Friday, 20 June 2008

Out to tea

Caroline and I drove up to Foxcote yesterday afternoon, for tea with Marigold Bridgeman. We sat together in her sunny garden room, looking out onto a beautiful lawn and herbaceous borders, the Coln Valley stretching out below. Marigold admitted to being one of a diminishing breed who had never attended school, being taught at home by a governess. The first exam she sat was her School Certificate, which led on to a hospital secretarial job: she and her older sister Jeannine, who also worked there, were always ringing one another up. "Darling", they would call each other. So as "the Darlings" they were known.

I was surprised to learn that Marigold's mother and her three children had only come to the Cotswolds in 1943, when Marigold was still a teenager. Upon arrival at Upper Dowdeswell Manor, they were paid a visit and asked "Where are your horses?" "We don't have any." "Oh," said the neighbour, "what on earth will you do with yourselves!"

Marigold at length told her hospital boss, amid many tears, that she was leaving. "What next?", he asked. "I am buying a cow," she said, and so began a happy time building up a herd of pedigree Jerseys.

Everything of which Marigold spoke seemed bathed in affection; nothing in affectation. Despite not having had the best of health, she looked as serene as ever, more and more resembling the Queen, to whose sister she was such a good friend.

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