Monday, May 30, 2011

I know the face but…

Last night I watched ‘So you think you can Dance,’ and was mesmerised by Kirsty Swain – not so much by her dancing, although the remaining contestants do everything brilliantly short of flying, but her face, hair and figure I’d seen before. It was when I was a sixth-former for a day, in one of the St Trinian films; later I remembered her name – Belinda Lee.

I was a bit of an oddity, looking younger than my years and wearing a wedding ring. Joyce Grenfell who was playing the sports mistress, drew attention to it, and I was told later by a fellow actor she had heard two of the featured players saying with my bone structure I would have a future in films – but ‘She’s not interested,’ was the answer. I knew if my agent heard of this she would not be pleased as she had plans for me; but it was true. I was coming up to 26 and determined to start a family- it was my New Years resolution for 1956.

I had had a successful two years – had become my agent’s top model but I had seen enough of the film world to know it was not my scene. We are told as writers to accept rejection because it is ’not personal’ but when you are just presenting yourself at countless auditions – what is more personal than that? You‘d need a carapace like an armadillo to cope with the inevitable rejections, which even today is the lot of many actors.

My agent’s office was in Soho and there was a faintly sleazy under- belly around there in the fifties. Every night I caught the train to our first home in Epsom, but occasionally there was a party one was expected to attend. At first I found them great fun but they convinced me this was not the life I wanted.

On the set we sixth- formers were all dressed in mini gym-slips and black silk stockings. Off camera I was as demure as it was possible to be, teetering along in high heels and a short skirt and stared open –mouthed when Belinda climbed through a ground floor window to the delight of the crew. She was obviously going places and was snapped up by the Rank organisation. She came from a respectable middle class family in Devon and her peaches and cream beauty was much in demand.

She fell in love with Cornel Lucas – a photographer fourteen years older. I met him soon after they married, doing a cover for Woman’s Own and he seemed very happy.

Belinda was being built up to be a sex-pot to rival Diana Dors but Diana was more popular and won hands down. Lucas sent hundreds of photos of her all over the world and she became known abroad. On loan to Italy for ‘La Venere di Cheronea' she met and fell in love with Prince Orsini.

Orsini belonged to one of the oldest families in Rome and was married with two sons. He was Assistant to the Papal Throne and their affair created a scandal. Belinda declared she couldn’t live with someone she didn’t love and her marriage was over. The Pope ordered Orsini to stay away from Belinda and they both attempted suicide. Belinda took an overdose and was brought round in an iron lung and Orsini slashed his wrists but was found in time.

The Pope ordered Orsini to go to a monastery and no member of the Orsini family would be allowed in the Vatican again. Meanwhile Lucas filed for divorce.

Belinda and Orsini attended the Cannes Film Festival, driving round in a limousine – a present from Lucas, but declared they were ‘just good friends.’ Orsini’s wife started divorce proceedings and the couple set up home in Paris. I think the writing was on the wall when Belinda said her future husband was in the metal age with silver in his hair, metal in his knees and gold in his tooth. She dumps Orsini.

She becomes involved with director Gualtero Jacopetti who was sentenced to three months in a Hong Kong jail for the abduction of two Chinese girls who were minors.

He is making a documentary about women’s lives in various parts of the world. Belinda is not in it. He, Belinda, his co- director and a Neapolitan driver were travelling from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. They were driving too fast, a tire blew, the car somersaulted and Belinda was thrown out. She was severely injured and died twenty minutes later. The other three survived.

Friends said she seemed to be building up to ‘a big finish’. After her marriage ‘reckless ness took over’. Only a handful of people were at her funeral. Her ashes are in the Rome Protestant Cemetery where Keats and Shelley are buried.

Maybe life in the film world is different now. What do you think?
Belinda Lee 1935-1961

Kirsty Swain 2011
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Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Word in your Ear.

I am where I am because I believe in all possibilities.

Whoopi Goldberg

Compassion is the basis of all morality.

Arthur Schopenhaur

To invent you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.

Thomas A. Edison.

All that is gold does not glitter; not all those that wander are lost.


Courage is the art of being the only one who knows you’re scared to death.

Harold Wilson.

The praise that comes from love does not make us vain, but more humble.

James M. Barrie.

All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl.

Charlie Chaplin.

You can observe a lot just by watching.

Yogi Berra

Ignorance, the root and stem of every evil.


I don’t mind lying but I hate inaccuracy.

Samuel Butler

Forget injuries, never forget kindnesses.


Moderation in all things.


I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor – and believe me, rich is better.

Sophie Tucker.

Never bend your head. Hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.

Helen Keller.

I’m told only three other people have spoken here before; the Pope, her Majesty the Queen and Nelson Mandela. That is either a very high par or the beginning of a very funny joke.

President Obama. (Yesterday)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Time to cast that Clout...

because the may is out - yesterday on Exmoor.

It is more a white than a yellow (the tree).

I can never quite get the teddy bear face of Exmoor Horns full face. This gives a glimmer - they are my faavourite sheep
Alice has taken time off from English and American studies to spend a few days with Grandpa and Grandma. Serious stuff choosing lunch. Why do I think of Rapunzel?

In the grounds of the Crown at Exford is this pretty garden.

There's a stream and a bridge. The cuisine is restaurant food rather than pub grub. Very enjoyable but Alice and I felt we should have been strong minded and passed on the dessert.
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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How Embarrassing!

I don’t think MTL believed me when I said I had seen a mouse in the kitchen, and I began to wonder if I had imagined it. However I discussed it with my help and she suggested a humane mouse trap. Her cat had brought a mouse indoors and it was under the sofa for a couple of days.

I looked up Amazon and found one highly recommended. It was two traps for just over £10. They arrived yesterday – not very well packed and a small piece of plastic had broken off but it still seemed workable. It appeared the preferred bait was peanut butter or chocolate.

At times like this I have to admit to differentiating between ‘men’s work’ and ‘women’s work’. In my book anything to do with something which elicits screams from me is clearly the former. MTL put one by the side of the Aga and one near the waste bin, both laced with plain, dark chocolate containing 97% Coop Fair Trade ingredients.

This morning we had to be up early to make the bed and open the French windows to air the room for the Ariel man arriving at 8 am to fix my mother’s old TV in our bedroom. MTL waylaid him and got him to look at our newish one downstairs which plays up a bit. Apparently someone – probably me as I tend to press everything when it goes wrong- had put it on analogue. The solution, which I am gifting to you, is to move P upwards and all is well.

The upstairs one was more complicated. He changed a fuse in the plug and discovered the manual switch wasn’t working. Solution: keep it on stand by and use the switch on the wall. Naturally – being greenish I shan’t leave it on standby. Just before our engineer arrived MTL told me there was now a mouse in the trap by the Aga. My plan was for MTL to transport it to the woods and liberate it but there was no time before the engineer arrived.

We all ended up in the kitchen drinking tea whilst the engineer chatted about walking and camping and what a lovely house this was. Suddenly I became aware of a rattling sound every time there was a pause in the conversation and realised the mouse was making his presence felt – probably had finished the chocolate. I was mortified and escaped to fiddle with the washing machine, or water the tubs anything rather than admit that rattling sound was a mouse we had just caught. After all it’s not the sort of thing you want to spread abroad.

My gift to you.

On the right hand side, a third of the way down see a blue/grey oblong marked P. Move upwards to change from analogue.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

A Woman's Work...

This is an entrance that no-one ever uses and that's what it looks like just now so Monday morning was meant to be my clearing all the debris so it could be collected with the garden rubbish tomorrow. However I had an early appoinment with the chiropodist and by the time I walked back up the lane my enthusiasm had waned. In any case Alice my grand-daughter is travelling down from Uni to spend a few days with us so I absolutely must give the family room carpet a going over whilst it's freshly vacuumed.

Done that!
Maybe I can do the entrance after lunch - after a nap. Just time for a quick scrabble. One of the games I'm presently playing, my opponent's first move gained 150 points - or was it 180? She's slipping now down to the fifties. As Kim said - its a numbers game - not a word game.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

This week's Garden

The pots have just had pansies in, so I spent today re- potting with geraniums, lobelia, verbena, pinks and heliotrope. No photos till they take hold.

This is the originla wegelia in the wooded part so slow to start.

Yellow rose outside the sun-room. There's a yellow rose outside the cottage we go to in June

The first poppy. This was dug up and moved but I'm happy it survived.

The new potato plant the girlsgave me to replace the one that died.

But it didn't die. Never say never - stronger than ever and a subtly different shade. They look great together and soon my New Dawn rose will be out . That did die and the girls replaced it for my 80th.

All the trees are out.

An ancient rose.

Any grandchild will tell you that this is where the tigers lurk.
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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Second Chance

Everybody deserves one so when the boys were here we decided to forget about the luke–warm fish pie we had last time and re-visit the Carew Arms – hitherto a favourite. En route we saw a notice saying they were having a three Day Wedding Festival (it was the week-end of the Royal Wedding.) On the Friday they were open for bacon butties, full English breakfast and special lunch time platters.

There would be a big screen viewing of the wedding at 5.30pm, Traditional fish and chips and chicken in a basket would be served with non stop live music entertainment and late disco.

But this was Saturday which had a special lunch time menu with jazz and blues music. When we got there it was very peaceful – the marquees were empty and the garden was deserted except for three men happily drinking cider. We guessed they were the musicians. There was a morning after feel.

We were happy to have a peaceful drink and the platters – one fish and one cold meats with good bread were delicious. The music didn’t happen whilst we were there but they did start to prepare the hog roast advertised for the evening in a contraption in the garden which seemed to be under- performing.

Conclusion: it’s still a great pub in a lovely setting and one shouldn’t necessarily believe all the blurb about what is going to happen. They roll with the punches.

The photos below published themselves when I was about to label them. Nobody’s perfect! They are taken in the garden, view from the garden and the two platters. We shall return.

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Sunday, May 08, 2011

Entirely Sufficed, Replete and Stuffed.

Often when people settle in the South west they O.D. on cream teas and when completely glutted renounce then for the duration. I decided to make an exception when we heard that a dear niece was popping in to see us en route from Chamonix, where she lives, to a wedding in Chard. It would be too late for lunch; too early for dinner so afternoon tea seemed apt.

It was fun getting out the good china, one of my mother’s beautiful embroidered cloths and silver packed away to avoid endless cleaning. Wrapped in polythene seems to work and it was still brightly shining. I decided on scones, a berried jam and clotted cream. Scotch pancakes, crumpets, chocolate cake and Victoria sponge are favourites with MTL (although not encouraged) so they were included with cheese and ham rolls on stand-by should she feel like savoury stuff.

My # son was here when we heard she was coming so he sweetly wrote precise instruction, googling the actual roads for signs how to get from the M5 to here. Whilst we were at it we looked at our old cottage in Yorkshire and my mother’s old house in Lancashire - fascinating!

The first thing my niece said when she arrived was how excellent the instructions were. The secret seemed to be to tell her the distance between the various signs. I shall keep them for posterity – or the next person who visits.

I’ve already been asked for photos of the spread but I didn’t think before, and we more or less scoffed the lot. I had forgotten the utter bliss of the combo; jam, cream and scone and ate the last one in the hope it would put me off them in future. At least we didn’t need dinner. I hadn’t seen Chris since my Father’s funeral so we had lots of catching up to do. I was disappointed to miss her wedding some months ago but travelling wasn’t possible. We have had some very sad times in the past so it was great to see her happy.

The photograph is my niece and I AFTER the spread.

The young man is my grand-son taken last week-end and the other photo is when he was a baby at my father’s funeral. He didn’t attend the service but his presence afterwards gave my mother and I some blessed comfort.

Pat, Tom my grand-son and Mum, his greaat Grandma April 1990

Tom April 2011

Pat and Chris after The Tea. May 2011
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Thursday, May 05, 2011

Oh to be in Durham ...

... now that Fantin -Latour is there.

If you like beautiful flower paintings hie ye to the Bowes Museum, County Durham where many of Fantin- Latour's flower paintings from British collections are being shown.
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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

After the Wedding

We decided to go over Exmoor to the Blue Boar aka The Sandpiper. The boys hadn't been and after A checked his bible ( Real Ale Guide) we set off. For the first time in living memory we saw it minus rain. We had the usual excellent lunch, I tried the smaller portion and still had two eggs with my ham and chips. after a longish lunch I wanted to see the church so we crossed the road - past the car park and entered the church grounds

The entrance - I wonder how old these yews are?

Looking back at the pub. A got a much better shot but can't send it from the office.

I wandered off behind the church and was rewarded. That's the sea and an inviting path which - alas - I didn't take.

Looking the other way you can see Lynmouth through the mist. In the fifities there was a deluge and houses and their occupants were swept from Lynton - the town above - down into the sea. A terrifying time.

Another inviting path.

The ewe wouldn't let me get near her lambs.

Inside the church are signs of a need for restoration. ..

But fresh flowers always help.

Looking up towards the altar

And back down the aisle - just before I overbalanced and fell backward. Fortunately I was alone so didn't feel quite so foolish:)
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