(posted by Aunt Cyn)
Oh, I DO love jam! I love it! I do! I do!
Jam has been very kind to me, seeing my through my twilight years here in not terribly sunny Liechtenstein. It’s difficult getting by on just a meagre pension, and jam has been my saviour in that respect – ever since I had to stop travelling the highways and byways here in central Europe, selling my ‘special rock cakes’ from the back of my Morris Minor Traveller. Illegal, you see. Nobody told me though, did they?
That’s one reason why I’m not really on speaking terms with the rest of the Troubled Diva clan – my criminal record was frowned upon. But I suppose I should tell you a little more about my tumultuous life history, shouldn’t I?
My full name is Lady Cynthia Gotterdammerung. It’s a bit of a mouthful, I know! I’m not really German, but in the run-up to the Second World War my father – Daddy – who was something big in industrial lawnmowers and had a lot of rich society friends, regrettably rather admired that awfully short and awfully loud Mister Hitler. Two days before war broke out in 1939, he decided to demonstrate his admiration by having his surname changed from the perfectly respectable Murgatroyd to – well, what you see above. Gotterdammerung. He even wrote to the royal family to tell them that Saxe-Coburg Gotha was a much more aristocratic-sounding name than Windsor. They never replied. Daddy’s family name change didn’t go down terribly well in suburban Woking, but our neighbours put up with it – or at least they did until he started wearing a German officer’s uniform and goose-stepping round the garden. We were forced to leave dear old Blighty and hotfoot it to Borneo, where we lived on the edge of the jungle for the next twenty years, whittling wood into supposedly erotic shapes that we then sold as tribal trinkets. (I did meet a nice boy from the tribe, though – and we spent many happy hours whittling in our jungle clearing).
The worst part was that Daddy never told us that war was actually over. He lied to us. For two decades, we lived in the belief that Mister Hitler had succeeded in invading the United Kingdom and was ruling over it with a rod of iron from a large Gothic castle on the outskirts of Redditch. It was only when I saw the young Beatles and their extremely long hair on the jungle community’s first television that I realised how awful Daddy had been. I confronted him with the truth, and he dropped down dead, there and then, on the spot. He didn’t even finish whittling the rather too curvacious statue of a jungle girl that he was working on at the time. He shuffled off this mortal coil while he was mid-thigh, which was especially tragic as Daddy always took particular pride in whittling thighs.
I was devastated, and mourned Daddy’s passing for twelve, thirteen, maybe even fourteen minutes. But I also realised that I was a healthy young woman who had barely ever seen beyond the four walls of my tropical jungle home, so I waved goodbye to the rest of the family (whatever did happen to them, I wonder?) and caught the first BEA flight back to Swinging London. Ah! London! Carnaby Street! Kings Road! What wonderful years! Of course, I would so love to tell you more about my wild times with Mick, Keef, John, Paul, Ringo and Herman’s Hermits – but as all the books say, if you can remember the 60s, you weren’t there! Gosh! I do dimly recall playing tambourine on the amazing All You Need Is Love worldwide broadcast, but they didn’t give me a microphone because Ringo said I couldn’t keep the beat. And they hid me behind a large palm tree.
Then in ’69, of course, there was the famous drugs bust at the home of Tarquin Etherington. I was pictured on the front page of the Didcot Advertiser, being led away in handcuffs accompanied by the bass player from The Pigeons. What, you’ve never heard of this famous case? You’ve never heard of The Pigeons? Shocking. I’ll admit that this brush with the law wasn’t as huge as others, but it could have ruined my career as a face about town. Fortunately, it all went well for me, because standing in the dock I looked across the courtroom and saw the man who was to become the love of my life. The judge.
Lord Cecil McTavish and I were married in THE society wedding of 1971 – and I became a Lady! Gosh! Shortly after, Cecil gave up his everso dull High Court work and we set up the charity which was to occupy the next ten years of our lives – Save The Tree. The ’70s and the early ’80s were a positive blur, as we travelled around the world putting stickers on endangered trees. You probably remember the unforgettable catchphrase – “This tree saved by Cecil and Cynthia”. We would cover trees with our bright yellow stickers and KNOW that we’d done something worthwhile for the future of the planet, for our children, for the human race. And then we would watch the trees being cut down. Ah, heady days!
We thought of ourselves very much as the John and Yoko of the tree movement, you know – although I wasn’t Japanese and Cecil didn’t have peculiar facial hair. Our ‘tree-in’ atop a large diseased elm made headlines throughout Oxfordshire in the summer of 1976. One of my proudest moments. There were many times that the police were forced to drag us away from our protests, and I probably would have had a criminal record as long as your arm if the magistrate hadn’t been Cecil’s brother.
Of course, the danger with hanging round all those trees is that you might catch something. And so it was that my dearest, darling Cecil went to sleep for the last time in 1983, having succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease. I was traumatised, since he’d never told me that one of his legs was wooden (we never slept together, you see, due to my peculiar lifelong phobia of being in close proximity to other people’s knees; ours was a purely intellectual marriage). Distraught that the very things I’d sought to save had taken my beloved, I vowed never to save another tree and, since then, I’ve fought a one-woman campaign to cut down and burn as many of the branchy little bastards (sorry! I get quite emotional about this!) as possible.
Calm yourself, Cyn. Calm yourself.
Shortly after Cecil’s death, the scandal broke. The News of the World discovered Daddy’s past, and the headline LADY CYN’S DOTTY DADDY WAS GOOSE-STEPPING KRAUT DUMMKOPF hit the news-stands. For a while, people naturally thought that I must share his views, and I had to stop going to see German operas and even threw out my Wagner collection.
Fortunately, the chance soon came my way to prove that I was really a peace-loving, well-off aristocrat from the Home Counties – as I became one of the camp of women protesting against the nuclear presence at Greenham Common. I’m proud to say that I was arrested 157 times during my time there, although I’ve never quite forgiven my so-called ‘sisters’ for leaving without telling me that the US military threat had gone. Three more years I was there, sitting in a leaky tent pitched up against the wire fence, eating nothing but soup. So much for solidarity.
In the ’90s I found myself rather alone. My wonderful Cecil was gone, half my family were probably living as cannibals in the jungle, and I found it hard to live down my drug-taking, tree-saving, nuclear-protesting past – not forgetting Daddy’s penchant for listening to Hitler’s speeches for relaxation. I tried getting in touch with young Michael and the rest of the Diva family, but they didn’t want to know – although Mike always sends Christmas cards, bless him. And then this opportunity in Liechtenstein came up – writing the weekly agony aunt column for the Liechtenstein Mail & Herald. Well, of course, I have no experience of solving people’s emotional problems, but I’ve had a lively old life and can turn my hand to anything. And the newspaper has been very good to me, deciding not to sack me when they discovered the ‘special rock cakes’ incident I mentioned way back at the start.
What a life I’ve had, readers! Did I mention that I make jam too?