Thursday, 8 November 2012


Dame Edith Evans, the actress, aged eighty, was quoted as saying 'When on location the marriage vows do not apply '. I found this statement convenient to believe though my overnight stays in London were hardly of an 'on location' category.
 The younger actress with whom I broke my marriage vows was a petite red head with laughing eyes and radiant smile who pretended to be vulnerable and in need of protection but of course wasn’t that at all.
 After watching her singing and dancing as a Pocahontas type hippy in the musical Hair ( sometimes in the nude ), I took her out to dinner during which she proved much more interested in what I had achieved than Eve had ever done, which made me feel I was worth knowing though aware that she was playing the part of the actress batting her eyelids at a future great author - Ellen Terry to my Bernard Shaw. Whatever her game was she boosted my confidence so I suggested another dinner the following week.
 Back home, aware that I might be infatuated with the young Miss Redhead and that this could be colouring my judgement, I got the impression that I was boring Eve, that she might have fallen out of love with me and that she was quite pleased not to have me around for the two days I went to London. I even suspected that she had met someone at an auction, an antique dealer perhaps, who paid her more attention that I did...
 One morning, at the Old Rectory, when she was out, a dishevelled but good looking young man came unexpectedly for coffee obviously under the impression that I would not be there. He was an artist who seemed to know his way around the house rather well. I watched him put the kettle on, make us coffee, and when he opened a kitchen cupboard to get a pot of brown sugar which I didn’t know we had, I became suspicious. When Eve turned up and found us chatting amicably, her face flushed, she was clearly put out and handled the quite unnecessary introductions badly.
 Once he had left she shrugged him off as someone of no interest whom she hardly knew . 'The lady doth protest too much', I thought.
 She did not mention him again. I did not mention Little Miss Redhead.
 The week that followed passed by extraordinarily slowly and I found it hard to concentrate on my writing. I was like a schoolboy in love for the first time, counted the hours when I would see Pocahontas again, at night, lying sleepless next to Eve, my mind wandering guiltily into pleasurable possibilities which would spell disaster.
 The next time I was in London I bought a seat in the front stalls of the Shaftesbury Theatre and watched the new love of my life perform, finding her ever more delightful.
 Applause - curtain - applause - curtain and, like a traditional Stage Door Johnny, I went round to the back stage, bouquet of flowers in hand, completely star struck and fifteen years old.
 Over coffee after an intimate dinner in a restaurant with suitable romantic atmosphere, I suggested we go to a night club, but she declined.
 'I’m tired, why don’t we just go home?'
  I hailed a taxi, gave the driver her Notting Hill address fully expecting her to get out and perhaps kiss me goodbye when we got there, but she didn’t.
 'Come on then,'  she said grabbing my hand, 'this is where I live. I haven’t got fleas you know.' and led me into her flat.

 I was to learn that when you are guilty of having a furtive love affair, which is in fact downright adultery, life becomes quite unbearable if you still love the person you are betraying. In the cold light of day I realized I had been incredibly foolish.
 'It’s not love between us you know,' the actress had said to the author at some time in the middle of the night, 'it’s wonderful lust!'
  And that was all it was as far as she was concerned, but for me it was blatant infidelity.
  On the train journey back to Taunton my mind reeled with what I had got myself into.
See you after the show when you’re next in town my darling!' she’d said when parting. And I had agreed.
  It was thus that I committed myself to a clandestine affair and would risk the break up of a twelve year marriage, would worry about tell-tale whiffs of an unfamiliar scent from my clothes, fear the discovery of lipstick traces on my shirt, worse, blunder into a chance give away remark.
 My liaison with Little Miss Redhead lasted a month, that is four Tuesday night visits to the theatre, dinner after, then back to her flat, time enough to learn how to lie, deceive and be competently disloyal to my wife.
 I handled it well of course, an inherited trait from my mother no doubt plus the years of training I had had lying to Eddy on her behalf.  
 On the fifth Tuesday the actress left a note for me at the stage door informing that she was otherwise engaged. It was obvious that she had found the arms of another. I never saw her again, missed her fun loving company for quite a while, but nothing more and, in my mind the episode thankfully became a simple misdemeanour.
 One weekend shortly after, I took Eve and the boys to a Cornwall seaside resort for a change, believing that a night in a hotel might revive shows of affection between Eve and I which had definitely waned. The boys played in the rain and gumboots on the beach while we watched under an umbrella not holding hands. We were weary parents aware that we had lost our youth and possibly more.
 By the end of a very wet summer we decided we should seek the sun, so we flew down to Nice to stay with Maman, my mother and Eddy in their magnificent new house -  La Maison Blanche -   in Cagnes sur Mer.
 The blue skies, the sparkling Mediterranean, lunches in the warm open air and the balmy nights sitting on the roof terrace staring at the stars brought it home to us that our lives could be more enjoyable than the one we had settled for in cold, grey, damp Somerset. So we decided on yet another move, which proved pretty dramatic.  

Nicolas and Matthew on a Cornwall beach
La Maison Blanche


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