‘I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.’
Seems Audrey Hepburn believed in a lot of believing! Hard to believe that someone of such diminutive and delicate stature was possessing of such incredible strength and courage but if one is familiar with her story – her very private story – then one understands. Born in 1929, she was 11-years-old when the Germans invaded The Netherlands and made Arnhem a primary base for their operations. Audrey lived in the village of Velp in that very region, experiencing the full trauma of the war. Not only did she witness Jewish people being loaded onto train cars for deportation but her beloved uncle Otto was captured and executed in retaliation for resistance activities while one of her brothers was transported to a German labour camp and another spent the war in hiding. Starvation was commonplace and the malnutrition Audrey suffered in these years would ensure her lasting waif-like appearance. However, through it all, her passion was to dance – ballet – and ‘weak ‘as she was, not only was this her escape but it provided the vehicle which enabled her to raise funds for the Dutch Resistance, giving private, black-out performances. In years to come, she would be quoted as saying: ‘The best audiences I ever had made not a single sound at the end of my performance.’
The story of her bravery is incredible. She ran messages for the Resistance and, at one point, her family hid a British soldier and helped him escape. However, it is a story she preferred to keep private. It seems that is commonplace for those who witnessed the atrocities of that period. As a little girl, my best friend’s father had been a prisoner at Colditz. He, too, would never talk about it … A world away from the iconic film star Audrey Hepburn became, no matter, those years were ingrained and her enduring hope for good – her ability to believe – surely, her strength.
‘I believe in miracles.’ Heaven help me, someone has to! Moreover, I am increasingly grateful that none of us knows what tomorrow will bring. That was my reason for the Audrey tangent, I was looking for a quote of that very nature. For the news is just horrific. It goes from bad to worse with, seemingly, no reprieve. Scribbled beside me are the names Elvis, Judith Durham and Olivia Newton-John … My plan was to write about the current, acclaimed Baz Luhrmann film, Elvis, which we went to see a week ago. My advice? Unless visiting from another planet – or one of the many lucky/shallow celebs pictured cruising the Med on their private yachts – avoid! There can be few Joe Bloggs (no apologies to Josephines) living in this godforsaken country, as of now, sufficiently buoyed to cope with an evening of self-inflicted doom and gloom. As if things aren’t bad enough, who would pay to be depressed? Honestly, the VIP seats – far from uninvited human contact – and complimentary glass of wine were no match for a big screen depicting Elvis’ tragic life at the mercy of Colonel Tom Parker! For he – aka Tom Hanks in an incredible fat suit (I hope) – was the narrator, Elvis’ story told through his eyes …
Premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis seemingly gleaned the approval of Priscilla and Lisa-Marie Presley, its authenticity, somehow, making it all the more poignant. Reminded of his music and incredible voice – never to be matched, I suspect – his talent was innate. Uneducated and from humble beginnings, however, his chance discovery was a gift to the ruthless piranha who was Colonel Tom Parker. While Elvis saw him as a father-figure, the Colonel saw him as nothing more than a cash cow, taking fifty percent of everything he earned right up until his death at the age of 42. 16th August, 1977, I remember it well. Manipulated to the end, the young boy from Tupelo, Mississippi with the extraordinary talent – adored the world over – ironically, only ever wanted to look after his beloved mother and make his family proud. Instead, he became a prisoner, stifled in a world he hated; one in which the drugs he relied upon to function finally destroyed him. So sad. A difficult watch, the cinematography is impressive and Austin Butler, superb! However, to my mind, Baz Luhrmann’s approach leaned too heavily towards the dramatic. As the lights came up, the two words which came to mind were ‘macabre’ and ‘sinister’. Gut reaction.
The next morning, I wakened to news I hoped never to hear: the death of Judith Durham, voice of The Seekers. It’s hard to explain the feeling but it’s like – and I suppose it is – a part of my childhood dying and, certainly, a reminder of my own mortality! As a six-year-old in the late Sixties, my best friend at the time was Rowena and I have such happy memories of spending time at her home, Chapel, the magnificent country house with the Billiard Room and the massive table-tennis table, the trunks in the attic filled with white cotton petticoats, drawers and camisoles etc which afforded us endless fun dressing up – and which, to this day, I am drawn to in vintage shops; the sprawling lawns, including a tennis court, the slimy, frog-filled network of dark tunnels under the house which I would never crawl through now, the bats and the ghost stories and the long drive up to the giant Monkey Puzzle tree and the front door. How I loved that house and the memories we made.
The youngest of three girls, Rowena’s father had been a prisoner in Colditz during WWII. He never spoke about it (as I mentioned earlier!) but he was a formidable man and he expected his daughters to behave and dress as young ladies. He hated girls wearing trousers and thus, I remember, always having to wear a skirt – at least, when we went anywhere. The Drawing Room at Chapel House was vast with huge windows framing the view stretching into the distance, wooden floors scattered with faded rugs and … the record player over by the far wall which, in those days, was a piece of furniture in itself, like a cabinet on four legs with a lid, its true purpose disguised. Suffice to say, Rowena’s father loved The Seekers and the voice of Judith Durham was a constant. The Seekers Greatest Hits original LP – Judith Durham in her long dress, the three men in jackets and ties on the sleeve – remains a treasured possession. Their songs, too, were forever beloved by Pop … just something else he and I shared. I can still hear my mother’s words to him in the conservatory as he pulled their CD from the shelf: ‘Why are you listening to that sentimental ‘rubbish’ again?’! The thing is, Judith Durham was supposed be immortal …
Olivia Newton-John, too. Just three days later. I remember her, first, on the Cliff Richard Show in the early Seventies. Once again, in her long dresses, she was stunning with cheekbones to die for and a smile which positively lit up her beautiful big eyes. It was so obvious Cliff was besotted! I remember going to see him in concert at the Caird Hall, Dundee around that time and she was with him. A few years before Grease which would catapult her to stratospheric fame in the summer of 1978. That October marked the start of Second Year at Edinburgh University for me, one of the best times of my life, and these songs were/are intrinsic. So sad. She meant so much to so many and her courage in her long battle against cancer is only matched by her beauty, inside and out. RIP Olivia. Ironically, on more than one occasion hearing her death announced, it was said that the cause of her death had not yet been confirmed. Seriously? She had been fighting cancer for thirty years! Amazing how, over the past two years, there was no hesitancy in declaring Covid the cause of every death, regardless.
I warned it was all doom and gloom but I have scarcely touched the surface. I need to address the potential ‘stitch-up’ of Donald Trump, first and foremost, then there’s the sinister inertia of our government (even though we don’t actually have one right now) with regard to any meaningful attempt to address the ludicrous rising energy cap, followed by the felling of Salman Rushdie whose only crime was exercising his right to free speech. Oh, boy! Descending, it’s back to ‘woke’ and Lisa Kudrow’s talk of the need to ‘unburden’ herself following the lack of diversity in Friends – and to think I thought she was the most sane! No wonder I’m turning to a microphone – quicker than typing …
Manny, you still with me? Thought I’d end on a funny note – my recent trip in a Wrangler with a complete stranger. Yes, popping down to Crail for lunch last Monday, we were walking back to the car when we spotted a white Wrangler parked outside the Eco shop. The guy was packing bags into the back so I went over to talk to him – well, ask him about it. Most accommodating, he told us to take a look around the car as he went back into the shop. Doors open, phone sitting there, bags in the back, he must have thought we were trustworthy! Anyway, back he came and asked if I’d like to go for a drive? I shook my head and thanked him but Manny and Becca told me to go so … I handed them my bag, containing my phone, and jumped (humour me!) into the passenger seat. Off we went – and went, and went! No idea about this guy – about my age, I think – it was, then, I realised the error of my ways: middle of nowhere with a strange guy and no phone! Reaching the golf course, however, we turned round and I concealed a sigh of relief. He was lovely and, in fact, collecting bags to deliver to the local Food Bank! Honestly, this cesspit of a world has trained us to tarnish everyone with the same brush and there are still genuine, good people – few and far between, admittedly, but there are. Suffice to say, I was returned safely by a guy whose name I am none the wiser and Becca and Manny merely added it to my repertoire.
Always said that I want my epitaph to be ‘She was never boring’. Tick.
‘I would rather die of passion than of boredom.’
Vincent van Gogh
I hear you!
This is Trish, signing off – eventually. Even I can’t bear to check it over … Apologies.