Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone

Battersea Rise three literary connections – John Walsh – The Falling Angels

Battersea Rise/Lavender Sweep

Battersea Rise Literary connectionsThis is the third of the Battersea Rise Literary Connections – EM Forster, Pamela Hansford Johnson and John Walsh journalist and author who lived on Battersea Rise. Dr Walsh’s house is at the apex of Battersea Rise and Lavender Sweep. The photo below of Lavender Sweep and Battersea Rise was taken in the seventies by my brother-in-law John, who is a pilot.

John Walsh

In his memoirs, The Falling Angels, he gives a somewhat jaundiced view of Battersea and Battersea Rise. This autobiographical and very funny book is about growing up between two cultures and dominated by his Conflicting relationship with his Irish-Catholic heritage which echos James Joyce’s statement that his first mistake was leaving Ireland and his second was going back. John’s book is also an affectionate homage to his parents. What is so resonant for me is the Galway connections as well as the Battersea ones. His parents did retire to Galway to Oranmore which is five miles from the city and where we now return to stay with my eldest sister Ida who lives there. John referred to his mother as The Widow of Oranmore and she who had been the Pope’s representative in Battersea. This book is one of the best for understanding the Irish experience in Britain both the immigrant and that of the second and even the third generations living here. We all enjoyed the book very much.

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Battersea Rise/Lavender Sweep

Lionel Shriver reviewed it and liked it.  http://www.theguardian.com › Arts › Books › Biography

The tension between an English upbringing and an Irish heritage is gentle, more entertainment than torment, as John Walsh, former literary editor of the Sunday Times and now at the Independent, would doubtless agree. Hence the aims of his warm, seamlessly well-written memoir The Falling Angels are modest: to tease out the strands of Union Jack and Tricolour woven into his personal history, and to determine which flag flies over his own life……..The prose in The Falling Angels is fluent, its craftsmanship meticulous. The dialogue is dead-on

Critical Praise   http://www.harpercollins.co.uk/9780006531227/the-fallingangels

‘A book to be relished’   WILLIAM TREVOR

‘The reader should be warned that this is a book that makes you laugh out loud in public. A magnificent entertainment’  Bernard O’Donoghue, Independent

‘The Falling Angels is a work of autobiography dominated by a single theme – the author’s love-hate relationship with his Irish-Catholic heritage. John Walsh’s father was a doctor from Galway and his mother was a nurse from Sligo. They came to England to find employment, met on a pilgrimage to Rome, married, and settled in the scruffy Battersea end of Clapham, where Walsh and his sister Madelyn were brought up… Anyone with even the slightest interest in or connection with Ireland will have a grand time with this book’      DAVID LODGE, SUNDAY TIMES

‘A beautifully written book, a family memoir which is moving, honest and funny by turns… the description of the terrible evening in which Walsh insists that his father, mother and a visiting priest and nun watch a film about Ireland – only to find that it contains an explicit and embarrassing sex scene – made me cry with laughter… Anyone who has visited Ireland, or grew up there will feel serial tremors of recognition at the details he describes’  JENNY MCCARTNEY, SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

‘In an age of unreliable fake-Irish memoirs, John Walsh’s The Falling Angels convincingly and hilariously anatomises the uncertain identities of the émigré Irish middle class…’
ROY FOSTER, NEW STATESMAN BOOKS OF THE YEAR —

He does reference EM Forster who is the first of these three literary connections to Battersea Rise. Forster wrote about his great aunt Marianne Thornton whose family home was the grand mansion called Battersea Rise which was sited nearby on the Westside of Clapham.

Battersea Rise

John wrote: “ EM Forster once rhapsodised about his cousins’ fashionable home with the words: “Battersea Rise! What a thrill the name gives me. Did I ever go to the house in the early Eighties, led by some cousin in my peacock-blue velvet suit?” (Apparently, he did go there once aged 8 before his great aunt had to leave as her brother Henry Wilkes Thornton inherited it for his family). Forster chose to write about his cousin rather than about her father Henry Thornton who was one of the Clapham sect and who was an anti-slavery campaigner along with his charismatic cousin William Wilberforce with whom he shared the house before each of them got married. Forster called his book a domestic biography which is much about the about the house which he related to in a vicarious way as it is about his aunt but using family correspondences. When the house was demolished he wrote scathingly about what came afterwards.

He wrote: Clapham once infested by highway men , turned first into a pleasant suburb and then into an unpleasant suburb” . I wonder what he would say to the residents of the desirable Edwardian house on the West side of the common who need to be well paid professionals or city traders to buy them now and evidenced in the swarms of estate agents who ply their trade  in the area. There were only two of them in the vicinity when we bought our home in 1968 and one of them was Edwin Evans who had bought the Thornton’s house and grounds.

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John Walsh when reviewing a restaurant SOIF opposite his former home wrote: The Rise itself never had many pretensions, however. It’s a strip of London’s South Circular up which, in the 1960s, enormous car-transporter lorries used to run through the night and make the houses shake.

Soif

How do I know? Because, dear reader, Battersea Rise was where I grew up between the ages of 10 and 18. I know every inch of it. I remember when, across the road from our house at No 8, you’d find Midwinters the grocers, Kalsi the chemist, Edwardes the furniture store, plus a butcher and a baker.

The painting is by Benjamin Hope.     benjaminhope.net/    

Battersea Rise Ben Hope

I met Ben when he was painting this at the end of our road Lavender Sweep and I mentioned to him that it was Dr Walsh’s house who used to be our GP and that his son John had written about it and described it as like the prow of a ship. Ben held his first solo exhibition in the JP Gallery which is a few doors down from this house on Battersea Rise. John attended the preview of the exhibition and wrote a lovely article on it in The Independent magazine.Bens exhibition

Courtenay, a local estate agent, produced a calendar which included this photo of Ben painting Al fresco.

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“It was a big house but hardly a Big House. It stood at the crest of a hill and resembled the prow of a ship. Where Battersea Rise and Lavender Sweep met at a sharply acute angle, our back garden formed a thin V-shape, with a black wrought-iron lamp at its apex, the figurehead of the SS Walsh……  When we first moved there  in 1963 I was ecstatic to find an air-raid shelter at the end of the garden ……..From the garden you could see the edge of Clapham Common…….It was a very English sort of place. It had been a haven of middle-class luxury in the nineteenth century”

John claimed that by the time his family came; The Battersea end of Clapham Common  was a dump, a service area for Clapham Junction; the busiest, noisiest  and dirtiest railway junction in the country. It was a stridently working class and immigrant neighbourhood then: a tough coarse-grained part of inner suburbia. 

He was right about the area being working class and immigrant. That was what made it vibrant. Later all those bed sits were taken over and turned flats and houses and what is called  ‘regeneration’ was really social cleansing as it changed the demographics of Battersea and it became a Tory constituency and subsumed into the borough of Wandsworth.

The merchant

He goes on to claim that the skinhead phenomenon started around the junction and depicts an exaggerated image  “where gangs of forty or fifty bald adolescents  with braces and Doc Marten  boots would congregate , before marauding across the Common in search of homosexuals, hippies,  and (later on) Asian youths to bash up”

I never saw any marauding hordes heading to the Common. He continues The pedestrian walkway that led to the station featured in the movie Up the Junction, giving my backyard a sudden dodgy gleam of trendy squalor ……But it put Clapham Junction on the map as the essence of ‘Sarf Lunnen’ – a place of gormless listless violent, Philistine , charmless non-endeavour – occasionally enlivened by shrieks of laughter from big girls with ragged stockings and white lipstick, who all looked like Adrienne Posta“.

We didn’t wear ragged stockings but pink lippy was much in evidence.

UPJ girls singing

Oh dear, he does seem to have been so alienated from the life of those around where he lived but it isn’t how I remember it but I was older and more integrated into life here. He was too young to have been going to local pubs. We used to occasionally meet his Dad in The Alexandra – an Irish pub – by Clapham Common tube Station.

The alex pub

This sounds to me just as snobbish as EM Forster and Pamela Hansford Johnson had been about Battersea as it changed and became more populated.

The thing about John Walsh was that he went to a private Catholic school in Wimbledon and came home to a very  Irish household in Battersea. This is unlike the experience of my children with just one Irish parent who eschewed the Catholic Irish community and they attended local state schools. He acknowledges that his perspective of Battersea was of a tripartite ghetto shared among the blacks, the Irish and the Poles. He seemed to have overlooked the English. Of  course, I have always thought that segregated sectarian schooling is unhealthy  and divisive and therefore not good preparation for life adult life, especially if one comes from an immigrant background but in general I think it is wrong to segregate children according to the parents religious beliefs.

Breakfast club queue

He depicts the environs of Battersea Rise ‘as a boring dusty Junction serving  corridor…. an artery, a migratory conduit …..had become subsumed under a a later name:the South Circular Road. Yet his domestic life was entirly Irish sustained by a freemasonry of London Irish. Amongst them were their accountant, all manner of tradesmen and he mentions their cleaning lady Mrs Geoghan whose daughter I happened to meet at a funeral I took

The  exiled Irish that came drifting by our Battersea retreat included the priests from the local catholic Church St Vincent De Paul, his mother’s nursing friends and the women from the church. One very funny chapter is entitled ‘Singing the Greens’  and is devoted to the sing songs  and the party pieces that are  apart of it that took place at the gathering in his parents house amongs the fug of smoke, the whiskey and bottles of Guinness consumed. The chapter on the the Irish language and idiom is also marvellously entertaining.

Batt Rise Leonora

The three literary perspectives connected to Battersea Rise are from different eras. I have decided on the quaint and colourful image painted by Leonora Green from the thirties of the lower end of Battersea Rise at the junction with Northcote Road and the eponymous pub to represent this neighbourhood that I have lived in for my adult life. I still cannot imagine living anywhere else. I love that Battersea has had such a rich socialist and radical political history and I hope to continue to celebrate the place and appreciate its icons like the Battersea Power Station, The Battersea Arts Centre, The Cats and Dogs Home, Battersea Park and the riverfront, the bridges and the pubs even some churches – St Mary’s and St Lukes and the writers who have have written about the place.

Pamela Hansford Johnson Battersea Rise literary connection

Posted in Pamela hansford Johnson Battersea Rise literary connection, Uncategorized by sheelanagigcomedienne on December 2, 2015

Pamela Hansford Johnson 1912-1981  was born and lived at 53 Battersea Rise the ground floor of which is now a pleasant cafe with a little garden called Tim’s Kitchen. She was author of 27 novels, a critic and a Proustian scholar

Wendy Pollard is her biographer. I got our library on Lavender Hill to order it, as a matter of principle, and hogged it for months! I was intrigued to read the first paragraph in the introduction to it.  Some years ago, idling  while on holiday  in a second-hand bookshop in Galway, I came across a penguin edition of a novel called Too Dear for My Possessing. The name of the author, Pamela Hansford Johnson ….
This could have been Kenny’s or Charlie Byrne’s -well known Galway bookshops.

Pamela HJ biog by Wendy pollard

 

Pamela was the daughter of Amy née Howson, an actor and singer with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, and Reginald Johnson, a colonial administrator who worked as chief storekeeper on the Baro Kano Railway in what is now Ghana. He was frequently absent, and she grew up with her mother’s family of actors and theatrical administrators. Her mother’s father, C E Howson, worked for the London Lyceum Company, as Sir Henry Irving’s Treasurer.

Pamela described her home in the first of the autobiographical essays contained in her book Important to Me, as “a large brick terrace house”on Battersea Rise. Battersea Rise runs between Clapham Common down and across the valley of Northcote Road/St. John’s Road and up to the Roundhouse pub going over the railway line near the site  of the awful Clapham Junction railway disaster in December 1988 when 35 people were killed and 500 people injured when three trains collided.

53-battersea-rise-home-of-ph-johnson

 

The house had been bought by her grandfather in the 1890s, a time when she claimed  “it looked out on fields where sheep might safely graze. But by the time I was born, the railway had come, and the houses had been built up right over the hills between it and us. Not pretty, I suppose.” I think her description of the house looking out on ‘fields where sheep may safely graze’ was somewhat fanciful for 1890 as Battersea Rise was a main road then and the streets in behind, Lindore and Almeric, had been built on the former mansion and grounds of the Ashness family by Thomas Ingram the most prolific of Battersea’s Victorian developers according to the Survey of London. The railway had come in 1863.

 

 

The delightful painting by Leonora Green entitled View from my window looking across at the Northcote pub up Battersea Rise towards number 53 is very much how it would have been in Pamela’s day.

 

Batt Rise Leonora

 

Most commentators claim Pamela was born in Clapham which is wrong. We are used to such confusions and some of us get more irritated than others about this! Of course, Battersea Rise is close to Clapham Common and, with its leafy, rustic connotations, is why our station got misnamed. Again I would quibble with the Survey of London comment ‘No doubt for snobbish reasons residents usually gave their addresses as being in Clapham, Clapham Common or Wandsworth, but Battersea very seldom, unless Battersea Rise, a name with cachet’ .  I wonder how Pamela referred to where she came from.

 

Her grandfather Charles had come from Australia in the 1870s and his family had been involved in theatre and musical entertainment there. He went on to work as an administrator for Henry Irving who had attracted his attention when Charles was playing in the orchestra of the Lyceum in London. Bram Stoker, who had been a civil servant and part time critic in Dublin became Irving’s theatre manager but the two two men clashed. Charles referred to Stoker as Irving’s secretary and Pamela related:One day he came home with a greyish volume in his hands, and said to his children, ‘Stoker has written a beastly book. It’s all about people who suck other people’s blood and lunatics who eat flies.’ He put it straight on the fire. It was, of course, the first edition of Dracula. (Important to Me: Personalia (1974 pp.67-68)

 

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This Irving connection was important in Pamela’s early life and the hallways of their house were hung with Irving ephemera –  photographs, playbills, programmes and costume sketches . This and the anecdotes she would have heard came into play in her novel Catherine Carter (1952).

 

 

Pamela related that as Irving liked to deck his stage with good-looking people her grandmother Helen and her three daughters occasionally got non-speaking roles in his more lavish productions which toured. I was not impressed by a badly punctuated letter sent from Dublin from said grandmother Helen : Begorra and bejabers here we are right here! And don’t I like Dublin faith and I do especially the jaunting cars and the whiskey and the Guinness stout.

 

 

When Amy and Reginald married they joined Amy’s mother and her sister Kalie at 53. Pamela considered herself classless and thought of herself and family as Bohemians but  admitted in her memoirs that: I am afraid that my family was afflicted with a degree of snobbery : the thought of ‘marrying into trade’ afflicted them.

Pamela was christened at St Marks Church Battersea Rise and she attended services there.

 

St Marks battersea Rise

It has now become evangelical under the vicar Paul Perkins and runs an Alpha course for well-off but unfulfilled adherents and has been accused of homophobia Maverick church deepens C of E divide over gay marriage ..

Her father died suddenly when he came back on leave and his widow was left with debts and economies made. All manner of lodgers were taken in and PHJ wrote:

one was speedily removed, being suspected of sleeping sickness: one, a
rubicund Welshman, got into fights on the stairways with my Uncle
Charlie: one, who posed as a doctor living with his sister, sat quietly
upstairs manufacturing pornographic literature, until the police caught
up with him. (Important, p.67)

Pamela had attended Clapham County Girls School and began writing then. She wrote a poem called The Curtain which was published in a magazine The Town Crier when she was fourteen and it is unlikely the editor knew it was from self-asssured a young teenager who became an acclaimed novelist.

 

Pamela poem

She thrived at school and loved theatre and novels and wrote in Important to me . 

From the age of eleven to about fourteen, I and a few like-minded
school friends saved up for our Saturday treat. This was invariably the
same. We would climb to the top of the Monument, where we would
eat our sandwiches, and look out on the panorama of London. Then
we would go to the Old Vic – Lilian Bayliss’ theatre – to sit on a hard
gallery seat – price 6d .
She was involved with the Quondam Club, the old girls society and she remained close to Ethel A. Jones, the headmistress throughout her time at the school, until the death of the latter in 1966.
Her mother encouraged her to bring her friends- girls and boys home and little parties were allowed. That way mother thought she could keep a watchful eye on daughter.
PHJ could not go to university. Instead, her mother enrolled her
in a six-month secretarial course at the upmarket Triangle Secretarial College in South Molton Street, Mayfair. Through the College she obtained a job, in May 1930, as a shorthand typist with associated secretarial duties at a branch of an American bank, Central Hanover Bank and Trust Co, Regent Street. She kept on writing including doggerel about children for Woman’s Friend including this cringe-making one on the birth of Princess Margaret.
A jewel in a Royal crown
Into the world a Princess came,
And all the fairies, smiling down
Upon her, sought to find a name.
But they could think of nothing meet
For one so small – so very sweet.
Yet, as she glowed both soft and bright,
Cuddled within her cradle-bower,
They all agreed to name the sprite
After a jewel and a flower;
So, with one voice, the fairies chose
To call her Margaret and Rose!
(Note: the name Margaret means a pearl.
She had various boyfriends by the time she met Dylan Thomas.
Her poem ‘Chelsea Reach’was published in the Sunday Referee
and, as a prize for the best poem the newspaper had published in the last six months, a volume of her poetry, Symphony for Full Orchestra, appeared in 1934. In September 1933 another Sunday Referee
poem, ‘Thy Sanity Be Kept’, led her to begin a correspondence with its author, an unknown Welsh poet called Dylan Thomas. The correspondence developed into a romance, with meetings in London when he came to stay at Battersea Rise and so did his family and she went to Swansea. No doubt, he wanted more sex than he was getting from her.
They showed each other their work. In one letter he wrote: You’ve got a style and a matter of your own. … can’t think of anyone’s stories printed today that are better . You are bloody good…you’ve got nearly everything that Katherine Mansfield possessed and a good deal more. ..Go on, go on my darling lady.
Pamela and Dylan Thomas

Pamela and Dylan Thomas

There was serious talk of marriage. Dylan had told her he was the same age as her in his first letter, was actually not yet nineteen when their correspondence began and thus too young to marry at that time without his parents’ permission. Her mother erroneously and dramatically claimed to Phillip Snow, brother of PHJ’s second husband that they had got to the steps of Chelsea Registry office  and she followed them there and had forbidden the marriage!! Their stormy relationship and his letters to Pamela are recounted in the biography and he does come across as a young brat. They used to meet in the Six Bells on the Kings Road.

About the time of her first novel Pamela, mother and aunt sold up and moved to Chelsea. Pollard suggests that socially, central London was the place to which she aspired and reckoned a passage from Johnson’s fifteenth novel, An Impossible Marriage (1954),applies to young Pamela herself;
W.1. It had a magical sound in those days for the young living far beyond in the greater numerals:S.W.11,N.W.12,S.E.14. Perhaps it still has. It meant an excitement, a dangling of jewels in the dusk, music and wine. It meant having enough money not to get up on the cold,sour mornings and catch the crowded bus.
 Much later in 1956 she and Snow moved into a mansion flat at 199 Cromwell Road and in 1968, they moved to their last home, 85 Eaton Terrace in Belgravia.
According to her biographer her mother and aunt were buried in St Mark’s Cemetery but she must have meant St Mary’s cemetery which is opposite the church.

In later life Pamela invoked where she was brought up. In  June 1957, dining with C. P. Snow, at the Governor General’s residence in Malta, she recorded in her diary her impression of an‘exceedingly glamorous’ evening—‘lights in trees, beautiful garden….Oh,a long way from Clapham Junction’ (272). When visiting Eton after Philip, her son by Snow, had won a scholarship there, she observed: ‘O, a long way from Clapham Junction!’ Commentator Nicolas Tredell concludes: “This might suggest a snobbish disdain for low origins but come as the base by which to measure her upward mobility”

 

PHJ left Battersea when she was 22 in 1934 and so I finish this second literary connection to Battersea Rise. However, there is a conversation planned as part of the Battersea Society events for next year on Pamela Hansford Johnson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Battersea Rise literary connections

Posted in Battersea Rise literary connections EM Forster by sheelanagigcomedienne on November 25, 2015

Battersea Rise runs from the corner of Clapham Common Northside up to  the Roundhouse pub and forms part of the south circular road. The literary connections are associated with the section from the junction at the bottom of the Hill which is slightly more salubrious. This is alluded to by Pamela Hansford Johnson one of our three authors who lived here as did John Walsh -journalist and author – whereas EM Forster once visited the house called Battersea Rise in which his paternal great grandparents had lived and which he commemorated in the book Marianne Thornton who was his patron and great aunt. image

In the Survey of London Battersea,which has become somewhat of a bible for those researching the area, dubiously states: No doubt for snobbish reasons residents usually gave their addresses as being in Clapham, Clapham Common or Wandsworth, but Battersea very seldom, unless Battersea Rise, a name with cachet. 

Battersea Rise Crossroads from my window by leonora Green

Leonora Green Crossroad from my window

I think that remark about Battersea residents, even the more recent ones,  about their address is wrong and subjective. It has been businesses that have often used Clapham in their title. I know that the naming of Clapham Junction in Battersea has caused confusion. This was noted at the time of the disturbances in 2011 when reporters referred to riots in in Clapham High Street opposite Clapham Junction station. The is a campaign about getting the name right.Battersea Junction – the ‘SW11tch’ campaign continues …

Battersea Rise

BATTERSEA RISE HOUSE and EM Forster

Battersea Rise House was bought in 1792 by Henry Thornton who was a banker and one of the celebrated Clapham Sect.  Much of this information has come from the Survey of London. Battersea – The Bartlett

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Battersea Rise/Lavender Sweep

Henry Thornton (1760-1815) was a philanthropist and economist. In 1780 he entered his father’s counting-house, and two or three years later became a partner, then he joined the bank of Downe, Free & Thornton, of which he was an active member until his death. In 1782 Thornton was elected MP for Southwark, and he held the seat until the end of his life. He was an influential member of the ‘Clapham Sect’, and a friend, supporter and cousin of William Wilberforce. In 1792 he bought a house at Battersea Rise on Clapham Common and lived there initially with Wilberforce.   In 1796 Thornton married Marianne Sykes.  Wilberforce went to live at Broomfield (later Broomwood) House on his marriage in 1797.

Henry and Marianne had nine children including Marianne, who didn’t marry and was great aunt to EM Forster. Her sister Laura married  the Rev. Charles Forster. The marriage of Charles and Laura Forster produced Edward Morgan Llewellyn Forster, an architect, who married Lily and their only son was Edward Morgan Forster (1879-1970), novelist and man of letters. There was a mix up with the names at EMs christening who came to be known as Morgan. His  great aunt Marianne, known as Monie left him £8,000, which enabled him to go to Cambridge and be financially independent enough to exist as a writer. He repaid his debt by writing her biography in 1956.

Marianne Thornton

Two of Thornton’s brothers, Samuel and Robert, owned villas on Clapham Common Southside and Thornton’s aim in buying Battersea Rise House and the land surrounding it was to create a community of like-minded and high-minded friends. Two substantial houses, Glenelg and Broomfield later renamed Broowoood were built in the grounds, with Wilberforce moving into Broomfield House when he married in 1797.

 

Battersea Rise House became the centre of, and meeting place, for the Clapham Sect dedicated to, in Wilberforce’s words “the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners”. Thornton was the prime organiser and financier of the campaign and Wilberforce provided its heart and charismatic leadership. God and Mammon easily went hand in hand.

Battersea Rise House became hallowed as the shrine of the ‘Clapham saints’. They used to attend The Holy Trinity Church on Clapham Common which is close to Trinity Hospice.

 

The Thornton house’s pièce de résistance was the library in the south-west position. Part of the 1790s additions ,it was higher and longer than the front rooms. It was latterly called the Pitt Room because of the Thornton family tradition that William Pitt designed it. The story is plausible, as Pitt was close to Wilberforce when the room was created, and interested in architecture.
BatterseA rISE hOUSE LIBRARY
As Battersea Rise evolved, it became an amalgam of cherished rooms,

possessions and Thornton family memories. The house has often been described as‘Queen Anne’.

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The Library Battersea Rise House

The one unifying factor was the garden. In his essay of 1844,‘The Clapham Sect’, Sir James Stephen recalled it as the meeting point for the community of Clapham adherents and their children in debate or play, and depicted the key members issuing forth into it from their surrounding houses.
Battersea Rise House garden with flowers by bursill

Battersea Rise House by FN Bursill Wandsworth Museum

The fullest description of the Battersea Rise grounds comes from Dorothy Pym (1934), another descendant who visited often in the 1890s. She names many flowers and shrubs, and underlines the high standards of horticulture and maintenance: ‘the paths at Battersea Rise were as speckless and spotless as the carpets themselves’
The eldest son, Henry Sykes Thornton, became titular head of the clan, and continued the family’s evangelical connections, participating invarious religious initiatives in Battersea. But the guardianship of the family’s intellectual and moral traditions passed to his older sister, Marianne Thornton. In 1852 a rift occurred when Henry Sykes Thornton elected to marry his deceased wife’s sister, Emily Dealtry—technically still an illegality. It was this which led Marianne Thornton to leave Battersea Rise for Clapham village. He died in 1881, and his will allowed for his widow to retain a life-interest in the House, which was to be sold after her death, which happened in 1907.
When we bought our house in 1968 there were two local estate agents -Reginald Harris and Edwin Evans. Edwin Evans only closed down in 2014.  A consortium headed by Edwin Evans who was both developer and estate agent bought the twenty-two acres that were auctioned and plans were approved for the building of houses, a church and a school. It seems that it was only at this point that the importance of Battersea Rise House was realised as the focus of the anti-slavery movement and a campaign was got up to save the house as a memorial.
Evans offered to sell at ‘cost price’ the house and two acres of land to Battersea Council, but because he was a prominent Conservative and the Council was in ‘Progressive’ hands, the offer was rejected and the demolition went ahead. Oh dear!
NPG 4698; E. M. Forster by Dora Carrington

by Dora Carrington

 

This is the background to the Battersea Rise House that EM wrote about. He understood the significance of home and house which is reflected in Howards End and in his attachment to his own home Rooksnest.

His book is based ‘almost entirely upon family papers’. Parts of Forster’s narrative call into question the family values. His decision to focus upon her rather than one of his more publicly famous ancestors enabled him to emphasise the private implications of public life and give pride of place to the inner life. She had lived there most of her life with her brother and his family till the rift occurred.

Christopher Tolley has written an account of this book. Marianne Thornton: E. M. Forster and Clapham Domestic Biography: The Legacy of Evangelicalism in Four ..

EM did not share his predecessor’s particular religious views and this is why he identified more with Marianne and her more down-to-earth attitudes. He also questioned inherited wealth, the wealth that he felt produced the imaginative poverty of Henry Thornton and his spiritual materialism. EM was an avowed Humanist which is, of course, one reason why he would appeal to me. E M Forster – British Humanist Association

 

Forster wrote about his Humanism in a famous essay entitled What I Believe. He was President of the National Council for Civil Liberties, now Liberty. Forster called himself a humanist, and was President of the Cambridge Humanists from 1959 to his death. He was a Vice-President of the Ethical Union in the 1950s, and a member of the Advisory Council of the British Humanist Association from its foundation in 1963.
His work and viewpoint were summed up in a series on British Authors (Cambridge University Press) as:“the voice of the humanist – one seriously committed to human values while refusing to take himself too seriously. Its tone is inquiring, not dogmatic. It reflects a mind aware of the complexities confronting those who wish to live spiritually satisfying, morally responsible lives in a world that increasingly militates against individual’s needs. Sensitively and often profoundly, Forster’s fiction explores the problems such people encounter.” He shared many ideas with, and was friendly with, members of the Bloomsbury Group.
John Walsh, journalist and author of The Falling Angels – a memoir of growing up second generation Irish on Battersea Rise refers to EM Forster when talking of Battersea Rise and contrasting it with his own view of it growing up there in the sixties. Sin sceal eile – it is another story in this trilogy of literary connection and Battersea Rise.

Last things and final flings

Posted in Last Things and Final Fling by sheelanagigcomedienne on September 17, 2015

Last things and final flings.

I came across the website  Silversurfers – Over 50s Lifestyle & News Website    I looked for the section on last things – end-of-life, death, funerals and memorials in their Lifestyle section – well where else!  Alas, there was none. Does it mean that the over fifties are not ready to face their mortality?

Standing post box coffin

Standing post box coffin

My every day work revolves around death, funeral arrangements, bereavement, giving talks about our ceremonies and pastoral visits to non-religious people who are dying. I have given thought to what I want when I am dying and for my funeral and what I most certainly do not want like embalming, a hearse, men in black, wreaths etc.

vintage hearse  Hearse Poppy's

The funeral business is still fairly conservative and many people who are planning a funeral go along with what’s being offered in those very busy and stressful few days in which to organise one.

We all need to be open to talk about death and to let those who will be making decisions for us and with us to know our wishes and thoughts on this crucial and inevitable phase of our life. I think that everyone should be concerned to let their next of kin know what are their end-of-life and funeral wishes. It would make things easier for them knowing that they were carrying out your expressed wishes and would confirm for other people that what was happening was what you wanted.

Our generation is very aware that we are living longer than previous generations and what might be in store for us as medical science intervenes. We are aware of diseases like cancer, Alzheimers and of the proliferation of residential care homes for elderly people. The majority of us do not want to die in hospital but it is where the majority of us die. I believe that it since the inception of the NHS after the war that these changes occurred. People mostly died at home and were cared for by family and friends after their death before the Funeral Directors took over this role. We have to start taking back control from those to whom we have handed it over.

We also know that some older people are breaking records and achieving things unheard of for our own parents and grandparents. We enjoy cruises, adventure holidays, attend UEA groups, book clubs, theatres, cinema and concerts, join choirs, embark on new hobbies, go fishing and have embraced the internet and new technologies. But we also need to face our mortality and plan for that too.
There are some great websites on this. One is Final Fling, founded by Barbara Chalmers, after attending a few bad funerals. It is for “people who like to be in control of life and death decisions” It suggests “Sort your paperwork, make plans, leave instructions, tell your story. Save others the bother. Know your options and stay in charge. And meantime, live life to the full”. Final Fling https://www.finalfling.com/

fun funeral clowns
There is the very informative and entertaining one, founded by Charles Cowling, The Good Funeral Guide http://www.goodfuneralguide.co.uk/
It has a useful section plan and structure a non-religious ceremony.

funeral-humor-old-people-at-weddings

The Natural Death Centre is helpful The Natural Death Centre. It has information on suppliers of crafted coffins eg. Respect Everybody Shrouds and http://www.feetfirstcoffins.co.uk

shroud
I think that researching and talking about the possibilities of what can happen at a funeral long before one’s time is fascinating. I do not like the standard coffin with ornate metal-looking plastic handles that are not even designed to be handled. To me it is another example of the fakery of funerals. I have a cardboard coffin in the attic. I would like to have a coffin coffee table but my family wouldn’t. I did once contact IKEA asking if they would consider producing a flat pack coffin. The reply told Madam that ‘the item she referred to is not one that is in our the future product plans’.

We do not have to have a funeral at all but could have a memorial ceremony instead. All FDs should be able to oblige but Poppy’s Funerals in London specialise in them.Alternative Funerals – Simple Cremation – Poppy’s Funerals …

Transport options for those who would like to eschew the black hearse and limousines are vans, estate cars and motorcycles http://www.motorcyclefunerals.com and vintage lorries http://www.vintagelorryfunerals.co.uk

lorry hearse  motorcycle hearse

One of the first changes that I would love to see happening is that non-religious funerals should be happening in people’s homes, gardens in residential homes, in pubs, community venues, hotel function rooms, gardens etc with a small group going to the crematorium for a brief committal and returning to the venue and reception afterwards.
This way there is not the time constraints of the crematorium, more scope for slide shows, music and speakers in a place that is not solely for the purpose of disposal of dead bodies by cremation. So often people do return to a pub or hotel for funeral ‘afters’ (it is not a wake!)

fun funeral  fun facebook funeral

So, I think that we need to be talking about what we would prefer to happen and not accept the traditional sombre Victorian black funeral derived from a standard Church of England service or a Catholic mass. I think that all funerals should be about celebrating the person and include their lifestory and thoughts and memories of them from family and friends. There should be some humour in funerals as there is in life. A good funeral will include laughter as well as tears and sadness. Those attending should learn something new about the person who had died – their home and family life as well as well as their work life and their social life and interests.

It is good to hear about the person from different perspectives from spouses, children and grandchildren, colleagues and friends. It is often said to me that the person who has died would have appreciated the service. The obvious response is that we should be holding such dedication ceremonies while people are alive! I like to collect memorable phrases from funerals that I call ‘Oh bits from obits’ eg “ After father died mother and I enlisted in the Indian Army in Gwalia”. or “When Lawrence was told by his instructor to get a feel for the pedals he duly went down on his knees to touch them” ‘Oh bits from obits’.

funeral cupcakes   funny funeral cake

I hope that some of you are ready to start the conversation on last things. So, Silversurfers let’s get creative, have fun and get talking about how you want your final fling.

Proper Palliative Care means Assisted Dying for terminally ill people who want to take control over their life and death

Posted in Assisted Dying is part of true palliative care by sheelanagigcomedienne on September 17, 2015

Demo aas dying closerJeanne at demo

Those of us pressing for a much needed change in the law for the humane treatment of terminally ill people were out in force and represented the 80% of people who are in favour of the need for parliament to legislate as things are unfair and muddled now. The result was so disappointing.

I unexpectedly met some people I knew at the demonstratio One was Allison the mother of a baby I named called Arno. I also got into conversation with a lovely Irishman suffering from motor neurone disease who was there with his wife and son.

www.dignityindying.org.uk/

Dignity in Dying advocates a change in the law on assisted dying. We believe that, subject to strict upfront safeguards, the law should  allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults to request life-ending medication from a doctor. The dying patient would then have the choice to self-administer that medication at a time that was right for them.

A change in the law on assisted dying would not lead to more deaths, rather it would lead to less suffering for those dying people who want the choice to control how and when they die. This change is reflected in Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill which was first tabled in the House of Lords in June 2014. Falconer

Lord AveburyLord Avebury who is an active supporter of the bill said: I have been in Parliament for over fifty years and have worked on many important issues. To have the opportunity to legalise assisted dying is one of the most crucial parts of my political career. Due to my health I am sometimes unable to participate in certain debates that go on late but the Assisted Dying Bill is an obvious exception!
I am pleased that it has so far been a great success; it was passed unanimously through Second Reading, and was constructively amended during the first day of Committee Stage. The House of Lords received much praise for the way it has so far conducted the debate, and my colleague Lord Falconer quite rightly won the Spectator’s 2014 Peer of the year award.
I attended an excellent panel discussion that was organised by St Luke’s Church with Lord Falconer and the wonderful children’s author Judith Kerr last year and it was attended by Jane Ellison and I was hopeful that she would support the bill but alas.The tiger who came to teaJudith Kerr

The Law that was introduced by Bob Marris as a private member’s bill would if enacted:

Result in fewer dying adults – and their families – facing unnecessary suffering at the end of their lives, subject to strict upfront safeguards, as assessed by two doctors.
Bring clarity to an area of the law that is currently opaque and thereby provide safety and security for the terminally ill and for medical professionals.
Neither legalise voluntary euthanasia, where a doctor directly administers life-ending medication nor act as a slippery slope to do so.
Protects anyone who doesn’t have a terminal illness, including elderly and disabled people, by not in any way affecting the law that makes it a criminal offence to assist ending their lives.
Above all it will give dying adults peace of mind that the choice of assisted dying is available if their suffering becomes too great for them in their final months of life.
Without a change in the law, terminally ill patients will continue to take decisions without adequate safeguards, whether by travelling to Dignitas to die, ending their lives themselves or being illegally helped to die by doctors.

The T shirt image

People who are terminally ill and dying who are under the care of a hospice or Mac Millan Nurses at home have access to  morphine that they are given to relieve their pain and have better palliative care precisely because of the place where they are dying and recognition that their are dying.

But true palliative care for the dying should include self administered mediation.

Palliative care: The last hours and days of life – UpToDate

Patients in the last days/hours of life often have unrelieved physical suffering, as well as significant emotional, spiritual, and social distress. Recognizing that a person is entering the dying or terminal phase of their illness is critical to appropriate care planning, with a shift to comfort care. 

Despite the benefits of palliative and hospice care, many patients in the terminal stages of a serious life-threatening illness die in settings where they do not receive care designed to address suffering in the last hours of life. Recognizing that a patient is dying before his or her last week of life is associated with fewer deaths in the hospital and more deaths in a preferred place. Patients enrolled in hospice programs are also less likely to die in the hospital.

With the exception of patients who have a precipitous, unexpected fatal event (eg, massive hemorrhage), certain signs are usually present when patients are within days of death. A checklist for identifying actively dying patients is presented in a table, and is applicable to a variety of clinical conditions

Once a patient has begun the transition to the actively dying phase, the goals of care should shift toward maintaining physical comfort, and alleviating emotional, spiritual, and social distress for the patient and family. Among the issues that are important to resolve are preferences for location of care and preferences for limits on invasive or aggressive resuscitative therapies that often are ineffective in a patient with end stage disease.

Discussions about cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) are of vital importance for patients with a terminal illness, and preferably these discussions should take place prior to the active dying phase. For patients who are actively dying from a terminal illness, CPR constitutes a non-beneficial or harmful and inappropriate medical treatment. Nonetheless, it may be an intervention that is expected by patients and their families, and as such, it should be addressed through proactive communication.

People are not getting the humane palliative care they WANT. I hear the distressed stories all the time from families. We have lost this opportunity and now, it seems, that it will be through the courts that progress will be made because the out of touch, paternalistic and craven MPs who voted against this including many Labour ones.

Battersea/Nine Elms sky pool and letters from 1987

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When I saw this crazy gimmicky pool which is part of the Battersea/Nine Elms development I checked out these two letters from 1987 from my archives which I had retrieved for the 1000 Londoners film crew. www.1000londoners.com/londoners/jeanne-rathbone/

These letters are from 1987 when I served on two somewhat farcical and short-lived  committees organised by Wandsworth Council Planning Department which related to two community committees for the Battersea Power Station site.They had long titles.

BATTERSEA POWER STATION

PROPOSED LEISURE AND ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE

COMMUNITY SPACE STEERING GROUP        and the other was

EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING ADVISORY PANEL.
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The Community Space Steering Group letter

Battersea in Perspective Mural by Brian Barnes

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We used to joke about where our COMMUNITY SPACE was going to be – attached to one of the  walls or suspended between the chimneys

I recalled getting a call from Ernest Rodker who said: ‘ I am ringing about Battersea Power Station’ and I thought he was going to suggest that we should occupy it. I said:’Ernest, we could never heat the place’.

I found this funny piece on the Margaret Thatcher Foundation website from 1988 when they made a big fuss of the launch of the development under Broome who was the chairman of Alton Towers.image

Margaret Thatcher Foundation

Remarks re-naming Battersea Power Station | Margaret Thatcher …
Thatcher’s laser launch

Mrs Margaret Thatcher sparked a four-engine fire alarm yesterday at the naming of the project to redevelop Battersea Power Station, south London, as the biggest tourist attraction in Europe.
Armed with the biggest laser gun in Britain, she fired a beam which detonated two mid-air maroons and dropped a white curtain to reveal the building’s new name, picked out in flame, while purple smoke plumes billowed from two of the 337 ft chimneys.
The explosions caused four fire engines, a fire boat, an emergency rescue tender and several ambulances to race to the scene after 999 calls from alarmed local residents.
The power station, styled by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, is the biggest brick building in the world. Its main hall could accommodate a 22-storey building or engulf St Paul’s Cathedral with ease.
Mr John Broome, chairman of the Alton Towers leisure park, north Staffordshire, has taken five years since the power station closed to develop his scheme for its regeneration.
When completed in 1990 it will include 200 rides, shows and exhibitions, London‘s biggest ice rink, restaurants, shops and conference facilities.
Outside there will be acres of pleasure gardens and “white knuckle” rides. The complex will be linked by windowless bullet trains to Victoria Station.
Mrs Thatcher, wearing a white helmet, toured the eight floors of the gutted building, appearing on rusty iron platforms and plywood walkways high above her audience.
She earlier hailed Mr Broome as a man of enterprise and vision. However, just as she was saying that the building could contain 500 jumbo jets, one passed unhelpfully overhead.
Suggestions for the name of the building have included Alton Towers II, Tower Inferno, the Battersea Powerhouse and South Chelsea Fun Palace. However, in spite of the flamboyance of the launch, it is to be known simply as The Battersea, London.
Mr Broome promised that his project, already employing 1,000 on site and 4,500 jobs in future, would be opened at 2.30pm on May 21, 1990.
Mrs Thatcher said: “We have seen the past today. We will be back again in two years time to see the future.”

When completed in 1990 it will include 200 rides, shows and exhibitions, London’s biggest ice rink. The complex will be linked by windowless bullet trains to Victoria Station.

Suggestions for the name of the building have included Alton Towers II, Tower Inferno, the Battersea Powerhouse and South Chelsea Fun Palace. However, in spite of the flamboyance of the launch, it is to be known simply as The Battersea, London.

Mrs Thatcher said: “We have seen the past today. We will be back again in two years time to see the future.”

Mrs T never did come back to see the future of that fantasy scenario.

image

We do need some public artworks in Battersea/Nine Elms that commemorate Battersea’s radical political and social history. We need to remember the amazing, long-lived and indomitable Charlotte Despard who was aPoor Law Guardian and who was so committed to the poor of Nine Elms which had a large Irish population as she opened her two homes at 99 Wandsworth Road and 2 Currie Steet as canteen, youth club, classes and a nurse. One of her biographer’s Andro Linklater tagged her as Socilaist, Suffragette and Sinn Feiner. She was a tireless suffragette who endured prison sentences, an anti- fascist campaigner, a pacifist, she was anti-vivisection, a vegetarian and after her time in the Republic of Ireland after the civil war went to Belfast where she died aged 95.

Other Battersea notables people included Albert Mansbridge, founder of the Workers Education Association, John Archer, Thomas Brogan, Walter Rines – first Balck London Mayor in 1913, first Irish Nationalist Catholic  Mayor in 1912 and tailor to the King and PM Chamberlain in 1905 the latter featured in a Californian newspaper. Caroline Ganley, a working class women, was first elected as councillors in the 1920s, became MP for Battersea in 1945-1951, the only serving MP to celebrate with her husband her 50th wedding anniversary in the House of Comons, became  President of the London Coop, served as a JP, continued as a Councillor in Battersea till it was abolished in 1965 when she was 85 years old.

Battersea’s radical socialist heritage of first ‘direct works’ building, maternity hospital, own electricity generation etc along with our industrial heritage should be remembered and honoured by signage and public sculpting, mosaics and murals in this regeneration.

So, come all you developers and celebrate the wonderful heritage of Battersea and eschew the extravagant, vanity projects like the garden bridge and commission artists to honour and commemorate those great pioneers and characters of Battersea and what has been obliterated of our past.

 

1000 Londoners video of me number 97 and pop up cinema at Patmore 19th September 2015

Posted in Jeanne Rathbone video 1000 Londoners by sheelanagigcomedienne on August 27, 2015

Here is a video of me from 1000 Londoners produced by Chocolate Films. I had encountered Chocolate Films when they screened The optimist of Nine Elms from 1973 which starred Peter Sellers and was followed by a fascinating Q&A with the director  Anthony Simmons

Me, Anthony Simmons director of The Optimist Of Nine Elms and Joan at the screening at the Battersea Power Station site.

Me, Anthony Simmons director of The Optimist Of Nine Elms and Joan at the screening at the Battersea Power Station site.


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http://www.1000londoners.com/londoners/jeanne-rathbone/

It was very enjoyable working with the young film makers most of whom were A level students. Although this is part of the 1000 Londoners it is also part of their NINE ELMS past and present. Number 96 is of Brian Barnes, Battersea’s own muralist and fellow campaigner concerned with Battersea’s heritage.

http://www.1000londoners.com/londoners/brian-barnes/

Chocolate Films organised an outdoor pop up cinema on Saturday 19th September in the evening of the morning that we had the unveiling of the plaque to Hilda Hewlett.

Hilda Hewlett and Charlotte Despard from the mural

Hilda Hewlett and Charlotte Despard from the mural

The large inflatable screen was showing a still of Brian Barnes mural ‘Battersea in Perspective’ which, of course, featured Hilda and and one of the planes from 1911 when she had her gained her pilot’s licence – the first British women to do so.

Nine Elms popup cinemaPop up cinema

It was a balmy evening with a purple/pink sky. I was interviewed again about the campaigning then and now. I said I don’t like the word apathy to explain disengagement and feelings of powerlessness.
One obvious difference is the use of technology and videos. I mentioned the recent engagement of young people in the Scottish and Irish referenda and the JC election as Labour leader a reason for hope and referred to the Suffragettes and Femen tactics.

Sumi Tikaram, her friend and I at the pop up cinema

Sumi Tikaram, her friend and I at the pop up cinema

Met Sumi Tikaram at both events.
There were the 4 local 1000Londoners films of Brian, Gabriel, Ted and Jeanne. Then after interviews the London Calling shorts- interesting, moving but subjects were nearly all male. The Two Dosas was very funny.

The young filmakers and I at the pop up cinema on the Patmore 19th September 2015

The young filmakers and I at the pop up cinema on the Patmore 19th September 2015

We finished a busy but interesting day with a drink at the Duchess which is opposite the Power Station which is usually quiet on a Saturday – only us three and had a lovely chat with the two bar women.

Pamela Hansford Johnson author of 27 novels was born in Battersea Rise

Posted in Pamela Hansford Johnson Battersea born novelist by sheelanagigcomedienne on July 15, 2015

Pamela Hansford Johnson was born in 1912 and lived at 53 Battersea Rise SWII (now occupied by Tim’s Kitchen on the ground floor) which  is just around the corner from Lavender Sweep where I live.

I recommend her as a worthy recipient of  The BATTERSEA SOCIETY blue plaque scheme. There are still very few women commemorated in this way so local amenity/ history societies should be trying to redress this.

PHJ was the daughter of Amy Clotilda née Howson, an actor and singer with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, and Reginald Johnson, a colonial administrator who worked as chief storekeeper on the Baro Kano Railway in what is now Ghana. Pamela Hansford JohnsonHe was frequently absent, and she grew up with her mother’s family of actors and theatrical administrators. Her mother’s father, C E Howson, worked for the London Lyceum Company, as Sir Henry Irving’s Treasurer. Their home, she described in the first of the autobiographical essays contained in her book Important to Me, as “a large brick terrace house”on Battersea Rise. The house had been bought by her grandfather in the 1880s, a time when “it looked out on fields where sheep might safely graze. But by the time I was born, the railway had come, and the houses had been built up right over the hills between it and us. Not pretty, I suppose.” I think her description of the house looking out on ‘fields where sheep may safely graze’ was somewhat fanciful for 1880. 53 Battersea Rise home of PH Johnson Most commentators claim she was born in Clapham, including her biographers. We are used to such confusions and some of us get more irritated than others about this! Of course, Battersea Rise is close to Clapham Common and, with its leafy, rustic connotations, is why our station got misnamed. There is a  contemporary book written by John Walsh -‘The Falling Angels’ 1999 – who lived at 8 Battersea Rise, SW11. The house is at the corner of Lavender Sweep which, to him, looks like the prow of a ship. He describes a very different place in the 60s – Battersea was a dump, a service area for Clapham Junction: the busiest railway junction in the country. It was a stridently working-class and immigrant neighbourhood then, a tough, coarse-grained part of inner suburbia.  

This delightful painting from 1934 by Leonora Green which resides in the Wandsworth Museum is looking up Battersea Rise  towards Clapham Common but from the other side. Nando’s chicken restaurant is on the corner opposite the Northcote pub and 53 Battersea Rise is just out of view.

Wandsworth Museum; (c) Wandsworth Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Battersea Rise Crossroads from my window by Leonora Green

Pamela attended Clapham County Girls Grammar School, where she excelled at English, art history, and drama. walsingham In 1953 Coronation year it was noted in QUONDAM, the old girls/teachers association that “One of its most memorable occasions was the visit by the former 1920’s pupil, writer & novelist Pamela Hansford Johnson, wife of Lord C.P. Snow.” In 1959 she wrote a poem for the school’s golden jubilee.

After leaving school at the age of 16, she took a secretarial course and later worked for several years at the Central Hanover Bank and Trust Company. She began her literary career by writing poems, which were published by Victor B. Neuburg in the Sunday Referee. In 1933, Pamela wrote to Dylan Thomas, who had also been published in the same paper, and a friendship developed. Marriage was considered, but the idea was ultimately abandoned. His drinking habits were already evident.

Pamela and Dylan Thomas

Pamela and Dylan Thomas

Her first novel, This Bed Thy Centre, was published in 1935 when she was 22. The preface to the latest edition is by Zoe Fairbairns. It was set in a south London area. Her ‘neighbourhood’ has a Woolworth’s, a draper’s, a hairdresser’s offering “Perms from One Guinea”, and a set of traffic lights which, recently installed, are an innovation and a talking-point: passers-by discuss which of the colours they like best. There’s a Library, with a capital L and a no-better-than-she-ought-to-be librarian, and cafes where you can enjoy “a hearty meal of kidneys on toast” and where the workers push barrows, pull pints or work shifts in the candle factory”. Out on the Common, hot gospellers with bands and hymn-books compete for public attention with the communist orator and the man selling corn plasters.

Apparently, it was Thomas who suggested the title from Dante. However, PHJ had originally called it Nursery Rhyme and admitted to second thoughts about allowing him to influence her into making the change as the book is about the transition from school to the world of work and marriage and she weaves references to them in the novel. it is claimed that the book was banned from Battersea Rise Library. There is no record of such a library – probably a small private lending library as our main one built in is on Lavender Hill and I checked with the history librarian  and they had no record of a ban. (the librarian told me she had already been asked that when the Clapham Library was closing down, ( now Omnibus Art centre) and had held an exhibition in 2012 dedicated to PHJ and opened by her daughter Lady Avebury. (She also told me that publications were not banned but declined eg. The Blackshirts magazine!)

Wendy Pollard has written the first biography of PHJ which was published in 2014 and with the approval and cooperation of her children Lindsay Avebury, Andrew Stewart and Philip Snow using unpublished diaries and letters. I ordered mine from Battersea Library as I thought it proper that they should have a copy of one of their acclaimed Battersea born and bred novelists. The first chapter is entitled A Clapham Childhood which rankled somewhat. However, I was delighted when I read the first paragraph: Some years ago, idling  while on holiday  in a second-hand bookshop in Galway, I came across a penguin edition of a novel called Too Dear for My Possessing. The name of the author, Pamela Hansford Johnson …. This was serendipitous as I have just returned from a trip home to Galway.

Pamela HJ biog by Wendy pollard

In 1936 she married an Australian journalist, Gordon Neil Stewart. Their son Andrew was born in 1941, and a daughter Lindsay, Baroness Avebury, born 1944 who lives in London. Pamela and her first husband Neil were divorced in 1949. In 1950, Pamela married her second husband, the novelist C. P. Snow, later Baron Snow. Their son Philip was born in 1952.

Pamela HJ and Snow wedding

The Panmacmillan website states: She wrote 27 novels. Her themes centred on the moral responsibility of the individual in their personal and social relations. The fictional genres she used ranged from romantic comedy (Night and Silence, Who Is Here) and high comedy (The Unspeakable Skipton) to tragedy (The Holiday Friend) and the psychological study of cruelty (An Error of Judgement). Her last novel, A Bonfire, was published in the year of her death, 1981. She was a critic as well as a novelist and wrote books on Thomas Wolfe and Ivy Compton-Burnett; Six Proust Reconstructions (1958) confirmed her reputation as a leading Proustian scholar. She also wrote a play, Corinth House (1954), a work of social criticism arising out of the Moors Trial, On Iniquity (1967), and a book of essays, Important to Me (1974). She received honorary degrees from six universities and was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

They became a celebrated literary couple, travelling widely, and being fêted in academic circles in the USA and the USSR, but also attracting adverse attention from the satire movement emerging in Britain in the 1960s. I like the photo with Olivia Manning and appreciated quotes from her diary mentioning her new literary acquaintances – Stevie Smith, ‘a toothy pleasant girl’ ,Graham Greene, ‘looking clever and inhibited’.

Pamela wearing mantilla with Olivia Manning

Pamela wearing mantilla with Olivia Manning

I enjoyed PHJ’s  description of her Labour Party activism when she was married to Neil Stewart- ‘ Tomorrow there is a Party meeting. Unconstitutional. Point of Order. Refer it back to the G.M.C. That knocks the glory out of you for the time being’. This reminded me of John O’Farrell’s book Things can only get Better when we used to do our little roadshow at conference when I sang with the Battersea Labour Singers.

PHJ received the CBE for services to literature in 1975. C. P. Snow died in July 1980. Less than a year later, Pamela died in London.

A review of the biography by Hilary Spurling in the Spectator Literature’s least attractive power couple » The Spectator  claims that it ‘takes this spiky novelist – and her dreadful husband, C.P. Snow – at their own inflated valuation. She continues ‘The senior partner was initially Pam Johnson, a rising literary star, 28 years old and happily married with five novels under her belt and a fiction column on the Liverpool Post, when she singled out a novel by an obscure Civil Service scientist called C.P. Snow. He responded with a fan letter assuring her she could if she wanted ‘become quite easily the best woman writer in the world’.

Lindsay Avebury, responded to this review with a letter to The Spectator:

Sir, Hilary Spurling’s vituperative article (Books, 20 September), claiming to be a review of Wendy Pollard’s biography of my mother, Pamela Hansford Johnson, was mainly an expression of the writer’s loathing of my stepfather, C.P. Snow….

My mother should be remembered as Pamela Hansford Johnson, novelist, critic and Proustian scholar, rather than as Lady Snow.

Lindsay Avebury
London SE5

Lindsay Avebury is married to Lord Avebury who is an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association. In 2009, Lord Avebury was awarded (with Dr Evan Harris MP) the Secularist of the Year  Award in recognition of his role in the abolition of the common law offence of  blasphemous libel. More serendipity for me!

I liked this appraisal of the biography from website Heavenali  Pamela Hansford Johnson – her Life, Work and Times 

‘Although I developed some sympathy and a lot of respect for PHJ a woman who continued to work hard in her later years despite ill-health – I wasn’t always sure I would have always liked her much as a person, but C P Snow, I have to say I thoroughly disliked….. I found their relationship to be more than a little uncomfortable, she so obviously adored him, even while recognising his faults, I just wonder if he was worthy of her really, it certainly appears that the two were sexually incompatible. CPS was self-promoting, egotistical, vain and frequently absent, and she was almost certainly a better writer than he was, while he was not quite the genius he obviously believed himself to be. Wendy Pollard shines a most fascinating light on this rather oddly disjointed literary union, which is totally absorbing.’

I, too, believe that Pamela Hansford Johnson should be celebrated more and I think that with her books being available again that she will be re-appraised and enjoyed by a new, younger generation who appreciate novels by women who were writing in the last century about the changing times they lived through.

I would hope that Pamela Hansford Johnson will be commemorated by The Battersea Society Blue Plaque Scheme on her previous home 53 Battersea Rise London SW11 on the south circular. I shall certainly be pleading her case. Welcome to the Battersea Society websiteBattersea Matters

Anna Parnell – a great Irishwoman and role model who should be celebrated.

Posted in Anna Parnell a great Irishwoman by sheelanagigcomedienne on May 28, 2015

Anna Parnell

Anna Parnell is one of my favourite Irish Nationalist heros along with Hanna Sheehy Skeffington. We went to a play entitled The Ladies Cage in 2007 in the Finborough Theatre which was about Anna and women’s role in Irish political life at that time. The title referred to her regular bulletin to the Celtic Monthly of her visits to the Ladies’ gallery in the House of Commons when she lived in London for a spell studying art and at the time her brother Charles had become MP for Meath. The play was by a group called Scary Little Girls and the play written by Maureen McManus with input from Margaret Ward, Irish women’s historian. We enjoyed the play and as I was leaving the theatre I noticed Mike Leigh beside me and I asked him if it gave him any ideas for a film!

As usual I have used various sources for this post. This is from Anna Parnell – Our Wicklow Heritage

Anna Parnellby Rosemary Raughter.

Anna Parnell was born at Avondale near Rathdrum on 13 May 1852, the tenth of eleven children of John Henry and Delia Parnell. Her father died suddenly when she was seven years old, and the Parnells found themselves in much reduced circumstances. The heavily indebted Avondale estate, inherited by Anna’s thirteen-year old brother Charles Stewart Parnell, was let, while the family moved to a series of rented homes.

Like most girls of their class at the time, Anna and her elder sister Fanny were educated at home by a succession of governesses. They were, however, fortunate in that their American mother permitted a degree of independence rare at the time, and both girls were encouraged to read widely and to pursue their studies in literature, history and politics. In particular, Anna and Fanny shared with Charles a keen interest in Irish nationalism, and at the age of sixteen Fanny published her first poems in the Fenian newspaper, the Irish People. She became a prolific author of verse, much of it on patriotic themes, and her most famous poem, ‘Hold the harvest’, published in 1880, was   described as the ‘Marseillaise of the Irish peasant.’ However, her health was poor and, though politically committed, much of her short life was spent out of Ireland.

New York Ladies’ Land League

With the outbreak of the Land War, Anna moved from being an observer of political events to a participant. The Irish National Land League was founded in 1879, with Parnell as president, and the aim of securing ‘the land of Ireland for the people of Ireland’ by a programme of peaceful and constitutional action. In the short term, however, a series of poor harvests and falling agricultural prices left many tenants facing eviction for non-payment of rent, and in 1880 Parnell arrived in New York to seek Irish-American support for the campaign and to relieve hardship. Anna and her sister Fanny were already in the US, and immediately threw themselves into the effort, working closely with Michael Davitt, the Land League’s secretary and principal organiser. In an effort to maximise American support, Fanny decided to establish a women’s league, and in October 1880 the New York Ladies’ Land League was founded, with Delia Parnell as president, and Anna and Fanny spearheading a successful campaign which raised thousands of dollars for transmission to Ireland.

The Ladies Land League

The Ladies’ Land League

In late 1880 Anna returned to Dublin, where the expectation was that the government would shortly take the decision to imprison the leaders of the Land League. Inspired by the example of the American women’s organisation, Davitt proposed to establish a similar body in Ireland, which would keep the agitation alive and distribute grants to evicted tenants and their families. With some reluctance, Parnell and the other leaders agreed, and on 31 January 1881 the Ladies’ Irish National Land League was founded, with Anna Parnell as its effective leader. When arrests began shortly afterwards, the Ladies’ Land League set about its appointed task of processing applications, supplying money for relief purposes and distributing literature. Finding the Land League records to be deplorably kept, the women compiled their own ‘Book of Kells’, with detailed information on every Irish estate, described by Davitt as ‘the most perfect system that can be imagined.’ In spite of the male executive’s ambivalence and criticism from some Catholic church leaders and many newspapers, numbers grew rapidly, with more than five hundred branches of the Ladies’ Land League throughout Ireland by the beginning of 1882. Members included the poet Katherine Tynan and eighteen-year old Jennie O’Toole from Baltinglass, who as Jennie Wyse Power would play a leading part in the nationalist movement and in the early years of the Irish Free State.Eviction

In October 1881 Parnell himself was arrested together with most of the leaders of the Land League, and in retaliation issued the No Rent manifesto. The Ladies, who had not been consulted about this move, were faced with the prospect of trying to enforce a policy which had little chance of success, but they soldiered on, assisting evicted tenants and their families, organising the provision of huts in which they could be housed, and providing for growing numbers of male prisoners and their dependents.   In December the Ladies’ Land League was also suppressed and a number of their members were arrested and imprisoned, but the ban failed to end their activities:  as the nationalist United Ireland pointed out, while the men of the Land League had ‘melted away and vanished the moment Mr Forster’s policemen shook their batons’, the women ‘met persecution by extending their organisation and doubling their activity and triumphing.’

Disillusionment

As the campaign dragged on, relations between the Ladies and the Land League worsened. With evictions giving rise to widespread agrarian violence, Parnell’s need to reach a resolution with Gladstone became more pressing, and in April 1882 he and the other leaders were released from gaol as part of an agreement to end the agitation. Shortly afterwards the Ladies’ Land League, disillusioned by the outcome of the campaign, expressed its wish to disband, and after prolonged wrangling succeeded in doing so. The gulf between the Land League and the Ladies was epitomised by the estrangement between Anna and her brother which lasted until his death ten years later. According to his wife, Parnell regretted the breach, and tried unsuccessfully on a number of occasions to repair it, but Anna ignored his letters and refused to acknowledge him when they met accidentally. After his death, however, she did write to the Irish Times to object to the choice of Glasnevin as his burial place: his body ‘belonged to the Irish people’, she said, only if their having killed him gave them a title to it.

Tale of a great shamThe Tale of a Great Sham

Her sister Fanny’s death in July 1882, combined with the stress of the campaign and its aftermath, left Anna in a state of physical and nervous collapse, from which she did not recover for several months. For the rest of her life, she lived mainly in England, sometimes under a false name and at times in considerable poverty. Although she remained in contact with former Ladies, such as Jennie Wyse Power, she played little part in nationalist politics, and the response when she did campaign for the Sinn Fein candidate in North Leitrim in 1908 persuaded her that ‘the character of Irishmen is at present incompatible with any great change for the better in Ireland.’ However, Michael Davitt’s charge, in The fall of feudalism in Ireland, that the Ladies had encouraged agrarian violence, galvanised her to produce her own account of the Land League years, The tale of a great sham. In it she argued that the Land League in fact failed in its objective by neglecting to pursue the No Rent Manifesto to its logical conclusion. She also complained about the hostility of the Land League leaders towards the Ladies throughout the campaign: regarding the women as subservient assistants rather than equal partners, they had relied on them to carry on Land League policies in their absence while seeking to reassert control over them as soon as this should become practicable. Failing to find a publisher for her work, she entrusted the manuscript to Helena Molony, editor of the nationalist woman’s paper Bean na h-Eireann. Molony, too, was unable to get the work published, and in the upheavals which followed, the parcel disappeared from view.

Death and reputation

In 1910 Anna moved to Ilfracombe in Devon. On 20 September 1911 she accidentally drowned while swimming, and was buried in the churchyard there a few days later. Her passing received little attention: as Katherine Tynan wrote a few years later, ‘her life ought to have been written, for she was a great woman, and yet I think that she herself would have preferred that her name be writ in water.’ And so, for many years, it was. The centenary of the Land League in 1979 passed with scarcely a mention of Anna Parnell, and it was not until the publication – finally – in 1986 of the rediscovered Tale of a great sham that a reassessment was possible of a woman regarded by some contemporaries as the equal in ability and judgement of her celebrated brother, and without question a central figure at a pivotal moment in Irish history.

History Ireland Irelands History Magazine.

by Danae O’Regan, a post-graduate student of Irish Studies at Bath College of Higher Education.

Anna’s League was not merely a fund-raising organisation but a militant force. She trained rural women to come out of their homes and play an active role in withholding rent, boycotting, and resisting eviction. When resistance failed she organised the provision of temporary housing and support for those evicted. She also provided support for Land League prisoners and their families. The women of the League faced hostility on all sides, from government forces, the church, the press, and probably, indeed, from most of their contemporaries, but Michael Davitt was to say in The Fall of Feudalism in Ireland (1904): ‘Everything recommended, attempted, or done in the way of defeating the ordinary law and asserting the unwritten law of the League…was more systematically carried out under the direction of the ladies’ executive than by its predecessor’. But their success had its disadvantages. Anna’s methods were exceedingly expensive and funds were running low. Rural violence had increased to such an extent that the British government began to panic. Irish politicians began to see the activities of the women as a danger to their long-term plans. Finally, as part of the Kilmainham Treaty, Charles Parnell agreed to do away with the League. In 1882 it was dissolved. Anna never again had any communication with her brother.

The Royal Irish Constabulary dispersing a meeting of the Ladies' Land League. (Illustrated London News, 24 December 1881)

The images that have survived

Anna had become a modern, militant woman activist. But this was not what the nineteenth century wanted of a woman. When she disappeared from politics her male colleagues must have given a sigh of relief, and society quickly forgot her.
Social attitudes have now reversed. Anna has taken over the role of heroine for our times, and Fanny has been moved to the sidelines. In a way one can see that these Parnell sisters mark a watershed for women in the political sphere. Both were equally effective activists in their different ways, both were probably equally important to the work of the Land League, and the two types of female action they represent continued into the twentieth century. Times were, however, changing. The traditional philanthropic middle class woman, of which Fanny was an outstanding example, did not disappear, but it is Anna, prepared to challenge authority, break down barriers between male and female spheres of public life, and pave the way for radical change, who speaks to us most clearly today.

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Adrian Mulligan The Ladies Land League and the development of Irish Nationalism. The crucial role they played has been at best relegated to a historic footnote ignoring the history of poiltical activism by such Irish women contributes to a situation today in which they are woefully under-represented in the Republic of Ireland , as evidenced for example by the fact that of 166 TDs most recently elected only 21 are women.

Durig the brief existence of the LLL Anna Parnell and her female colleagues proved that they could orchestrate and lead an  agrarian relief effort and Irish nationalist campaign as ably as the men, and in the eyes of some contemporary observers perhaps even outperform them. For example, following the disbanding of the organization, the American correspondent for the Irish World, Henry George, commented that the women had “done a great deal better than the men would have done.”
Additionally, Andrew J. Kettle, a prominent Land League member at the time, later remarked that “Anna Parnell would have worked the Land League revolution to a much better conclusion than her great brother.”
Both of these individuals could be characterized, however, as subscribing to the more revolutionary republican stream of Irish nationalism. They speak of Anna Parnell therefore not just as a very capable woman, but more importantly as an Irish nationalist whom they believed shared their vision.
This is an important point, that the LLL was disbanded and subsequently forgotten, not solely because it empowered Irish women but rather, perhaps, because it had also genuinely come to the aid of the most impoverished tenant farmers, for whom only a republican revolution rather than Home Rule offered any hope that they might stave off eviction and subsequent destitution or emigration.’

I found this strange piece by St John Ervine (1883-1971) published in 1925. He had a particular hatred for Delia Parnell and accused her of being the source of her children’s antipathy to England and English domination of Ireland.He was a playwirght, biographer and critic from a working class Belfast who was a socialist Home Ruler in his youth and friend of fellow Fabian George Bernard Shaw but became a rabid Unionist in later years. He had a plaque commemorating him in East Belfast March this year. FullSizeRender

Parnell: His Family by St John Ervine Published by Ernest Benn Ltd, 1925

They had a distinguished ancestry on their father’s side and on their mother’s side, but they had inherited from it a physical weakness and a strongly emotional and morbid nature which impelled some of them dangerously near to lunacy. It was their misfortune that their easily-disturbed minds should have been dominated, during their most impressionable years, by a mother who could give them no better purpose in life than to “hate England,” and was herself mentally unbalanced.

Mr. Barry O’Brien, her son’s biographer, met her in 1896, two years before she died of burns at Avondale. She was then over eighty years of age, and “animated by one fixed idea, a rooted hatred of England; or rather, as she herself put it, of ‘English dominion.’” When Mr. O’Brien enquired of her why her son had such an antipathy to England, she replied, “Why should he not? Have not his ancestors always been opposed to England? My grandfather Tudor fought against the English in the War of Independence. My father fought against the English in the year 1812, and I suppose the Parnells had no great love for them… It was very natural for Charles to dislike the English; but it is not the English whom we dislike, or whom he disliked. We have no objection to the English people; we object to the English dominion. We would not have it in America. Whey should they have it in Ireland?  Why are the English so jealous of outside interference in their affairs, and why are they always trying to dip their fingers in everybody’s pie? The English are hated in America for their grasping policy; they are hated everywhere for their arrogance, greed, cant and hypocrisy. No country must have national rights or national aspirations but England. That is the English creed. Well, other people don’t see it; and the English are astonished. They want us all to think they are so goody-goody. They are simply thieves.”

A review by Myles Dungan of Patricia Groves, Petticoat Rebellion – The Anna Parnell Story states:

She was portrayed as the wilful extremist to her brother’s canny pragmatist, the strident harpy to her sister’s gentle poet. For many years it was the fate of Anna Parnell to be compared unfavourably to her tragically short-lived brother and sister, Charles and Fanny. In fact she was, according to Roy Foster, ‘in many ways . . . the most formidable character in the family’. Anna Parnell was principled, resourceful, dogged and, ultimately, disappointed and disillusioned by those who had been happy to capitalise on her indefatigable energy and organisational abilities.

Lucy Keaveney: Forgotten Women » Guest Blog » The …

Five people attended her funeral, her family being unaware of her death. Later her sister, Theodosia Paget, erected the headstone and a plaque was placed on it in 2002 by the Parnell society with a quote from Anna: –

“The best part of Independence,Anna_Parnells_Grave2
The independence of the mind”
It took some time to locate Anna’s grave earlier this year and some hours to renovate it by cleaning away weeds and spreading gravel. The headstone is very fragile, a fact which I brought to the attention of the Minister Deenihan during the centenary celebrations. He announced that Anna’s grave and that of Eva Gore Booth ( and her parner Esther Roper) in London would in future be maintained and would never be let deteriorate again. (Deenihan is now Minister for the Diaspora).
Anna headstone
It does feel like that things are slowly changing in recognition of women’s role in Ireland’s history.  Let us hope that women will be will be celebrated in the 2016 commemorations and not just the part they played then but before and since the  Easter Rising.
  • Patricia Groves, Petticoat Rebellion – The Anna Parnell Story, Mercier Press , Cork, 2009.
  • A. Parnell, Tale of a Great Sham, Dublin, 1986.
  • Jane Côté, Fanny and Anna Parnell: Ireland’s patriot sisters, Gill and Macmillan Publishers, Dublin, 1991.
  • Jane Côté & Dana Hearne, Anna Parnell in Mary Cullen & Maria Luddy (eds.)
  • Women, power and consciousness, Dublin, 1995
  • Danae O’Regan, Anna and Fanny Parnell in History Ireland, Spring 1999.
  • Margaret Ward, Unmanageable Revolutionaries: women and Irish nationalism, Pluto Press, London, 1983

Jeremy Paxman is just another arrogant, over-paid, establishment, media Tory bully like Clarkson,

Posted in Clarkson is a Tory establishment media bigot, Paxman is a Tory media bully by sheelanagigcomedienne on April 2, 2015

London Mayor, and wannabe PM Boris, gushingly extols the Jeremys in his Evening Standard election interview on behalf of the Tory White Boys Network. He cringingly praised Paxman as ‘ a genius’ and saying he is ‘absolutely brilliant. So is Clarkson. Bring back the Jeremys’. It has become ‘de rigeur’ for Tory politticians to show their laddish machismo, as Cameron did,  by endorsing the petrolhead misogynist bigot Clarkson. These guys enjoy being called rotweillers and grumpy old men. Boris PaxmanThey see them as terms of endearment. I am nauseated by the adulation of these powerful, over paid middle class, establisment, media figures like this pair of Jeremys.

 

 

I had blogged about anti-Irish racism Anti-Irish racism. | Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone  and being invited to speak on News Night about it when an Irish maths professor Des MacHale brought out another of his dreadful Irish joke books.  His Worst Kerryman Jokes book published by Mercier Press is available on Amazon for 69p. Des Mac joke book Des paddy books Des M dublin wit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was sometime in the 90s when I was still doing my Sheela-na-Gig act. What I am about to reveal is that Paxman is really quite cowardly and was seemingly threatened by this Irish comedienne.

“Anyway, getting back to my anecdote this nutty Professor of Maths from Castlebar has a most nerdy obsession to collate puerile jokes, mainly ethnic and Irish compilations as a sideline probably to ingratiate himself with his students or just to gain attention. He was  invited to be a spokesperson in defense of racist/ethnic jokes/humour and given further opportunities for remuneration over and above his salary from the University Of Cork.  However, on this occasion he was not available for comment for the Newsnight programme so they invited a Welsh Professor to defend the position that Irish jokes are not racist and me, as a comedian Sheela-na-Gig, to put the opposite view.

As I was invited as a comedian I asked Paxman if I could do two very quick visual gags with an English and Irish reference. In my act I used a novelty penis and made a further gag about how it made me think of the Irish  deputy Prime Minister who was called DICK SPRING and for balance I showed the British audience a packet of cigarettes called MAJOR implying the Irish were ‘taking the mickey’ by naming a cigarette packet after John Major the Prime Minister at that time. Major cigaerettes Penis nose

 

 

 

 

When I spoke to Paxman for the briefing he reacted vehemently against this and he put his researchers on ‘handbag duty’ to make sure that I didn’t make a move to reach for my props. Perhaps he doesn’t like to be upstaged or his programme seem to irreverent  I was disappointed.

I compared the Irish and the Welsh stereotypes saying that the Irish being portrayed as stupid, drunken, violent and potential terrorists had more serious effects compared to the Welsh being depicted as ‘sheep shaggers’.  He got caught in a ‘have you stopped beating your wife’ scenario by having to reply that he didn’t mind at all if he was perceived as a ‘sheep shagger’ !!

I have this abiding memory of Paxman and team viewing me as a potential hijacker and being under surveillance to make sure I didn’t reach for  my handbag. Women’s handbags and their contents can be dangerous.

I do hate these powerful interviewers/talk show hosts who play god. Smarmy Gay Byrne with The Late, Late show was my Irish bete noir. Gaybo and fryHere he is interviewng Fry recently and he looked askance/gobsmacked by the response he got.