If ever there were I time I needed this blog… then now would be that time. Writing has always afforded me the opportunity of untangling the scribble of thoughts and furies in my head. When I was a boy I made sense of complications (secrets and lies) by writing. Setting out the problems and finding solutions. My first attempt at creative writing, a series of short stories about mice… written when I was no more than 11 years old. Reading them now they are a fascinating and heart wrenching attempt to unravel the unrelenting brutality I suffered at the hands of my step-father, at school and the casual racism of Whitstable people.
Now I am kept awake at night by other furies, no less brutal. The continuing and evolving cruelty of Brexit. The take down of an elected leader by those who sought to discredit with lies and false allegations of anti-semitism. Watching a good and honest man hooked by his enemies, made to squirm for no good reason other than he sought to challenge the vile status quo and support the arab people of Palestine, confronting apartheid Israel.
Many, many people feel hopeless after the recent UK election. A rigged electoral system, a billionaire owned press spouting lies about a good man then amplified by state media. The obvious similarities to all those soviet style broadcasts we smirked at thirty years ago becoming apparently ours. This, of course, is only the tip of the iceberg. Ha! Riven from the ice by global warming. Climate change another of the challenges facing humanity denied by the same charlatans who sought to destroy Jeremy Corbyn.
There are two distinct types of people at home in the UK. Those who are invested in the truth and those who believe anything they are told. It is clear to people like me they dare not challenge the dominant voice. The others do not dare to take on the establishment. They cower before the lie.
You know I’ve never held my tongue. Restraint is alien to me. I’d rather lose a friend than stay quiet. This happened just before Christmas three years ago at an old friend’s house. Tom Croft and his wife Max. Sir Tom Croft. I’d know Tom since my teens and was very fond of his parents and his spinster aunt. I had spent years of Christmas at Tom’s beautiful converted barn. They had very kindly included me in many of their social events. Lunches, beach parties and garden parties, their garden is magnificent! However, their pretentious gardener, the vile Posy Gentles is not. I’d not always enjoyed these excursions. Their posh white friends were gruelling company. Trapped in a tight spot, forced to find any conversation with Amicia De Moubray, married to Kent’s Lord Lieutenant is a special kind of hell. However, I played the game and respecting Tom’s feelings ignored their right wing banta and kept my end of the conversation non controversial.
Christmas Day, three years ago at an intimate supper with Tom and Max I was forced to endure a local carpenter’s offensive opinion of gay men. I complained. Tom kept quiet as his wife, a Guardian editor, sought to protect the idiot carpenter and silence my experience as a gay man. She sought like most right wing women, at the highly polished, mahogany dinner table, to defend the dominant article: a white heterosexual male who didn’t want to understand his privilege. Who couldn’t bare… not for one moment to walk in another man’s shoes. I couldn’t shake the resentment and wrote her the following day:
‘Privilege has nothing to do with money. You may very well have come from a worst family situation than me (tho I doubt it) even if that was the case my journey as a gay man these past 60 years has not been easy and when I share my story I do not expect you to diminish my experience.
I do not expect you to be gay holocaust denier. I do not expect you to do anything other than respectfully listen to those who suffered because they were/are out gay men fighting for equality, visibility and anti vilification.
Here is what you refused that night to acknowledge for me and millions of other men my age:
1. Born a criminal. Know what that means? Ask other gay men in their sixties. It means when I was born a gay man could still be sent to jail for being gay. In fact, men were still being sent to jail for consensual sex acts as recently as 1988.
2. Facing violent prejudice in the street if you were an out gay man. Swearing, spitting hitting and worse. And as I found recently still evident on the less enlightened streets of some European countries.
3. The aids crisis deliberately ignored by government because it was perceived as a gay plague. Watching over 100 young men dying gruesome deaths.
4. Section 28, Margaret Thatcher’s draconian discriminatory anti gay law.
5. Marriage and other institutions lgbt people were excluded from.
6. Fear of openly expressing affection to ones we/I loved. This is perhaps the most egregious.’
She replied she did not recognise herself from my description and we were no longer friends. She wrote this from a holiday in Istanbul she and her husband shared with Anne McElvoy and Martin Ivens, the editor of The Sunday Times, who have located to my home town of Whitstable. One can imagine how they soothed her ruffled feathers and told her to ignore the uppity faggot.
The Guardian is now under the thumb of MI5. Forced to destroy their hard drives by a man from the ministry, the editor removed after printing ghastly truths provided by Julian Assange. How can anyone have any respect for Max Croft?
Arriving from London last Tuesday Sir Tom and his dog were waiting at the station. He said hello. I shook my head. His absurd wife, Lady Max Croft greeted him with a shrill. I do not need their garden parties, their equally dreary friends or their condescension. I do not need them to protect their friends from uncomfortable truths.
Yesterday I met Rosie Duffield, the MP for Canterbury and Whitstable. She was half an hour late for our appointment. Her train was late. The taxi wasn’t where they expected it to be. She runs into the meeting berating the train and the tube. Rosie is a slight, blond woman who, against all the odds beat long time conservative MP Julian Brazier with a slim 186 majority in a constituency that never had a Labour MP since voting began.
I congratulated her, “You must be very grateful to Jeremy Corbyn,” I said.
Rosie smiled, she seemed baffled when people told her on the stump they were voting for Jeremy and not her. “I heard that all the time,” she said. I pressed her to admit it was Jeremy who had energised the Labour vote in a traditionally conservative area but she was reluctant to agree Jeremy Corbyn was the reason she had her seat in parliament. I asked her if she was a ‘blairite’, she replied candidly, “I owe everything to Tony Blair.”
She whispered conspiratorially, “Jeremy’s nearly 70, you know.” As if telling a 58-year-old it’s all over for someone who is 69, all over for Jeremy Corbyn. I was beginning to understand who Rosie Duffield is and where her allegiances lay. I looked carefully into her eyes. “We need someone younger.” she says.
I wanted to meet Rosie Duffield to find out if she was adequately representing her LGBT constituents. So, I started our meeting by asking Rosie if she had ever heard of Rudolf Brazda. She hadn’t. Rudolf, the last holocaust survivor to wear a pink triangle, held at Buchenwald. I asked if she knew what a pink triangle signified. She nodded her head cautiously as if she were searching for a memory. I explained who Rudolf was and how his and other LGBT inmates were remembered in oral histories archived at the New York Holocaust museum.
Their stories are desperate, they tell how badly they were treated by both inmates and guards. Beaten, murdered by guards and inmates. Treated like pedophiles are treated in prisons today. I told her how, when the camps were liberated, the gay men were not set free but taken to prison by British and American liberators. These gay men, I reminded her, are my family of origin. Murdered in the concentration camps by both nazis and fellow inmates.
Rosie shifts in her seat uncomfortably.
I let her know my own history of dealing with homophobia in Whitstable, the daubing of homophobic slurs on my house, bricks through the windows and more recently being verbally assaulted by a homophobic public house land lady. Rosie seemed genuinely pained by my description. Rosie and her manager offered to speak to Jonathan Neame about the homophobia in his pubs. I accepted their offer graciously.
I wondered what Rosie Duffield’s definition of homophobia was? She mumbled she didn’t have one. I wondered why? Why hadn’t The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) defined homophobia like they defined anti-Semitism? After all, we were there too. We… the LGBT community stood behind those terrible chain link fences walking with the dead and dying. Where was our definition of homophobia? A definition the party could work with?
Religion is a choice, sexuality is not.
I asked her if she thought Jeremy Corbyn was anti semitic and a racist.
Rosie wanted me to know her fiancé is black, that she couldn’t possibly understand what it is like to be black, gay or jewish. She had to accept as the truth from her jewish friends if they were convinced Jeremy was anti-Semitic… she had no option but to believe them. I asked if she was ’empathetically challenged’? She became angry and told me she would ask me to leave if I spoke to her like that. She told me I was being rude.
“You mean… rude like Margaret Hodge was to Jeremy Corbyn?” Rosie told me she was a ‘Very good friend of Margaret Hodge’. I asked Rosie if I had called her a fucking homophobe would she ask me to leave the office. She told me Margaret Hodge had every right to shout at Jeremy because she was a jewish woman who had lost family in the holocaust.
I reminded her again. My family of origin also perished in the holocaust. Gay men without children, abandoned by their family for being gay. Who could possibly claim these men (sex perverts) as their relatives? It is incumbent upon men like me, willing to claim men like Rudolf as my own family, wrought from the history of lgbt oppression.
I asked again, “Where is the IHRA definition of homophobia?”
The definition of Anti Semitism has become the stick by which people like Margaret Hodge and her friend Rosie Duffield beat Jeremy Corbyn. Yet, as a gay man, when I want answers about her understanding of homophobia Rosie tells me her definition of homophobia is ‘common sense’.
Religion is a choice. Sexuality is not.
Rosie stumbled into admitting she was Roman Catholic. “A church riven by homophobia,” I say. “Religious people are not my friends Rosie, they have delivered a history of violent rebuke against LGBT people. Refusing to recognise our most basic human rights.” What are you going to do about the pockets of homophobia in the Anglican Church? You are, after all, the MP who represents the Archbishop of Canterbury?
Religious people are not our friends. Jews. Christians. Muslims. There are still passages in the Torah, Bible and Koran demanding death for practicing gay men. Why haven’t these passages been removed? When will Jews, Christians and Muslims remove passages from the Torah Bible and Koran that incite violence toward LGBT people? Legitimizing LGBT intolerance? When would she call for homophobia to be erased in all religions.
Rosie looked aghast.
The problem with Rosie? She’s a delightful, simple person. Her politics are scarcely evolved. Rosie isn’t ‘woke’. She probably didn’t expect to win her seat. Her understanding of her LGBT constituents is scant. It’s not her fault, she doesn’t ‘get’ how important historically the Labour Party was to LGBT people during the hostile 1960’s – 1980’s because she can’t imagine walking a mile in our shoes.
The meeting ended. A nervous looking latino man waiting in the lobby wanted to talk about Brexit. He was sitting with his daughter. I set off into the searing heat.
On the way home to Whitstable I felt shaken and slightly bullied. I’d experienced only a fraction of what is currently tearing at the heart of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Rosie is our existential threat. She exemplifies how Tony Blair snatched control from working people and handed power to a few entitled white folk.
Rosie has an agenda shared by many of her Blairite colleagues: to unseat Jeremy Corbyn. For those of us who believe passionately in Corbyn’s inclusive vision for our country it was inconsiderate of her to say she had no clue what the lives of gay, black or jewish people could be because she wasn’t black, jewish or gay.
I wondered how Rosie could possibly see past her white, christian heterosexuality to represent any minority? Me? The anxious latino man? The truth is, Rosie is not motivated to represent her constituents. Rosie is not interested in the lives of her constituents. Rosie is obsessed with regime change. She spends her time berating and bullying Jeremy Corbyn. She has no interest in me or indeed real instances of homophobia she is instead obsessed with politicised examples of anti-Semitism.
In 40 years I had never bothered to meet my Member of Parliament, then Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of The Labour Party. Even though I voted for Thatcher in ’78 and Blair in 1997 I never joined a political party. I have since joined the Labour Party because of Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour Party is the biggest political party in Europe because of Jeremy Corbyn.
The Labour Party needs MP’s who represent not only its 800,000 voting members but the millions of disaffected Britons who believe in radical change… sadly, for the constituents of Whitstable and Canterbury Rosie Duffield isn’t one of them.
It’s been months since we last spoke. My harried exit from the USA only made our separation more dramatic. Those last fraught days before Abby drove me over the border. I had no time to explain, no time to say goodbye. Of course, I saw your brother in Seville but he provided scant consolation. I think about you often… and why not? We saw each other frequently. In lieu of our conversations I imagined your first experience of burning man. I wonder with a wry, affectionate grin your house filling with even more bits and pieces.
Toward the end of my time in the USA Ithink you knew just how miserable, trapped and disappointed I had become. Increasingly overwhelmed by my hatred for almost everyone except you. I wanted you to know just how relaxed I am here. It’s not Nirvana but I can travel, I can speak English to those who understand and most of all? The problems I encounter here I can deal with more than adequately. I would rather the English disappoint me than strangers from another shore.
The gays here do not confuse me with some character they’ve seen on TV. And even tho I might say I don’t want to fall in love… it’s maybe because I don’t dare love possible.
I’ve no idea if we will ever meet again. If we have anything more to say to each other but I wanted you to know how grateful I was. We had a blast. I wanted you to know that I love you very much.
My journey across Europe has been deliciously eventful. However, these past few weeks in Dorset were perhaps the most scintillating… and British.
My time on the West Dorset/East Devon border bound by upper class British convention. Rules of social engagement forged over hundreds of years by our ruling class… manners maketh the man. Rules, before my stint in the USA, I adhered to (mostly) and challenged unsuccessfully.
In the USA I learned a different social practice and without my daily dose of British self loathing I learned a very useful trick most Brits seem oblivious: Self Esteem. Consequently, revisiting the rules governing so much of our British social life has been a little disorienting because… I am Johnny Foreigner and the brits at play (and in the house of commons) behaving more like inchoate, chattering chimps than adroit conversationalist.
The British, upon meeting a stranger, like any un-evolved primate seek to assert themselves over the other and on rare occasions and only when deem appropriate… defer. A British person, full ape… will never give in to money, power or prestige. They’ll give up their seat on the british bus but only to those they assess are born to sit in it.
Socially, the Brits engage a very specific modus operandi.
Firstly, they establish the worth of the other. They quickly seek to discover reasons for any shame he/she should feel for merely being alive: At Monkton Wyld Court, Simon Fairlie’s obnoxious wife Gill Baron the imperious editor of The Land Magazine, rearing up on her hind legs, reminded me I had been expelled from Monkton Wyld School even though Gill conveniently forgets both she and her clochard husband were also expelled.
Bette Bright, whilst grooming another female in the pack, wanted me to remember I had once pretended to be a Lord. Another creepy petit bourgeois reptile told me I didn’t deserve my accent. All of which would have once caused me to flinch when I lived in the UK. After so long in the USAthis British social venom fails to work as I carry more than enough antidote.
As it turns out, the critical gaze of a posh, British person is surprisingly easy to ignore. The shaming swipe effortlessly parried. The knowing laugh means nothing at all and hangs in the air like a fresh fart. Their sly, snaggle toothed grin makes the posh Brit look like they have learning difficulties. I was surprised by how often these rather crude techniques were used and how unsophisticated the most sophisticated Brit appears once you lift up his skirt and smell his unwashed cunt.
Bette Bright, married to singer and TV entertainer Suggs from the band Madness was the first Brit who wanted to remind me of my place. The very notion of one’s place is so uniquely British. As I was leaving a not so amusing Sunday lunch party in Whitstable with my friend Simon Martin, director of The Pallant Gallery, Bette sat bloated and over dressed, her fat cheeks once sweetly girlish now pock-marked and scribbled with red, broken veins. She wore green, over-sized bakelite jewelry, a large bottom impeding her journey.
I had once been very friendly with her sister Alana who died of pancreatic cancer. Attempting to make me uncomfortable she announced across the table, “Lord Anthony Rensdlesham, wasn’t it?” I was momentarily stunned as I had no cause to be reminded of that particular adventure, not for twenty years or more. Remember… I am not my story. Perhaps the best and most enduring gift AA afforded me. As Anthony Rendlesham had once been my name I was thrown into a different world. A centuries old world of sophistication, Fortuny and… Falconetti.
I asked her why she wanted to remind me of something I had lived 40 years ago. What was her aim? If her aim was to shame me… she had failed. I wondered out loud why a straight, white, affluent woman was trying to shame a gay person of color.
“How rude! ” She said.
“White fragility, white heterosexual fragility.” I replied.
She looked perplexed by my comment. “I have lots of gay friends.”
“And you learned nothing from them? Bette Bright, gay men know a great deal about reinvention… so odd you’ve not had that conversation. Didn’t you reinvent yourself Bette?”
I continued with vigor.
“Yes. Of course you did. You were born plain Anne Martin. Dull Anne. Well, dear, what’s good for the gander… is good for this goose. You may call me Lord Anthony Rendlesham.”
I swept out of the party. Leaving her spluttering into her summer pudding.
A theme emerged forcibly throughout the rest of my journey. I asked my friend the Weymouth born artist Graham Snow if he too experienced homophobia amongst the affluent, the ruling class, the petit bourgeois. He blurted out a list of ghastly things he puts up with. He is quite the most lonely person I have ever met, made more lonely by his so-called ‘friends’ who do not want the best for him.
Like Lucy Ferry making disparaging remarks about Lee McQueen’s rough east end boyfriends. Those woman kept that boy lonely. They used him, like Graham is used by unscrupulous heterosexuals. Graham, born in the 40’s, was shielded from the true horror of the most virulent hatred of the gays by his friendship with extraordinary men… like David Hockney and John Schlesinger. He has thick, thick skin after enduring years of glancing blows from the casual homophobe.
Homophobia is real and crippling and we dare not talk about it just in case it makes us vulnerable. A British aristocrat loves to mine another’s vulnerability. Reminding you he is whiter, more well-bred, more heterosexual and closer to the crown than YOU.
Perhaps I’m looking for trouble. Perhaps I’m too sensitive. Perhaps the blonde, female fitness instructor who has coffee at Dave’s Deli in Whitstable is not a homophobe but just doesn’t like me. There seems nothing worse to a recent Whitstable resident than these words: I was born here.
I am not an easy gay, I am not the kind of gay man who ignores a casual homophobic aside. If ‘Woodsy’ the window cleaner wonders why I am in Whitstable and doesn’t like it… maybe he’s scared I know a little too much about his past.
After a rather grueling tour via Swanage of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast with Graham Snow, he took me to the home of some very English sub aristocrats for dinner. Writer Jason Goodwin, son of Jocasta Innes and his very Nigella Lawson type wife. Their house was a typical English country affectation. A Christopher Gibbs pastiche thrown together with no money. Piles of rotting books, sagging sofas and a smokey fireplace. Their dogs were aggressive and needy, they want to sit on your lap then bite your hand. The food was overcooked, the conversation tepid… I sat opposite our host and a charming Italian woman Anna Orsini from the British Fashion Council and an Oxford don who loathed Jeremy Corbyn and still believed in slavery.
A forlorn, bald man sat beside the don, Matthew Rice whose wife Emma Bridgewater had recently and very abruptly left him. She had not mentioned him, he wailed, on Desert Island Disks. Apparently it is sexist to ask if she is menopausal. Now she has gone (she is not coming back) perhaps Mr Rice should bite the gay bullet. I mean… he can’t possibly be straight. Can he? Years of stenciling fowl onto earthenware might betray something of the fey in a man.
During the second course (roast lamb) shop keeper and Poundbury apologist Ben Pentreath arrived. A very British, gay handful. His simpering, tongue tied husband in tow… brutally eclipsed by Ben’s scintillating, room filling persona. Ben excused himself… they had been to another party. The dull husband threw Katie a huge bunch of vulgar dahlias. Ben had stories to tell and took charge of the table as best he could. He mocked his boss Prince Charles with an uninspired impersonation. Our host and hostess gasped and giggled like naughty Victorian children enthralled by a Zoetrope, tittering at everything the clown queen regaled.
Ben and his pretty husband live in a parsonage not far from Jason and Katie. The house has been ‘published’. They show me pictures in a magazine of Ben’s equally annoying interior. Stuck in a grim place where a potager is still essential and an escritoire ‘sublime’. More stuff. Acres of stuff. Rooms full of stuff. Stuff Poundbury bought. Stuff set against emerald walls, set against raspberry blancmange, more and more, lustre ware, vulgar dahlias… bunches and bunches of them.
After dinner I sank uncomfortably into the sofa, consumed by horse hair and damp feathers. Ben wanted to introduce me to the ‘most perfect’ man.
“I have the most perfect man for you!”
Announcing to the room I needed a boyfriend. I told him to google me. I couldn’t imagine he would want to introduce me to anyone after he had read everything there is to read about me…
“I don’t want a boyfriend,” I said.
Jason sat beside me. Looking intently. He asked why I didn’t want a boyfriend. I told him a little of my story. Unpacking the bags. I mentioned coming out at 13, he asked dismissively why it was so important to ‘come out’.
“Ask your best friend Ben,” I said. Ben balked.
Ben ditched the resting bitch face and looked quite real, momentarily. He told Jason he was 27 when he came out, when he told his brother he was gay his brother reacted very negatively. Jason was shocked. I realized these two men who claim to be best friends don’t know each other… at all.
Jason Goodwin, enjoying his casual homophobia, sneered at my sadness for all the men I knew who died of AIDS, questioning my PTSD. Jason sneered harder when I told him how the lgbt community must still fight for equality and wondered why I let cruel Section 28 affect me. Jason, like so many men of his class, thought us impudent for wanting more. Now he sits in the front row of his gay best friend’s wedding. As for Ben Pentreith, what fight did he put up? He let the rest of us do the heavy lifting. At his wedding he scarcely gave a thought to the men who sacrificed so much for his happy day.
As a deliciously uncomfortable postscript I made Ben describe how gay hook up apps like Grindr and Scruff work to the assembled crew of stodgy heterosexuals. It was gleefully entertaining. “Scruff?” They repeated disdainfully. They wrinkled their noses, fanning away the imagined smell of the word.
I met a man I had brief crush upon, He was blond and sensitive and sturdy. I didn’t make a move. I think I would have fallen in love. I bought him a bottle of gin.
Monkton Wyld. I was staying in the house of a retired Dr and his Christian wife. They were touring Australia and New Zealand. The Monkton Wyld rectory was filled with opaque plastic boxes containing a life of habitual collecting. Bits and pieces. Scraps of fabric, knitting needles, tapestry. Every room has a sofa, even the dining room. The Christian wife does not want to live anywhere other than the huge house in the country where she keeps her charming husband hostage. He wants to live in Australia near his adored kids. They’ve brought a little slice of Surrey to the vail of Monkton Wyld. Tennis courts, over planted herbaceous borders, a rockery and sweeping lawns. Their staircase and landing is painted a delightful jade color but she doesn’t like it. She wants to paint it, he doesn’t want to spend £3000. She is unhappy. They are unhappy.
They left the house. Went away for 6 weeks. When they returned she had read all about me on the internet. I could see from her pinched lips, her sallow… indirect look. Too much of a coward to look me in the face and tell me what she really thought. Her Christianity didn’t allow her to approve of gay men. Even though she has a bisexual daughter. So she dressed up her disapproval with a shocking number of complaints about my stay at their house. The water pump had stopped working and would cost them £1,800 to put right. Some of the plants in the greenhouse had died. There was dog shit in the herbaceous borders. I had bought the wrong cat food.
There is a field at the bottom of their garden the local disliked farmer wants to sell. I hope someone buys the field and builds a big beautiful house in that field souring their perfect view. Perhaps I will.
Whilst in Dorset I took a little road trip 50 miles North to see Rachel Campbell-Johnston who was once the lover and friend of Sebastian Horsley. She is the art critic for the London Times. The final weeks of my drug use was spent with her and Sebastian. I specifically remember her vomiting out of a black cab on Kensington High St after doing reams of cocaine in 1997. The taxi driver looked so disappointed.
“What’s a pretty girl like you behaving like this.” he said.
Well, Rachel made millions from property investments (selling an old shed in Kensal Rise to Bella Freud) and bought an austere house near South Molton on Exmoor. She lives there with her daughter Katya, her mother, lurchers and two funny goats. Her marriage to my friend Jayne’s husband, Willy spectacularly failed. Their friends forced to take sides.
“Don’t talk about it!” She demanded.
I had totally forgotten she married Willy Nickerson, now she wants me to forget all over again. We reminisced about Whitstable. The Peter Cushing House. She attempted to shame me by wondering if I owned the house in Whitstable, or did it belong to someone else?
“No, it was mine.” I smiled, her icy stare not altering the temperature one jot.
“I didn’t own the house in Adam and Eve Mews.” I added, “That was my boyfriend’s.”
“Your dogs are so fucking ugly.” She said.
As if on cue one of her lurchers grabbed a huge leg of pork from the kitchen table and ran off with it. Rachel sprinted after the dog and returned with the mangled joint. She put it in the oven. “That’s what country folk do.” She said.
She remembered visiting me in Whitstable with Sebastian, Tricia and Paul Simonon from The Clash. She pointed at the bottle of wine on the kitchen table.
“We own these vineyards.”
I looked at her. Carefully. Wondering if she would ever grow up and make sense of what it might mean to be a wife and mother. She had failed so spectacularly at both.
The following day we sat with Laura and Peter Carew who I found myself liking a great deal. I reminded them I had been nominated for an academy award and gone to Sundance and opened many film festivals all over the world, which is far more than most of the wannabees we hung out with who told you they would… but never did.
“Look at his dogs,” Rachel spewed,”They are so fucking ugly.”
Although the Carew’s house is jammed with stuff like the houses of all these country people it is welcoming and warm. Lunch, a couple of chops and some salad. It suits Laura very much to have staff and land. Sheep and cattle. She’s only a decade from living on Exmoor full-time. Giving in to the lure of headscarves, tweed skirts, lambing, and driving a Landrover full tilt over the sodden moor.
I didn’t drive home the night I left Exmoor. I hanker for the sea. For Lyme Regis.
I was happy to see it. Lyme will always remind me of my first great love: Gerard Falconetti, grand son of Renee Jeanne. He played Meryl Streep’s real-time lover in the film The French Lieutenant’s Woman. He was my lover and friend, he was also the first man I knew during those heady times to die of AIDS. When the doctors told him he would die of that cruel and terrible disease he threw himself from the roof of the Tour Montparnasse.