Anton's Ideas

Anton Wills-Eve on world news & random ideas


<a href=””>Crossing</a&gt;
an apt prompt for this episode !!

(a note for you all first. This follows on directly from my last post and is the second part of chapter one of SANDIE>. I stress this because the first post will be more closely edited later for typos etc. You will appreciate that much of this story is taken in large chunks from previously written episodes. Actually it’s a nightmare to do. But as one commenter has already expressed surprise at how good my memory is I must stress again that there is a lot of material here which was retold to me by several people when I was older and thus jogged my memory. More importantly, my omission of several names is done on purpose for family reasons.) I am now aiming at three posts maximum per week to avoid regular editing and correcting.


Here follows part 2 of Chapter one of SANDIE, the first of the five books in my life story under the overall title TUTTE AMANTI MIO



(all those I have loved)


Chapter One part 2

For the first year we spent settling into our new home life at ‘Per Ora’, as the house was called, was a mixture of fun, exploration and learning how to mix with people other than just members of our own family. In September 1946 Michèle and I both started lessons at a small convent school about a mile’s walk from the house on the other side of the common. However it was more of a nursery than a school and after one of the coldest winters on record for the London area we changed to a select infants preparatory school in April l946 just before I was four. The school was called ‘Pathways’ and the standard of academic teaching was really quite high for children aged four to nine. It taught some pupils up to the age of thirteen, but very few and only girls.

Michèle and I soon settled in well, although she was in a form for children a year older than me, and I met three youngsters who stayed friends for a very much longer time than one would expect. I also spent a lot of my own time at home playing the piano and being introduced to a new teacher, Signor Pirelli, who called mum ‘Madamina’. I don’t know why but she seemed to like it. She told me he was an old friend and a well know concert pianist. Several years later my music master at school could not believe who had been teaching me, nor why I had never sat any piano exams. But that will be explained as we go along.

After only a a few days at ‘Pathways’ a boy a few weeks younger than I told me he lived in the next road to us and his father was a diplomat at the Foreign Office. At first mum did not want either Michèle or I bringing friends home to the house until she knew exactly who their families were, but I insisted in the case of David. She demurred but when dad came home that night I asked him to let me invite anybody home to play in our huge house and garden. He asked who the boy was and then smiled at my mother and said,

“John Denton, David’s father, is one of our most important contacts in Whitehall and I was hoping Anton would make a friend there. John has already told me he would like David to imitate Anton’s famous posh and pedantic way of talking! Has he been playing the fool at school already?They are a really nice family and just the sort of people you are keen on your children knowing. They are the same age too, and Catholics, so I can see David becoming just the sort of boy you would like to have around the house.” David was thus formally invited to my fourth birthday party two weeks later and we got on like a house on fire. We were both keen on sports, cricket especially, but being so young we could only visit each other when taken or collected by an adult. David had a great sense of fun and was a little taller than I was, but at that age height was not something children noticed. The only things he found odd about us all was my devotion to the piano, Michèle’s complete lack of interest in him at all at first and the general air of humorous and celebrated insanity which pervaded the household. He later also told me that he loved coming round to our place because post war rationing of things like confectionery and really good food did not seem to have reached our world.

It took a good year and a bit to decorate the whole building and restore it to its former glory after the damage it had sustained from bombing raids during the war. For instance some thirty one small glass windows in the conservatory had to be replaced after being individually shaped and cut, and the whole exterior of the building re-painted. The burst pipes caused by the bitterly cold winter, especially December and January, did not help with putting the inside right either. Luckily the owner who died in the war had insured the building and because he was a victim of enemy action the war office honoured his insurance policy. Dad said that saved us nearly £60,000 in those days, the equivalent of about a million pounds to do the work now.

Thus we spent the second half of 1946 getting to know our house, the lovely surrounding areas of Richmond Park and Sheen Common and meeting all sorts of odd friends of the family. But our first years in Bourne End had prepared us perfectly to accept just about anyone in life whether saint or sinner, pauper or magnate, obscure shy individual or over the top celebrity. Then came the terrible introduction one Spring morning in 1947 to the mental torture that was to plague me for the rest of my days. Michèle, mum and I took a short bus drive to Hammersmith bridge with the intention of having a nice long walk across the wide River Thames as it wound its weird way around south west London. It had been mum’s intention to enjoy a walk over the broad stretch of river. Well, the bus pulled up by the start of the Bridge and I got off thinking the other two were behind me. I jumped down onto the pavement and to my horror saw the bus carry on over the bridge with my sister and mother still on board.

“Stop! Stop!” But it didn’t hear me. At the age of just five I didn’t know that big, red, double decker London buses couldn’t hear, but they could abduct your mother and sister and drive off with them leaving you on your own without another soul in sight. It was so terrifying I was too scared even to cry. Think what it must have been like. The bus stop was on the Surrey side of the Thames at the start of Hammersmith bridge with its never ending open air tunnel of iron arches. I knew I couldn’t swim, so I couldn’t step onto the bridge in case I fell off and was drowned. I turned round to put the bridge behind me but that was worse. A mile long, so it seemed, dead straight road of private houses on both sides. We weren’t allowed to go into strangers’ houses. I started to hyperventilate for the first time in my life.

I was trapped! I wanted to wait for the next bus, but I had no money. If you tried to dodge paying the fare you went to jail. They locked you up and left you alone to starve. I was beginning to shake and then felt I needed to go to the toilet. But if you took your willey out in public horrible perverted men would jump out of the bushes and do dreadful things to you. At least there were no bushes by the bridge, but no toilets either!

I was really worried now and finally had to edge back to the bridge and pee up against the iron stanchion. As I went on looking at the huge bridge I could not understand how people could cross it on foot. I must have been on the point of full blown, choking panic when a bus pulled up on the other side of the road and my mother and sister rushed over to make sure I was OK. On seeing I was alright they treated the whole episode as a very good joke. The thought my uncontrollable shaking was a form of laughter! I was rooted to the spot and insisted we got the next bus home.

A few days later my mother had one of her posh friends round to tea. I heard her say, “Dorothy, we’ve always made a point of making sure the children understand why they should behave correctly, especially in public. The last thing either of them would do is appear rude, afraid or upset in front of other people.”

That was sixty nine years ago and on really bad days I can still barely cross the road outside my house. As for bridges I have still never walked across one anywhere in my life. Just the sight of one brings on a panic attack. But I could never tell anybody like a neighbour or doctor this at that age. They might think me very odd and try to do something about it. It was slowly, during the course of that summer that I started to become panic stricken when isolated anywhere. I neither understood nor could I bear the mental pain I kept going through.

I know every inch of the beauty that is the garden surrounding my home. The three acres of lawns and orchard, trees and summer houses and the path leading to the pond by the chestnut tree. Above all I adore the elm tree and its enormous base which so sadly had to be pruned to only a quarter its vast height when Dutch Elm disease ravaged southern England in the 1970s. But I gradually sank into a kind of depression which I did not even know was happening to me. Yes I loved my piano, going to Mass and playing with David and other friends very occasionally, but I also had to pretend to everyone I was normal. So unusual was our family life, Fleet Street offices, West End dressing rooms, and above all being hailed as the son of my mother, that not even the love of playing with Michèle and her friends and taking our adorable Labrador puppy Kim for walks, could calm me down properly. In fact Saint Rita was fast becoming the only person I could talk to about my mental fears as for the first time in my life I began to wonder if my parents would think me naughty for being a coward. Over the years the admission of that feeling at the age of seven has given drooling psychiatrists hours of fun making up nonsensical explanations of why I have a guilt complex. I have never had one in my life, I love God too much, but they never believe or even understand me.

Some two years after that dreadful time by the bridge I was sitting alone on the lawn one Sunday morning wondering what had happened to me, when along the pebbled path from the elm and under the edge of the beautiful pink Magnolia tree to the side of it I saw a girl walking towards me. I blinked. It couldn’t be, I mean why? She had never visited us before and I only knew her from school.

“Hello Anton, are you alright? Your sister said I’d find you here. Do you mind me coming to see you, you’ve looked so dreadful at school all week. I felt sorry for you.” It was Sandie, Alexandra Jane to be exact but she never answered to that. A shy girl some one month younger than I, between me and David in age I suppose, but with mousey-blonde hair cut in a style that did nothing to flatter her. Also I doubt we had exchanged more than half a dozen words at that time. But she had one wonderful thing going for her. Her eyes smiled, not her mouth, I was not to learn what wonders that might hold for a few years yet. She sat down next to me. “You look very sad, is someone ill in your family?” I stuttered before replying,

“Sandie. Have you just come round here to see if I’m OK? Have you? Nobody has ever cared about me before. When I’m ill of course, but never because they thought I was unhappy. Thanks very much, because yes, I am.” she looked at me and gently put her hand in mine. Then she pulled me up and said,

“We’re going for a walk and you can tell me all about it. We can’t have you looking so rotten all the time.” I grinned and we strolled very slowly past the cricket pitch on the common, through the gorse bushes and into the copse towards the Richmond end of the lovely deserted greenery. Neither of us spoke a word for a good twenty minutes. Suddenly Sandie turned towards me, her lovely eyes now so much happier and her green check gingham dress sparkling in the sunshine. I began to feel very odd indeed. In fact I had no idea what was happening to me. Well at seven and a few weeks what could I feel? I didn’t know what loving other people even meant let alone was. But Sandie was having a very strange affect on me. Then she first suggested we ought to walk back in case people started to worry about us, and then did the most wonderful thing. She put an arm round my shoulder and said,

“You do know I’ll always be your friend, don’t you?” Then she very gently kissed my cheek, blushed and sprang apart from me. I did not have to think what to do my whole being did it for me. I pulled her back towards me, kissed her hair, just above my shoulder height, and replied,

“I didn’t before today, Sandie. But I do now. Also I know you will always be my best friend. But please don’t leave me alone, I’ve got this horror at the thought of seeing you walk away from me.” She smiled, clasped my hand tightly and we walked back home, again without saying a word. But as we parted at the gate, nobody at home even knew she’d been there, we both knew something everlasting had happened to us. I couldn’t wait to see her at school again the next day and my phobia never even entered my head for the rest of that day. All I remembered were her parting words.

“Have I earned a private piano recital?” And at her her smile I wondered how on earth she knew. But deep down inside me I was awfully glad I had not told her about my daily mental torture.

(end chapter one)


TUTTE AMANTI MIO [all those I have loved]- (1)

<a href=””>Interior</a&gt;


I promised you all (both of you?) a leisurely relating of the five romances which make up my life story and so I shall start today. Heavens knows when I shall finish. But en bref the whole opus consists of five medium sized books split into anything from 12 to 21 chapters and totalling probably some 450,000 words in all. Each book bears a girl’s name in the title for reasons that will become obvious. The 2 or 3 postings per week will be under the heading of ‘Tutte Amanti Mio 1.’ (then numbered accordingly as the work progresses

TUTTE AMANTI MIO – (1)  [all those I have loved]


by Anton Wills-Eve

Ho peccato e amato, ma ogni giorno ho pregato Dio. Io sono solo un essere umano.

Shshshsh …whisper this among yourselves if you must but no public acclamation yet please. Read it first. But read what? The Italian above? Heavens no, that is my epitaph. I just thought I would slip it in while I am still around as, if this work goes on for as long as it could given my current state of health, I may not end it in time to let everyone know what I would like on my tombstone. Cheerful so far, isn’t it? Never mind here comes the bombshell.

You will all be glad to learn that I have at last decided to take the bull by the horns, ignore all familial advice and write – well tidy up and finish – my version of my life story. Now don’t all pant and leap out of your seats at once, page 364 is actually rather boring. But, as all our lives are basically monotonous, to make out that I had lived nothing but an extraordinary life of non stop exciting, funny, romantic, frightening, enjoyable, spiritually glorious or sinfully repellent episodes for more than 70 years would just be stupid. But, on the other hand, I can claim to have been incredibly fortunate to have known both the depths and the peaks of human experience in five languages on five continents, and had both my spiritual and physical courage and powers of survival tested to the limit in a variety of ways that seldom fall to one person. And to have done this from a genuinely unusually young age has definitely marked me out as an anomaly. But why does this make me feel it is worth recording? Quite simply because such a very large number of people have said to me, about so many different events and times in my life, “you should write a book about that, you know.” So I have. Five books in fact each centred round a romance. After all I’ll be seventy five next May so I had better do it while I still can.

For a start I am definitely not a Saint, a sinner most certainly but I like to think a pleasant one. I would hate to be remembered for being in any way vicious. And before going any further I do have to make this important point. A lot of the autobiographical works that have appeared in my stories, poems, blogs and articles over the years have always contained exaggeration, changed names and humorous asides which have suggested happenings which perhaps did not occur in exactly the way I have related them. Therefore I am NOT going to write stories that can be checked out on every page of Google or Wikipedia. Apart from anything else, three key people have insisted that they do not appear unless I change their names. So I have changed them. If that is the price of doing what I wish, so be it. But where this work will, and does, differ from many of my memoirs over the last fifteen years is in the degree of truth in it. Everything I recount happened. Only the names of some people, and some institutions here and there, have been changed. Oh, and some of the family sources I have relied upon may well have been badly inebriated when providing me with key anecdotal material. Also my own tendency to hyperbole has not been totally overcome. Far from it. So where should I begin? With my birth? Yes, why not. It was as eventful as most things that have happened to me. And anyway it is the obvious starting point.

I was always told that the ambulance that rushed my mother to the maternity ward where I was born did so by dodging German bombs and such like at the height of WW2, but I have always known that was an enormous exaggeration. It is true that a German plane returning from a raid over London got lost and jettisoned its bombs near our home at Bourne End, on the Thames in Buckinghamshire, but I also know that my mother and the nursing home near High Wycombe were never in any danger. But mama always told every story to gain the fullest dramatic effect she could extract from it, so everyone thought that I was lucky to be born alive. This must have been untrue because, while I may have been five weeks premature, my difficult birth was due entirely to her playing golf that afternoon against doctors’ orders and hooking her drive at the par three eighth. This apparently put me, literally, in an awkward position. And her too I assume as she took a six. She told me she fired her caddy – lucky chap. But the nursing staff at my birth must have done a good job because I was delivered, eventually, just after midnight in the early minutes of Sunday May the tenth, nineteen forty two. Those few minutes were to have an enormous influence on my life, indeed still do.

I returned home with my parents, dad having managed to get down from London to greet me when I was a day old, and was taken into the huge bosom of my polyglot and poly-devotional family. We had two houses next to each other with gardens running down to the river, sharing a large boathouse. In all there were 48 rooms in which we housed my mother, father, fifteen months old sister Michèle and both my grandmothers. Then there were my mother’s two sisters and their husbands, her elder sister’s two sons, ten and eleven years older than I, and my great grandmother on my mother’s side. She had her ninetieth birthday on the day I was born. Both my grandfathers were dead and mum’s mother died just before I was two in the spring of 1944 so I cannot in fairness claim to remember her, save in photographs of us together. Actually my sister was the only female born in direct line to either side of the family by that time. We have one lovely picture of her on her second birthday with her mother, two grandmothers, and ninety year old great grandmother. My mother’s Scottish brother and his wife lived in Kent but had come up to the Thames valley as mum’s waist measurements increased. In addition to our relations we had seven more friends living with us then, all in the theatre like my mother, aunts and uncles. Some of the males were on military assignments as well so our houses were used basically as a place of safety for the ladies during the war. Dad was a war correspondent and had in fact been blown up and thrown right across a London street, in 1941 just after my sister was born that February. He was quite ill for a few months and insisted the family stay as far from danger as they could.

I was talking earlier about the significance of my birth date. Well as I just crept into May the tenth my mother had to keep a promise she had made, more probably to herself than anyone else, but made nevertheless. She had to give me the name of a male Saint on whose feast day I was born. The choices for May the tenth were not very large or included names she would normally have chosen. But she did see that one of the Saint’s celebrated that day was Antoninus, archbishop of Florence in the 1450’s, and someone whose name could remain in Latin for a Baptismal certificate but be Anglicised to Anton for a legal birth certificate. Ergo sum he chi je suis.

Nevertheless, we had a problem in our family at that time which had nothing to do with the war. Alcohol was accepted as a perfectly normal diet for everyone over the age of 20 and was consumed in large quantities, especially by my great grandmother who still downed a bottle of whisky a day in 1947 aged 95. I have often thought she must have been a very unfortunate role model for her younger relations. But then she was Scottish, as were all her grand children, so I suppose that explains it. Also my two American Uncles were acting in films while also serving in the US air force. Thus we had access to PX rations and limitless booze, our own pigs and hens, a large amount of fruit and vegetables from our gardens together with food parcels from my father’s brother and relations in Australia, when they managed to reach us. Now, if you add to this the fact that we were extremely wealthy, all the adults were earning enormous salaries acting and entertaining, and the Fleet Street side were all in top newspaper jobs. But the worst thing was that of all the people living in our houses at least three quarters were instantly recognised whenever they set foot in any public place. So I can honestly say, as I start my story, life really was totally abnormal for my sister and me. Also, as you may begin to appreciate, war for us was anything but hell. Well until I was two years old. Then things changed in so many ways that I must also change this from a prologue to the narrative and start of my Books. The first is entitled


Chapter One (part 1)

I had just had my second birthday in May 1944 when dad came home one weekend for thirty six hours rest and told the assembled family and friends that as the bombing of Germany had now stepped up so much he would at least be spared ever having to go to Berlin, the one place he said he would really hate to visit. Mum told him not to make rash assumptions which he might not be able to keep and he laughed. His great friend, my godfather Walter Cronkite, who worked with him and lived with us at that time with his wife Betsy, also laughed but looked anything but certain that Dad’s hopes would be fulfilled. When both of them were assigned to cover the D-Day landings a couple of weeks later and then stay with the troops, Walter the US, dad the British, all the way to Berlin, the war really came home to me for the first time. I had lost the closest person to me and was just old enough to be scared that the loss could be for ever.

As we grew up mum always made the children in the family say their prayers every night and now dad was added to the list of people God had to keep safe or the world might as well end. He’s a lovely God and did look after him, but not without some scary moments before the awful conflict ended in Europe a year later.

Probably the most exciting event at that time was when I was two and a few months in 1944 and a buzz bomb nearly killed my sister, three years and seven months, and me as my grandmother raced for our house pushing our pram as we just beat the German monster. Well, obviously, this story gets better every time I tell it but we did get a shock from the explosion and my mother being very well known at that time she rang a London national daily newspaper editor and recounted my story, warts and all, even if there weren’t any warts, thus gaining me my first national front page byline before I was three. Even at that age I was clearly paparazile.

Fortunately dad was returned to us as the war ended and the lovely houses by the Thames slowly shed their motley crew of entertainers, celebrities and writers. But it was a wonderful first three years of life, always full of multilingual laughter and devotion. It was a strange way to begin wondering about all one was told about God. The people close to us followed all creeds and denominations, while being mostly drunks or invalids like mum, who many thought was dying. Yet we were all constantly filled with a feeling of hope and certainty that everything was going to be alright. The greatest thing about those ‘house guests’ was that I could never dislike them just because they were different to me. Jews laughed and played with me, homosexuals would lift me up and maybe kiss me on the cheek – I was young enough – but they were never malicious or threatening. The drunks and adulterers I know now, looking back, lived lives totally opposed to everything I was later told was how they ought to behave, but I cannot ever remember a day when I did not love them as friends of us all. No, even at three and four my sister and I disliked what many people actually did, but somehow we could always separate the sins from the sinners despite being so young.

Before leaving Bourne End and its lovely leafy, quiet dreamy part of England in August 1945, possibly three of the four most important things in my life happened to me within a couple of weeks of each other. The first was shortly after ‘the day peace broke out’, to use my mother’s first father in law’s famous line, and happened unexpectedly in our huge drawling room overlooking the long lawn down to the river. I was sitting with my face screwed up in anger as I tried to make the lovely rosewood grand piano do what I told it.

Of all the really great tunes that I have heard in my life, pop, classical, country and western, operatic arias, ballads et al it has always been the catchy – ‘want to sing or whistle it again’ – quality that has made me put it in my favourites. There are many songs and tunes that set me going, foot tapping or rushing for the nearest piano if there is one, to join in and enjoy myself. But there I have mentioned the luckiest, loveliest thing in my physical life. My mother’s half of the family were all well known singers, actors and entertainers so of course I was brought up with a piano in the house. I loved sitting trying to make the keys play a tune from as early in my life as I can remember.

My father, who was a journalist and nothing to do with  the theatrical side of the family was a modest pianist himself and it was he who first spotted in me the natural ability to pick up a tune and reproduce it. I must have been about three and few months because it was just before we moved to East Sheen near Richmond in London, that mum was playing arias from the Marriage of Figaro on a 78 record player. Records in those days, were not of the acoustic quality of today, but never the less the wonderful soulful yet bouncing melody of Cherubino’s Aria ‘voi que sapete’ really turned me on. I listened to it about fifteen times through and then went to the piano and tried to find the right notes to play the tune. It was as I was on about the fifteenth attempt and getting to the  stage where I wanted to smash the piano to bits that my father came in. He just looked at me and said.

Do that again. No seriously, it sounded just like one of the Arias from Figaro. But you couldn’t have taught yourself!” I couldn’t, and didn’t believe him. I thought he was joking. so I played the same notes through again to the end of the sixteenth bar. Then I looked at him inquisitively. All he said was brief and to the point. “You were playing ‘voi que sapete’, in the wrong key, the wrong tempo and with one or two notes of your own, and an inability to finish it. Also your feet don’t reach the pedals. But if you taught yourself to do even that and it must have been all imitating and experiment, but I had finally got somewhere near the basic melody.” He was so impressed all he said was, “Right, when we move to our new house in July or August that piano is coming with us. I don’t care whose it is we’re taking it and you’re going to have proper piano and music lessons. You obviously love playing and have a gift for it. Go on trying anything you like in the meantime. Your aunts and I will get you started on the basics. I was amazed at his reaction and from then on started trying to play more melodies, even though they were beyond me. I especially loved the duet La ci darem la mano from Don Giovanni and asked mum what the words meant. She did not know but my aunt told me it was the evil Don Giovanni trying to kiss a pretty peasant girl called Zerlina and she was trying to fend him off. I remember seeing a reflection of a very pretty face in the lid of the piano when I was trying to play the tune and thinking if she was that pretty anyone would want to kiss her.

The second really important event occurred at the end of the week when I first tried to play music. Our local Catholic parish church was across the river, St. Joseph’s in Maidenhead, where I was Christened. The Catholics at home were intermittent Mass goers and I was actually three years and five weeks old before my Australian grandmother took Michele and me to a Sunday Mass there for the first time. Mum had told us that as we grew up we should go to Mass on Sundays but could not receive Communion until we were about eight or nine. Combined with this was a very confusing version of what was right and wrong, a sin or not a sin, but fortunately always done with the sole purpose of telling us how much more God loved people who were good or did not sin. At that age the worst thing either of us ever did was occasionally copy the grown ups’ swear words, but apparently this sent one straight into God’s bad books and also embarrassed my parents in front of their friends. My mother never did manage to explain which offence was worse. But apparently swearing was OK for grown ups.

Anyway that Sunday, the first in July 1945, Nana, we always called her that, took us to Mass. I was almost struck dumb by the atmosphere in the church and instantly felt completely at home. But the high point came at the consecration. I stared at the altar, the priest had his back to the congregation in those days, and as the altar bell was rung I actually saw God standing before me, facing me, at the foot of the altar steps. His hands were held out towards me and my heart literally thumped at the piercing stab of love that totally consumed me as I looked at Him. I could not describe Him to you then, I cannot now. All I know is that it happens every time I receive Holy Communion and God’s love is completely reciprocated. It is the only reason I have never even considered not being a Catholic and have shed o many, many tears when dear or close friends have lost their faith or doubted what they once believed. It doesn’t matter two hoots to me what type of Christian, or good person of any sort one is as long as they let God love them and love him back. It is a gift which I have been given which transcends anything else I have ever experienced or ever could.

The third thing to happen just before we left Bourne End was a chat Michele and I had under a tree in the orchard one hot afternoon with mum. She decided to tell us the life story of a particular saint, something she often did even if she got it wrong or hammed it up dreadfully. But this day she told us the story of a fifteenth century Italian lady who had a very difficult marriage, her husband was killed then her sons died of disease and finally she spent her last years as a nun praying for and looking after people in almost hopelessly depressing situations. She is Saint Rita, of Cascia in central Italy, and is now the patroness of all hopeless causes and known in some places as the advocate of the impossible. I had an overwhelming feeling when I heard her story that I too was going to have an almost unbearable life. There and then I asked her in a very short and childlike prayer never to forget me. She has never left my side since that day despite everything you might read here if you carry on with my tale. Doctors insist she is just in my head, but get very confused when I tell them I agree. It’s that part of my head I call my soul.

And so we moved to our new home near London that August. I never found the silver spoon that so many of my friends thought I had in my mouth when I was born, but for several years something akin to it was definitely spoon-feeding my life. My family had access to considerable wealth and many of them were very famous actors or entertainers. From May 1942 to April 1956, my sister and I lived in a mixture of fairyland and Heaven. I am just thankful that Heaven is still a possible final dwelling place. But Oh, were we the anomalies of our age. Let me give you a flavour.

I spent the years aged three to fourteen in the most beautiful suburb of London, in a thirty seven room Georgian mansion which we almost had to sell to pay the bills we ran up over ten years. The bank knew we were good for them. It was worth £2.5 million by early 1957 so you can imagine how beautiful it was. And the location! Richmond Park and Sheen Common, bordering our house with Kew Gardens, Hampton Court, etc all a few minutes drive along the beautiful banks of the Thames where Surrey made it so attractive. Also only fourteen minutes on the train to the very heart of the city.

Our house was totally secluded from prying neighbours with an enormous ten foot high wall and holly hedge round three quarters of the estate which also included an orchard of six different types of fruit trees, four summer houses, a pond and huge elm tree in the 3 acres of garden plus a separate walled rose garden. You get the idyllic picture. My sister and I went to an expensive, private school from the ages of three to eight (she’s fifteen months older). BUT we weren’t allowed to play with any children except our vetted school friends. You would only believe this if you had known my mother and her side of the family! Not snobs, no, far worse. Content to be different, recognised and obeyed. In fact we were too young to realise what an incredibly prejudiced world we lived in.

So, given the setting, what in life could not possibly be very pleasant when all the rooms in the house were huge, superbly decorated and especially the living room with a bay window and door onto the rose garden and a grand piano where I spent eleven years learning and playing at least three hours a day. Dad even had to have it sound proofed without spoiling the decoration or the superb Adam fireplace which burned whole tree trunks. At one end was the sliding glass door to the huge conservatory with real grape vines and a marble fountain which was turned off at Christmas to accommodate the twelve foot Christmas tree? So where was the prejudice?

I never saw a coloured person, any colour other than white, in the area I inhabited for the first thirty years the family lived there. In the late nineteen forties there just were none. At the local pub some fifty regulars from our incredibly select road, the most sought after in South West London, met each Sunday lunch time for drinks and they agreed never to talk religion or politics at the bar. Unfortunately mum’s notoriety as a famous entertainer let her get away with murder and insult whomsoever she chose. Dad was accepted as her pleasant, Australian, other half who had one of the top jobs in British journalism. As bars closed at 2.00pm on Sundays in those days we usually had about 20 people back to our house for drinks and finally had lunch around 4.00pm. That house swam in booze every day I.

So who were the baddies, ie those not accepted by our ‘clique’? WelI, everybody who did not know any of us. If they came in expecting to buy a drink, as they would in any pub on a Saturday night or Sunday, they were simply ignored totally by staff and customers unless they were guests of the set. Most gave up and walked out dejected after recognising most of the people in the pub. But even within the accepted drinkers there was a hidden class of stereotyped prejudice that would have made you sick. They all smiled and laughed together but detested, in order of priority, first and foremost socialists, then Catholics or any non-conformists, then Jews but worst by far the thought of an American tourist ever being let near the place. Not famous Americans like three of my family members among the regulars whom they had got to know, but the conviction that ordinary US citizens only came to London to gloat over how they had won the war for us after raping all our virgins. Quite seriously, in that environment that was a prejudice which lasted until the Conservative government was returned to power again in 1951. The American presence in Britain towards the end of the war left a horrible anti-US feeling of pure jealousy because they were, to use the famous quote of ‘Mr. Average Brit’, “over sexed, over fed, over paid and over here!” My uncle in the US air force reserve had a PX card, though we never told anyone.

But my sister and I just led a strangely unique and unreal life until I went to the most expensive Catholic boys school in London and again mixed only with my school friends. Fortunately we had all colours and races in the school, mostly sons of foreign Catholic diplomats, rich businessmen and 60% of the upper school from the age of 11 were on totally free scholarships gained through the state scholarship system. Thank heavens for this because the only way I ever have met ‘ordinary’ people was through my school.

Yet even within this strange mix of a world when we were ten and eleven the Catholic/Anglican/Jewish divide was huge. Many of my family’s clique were Jews, we were Catholics and in every case it was humour that saved the day and calmed things down. Naturally being Irish was not acceptable either, but Irish, Jewish and Catholic jokes were the backbone of the pub conversations. Imagine this scene. A Jewish fellow who owned a company the equivalent of Hertz in the States, with a lovely French titled wife, once teased my mother; she was excused the politics and religion rule on account of her wit, “Vel, yor Jesus voz a Jew? Vozn’t ‘e?”

To which mum snapped back in millie seconds, ”Yes, Bernie, but we were taught that out of humility He chose to come to earth in the guise of the lowest form of humanity known to man!” What response would that have got anywhere in the western world today? The whole pub, Bernie most of all, just creased with laughter. But that was 1949. There was no malice, just relief that you could laugh in peace and honestly no offence was taken by anybody.

Are you all wondering what my sister and I were doing in a pub barred to kids when we were that age? Well at least nine other children our age of members of the set were also there most weekends because the pub owner wanted his customers money and could not give a fig for the licensing laws. Catholic priest and Jewish Rabbi jokes were also all the rage because the Anglicans laughed at every opportunity to see the absurd side of Catholicism and Judaism. One such joke that went down very well was told by a Catholic Irish crooner who lived four houses away from us and was never off the radio. (Is the awful hypocracy coming through?). I heard this one when I was ten and took a few minutes wondering the meaning of a word when the loud mouthed, blousey wife (?) of a member of parliament whispered the meaning in my ear. You’ll spot it.

Der wass dis priest on a bus and who should sit next to him but de local Rabbi? Dey smiled and de priest said,’Ah god bless ye’z Rabbi, now isn’t it a lovely day for me to be covertin’ Jews?” They laughed.

Not me, fadder,” the rabbi replied. At the next turning the bus skidded into a ditch and turned on its side. Nobody was badly hurt as they scrambled off, but the priest stared in disbelief as he watched the Rabbi place his right hand on his forehead, then his stomach, then his right breast and then his heart. A miracle! He was blessing himself. But the rabbi smiled and, shaking his head, said,

Sorry, Fadder, bud I alvays do dat after an accident just to check. Spectacles, testicles, vollet and votch.” Again total collapse of all present and the story teller was bought several large libations. But these were not snobbish people, just totally self satisfied. There were two occasions only before I went to my final school when I felt the heart stabbing horror of the only prejudice that directly affected me. The first was at the age of seven when the son of my parents’ best friends was getting married in the local Anglican Church just two roads away from us. Our own parish priest would not let us attend the church service because we were Catholic. In those days (1949) catholics still prayed for the conversion of England to Rome. The reformation was still alive and kicking. I prayed for weeks to try to understand, but eventually got my own back by first marrying a Buddhist in a Catholic church in Saigon, and after she was killed, my present wife who is a Liverpool Anglican. But we go to each other’s churches, so the world is a lot better than it was.

My second horrible experience of religious prejudice was aged eight and one month, when, on the day I had made my first Communion that Sunday morning I did not go to the pub, but one of those ‘regulars’ mentioned above, said to me back at our house after the usual exodus from the boozer,

Here, Anton. Have a coke and get that awful taste out of your mouth!” He was rich, influential, forty seven and I hit him so hard he lost two teeth. I was ushered from the room and was obviously never going to apologise. He made no fuss, but never spoke to me again. I also broke a finger.

Well, My last example of early 1950’s prejudice was also my first brush with racial prejudice. In the summer of 1952 my mum’s sister and her American husband, were starring in a very popular revue at the Piccadilly Theatre . The vaudeville show had been packed out for eighteen months and one of the hit turns was a young American half coloured half Hispanic singer. She was 22, a real poppet and my sister and I loved her. As mum was in hospital after major surgery, (my sister asked the surgeon if mum was having her gin and tonic removed), and dad was on an assignment in New York we asked our aunt and uncle if we could ask our friend back to spend the weekend at our house. They agreed and so we all went home after the Saturday night performance. My American uncle was by far my favourite relation. He taught me baseball and I taught him cricket when he was starring in the West End production of Damn Yankees. He supported the Pittsburg Pirates and I still do. Anyway, to the terrible bit. Perhaps my life’s main introduction to just how awful some people and groups of people can be.

As my uncle was well known at the pub he suggested we all go down for a drink at lunchtime as usual. My Aunt pleaded a headache. We had just started the first round of drinks when the pub owner came up to my uncle and took him aside. He said he did not want to upset him but no way was he allowing a coloured girl, however much a friend of ours, to drink in his bar. He would lose all his customers. I won’t say what he said to her but the singer just smiled and told my uncle it happened all the time in London. She understood and told the three of us we’d better go home.

My Uncle, God bless him, never entered that pub again. My drunken, cowardly aunt did not even warn us but did at least tell us she had telephoned the pub owner during our five minute walk round there to say who was about to arrive.

So, like a pleasant encore at a piano recital I shall finish with an encore on the subject. But a nice one. My grandmother made two little woollen dolls for my sister and me when we were five and six. They were black with big smiles, fuzzy hair, and E.P.Christie minstrel outfits. We loved them. They were called Golly and Sambo and we took them to bed with us every night. As we grew up we never lost them and both of us still have them and love them. But we can’t call them by their names in front of other people. So, out of love and respect, we don’t.

However I am slightly jumping the gun here because the fourth important thing in my life happened just eighteen months after we moved to Sheen. I had my first really dreadful attack of agoraphobia which I will describe next in some detail. But with it will be the introduction of Alexandra Jane to my life as a fellow six year old infants school pupil. Only a month younger than I, she humanly saved my sanity as my mind could not cope with irrational fear.

(but that, dear readers, is for tomorrow and the next day)





this is about next year



This is not so much a blog as a heartfelt hope that all my digital friends and readers have a really great 2017. You deserve it for getting through the last 364 days!

But also I just want to tell you that, as I have been spared long enough from a series of life threatening illnesses, I am going to post a chapter or so a week, for as long as I can from Monday,  to recount five middle length tales that basically make up the exaggerated story of my very colourful life. It will be in the form of five books, my four romances and the extraordinary settings in whch they took place, and a final work setting out my philosophy and loving hope for everyone. And I really mean everyone. Each story title bears the name of a girl who has played a major part in my life, especially the final one on my philosophy.

So with that prospect of a dose of ineffable boredome before you I wish you all everything you wish yourselves.

God Bless



<a href=””>Hopeful</a&gt;

  Hope is the only virtue of which you cannot be too full.


How can I be hopeful facing global distress?

How can I see sunlight on life’s horizon unless

I put passionate feelings of despair and distress

Behind me and forget, tonight as I undress,

All the deaths, horrors and sad events of this year

And welcome twenty seventeen with smiling good cheer.

But if lessons aren’t learned, forgetting is pointless I fear

Thus I’m resolved to help everyone in life I hold dear.

So, come on Trump and Putin, poverty and sadness

Do your worst to insure I will never find any gladness.

I’ve made my plans to beat your policies and madness

Making next year hopeful with goodness, not badness.




<a href=””>Ovation</a&gt;

ovation. : a noisy celebration. OED




Standing at the railway station

Waiting for the pop star’s train

Miranada joined in the ovation

Hoping to glimpse him once again.


Seven years since she had seen him

Behind night’s dark bushes at the gig 

Where all he said was,”My name’s Jim”

Her heart pined for this man so big.


He tore the love from out her heart

As she gave herself to him that night,

Then saw him swaggeringly depart

No backward glance of any delight. 


Today she watched as with his band

The train pulled in, and at its arrival,

A grenade she threw, watched it land.

Caring not even for her own survival


As big Jim and fans lay dead or dying

Youngsters fleeing from the awful din.

Save Miranda, avenged heart flying,

Watching her seven year ovation win.



<a href=””>Maddening</a&gt;

the first of three blogs in response to ‘Lifelessons’ post : “An Agnostic’s (creed?) Query”


                                                           MADDENING EVEN FOR GOD


God, the master potter at the wheel of life

sat eternally at his treadle and idly threw clay

watching it spin and respond to his moulding hands.

He made the most beautiful goblets and plates

but every now and then his kiln stoker, Lucifer,

distracted him and one of his creations would slide

off kilter and be in part distorted.

Half smiling, he’d scoop it up, roll it back

into a wet ball and throw it on the wheel again.

Lucifer laughed.

God simply shook his head and returned to his work.

He had to mend the ones that he didn’t get quite right

because of these interruptions. So, just for fun,

he shaped them to resemble human beings

and played with them in a world he had created

and named planet Earth.

God loved them as he remoulded them, 

they were so cute.

He made up games for them

making them keep to the rules.

They were very happy and loved him.

He called them ‘souls’.

But thinking they were just toys,

Lucifer started playing with them too.




<a href=””>Martyr</a&gt;

a martyr is one who would lay down their life for what they believed



Just imagine being ordered to

“Deny your God or I’ll kill you.”

I was once, in a war of  ideology

Them and us and our theology.


The brainwashed soldier cornered me

Believing his creed meant I had to be

Dead at his feet, or he he would go to hell.

A shot rang out. He was dead where he fell.


God then had spared me from having to decide 

Was I a coward or a saint, standing by his side.

I will never be able to know beyond all doubt

Whether I loved him so much I could opt out


Of being a Christian hero, earthly life no more,

Trusting I would be taken to Heaven years before

I had expected; strange thoughts  confused my head

How would my friends and family cope if I were dead?


But I had been spared this decision, left to ponder long

Would they rather have loved me in hymn and song

Or Would God have let me pray for them from his paradise?

I’m glad I was no martyr asked to choose how to suffer twice.







<a href=””>Sacred</a&gt;

hope you all get the twist & joke


Luc Boncourt de Rochebrune was really quite fortunate in the circumstances of his birth. His father died when he was sixteen months old, he was an only child. His mother had died in childbirth. He was thus a very wealthy young Frenchman as the family lawyers had ensured he had a first class academic education and had wisely invested his fortune for him.

October the eighteenth 1960, his eighteenth birthday, as stipulated by his father’s will, saw him inherit two vineyards, a small château in the Loire valley and a seventeen room apartment on the Isle Saint Louis in the middle of the Seine in the centre of Paris. A very large inheritance indeed. He had no close blood relations at all and it was only the prospect of going to university in Paris the following year that made him think his life might actually change into something he would enjoy for the first time in his life. His father had been a very pious man, and had decided his child would bear the name of the saint on whose feast he was born.

In 1941 The forty year old die hard, anti-Nazi French soldier, who had fled to England with General de Gaulle in 1939, was chosen to lead an underground sabotage mission back to his home city and was smuggled into Paris in January 1941 from England. He soon became a key player in a plot to thwart German plans in occupied France. Unfortunately his second in command was a tearaway young Frenchwomen, Therese, so totally his opposite in everyday life that he hardly knew how to speak to her. She would do anything to make life hard for the Hun. Unfortunately on one day this involved seducing a German general for long enough to let the resistance steal vital plans from his headquarters.

Well Boncourt senior was a staunch Catholic who thought nothing could ever justify this. Therese thought exactly the opposite. Finally Luc’s father squared his conscience in a very unholy way. He could not bear the thought of pleasuring a German for any reason at all and actually succeeded in capturing the man himself, hours before Therese was supposed to visit his headquarters. So when she arrived and saw the supposed Nazi leader waiting for her she just shrugged and in true French style thought she might as well enjoy the ordeal. That was when she discovered what her commander had done. She was flaming.

“Okay, let the others steal the plans, Boncourt, but don’t deprive me of my fun. I have risked my life for this!” and so saying, being a former prostitute and something of an expert, she, captured her leader and possessed herself of his virginity, all in a matter of minutes. Was the pious patriot shocked and covered with guilt at his own conduct? Not at all. He knew his comrade’s history and so immediately told her she now had no choice but to marry him. She stared at him as though he was mad. Then he told her how much he was worth. If they got back to England and she gave up her old profession she would be a very wealthy lady. And so it came to pass. They completed the mission and were smuggled back to London a few weeks later having married in the meantime.

You can guess what happened; they enjoyed life in England for a while, Boncourt senior turning out to be very good at a pastime he had denied himself for some twenty five years, and Therese gave birth to Luc on the appropriate day in 1942. Unfortunately a bomb fell on the hospital where she was giving birth and while baby Luc survived the raid she did not. The French leaders in London made something of a hero of the baby and assured his father he would be well looked after. And as well they did because Boncourt senior returned to French occupied territory the following year and he too was a victim of war. Fortunately Gaullistes do nothing by halves and gave little Luc everything his father would have wanted until the day in October 1960 when our story starts.

Celebrating his birthday with his good friend Giles he confided that his total worth was now about $50 million, or some £18 million for our British readers. Also the huge, luxurious apartment in the most sought after part of the capital was his to live in and still get to school every day in good time thanks to a chauffeur and very good housekeeper. But he asked Giles, in confidence,

“Dis-moi, coco” no we’ll keep it Anglophone .. “Tell me mate” how does one meet a respectable young girlfriend in this place? The only reply anyone ever gives me involves buying girls off the street and that is not at all what I want. I would really like to fall in love with a good living, pretty, cheerful Catholic girl like myself. Any ideas?”

“For a start, Luc, you’re not a young girl – are you? – no I didn’t think so. Okay my oldest sister went to a convent near here and there are plenty of nice Catholic girls there. I can easily fix us up for a pleasant meal out with a couple and take in a film if you’ll foot the bill. Okay?” What else are friends for? The had two trips out with different girls who were nice enough and then on the last day of term before Christmas Luc was sure he’d hit the jackpot. Eugenie was gorgeous. But more than that she went to Mass every Sunday, had a great sense of humour and they immediately hit it off. It was almost as though they were made for each Other.

Reverend Mother Madeleine, head mistress of the convent school, was rather concerned and so had a chat with the bursar who looked after school fees and how they were paid. They were the top ladies running the school. “Have you noticed that we have given Eugenie Gautier four evenings out this term? It’s a bit worrying as I’m told every time it is with the same young man, Luc Boncourt. What do we know of him? Should I ask his headmaster Father Jerome?”

The bursar had blanched. Her lip trembled and she blessed herself. “Luc who?” she stuttered. “Are you sure that’s his surname? All her fees are paid by the Boncourt estate.” 

“Why? Yes, I believe it is. But they go to Mass together on Sundays so everything must be alright.” The bursar shook her head and fiddled in a drawer in her desk before taking out a thick file. She passed it over saying,

“Read that, Madeleine. I can fill you in on the rest.”the

I fear my readers are about to get ahead of me. Yes it’s true. He did. When Luc’s father returned to Paris after his wife’s death he made every effort to trace her origins and found the street near the rue Saint Denis where she plied her nightly trade. He asked round amongst the girls if anybody could tell him if his wife had any relatives. She had none, they were sure she was an orphan, but when she met Boncourt she was twenty three. They all knew about little Eugenie. Her first child, born just three weeks before she started her resistance work, was entrusted to some girls working south of Paris and who promised to look after her and keep her safe while her mother fought with the resistance. It seemed she would have been ten months old when Luc was born.

Boncourt did the best he could. He arranged for the girl to be transferred to his chateau on the Loire and be brought up as a lady. All her expenses would be paid by his bankers from London if and when the war ever ended. And so they were. The Bursar looked at the headmistress and said, “she leaves school this summer to go to university and is very bright. She is now nineteen and a bit by our records, but I fear she could also be related to Luc. Maybe even his half sister!”

Who was going to tell them? Eventually it was agreed Father Jerome and Luc would visit the convent where Eugenie and the Reverend Mother would talk to them. The nun and the monk were very apprehensive as they tried to start the conversation. But to their relieve the youngsters smiled at them and Eugenie spoke first, “Have you got us here to tell us we must stop going out together because we are brother and sister?” She was answered by incredulous nods. “Well I’ll let Luc explain.”

“When I went out with Eugenie for the second time I realised I had to act. I have here, “ and Luc produced a worn envelope from his pocket, “the last letter my father ever wrote, to his lawyers in London. It appears he feared I might try to find out my mother’s origins so told me what he had done. He arranged, he thought, for my half sister to be looked after and well educated. But his plans failed. It is true I had a half sister called Eugenie, a year older than I, but she was killed by the Germans when still a baby. However, the girls looking after her thought they should not waste Papa’s gift and so sent a much younger little girl to his chateau. Her mother was untraceable so they called her Eugenie too and this is her. Can none of you see how her origins can always be traced and shown not to be my mother?” There were blank faces all round. “Well what’s her surname?” asked Luc.

The bursar piped up, “Gautier. Was that not your mother’s surname?”

Luc grinned, “I don’t know, but Papa told us in the letter he thought it was Sacré. No the girls called her ‘Gautier’ so there could be no doubt who she was!!

“Father Jerome laughed. I think even the nuns may have read the book, Luc, or at least seen La Traviata! And then the nuns both smiled. No she’s not your sister Luc, the younger Dumas and then Verdi saw to that. I think you two are all right. But why did your father think your mother’s surname might be associated with something Holy?”

“Luc and Eugenie almost replied together. Because she was something he grew to love early in the year. She was his “Sacré du Printemps.”


<a href=””>Panoply</a&gt;

Obama’s chance to earn his Nobel Peace prize.


Following his incredibly egocentric boasting of his pleasure at being congratulated by the president of Taiwan, without even thinking about the effect this action would have on Sino-US relations, Donald Trump proved beyond doubt that he is mentally unbalanced and an unfit person to hold a position of global power. He could easily cause a world war. Okay the Western world is fed up with today’s political establishment but that does not excuse risking a nuclear conflict.

But there is a huge constitutional question here for President Obama. The constitution does not deal specifically with modern technology which could allow egomaniacs like Trump (and Kim) to press a button and kill billions of people if they felt like it. Trump is obviously mentally unstable, his election has made his mental condition far worse, and he must be removed from public life immediately for the safety of mankind. This can be done by President Obama who has the power to order Trump’s immediate medical examination and determination of his mental state. When this is done he can be kept away from the public and be treated for his condition in a suitable hospital.

Under the constitution he would of course not be allowed to be inaugurated if he was sectioned as mentally unfit to hold high office. It would be the most important thing Obama ever did in his eight years as head of state.


<a href=””>Construct</a&gt;

This one really is true!!


I had a shock today, a real shock. I have been seriously ill with six illnesses for many years, one a totally life-limiting anxiey neurosis and phobia since I was five. But recently by far my worst was aggressive cancer which was diagnosed seventeen years ago. In 2000 I had major surgery and weeks and weeks of radio therapy and hormone injections and heavens only knows what else. The result? In the summer of 2001 I was given a maximum of six months to live.

Well since then I have had five cerebral strokes to add to my existing illnesses, the cancer has remained active for the whole time and my pain level, I also have a broken spine from a helicopter crash in Indo Cina many years ago, is such that I live on the maximum daily morphine level permitted for somebody who is not in hospital and medicates themselves under supervision at home. And on top of this my cancer has become aggressive another nine times and I have had three more  terminal prognoses. According to the one this year I should have died last month at the latest. So I underwent a final attempt to remove the spreading disease which MRI scans showed was threating others parts of me. Do you want to hear the shock?

Today I learned that the last peek into my person by surgeon and camera showed that all the new malignant growths had either shrunk to insignificance, disappeared or were just part of the original tumour which has decided to go to sleep again. The doctors just don’t know what to make of me. I was actually asked what I would like to do about my illness now as the medics had completely run out of advice or ideas.

Naturally I was very pleased with the news, even though my permanent fatigue, pain and intermittent mental confusion and slight manual paralysis are still there and always will be. But I just told them to pack up the injections which were painful and useless, keep up the treatment for my last stroke, and leave the rest to me.

My senior cancer doctor just stared at me, smiled, shook her head and said she wouldn’t dream of interfering with me any more. As long as I had blood tests every month to monitor all the symptoms that had to be watched in case they stared getting worse again, she was happy to leave me alone. But she did ask me where I got my phenominal constitution from. That was easy.  I told her I said my prayers every day and had done since I was three years old. She thought I was joking, so I added that I went to Mass as often as I was able, about twice a month, and received Holy Communion whenever I could.

She didn’t see the relevance of my reply and nor did any of her colleagues. They seemed to think I’m just lucky. Well naturally they are right. I’m very, very lucky that  the God I love so much seems to love me a lot too. At least for the time being I have no medical “deadlines” hanging over me.