The last time I visited my mother in Cambridge, she showed me the completed project which she had been working on for the previous several months: a detailed account of her early life, from her birth in 1940 to her marriage in 1960. Drafted in longhand and then written up on an electric typewriter (no new-fangled technology for this old girl), the binder – complete with numerous pictorial inserts – runs to around 120 pages. Completed to a painstaking level of detail and accuracy, the whole enterprise must have taken her many, many hours.
Immediately, I found myself engrossed in her story: her childhood split between the Inner Temple in London and a Georgian Palladian villa on the outskirts of Weymouth, her appearance as an extra in Dirk Bogarde and Jack Warner’s The Blue Lamp, the sudden death of her mother (and the equally sudden appearance of her stepmother), her six months of study in Paris, and her fateful courtship with my father.
Although this was written merely as a family chronicle, to be passed on to myself and my sister, and although its level of detail will probably render it of interest only to a very select audience, it seems far too worthy an endeavour to waste on the two of us alone. Also, I feel rather anxious about the lack of any electronic backup copy of what is clearly such a unique and irreplacable labour of love. I’m therefore going to release my mother’s memoir in blog form, typing up maybe two or three pages a week, and illustrating it with her collection of family photos, illustrations and other sundry archive material.
By way of an appetite-whetter, here’s my mother’s account of the time she found herself modelling for Vogue, aged nine.
In October that year  I did my first photographic work for Vogue. This was to appear in the December number to promote children’s party clothes. For me it was almost as good as going to a real party!
There was a small group of us, of whom I was the eldest. It all took place in a rather nice house somewhere in the Kensington area. I was dressed in a splendid frilly, I think pink, organdie party dress – probably smocked, as most of them were then. Over this I wore a smart outdoor coat, and a beret for the outside shot of us all arriving at the front door for the “party”, complete with a nanny carrying the youngest child in her arms.
This took several shots because one little girl, aged about three, kept turning her back on the camera. Eventually she was tricked into turning round by the offer of a cracker which she quickly snatched and turned away again. Another cracker was waved and her name called, and in the split second as she half turned back, looking over her shoulder, the photographer got his shot.
Once inside the house, coats were taken off and we went into a room where a cine camera and screen had been set up. We all sat down to enjoy a Charlie Chaplin film. and barely noticed that photographs were being taken of us. After this, £2. 7.3. was added to my Post Office account.