Friday, 29 April 2011

Wedding Day

Given the big event today, I thought it appropriate to post about the marriage of Princess Alice and Prince Harry, also styled H.R.H. Duke of Gloucester.  I say that as I have just paid a £1.54 library fine and have renewed the ticket to keep it for another few weeks. 

There are more magical places she talks about after boarding school, and I hope to come back to those.  For a while she went off to Kenya She said that suitors tended to ‘expect a lot’ and she didn’t like how pushy some of them were.    Not only that, but it does sound as though she knew Prince Harry for most of her life and that there was very much a sort of  understanding between them, but she went to Kenya to enjoy the last of an entirely private life before marriage.  It won't just have been about being married, but about how becoming part of the royal family would change her life.  For example, I was reading that this would be the last Christmas that Kate would be able to spend with her own family.  Imagine never being able to make that choice again.

Their wedding took place on 6 November 1935 at 11.30 am.  Her dress, by Hartnell, was described in The Sketch as being “in deep ivory, with a wonderful pink pearl tinge.”

Bill and I are invited to a 'Wedding Tea' at his cousin Michael’s.  Cousin Kathleen and her husband Bobby will also be there.  Bill reckons this is the doing of Michael’s partner, Christine more than Mike’s; guys don’t get that excited about royal weddings, do they?  We’re requested to bring ‘buns’.  

After 15 years over here I still get into trouble with the terms ‘tea’ and ‘buns’.  My natural inclination would be that we were being invited to have a warm milky beverage and were asked to bring something like a small puffy bread loaf that one could split open and deposit a hamburger patty into (they don’t do ‘hamburger’ here either…too German, you know).

I’ve finally learned that ‘tea time’ up here in the North generally means somewhere between 3.30 and 5 pm, ‘Tea’ is a meal that might include pork pies or it might just be a piece of cake.  ‘Buns’ means what I would probably call a cupcake, which Bill is baking just now as I type, only I think he’s making another carrot cake, this time including the cream cheese and butter icing.   He does a mean carrot cake, but my stomach doesn't tolerate sweet stuff well, so I'll be approaching that carefully.

I’m looking forward to watching the wedding on TV, or at least parts of it.  The big thing will be Her Dress; after that I’m not too fussed.  I’m reading about people in the US getting up at 4 am to see the spectacle; can’t say I would do the same even here, in spite of the fact that it is a holiday and I’m retired and wouldn’t have to go to work after.  I’d settle for re-runs, me.

I wish them both - Kate and Will - luck.  I think marriage can be tough enough without being royalty.  A person is nervous enough on their wedding day without having the entire world watch you do it!  I’m curious to see if there will be commercials inserted in the coverage here in the UK.  My guess is not, but I’ll let you know.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Property Porn

My favourite former magazine, Eve, had a regular feature with this title.  Bill used the term 'porn' the other day to describe what some leaflet he'd got in the post that he'd been reading.  Being rather old fashioned about my interpretation, I asked for clarification and of course he meant 'pretty, seductive stuff you shouldn't tease yourself looking at, but you do'.  It's another one of the reasons I love the internet, being able to snoop in other people's grand houses.

For example, the Bishop's house (built c. 1740) in Tynemouth village is for sale just now.  Also another of my favourites on Front Street.  

This is a great house from the outside, but I'm not fond of the modern style in which they renovated it.  And a chandelier light fixture in the front porch?  Well, OK, I'll let them, but I wouldn't do it.

On the other hand I looked at the flat available for £200K in Prior's Park and though it has sea views, I wasn't inspired to move.

I have our new house in Oklahoma City all picked out:  Edgemere Park, built 1928.

I looked for something in Salt Lake City, but even for $1.5 million, I wasn't too sure about this.  What do you think?  

The fun thing is that one doesn't need to worry about price, cause it's just looking.  I'm not really looking to move, so I can just enjoy the photos and perhaps get some ideas about what improvements we could consider.  I do have to be in the right frame of mind or I can get grumpy about what we can't afford.  The main thing for me to remember is that I live in a far nicer house than the one I grew up in and 99.9% of the time I'm well satisfied with it.

Do you like to look at things you can't buy or do you avoid them?

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

H&M Visit

 Helen & Martin came for a visit last weekend, as Martin was going to do a local race.  I think I mentioned that he’s taken up running.  I know he’s a true convert because he can talk about it for as long as a person might do a training run and poor Helen is practising patience.  It’s a sure sign.  I wasn’t going to do the race, but Bill was.

They arrived Saturday evening with flowers, bless them.

Then we had a cup of coffee and then wandered down to the Gate of India for a delicious meal of about a million calories.  Personally, I wouldn’t choose curry for the night before a race but these two guys did it and lived to tell the tale. 

The next day was glorious, the best so far this year (she said, optimistically); it may well be the summer for all we know.  Helen took the guys down to the start so I had a leisurely morning.  

Then I realised I could walk down to where the runners would pass along the promenade and snap some photos.  I saw several people from our running club, but never did spot Bill and Martin, though I arrived just as the front runners zipped past. 

I almost wished I had entered, people looked like they were enjoying themselves so much, but it was only the first mile or so after all.

It has often occurred to me that the perfect conditions for running (slightly cool, perhaps even with a drizzle) are not nice otherwise, but I've done many a run or race thinking it would be far more pleasant if I were walking or picnicking.  Just can't be pleased, can I? 

I had time to go back for a cup of coffee and to check my emails, then I got in the car and drove up to the race finish to pick the guys up.  Martin was a little disappointed in his time, but said he'd do it again. He went on at length about how pretty the views were, reminding me how lucky I am to live in this area. Bill was relatively pleased with his time, later discovering he was within 2 seconds of his time for the race last year.

Helen was off meeting up with friends from her University days at Newcastle and had watched the race from another vantage point in the village.  Martin grabbed a shower and then went off to meet her and her friends for lunch.  They had a day packed full of similar gatherings in Newcastle and Durham before returning home to Manchester.

After Bill showered and we had lunch – we’ve switched from hearty soups to lighter salads to celebrate slightly warmer weather – we went for a walk, visiting a few places we’ve not been for a long time.  But that's another post...

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Reframing Taxes

As of this writing I am still in the throes of completing my income tax return.  Living abroad, I'm not required to file until the 15th of June.  I'm not sure why other than for the fact that the British financial year begins on something like 5 April.  This can sometimes make getting information for the calendar year a bit tricky.  Then again in the US the tax year is Jan-Dec, whereas the 'fiscal year' is Jul-Jun.  Go figure.

I was whinging one day about having to start this process when Bill said, "You know you love it, really."  He wasn't even being sarcastic.  It made me think of Gretchen Rubin's recommendation about 'reframing'.  She talks about this - and her other happiness concepts - fairly often, so you can search the blog for this word and find other examples.  I think of it as a form of lying to oneself, but if it makes me happier, I'm all for it.  So I tried it with taxes:

I hate doing my tax returns.  I really enjoy doing my tax returns.  It forces me to gather information about my financial situation that I am normally too lazy to collate.  It is often good news and when it's not good news I have the picture in front of me so I can make decisions to improve it (ie find a new property manager).  This information gives me a better sense of what I can realistically spend, given my erratic income.  Completing the forms is like working through a complicated puzzle.  I always feel good about having figured it out when I'm finished.  If I'm not thrilled about the bill at the end, well, taxes are the price we pay for living in a civilized society.

It almost works, actually.  I've motored through the process so far, stymied only when I had to go into town to do a face-to-face transaction to get the necessary information about interest on an account.  Some aspect of British finance are still quite archaic.

However, there are some aspects that I think are more advanced than in the US.  Though I think 20% VAT ('value added tax'...I ask you) is scandalous, you pay no sales tax on children's clothing or basic unprocessed foods (which is what we should all be eating anyhow).  A lot of people don't have to fill out an income tax return at all.  Like in the US, UK taxes are taken out of salaries, but unlike in the US, tax at the basic rate (20% after the living allowance of £7,475 / $12,375) is taken out at source from interest bearing accounts.  As long as you are in the 22% income bracket, just under $58,000, or have income from an unusual source, you don't have to bother with it at all.  There are accountant's offices on every corner, seemingly, so they haven't exactly been wiped out by this practice.   Also, with the Inland Revenue (part of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs), you have the option of giving them all your information and letting them calculate how much you owe, saving another 5 or 6 pages if I recall.  I did it myself the first year (after learning I needed to pay UK tax on my US income - ouch) but have had them do the maths (in Britain it is apparently plural) ever since.  They come up with a similar figure so I let them.

Mind, having rental income I'd probably always have to file anyhow, but were it to change I think I might be quite tempted to sell up and simplify my life.  But I do actually enjoy doing my tax returns...really....  Must work on this one.

Other cartoons to cheer you up about taxes here.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Happy St George's Day

To be honest, being an American of Irish descent, I'm not particularly patriotic about England or her patron, St. George.   Living near the Scottish borders, I've always had the impression that Geordies (those born near the River Tyne) sounded more Scottish than English.  However, this date seems indelibly linked with spring, which if not always warm is certainly always beautiful.  Also, I love pictures of dragons...

Friday, 22 April 2011

Miss Marple

I’m incredibly late to the game in so many areas it’s untrue (that’s how Brits say 'it’s unreal’).  I could easily give several examples, but I’ll get to the point and confess that I’ve just discovered Miss Marple on the telly.  Sure, I’ve skipped across her here and there whilst channel surfing.  I sometimes land on Poirot for a few minutes, but I’ve never watched one of them from beginning to end either but at least the clothes are more interesting.

It was Bill’s idea to order the Miss Marple series and we’ve been thoroughly enjoying them, though on our DVDs the programmes don’t appear to be in the order they would have appeared on TV.  I've looked up the dates in which the videos were produced; also the year the books were published.  The next time we go through we can watch them in a more sensible order.  I would guess that Miss Marple was quite well off living in a thatched cottage with a fair sized garden.  She also seems to hang out with a number of women with the title ‘Lady’ and her best friends are either wives of Vicars or Colonels, which would suggest connections to upper class.  Her nephew can afford to send her to the Bahamas for a holiday.  So you see, there are quite a few clues in addition to her accent.  Wikipedia gives a more informed overview of her situation, presumably having already watched all the films and read all the books.

This isn’t the inter war period, like Poir0t, but it’s good all the same.  The videos were produced in 1984 and 1992 and seem to include post WWII details.  The first book was written in 1930, and a couple in 1942, but most of them appeared in the 50's and 60's.  However, the videos are considered a good example of 'heritage television' and that may well be why we enjoy them so much.

I think Miss Marple is a role model of sorts, being as how she's interested in gardening and knitting as well as murders.  True, she’s an old busybody, but that’s part of her information gathering nature of course.  Her clothes are very staid and predictable, as they tended to be here in the 1950s.  Nothing I’m keen to wear, but she did have some nice silk shirt dresses in the warm weather of the Bahamas.   She is a master in the art of courtesy, a mixture of assertiveness and self-effacement.  She's entirely unintimidated by men of authority or wealth, completely comfortable with people in all stations of life.

Although I’ve lived here for 15 years, I still struggle with some of the English accents on videos and often put on the sub-titles so that I catch all the dialogue.  In this case, however, Bill got a special price on the video set as the subtitles are in Dutch – only in Dutch - and they can’t be turned off.   As one does with lemons, Bill amuses himself with finding quaint Dutch words for things.  I’m so enthralled with watching old age and dignity I don’t much notice the text any more.  She’s not pretty, but many of us aren’t or won’t be.  That doesn’t seem to bother her much at all.  You might notice that some of my posts are labeled ‘vanity’.  Though I’m fairly interested in make-up and hairstyle and clothes, beyond being appropriate and presenting my best self for the day, the obsessional end of that spectrum seems rather foolish to me.  There are differing views about what constitutes aging gracefully, but I’m thinking Miss Marple is a fine example of one approach.

Joan Hickson was 78 when she began filming the Miss Marple series, the oldest woman to have a contract for a major television series according to her obituary.  She died in 1998, aged 92.  Looking at her birth date (1906), I’m thinking maybe she qualifies as ‘interwar’ and I may need to see about finding some of her other work. 

If you haven’t seen the Miss Marple series, I can highly recommend it!  Of course there are also the books.  Strangely, I’ve never got into Agatha Christie before, but there is a first for everything, isn’t there?

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Long Live the Queen

Today is the 85th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II.  Last week one of Bill's relatives in California, Annette, emailed me this series of photographs and I remembered the Queen's birthday was coming up.  I never think about how long she has been Queen, she's the only Queen of England in my lifetime.  I thought you might enjoy this pictures as much as I did.

Pretty amazing, eh?

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Testing New Transport

I was appalled to see that milk had gone up at our local supermarket - Morrisons - from 49 to 52 pence a litre for UHT skimmed milk, so I started looking at other supermarket prices in the area via the internet.  I thought I saw that Asda (owned by Wal-Mart) had milk for 44p a litre, but whilst Bill could travel for free on the Metro up to the Asda at what used to be called the Benton Hypermarket, but I don't really want to be entirely left out of the food shopping process.  He mentioned that there was another Asda just the other side of the river near the ferry landing.  

So, we got on our bikes - my first ride for over a year - and headed down to the ferry.  I nearly chickened out, the wind was so strong, but I gave it a go and I'm glad I did.  

The fare on the ferry has risen from £1 to £2.30 since my last trip over; I might have known if milk has gone up, so will everything else.  It was an easy trip out, downhill most of the way and the Asda was just over the road from the South Shields landing.  

I was amazed by the moving walk ways that took us up to the store - and back down; the ground floor is taken up by their parking garage.  

Many stores over here will 'escalate' you up to the next floor but you'll have to make your way on the stairs to leave, something that's always struck me as mean-spirited.  It was a much smaller Asda than the Hypermarket and I couldn't find 44p milk for anything.  Bill spotted my error:  it was 44p a pint, not a bargain at all.  We picked up a few other things that were on our list and more or less the same price as at Morrisons, but the selection was poor and there wasn't anything about the Asda that impressed me.

Having over the years checked prices at the various chain stores - Tesco, Safeway, Morrisons, Sainsburys and Asda, not to mention the smaller ones like Lidl, Aldis and Nettos, the best of the big chains is Morrisons for price.  Tesco has slightly more choice and Sainsburys or Marks and Spencers probably have the best quality, but you pay dearly for that.  So, our closest supermarket being a Morrisons, we do most of our non-produce, non-poultry-or-meat shopping there.  But this isn't really about where to shop for food.  

High Light and Low Light  *see link below

It's more just to show you a bit around the ferry landing, a place I've always enjoyed.  

I love travelling by boat, even if it's only a 10 minute journey!  

We've looked at a few of the houses here on the river front, but though they are very interesting, they're not as large as where we are, so we've not pursued it further.  

Collingwood Mansion

It always made me a bit nervous, too, the idea that the foundations of one's house were under water and the river's edge just under one's window...

The return journey was a little tougher being uphill, but I managed it all except for about 100 yards and was well pleased with myself.   Whilst waiting for the ferry to take us back to North Shields, I did wonder about the grey sky, but the weather held for us at least until we got home.

Customs House Theatre

I could keep up with Bill because, bless him, all the groceries were in his paniers.  

Unfortunately I managed to pull a muscle in my back that's niggled ever since, but never mind, it was still a good day out.

*High Light, Low Light in North Shields

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Daddy's Birthday

I'm fortunate enough to still have my Dad's high school year book, from 1933.  From it, I know that in 1933 he and my Grandparents lived in Milwaukee.  

Even back then, students collected autographs.  Some of the signatures (mostly from girls, I notice) include:

Loads of Luck to a good English student Hey what.  Marie D.

Your and old tease but your not so bad.  Hope you have a nice summer.  Ruth M. (who apparently wasn't so good at English).

You've been an inspiration in Bio but without it. (does that means something to you?) I'll be seeing you.  Rosemary B.

Good luck to a nice kid.  Doris F.

Too bad you didn't go tobogganing anymore.  Good luck.  Muriel.  

Loads of luck Lyle.  You need it.  Oillie

To Lyle, A sweet little dark haired boy.  Sophia G.

Good luck to you my sweet hearted Lyle.  Mary M.

Loads of luck to you Lyle.  You were naughty, but nice.  Florence.

Lyle, I enjoyed being in your English class.  Claribell H.

Lyle, Remember the night of the toboggan party?  Best of luck.  Mrs. Faith

Lyle (alius bugs).  Don't get into any more trouble at school - naughty boy for smoking - Baxter seems to like buggy people like you, eh what?  Nerts to you.  Dink.

Dear Lyle, I am wishing you a lot of luck.  Joyce.

Good luck with the girlfriend.  Fred K.

Hello - I don't know you either, but you've got a lot of what it takes to get along!  Joannie M.

Don't forget that good old English class!  Eldora

Something in German from Lorraine that starts out with 'I love you'; maybe this is the girlfriend...

Loads of luck in your exams.  Anne.

I wish I could write something real nice in here, but it wouldn't be proper.  Alice S (rusty hair)

Just a good old pal.  Harriet H.

Remember the swell times, mostly the beach party.  Joanne N.  PS Oillie told me to write that.  Blame him.

Lyle.  Best of luck.  Hope next time the beach party will be more of a success for you.  Marge.

Dear Lyle - you wise-cracker.  How about doing going roller skating sometime?  Mary B.

One more sem. in the same room with you will certainly change me.  Patty

Latin, geometry, Biology.  I'll be glad when they are dead, you rascal you.  Anita B.

Loads of luck to a great big junior (he was graduating his Sophomore year)Janet R.

It's a good thing I saw what you put in my annual before I took yours, your annual is better off because of it.  Marian C.

My Dad scrawled his name on the front cover (followed by Esq. and Sr. I believe).    Someone else wrote in the top corner of the cover: 
Ego solus sto.  Sed Ubi?  (in the corner)
Translated, it means something like "Alone I stand.  But in what place?" ( the corner...)    

Aren't sophomores clever?  Perhaps there is a case for ditching one's old yearbooks...I've no idea where mine are, thank goodness!

Happy Birthday, Daddy!  Love you bunches & bunches! Shelley.

Saturday, 16 April 2011


Vivien and I had a lovely day out last week; we went up to Morpeth.  It's a pretty little market town, the County Town of Northumberland.  

She and I have each worked there at different times and have pleasant memories of the place.  

The weather that day was unbelievably glorious - about 80 F. and I gradually shed my layers, regretting my heavy tights and thermal vest.

We had lunch at the Wheatsheaf, a little cafe down an alley way I'd never have noticed without her pointing it out to me.  

Then we scoured all the charity shops, looking for not much in particular, though I decided a navy purse wouldn't go amiss, and sure enough I bagged one (sorry).

We walked over to the pedestrian bridge because I thought it particularly picturesque.  Also, I have a bit of a thing about bridges, just like I do balconies, turrets and other romantic architecture.

I was envying the people whose houses backed onto the River Wansbeck (excepting that there was a terrible flood there a few years ago) when a familiar face passed by.  

I just grabbed her name -- Helen -- out of distant memory before she left speaking distance.  She recognised us at once - in spite of my new hair colour - and stopped for a chat.  

She's been retired about 5 years now. We all admired the lovely heron just beyond the road bridge.

On the way back to the car we detoured slightly to capture the Clock Tower, probably about the most notable feature of Morpeth.   It was difficult to get decent photos because the sun was so bright, but you'll not catch me complaining for one second!

I tried also to take pictures of the Town Council building.  

I remember years ago when we used to do the Morpeth to Newcastle race on New Years Day (about 14 miles).   Alas, England's oldest road race is no more.

The Hunt was still going on back then - also no more, though I can't say I grieve it.  For the New Year's Day Hunt the riders gathered outside the Town Council building, dressed in their red jackets and surrounded with packs of dogs making a terrible racket.  

I never knew which direction they headed, but was glad not to encounter them on my way towards Newcastle.

Leaving Morpeth, we stopped for a cool drink and some delicious vanilla ice cream at Blagdon, which I've shown you before.  I took a million more pictures in the shop there, so you may see even more of the Milkhope Centre one day. 

Friday, 15 April 2011

Pamela - Part Three

If you recall from yesterday, we left 'poor' Pamela newly widowed, about 51 years of age, and just getting back in touch with her old friend Averell Harriman, who was by then 79 years old and also recently widowed.  He met up with Pamela at Duchin’s place and they apparently picked up right where they left off.  Duchin reported flipping on his front porch light and finding the two making out in the dark, half undressed.  How embarrassing…how undignified.  I’m still aghast…could it really have been that easy to seduce a 79 year old multi-millionaire?  [Where did I go wrong?]  Then again, they did have a shared history from WWII and London-town.  They were married soon after.

This had impacts upon other people, large and small.  For one, Harriman’s financial manager queried whether he should continue sending the now Mrs. Harriman that monthly check – the one she’d been getting for 30 years?  The impression given was that Harriman himself had forgotten all about it.  Part of me thinks that someone so careless with their money deserves to lose it.  

Duchin reported getting some nominal present that first Christmas, something along the lines of a tie.  Pamela’s son, Winston, got an airplane.  A real one.  Alida Morgan (beautiful, striking woman with white hair, shown in a very red room; must find out more about her), Harriman’s grand-daughter (actually, step-grand-daughter; her maternal grandfather was apparently Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney) dropped by to see him one day and was turned away.  "Leave a card, make an appointment," she was told.  She was never alone with her grandfather again, not even on the telephone, without Pamela’s interfering presence preventing any real personal contact or complaints about the increasing distance between them.  Part of me thinks that anyone so careless about their personal relationships deserves to lose them.  

I’m still working on figuring out what was so wonderful about Pamela.  Whatever it was, her new 79-year-old husband got a ‘new lease on life’.  The programme reminded viewers how important a man Harriman had been in his lifetime, the 48th governor of New York, two time presidential candidate.  Strangely enough I’d only ever heard of Averell Harriman because he’d married Pamela Harriman, who had something to do with Churchill.  I felt a bit better after reading his Wikipedia entry that most of his political career happened before I was born.  Nevertheless, in 1971 he was apparently still a big player on the Washington scene and he had a home in Georgetown.  Pamela’s political career began with her salons. 
salon -- n
1. a room in a large house in which guests are received
2. an assembly of guests in a fashionable household, esp a gathering of major literary, artistic, and political figures from the 17th to the early 20th centuries
Word Origin and History: 
1699, "large room or apartment in a palace or great house," from Fr. salon  "reception room," from It. salone  "large hall,"  Sense of "reception room of a Parisian lady" is from 1810; meaning "gathering of fashionable people" first recorded 1888 (the woman who hosts one is a salonnière ). Meaning "establishment forhairdressing and beauty care" is from 1913.  From

One of her biographers describes her working at her on parties like a professional cowboy on a seasoned cutting horse:  she’d choose her man and cut him out of the crowd.  The lassoed politician would be taken to the couch where they would chat a few minutes; she’d ask what she wanted to know, give what information she had.  Then she’d return the heifer back to the herd and select the next one, continuing throughout the evening.   Apparently this all required infinite charm and finesse and she was a master at work.  I don’t quite follow what is so hard about this, but obviously this isn’t my social area.

With Pamela’s interest and Harriman’s money, cash once again flowed into the Democratic campaign chest.  (Mind, I’m not saying I’m against that at all; but I do try not to be political here.  This is about interesting people, not politics.)  A short clip is shown of Pamela being interviewed on a TV talk show.  [Interviewer:  What would you say was Reagan’s weak spot?  Pamela:  When Reagan went into office the US deficit was $59 billion; it is now $200 billion.]  She comes across as cool and competent.  She’s also discovered a cause (the word protégé comes to mind, but I’m not sure it’s apt):  Bill Clinton.  The programme pretty much says that it was Pamela Harriman’s backing that propelled Bill Clinton into the top office. 

I was alive and voting, if not very politically aware, at that time and I don’t remember any association between Clinton and Pamela.  I would have said I had only heard of Pamela since living in England and being interesting in all things British.  Perhaps I had heard the name before, but didn’t catch on.  I was busy around that time with husband #2, 20-month old step-son, finishing a master’s degree, dealing with the deaths of both my parents, moving to SLC to a new job.  You know, life?  Anyhow...

Two weeks after the Presidential victory, Clinton asked Pamela what she wanted; a politician has to pay his debts, of course.  In 1993 she traveled again to Paris, this time as US Ambassador to France.  I’m not saying she wouldn’t be good at that job, in fact, it sounds as though it was what she’d been training for all her life, according to Sir Henry Wotton:  
"An ambassador is an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country." 
Apparently she and President Chirac got on like a house on fire and she got a lot of his time, more than most other ambassadors.  Life in Paris was good for Pamela.

However, February 1976 found her in Kent for the christening of one of her great-grandchildren.  Always an avid horsewoman, at age 76 she enjoyed a brisk five-mile horse ride.  The next day she returned to Paris and was taking exercise at the Paris Ritz.  In her 20th lap of the pool she suffered a stroke, from which she died a few days later.  I confess to being impressed that she had such an active life style all the way to her death; I take it as an explanation of how she kept her looks for so long.  (That and a bit of surgery.)

As Shirac had once promised, ‘before she left French soil’ she was awarded the Grand Cross.  Her son Winston reported that she’d not been gone 3 minutes (as in removed from life support) when Clinton was on the phone to him.  Upon learning that she’d been awarded the Grand Cross, Clinton declared “We’re not going to be out-done by that.”  Winston (who died in March 2010) said it was “as though the Atlantic became a large poker table”, with Presidents of the two countries vying for Pamela’s posthumous favours, so to speak.   Clinton sent AirForce One to bring Pamela home to the US (she’d become an American citizen in 1971) and she was given military honours and a State Funeral, something no other ambassador has received.

The programme on the whole did a great job, I thought.  They laud Pamela’s achievements, give glimpses into the history, life and lifestyle of many rich and famous people.  They also document the trail of tears and bitterness that was her wake.  She was attractive (Bill thinks rather beautiful, even), confident, obviously charming and she certainly knew what she wanted.  

Though she had no formal education she was must have been fairly clever.  I’m certain she was a hard worker.  It must take work to spend that much money!  I don’t think ‘good in bed’ covers it, but I confess that I don’t really understand what courtesans actually do.  I read somewhere that women who marry for money end up earning every penny and I believe there is some truth in that.  I think I would prefer to pay my own way in the world than to pander to some rich man, but had life offered me a millionaire, or three, I might have thought differently.  Whilst the programme leaves you with the impression of ‘rags to riches’, she started off pretty well up and I can’t help think this was part of her English charm to rich American men, being the daughter and sister of a Baron.

I, too, applaud her for living a full and interesting life.  I'm not much bothered that she was a courtesan or whatever, but I do feel for the family members she pushed aside.  According to Wikipedia, the Harriman estate is still under dispute.  

I did find one good thing she did:  according to that article, she left her estate not only to her son, but also to his first wife, the mother of her four grand-children.  Putting aside whether it was her money to give, I’ll give her brownie points for that.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Pamela - Part Two

In the spring of 1947, Pamela Churchill moved to Paris.  I’m not clear about where she did it or exactly how, but she "became a courtesan".  That's not a word I have cause to use very often, so I looked it up:


a prostitute or paramour, especially one associating with noblemen or men of wealth.
1540–50;  < Middle French courtisane  < Italian cortigiana,  literally, woman of the court, derivative of corte court
OK, I get it now.  Anyhow, she hooked up with men like the Aga Khan (I'm guessing this one, as he held the title about then) and one of the Rothschild sons.  According to Virginia Rounding, author of The Grand Horizontales, (the book is about four other courtesans, not her) Pamela spent twelve years perfecting her art of seduction.  Part of her routine was to spend an evening talking with a man, get him into bed, and the next day to go to Cartier.  There she would purchase a silver cigarette box and have something engraved in the lid as a gift for him.  I’m not clear why or which part of it all was so irresistible but she had a fair success rate, apparently.  By the time she was 30 she had a fortune in gifts from her lovers.

Her son, Winston Churchill, said his was not a particularly maternal mother.  However, from the age of 8 or 9, she had a use for him.  If she had no male escort, he was to put on his navy suit, white silk shirt and tie and provide her an escort.  Must have been some upbringing.

At some point in this period, Pamela linked up with handsome (?) Italian playboy, Gianni Agnelli, heir to the Fiat fortune, with a string of homes between St. Moritz and St. Tropez, the programme said.  She spent five years trying to land him, but in the end he dumped her, in spite of the fact she’d become pregnant and he made her have an abortion.  What could she expect?  After all, she was divorced and he was Catholic.  And these are not nice people.  

In 1953 when celebrations were held for the coronation of the new Queen Elizabeth, Pamela was desperate for an invitation.  No chance, though.  The ambassadors’ wives knew all about her and they were not having it!  Can't blame them, can you?

In 1959, at nearly 40, Pamela took herself off to New York, to a room at the Carlyle Hotel.  Somehow she managed to snag herself the Broadway producer, Leland Hayward, who’d had affairs with the likes of Garbo and Hepburn.  They were married on the 4th of May 1960.  Brooke Hayward, Pamela’s step-daughter, said her father had explained his marriage with the observation that Pamela was the ‘greatest courtesan in the world.’  The narrators say that for the next ten years Pamela did her job as an English trophy wife and made a great life for him.  Whilst taking care of him, however, she also took care of herself.

Apparently self-care Pamela-fashion included fresh flowers, to the tune of $10,000 a year.  In the 1960s.  According to this Inflation Calculator  the present value of that money would be between $59 and $73 thousand dollars.  I'm thinking that's a lot of roses!

Step-daughter Brooke also reported that Pamela had diamonds "in swathes".  A friend,  seeing the collection, remarked that "it was F.S. Fitzgerald stuff" (must read some, sometime) and Pamela tended to wear the lot.  Paints a picture of a walking Piccadilly Circus, I think, but then this is a bitter step-daughter speaking. 

Said step-daughter at one time was married to actor Dennis Hopper, who admired the art the Haywards had on the walls, pieces by Matisse, Picasso and the like.  Upon hearing her son-in-law remark how much he admired a particular piece, Pamela’s response was to tell her husband they really ought to leave that piece to a museum.  So, a strong message not just to the son-in-law but also to the step-daughter. 

Hayward died in 1971 and at the reading of the will, it transpired that there was no money left.  Pamela had burned through it all.  She was ‘ruined’, but within six months, she was married again - to her final husband, Averell Harriman.

The day after Hayward’s funeral she was on the phone to Peter Duchin, son of bandleader Eddy Duchin and - more importantly - godson of her old friend Harriman.  

The TV programme didn't explain that Peter Duchin's mother had died when he was only a few days old and that the Harriman's had raised him.  Nor did they mention that Duchin was eventually also son-in-law to Pamela, being the second husband of Brooke Hayward.  And they say that the upper class in Britain are all related to some degree...  One thing is for sure, reading about the lives of these people doesn't highly recommend fame and fortune in support of happy relationships.