In February 1952, King George VI died at Sandringham and anyone who was anyone and everyone who wanted to be someone went into mourning.
I feared for a moment that this would thwart all my efforts to become a Deb’s Delight, but once I had paid my respects to the deceased monarch at Westminster Abbey with members of Phoebe’s family (who insisted on introducing me to their friends as André de Launay a probable descendant of the Marquis de Launay, governor of the Bastille decapitated in 1795) my social life took off at a great pace.
As an ‘item’, Phoebe and I were invited to various house parties in stately homes, attended point-to-points for which I bought a flat-cap and shooting stick, danced Scottish reels at the Royal Caledonian Ball and later in the year at Queen Charlotte’s Ball and the Pineapple Ball. We went to the Derby and Ascot in June, ate strawberries and cream at Wimbledon, peaches and cream at the Henley Regatta, and raspberries and cream at the Goodwood races. All in all I had a wonderful time until Phoebe, with trembling lower lip, told me she thought she was pregnant.
‘I’ve missed a month,’ she said, ‘and that’s never happened before. I'm not telling Mummy because she'll insist on me having an abortion and I don't want that.' This suggested to me that marriage was the alternative.
For the next few days I went into a blue funk trying to imagine what it would be like married to Phoebe, how Eddy would react to another little bastard in the family, how it would completely curtail my freedom and tie me down for ever to the food business as I would have to become a dependable provider.
The real truth then made its wily way from my heart via various nervous channels to my little brain. I was no longer in love with Phoebe. She was great fun, we got on terribly well, but I did not want to live with her as man and wife. The guilt of not having done anything sensible for some time was beginning to weigh on me and on occasions I had longed for a little time to myself to read or go to see the plays and films which were not ‘de rigeur’ in her world.
She then rang me.
‘It’s alright. False alarm. I’m not pregnant. I was just late,' she said, then added, 'You can enjoy life again now.
'I’ve never seen anyone so petrified.’
We had dinner together that night and both knew that the relationship was over. She was a little more down to earth than I. 'I had a good time converting you into a snob, and I love your Frenchness, but always knew it wouldn’t last. I don’t think you respect the world I come from enough to be one of us.'
'Not OCD?' I suggested.
'Oh, you’re OCD now, but not the sort that would ever be in awe of an MFH.'
I hadn’t learned everything. I raised an eyebrow.
'Master of Fox Hounds,' she explained.
Phoebe married the son of a Baronet six months later and I married another debutante a year or so after that.
Self at Point-to-point
Phoebe and friend at the Pineapple Ball