through the now open door. I can't hear that particular brandenburg without a smile - but the deed was done as I proudly announced to Judith. Erica and Sandy on the number twelve bus to Peckham Rye.

The very next excursion was with a writer called Peter Vomsittant who taught at what must have been a very progressive school because there was a tombstone propped up in the cobwell festooned hall and the loo was approached by a hole knocked in a brick wall and a crowded box room. He had a fit - possibly epileptic or maybe exhibitionist because as I rushed for the door he leapt out of it and chased me quite a long way - I began to feel nervous of sex as a whole and was glad to meet a very talented painter of my age in my class who was names after a famous jockey who won a race and some money for his father on the day of his birth - Gordon Richards known only as Rick. Where are you now?
Where has the time gone?

Now we are at Art school,

So here we all were. Wally and Sandy, Glynn and Hetty, Booie and Erica, Judith, Joanna, And Billy. My dear Aunty who helped me, and many others to come.

Now is the flip time to fold the fondhoo of name dropping - well rather spiggin awful not too - so many people milling around then - so celeb without being so. Dancing to Humph & Wally who married Sally.

Then there was Lux who made love to me on a ledge in the crumbling facade of St Annes church high above Dean street - gone now our airy gambollings cloud memories.
I was friends with two Robert painters who loved each other and I made them tea in a cosy brown pot and slept in the bath in prickly pink pyjamas brcause I was a Celt they said. They were designing a ballet set and a famous dancer came to see the model - but alas the brown teapot got thrown at it and it was demolished - so sad for it had been beautiful. People threw things alot and there was often a pile of broken bottles in the window - chain whirling was a favourite of one lady painter - it did not do to stand too close, no - cover in the corner - it was to with alcohol you see - oceans of it in the form of beer were drunk - it was the thing to do! However I moved on by accident to the fab club world.
Perhaps Dylan Thomas set the tone but he was not the only one!

Its back already...

At about this time I was introduced to the best art school I was lucky enough to encounter. Run by Sir Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines who we called 'our farver which art at Benton End.' This was a tudor farm house outside Hadley in the magical stour valley much loved by John Constalle, It was bright pink with blue windows and doors - had 42 cats outside and just the most delicious food cooked by Lett. Cedric was a wonderful teacher, made one make the canvas stretchers and stretch something I was not good at - grind our own paints and WOW, how to use colour - after the dull tones of the Euston Road Group it was a rainbow romp. He also bred Iris and people came from all over to visit the wonderful garden - white rasberries were my favourites.

I also made a very good friend there called Joanna Carrington. We shared a room in the attics and swallows nested in the ceiling. Sometimes we painted the same picture - she would do landscape and I figures and vice versa. We were not supposed to paint in the room but secretly had to because elderly psycoanalists would come and paint excrusiatingly badly and study us.

They had a theory that painters held the key to most psychuc disorders - in other
words if we did not paint we would be nuts. Fine. Cedric urged Jo and I who were young girls and therefore special studies to tell them lurid dreams - so we did.

Cedric had a spiny sausaged shaped cactus which was called the 'widows consolation' so we inserted that alot. I am happy to say that we pleased our teacher - he was the best and so funny - he was welsh. Many famous people came to lunch, I especially remember Edith Sitwell who came with her brother. I was mesmorised by the giant jewelled cross which adorned her chest and after lunch she taught me how to recite Facade to an old 78 record of the music.

Jo and I played Jacks endlessly and painted away until the day when we stepped onto tubes of prussian blue and alizarian crimson and quaintly walked them all over the house - but Cedric liked the effect. Lett used to cut peoples names out of country fair posters and paste them on the wall of the downstairs lav, which was an old fashioned blue and white china one called the Royal Flush.

I spent every summer there for several years and what this suffolk is - one young may moon I wondered wide awake in a misty landscape of rounded busoomy hills has remained with me forever - I am always painting those hills.
My life now took on a triple strand - because I was commisioned to draw at a new phenomenon - a dance hall in the Tottenham Court Road - I duly went there and the music floored me - I was used to blues and dixyland jazz, but this - and those dancers - the sinuous grace and fancy footwork - this was real dancing. I look at the band and the bas player caught my eye - it is said that love at first sight does not exist outside Barbara Cartland - but it happened to me then and there. Wow - how to meet him? A young man asked me to dance and it was such fun. We exchanged names his was Sully king and I asked him if he knew the band - oh yes he did and that they played at a rehersal room in Windmill street. "Max's" basement under a snooker hall which was below a boxing gym. Right across the tiny street was the famous windmill which never closed. What a cast I found myself a part of, and believe me I wanted to ve part of it - so that was one strand. Another was the artist bohemia of Dean street. The people I knew from both camps I kept firmly apart - and although only two little Soho streets were between them they did not spill over. The third strand stemmed from the world of my poor bewildered parents and my earliest boy friend Pim Van Limborg Stirum - I think we were supposed to marry and it would not have been a bad thing - he was very handsome - gay and witty - Stowe educated and probably destined for the dutch diplomatic service or Shellmex the 'family' business - BUT and it was a big one - I was really in love Lennie Bush - Ronnie Scoots bass player. Even now I still am - funny that even though I loved Angus finally as the great one - that first love has always lingered.

And so i went merrily on climbing around in the branches of these three trees. The artists went on drinking and the jazz musicians went on smoiking weed - well not all of them. Ronnie never smoked anything so far as I knew and so they drank also but differently. It was all such fun - dancing, etching, being young.
Then Lennie and I broke up - he was no longer there for me, he was elsewhere. I missed him and my Father died and my Mother drank and wrote reams of automatic writing and alarmed me by shouting at some demon to "leave my daughter leave her I say" with finger pointing dramatically, OUCH.

I returned to my home in Hampstead and went on etching and doing art work for Weidenfelt and Nicholson. One day I met a very funny, snappily dressed young man who lived nearby, he had a job whcih gave him a bit of free time as he was head of Kodak research lab. He set a task and only had to check on the result from time to time. This gave us plenty of time together. We kept bees with his sister and her husband who was a picture restorer and lived in an old house in the Barnes - the walls smothered in pre-raphaelite drawings. I married this man. Whose name was Peter Burton. Murry Melville was his best man - Murry had also been a friend of mine whom I got into extra work with for the Festival Ballet in Petrovska which was wonderful - then he was in a film with Rita Tushingham a Taste of Honey it was and very very good - a dramatic theme for those tight days. Naturally, I married Peter to Lennie and he married me to get a government job so naturally it could not work, and after a very lonely time only enlivened by Phil Seaman, a jazz drummer who would take Mescalin with me usually in Brighton or the Battersea fun fair where once they stopped the wheel with us at the top - our little gondoten turned upside down and all his money fell out of his pocket and slid sidewats sickeningly - on Muscalin this was not funny - Peter and I had taken it for the first time in Windsor without reading Huxleys Dooors of Reception - so we did not know what to expect - well it really was a surprise when Windsor castle looked like a cuckoo clock.
I went around like a fervert evangelist urging people not to drink but to take Mescalin and smoke pot!!! There was a strange group trip arranged by a theatre producer, Ken Tynan, an actor called Digby and me. Ken tried to write and thereby harnessed himself. I floated freely away to join others in Chelsea who were beginning to enjoy this new feeling of togetherness.
Alas I had to run from poor Peter and lucky me a friend, dear Annie Ross who sang like a lark, gave me a room in her little Soho flat. I was back in London but not happy, Lennie had tried and failed and he married suddenly but I was in Paris - I had really flown the coop and had taken up the post of 'massier' - dogs body to youy dear readers in the etching studio of William Hayter. He was very inspiring and I also attended Zudkin, the sculptor for drawing and lived in the Dome with Fuchs, an amazing artist, or in the club st Germain where I met a funny little man who was a total mystery. Friend of an American trumpet player friend of Chet Baker -

- he showed up out of nowhere and all the girls fell for him - but he chose me and wondering round the banks of the scene he asked if I would like to go round the world with him, yes please - as the fermature anuelle (Aug 1st) was coming up and I was tired suddenly of the Rue Moufflard and les clochands etc even sleeping in Prousts room in the Hotel D'Alsaie Lorraine, well Celest Alebouret was the 'conceige' and told me it was his, the wall paper haunts me still. Red roses on a dusty pink background. Tom and I moved to a marvellous old place on the rue st.Jaques where a King of England had died next to the 'schola canterum' where Nadia Boulanger taught and we often passed her in the back garden and listened at night to wonderful concerts. Tom and I won a competition and with this money we started on our travels.

Travelling in 1957 was pretty easy once one learned how to deal with boarder police. A game of chess was one way that Tom tried with a bandit like one - a vast black walrous moustache - belt bristtleing with weapons and a bandoleer to match - all this topped off wiht a New York policemans hat in brown leather.

Oh yes. There were boats everywhere big and small. She could sleep on deck, suddenly asphixicated by black funnel smoke when the wind changed. The youth hostels in old castles as in Trieste and split. We often stayed a few weekns in one place waiting for money to catch up. Greece was far away the happiest, we stayed at a mais on du passe called the Hotel Patris in Tzamadou street, back of the old Agara in Pireaus which was run by the Mangas - the hashish smoking bums, who have wonderful special songs. They, with their electric brown suits, H.Bogarthats and gleaming white smiles were enchanting hosts. Post was slow in those days so one skint time I went to work in a quay side bar called the John Bull - where I said 'making whoopee' and 'lets do it' with a Bazooki band - this was fun although their rhythms are not quite ours but the sailors liked it - they mostly were Americans and of course I had to drink as well as sing. For this I had to pretend to be American to please my boss - tricky as I had never been stateside but I put on a weird and would run over to Tom who would sit with the Mangas line up - my body guards - and I would whisper to him "what is Ponchatrain" - "a large lake outside New Orleans picnics boats for hire etc" O.k and back to the boys - they must have liked me because they named me the mascot of the Forestall a huge boat - an aircraft carrier in fact.
I was amused by this because in the British Navy mascots are usually animals like donkeys or goats.

I wondered which I was but it never came up, all I got was a cup of weak coffee and a brisk walk round a tiny bit of her. The following week we went aboard a British ship and had a lovely boozy party. What a difference.

We moved on to Turkey - Istanbul - where I thought it would be warm but it was freezing. We found an old hotel in Beerzit, by the old bazaar which was a magical place - but the Blue Mosque was the best, being warm and the womens gallery 'cosy with cushions.' I used to read all day there.

We had made friends with the money changers in the county, and the real guardians. It was funny because Tom tried to cheat the main guy - I was horrified because I thought it would all be over, but no he was amazed at Toms bottle and admired him for trying it on. This was good because the exchange was mad - legal at the bank $1 was worth 6 Lira - at the American Express 8 - and so Tom would change travellers cheques for 10 in the bazaar and take them to the jew at the Blue Mosque and get 17 0 heigh ho. He wasn't a jew by the way but just said he was - good for business - he was a messarae caller actually. Trying to get warm we tried the Sounth - Antalia was very trying for me - men fell off their bikes in the road and I seriously wondered what it would be like if I were blonde.
Quite suddenlu I was pregnant and wanting Mummy and the National Health. Tom did not fancy my giving birth in the Syria desert and agreed to head for island home. Ah those cosy dreams - they did not occur because my Mother took a dislike to Tom on the doorstep - he had grown a beard during our travels and Mum declared that she did not like them. Nothing appeased her and we moved to Suffolk - to dear little Boxford where we shared a cottage with Sally Duxbury and Bobby Hunt, art school friends. She had bought the old smithy and we spent a happy summer transforming the forge into an etching studio, and my pregnancy continued.

Mummy sent over a ton of crabapples and Sally and I started to make jelly - but alas I could not finish it - Jason was on his way. Tom was shoo'd away and I was left alone on a high bed - I had my one and only out of body experience - suddenly 'I' was on the coiling looking down on this exasperated girl on the bed with her foot on the wall bell. An elderly nurse came - said 'bearing down nicely' and left. I knew I was in second stage labour and asked that my Doctor was called. She went away and did not return until I screamed - then she made me walk to the delivery room. I held on literally by this time I thought that the baby was going to drop onto his head on the floor - but I got there, she strapped me to the delivery table, and produced a bowl of cornflakes and made me eat it. I howled and the staff rushed on duty and in a great flurry of tapes thrown aside Jason was born. I always seem to attract these nutters; for the elderly nurse was just succumbing to a nervous breakdown and retired, Ho Hum!
Never mind - then comfy days in bed. In hospital in those days the only excercise - lying on your tummy for an hour at mid-day - oh and feeding the baby - they did all the cleaning - the National Health was good in those days. Home to the little cottage and the district nurse on her bike every day - so secure we were.
We also had a skiffle band which our Vicar, the Rev.Bird was enthusiastically conducting. Bobby was on trumpet - Oscar on trombone and Hetty on bathtub/broomstick bass, plus 26 banjos - where on earth did they come from in the heart of silly-Suffolk. The Rev.Bird wanted us to walk in muscial New Orleans style to the church but I demurred - it was freezing.

We actually got tired of freezing - no electricity - can become dark and difficult with a small baby so we decamped to London where we babysat a house in Mayfair just behind where the oh so big US Embassy is now - small, georgian and warm. I went back to the central and did several big etchings.

Toms health was not good - he had a plate in his head which did not expand and contract with his skull = ouch - got it on Omaha Beach.

So - Joanna suggested Spain -
- warm - cheap and this writer whom she knew and his wife had a house there - she thought we had met briefly before through Boris Anrep. So away again - how little did I know that this journey on the big steamer would lead to such immeasurable joy.

Alas everything chnaged very suddenly. On arrival in Spain Tom went straight to the first chemist and bought right over the counter for cash in hand mornphine - yea - in little bottles - I was so horrified I went to the chemist for a showdown - I had maybe two/three words of spanish but I marched in and begged him not to sell it to my husband "why he has the money we well" he replied, I pointed dramatically to the church across the square and denouned him "you wil go to hell" and marched out. This little drama helped but everything fell with volcanic suddeness. Tom was mostly on the bathroom floor with the door locked and suddenly there was no money - not even the thousand pesetas I had hidden in my fathers photograph - yes I had bought all the household clutter our little early thirstys can could hold. A thirteen year old girl Tom )who spoke spanish) had engaged was stealing I knew - but - speachless in spain...
I went to bed and stayed there.
It is called a breakdown.
This is hard to write or even remember - just nothing. Tom plonked me into the hospital in Gibraltar and Jason with a sheperd and his wife with 50 pesetas and 'I'll be back in two days - bye bye.' I sat and cried.
One day a car crashed american lady came in very noisily - it woke me up and I spoke fot the first time and it all spewed out.
Vomiting sour miserable truths is sometimes a relief, also I had no idea what would happen to me next. No baby - no husband - no money, and definately no mummy.
I did not have to wait too long for rescue, beloved Gerald Brenan came and took change - just why I have never ceased to wonder at - the very writer Jo had inged me to meet was here.
We found Jason just before he was about to be baptised catholic. He then took me to the walled safety of his beautiful house and I met his exquisite wife. What a listener she was - how totally accepting they were - it did not take long before a few threads binding the past with the present unravelled and more - plaited together to make the loving bonds which wound round the three of us like the fraignance family vine. Thus began the next six years of my life.


Anonymous Deva said...

Hi Hetty,

I just had fun to read your blog. You had told me your life stories a little when we meet. As this photo is on your blog, I felt you may have a better version of it.




August 27, 2008 at 9:52 AM  
Blogger tonicusa said...

Wow your life reads like a wonderful TV movie! It seems today youngsters are mapped onto roads of familiarity and routine. It's nice to see life doesn't have to follow a recipe. Thanks for sharing.

April 1, 2009 at 12:26 AM  

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