Helen Brown, who has just died aged 99, was, with her husband Watty and daughter Prue, one of our closest neighbours when my parents arrived to live in Wootton Wawen, shortly after I was born. That she was a fine-looking woman can easily be seen from this photograph, taken by my father (I guess) on my first birthday, eight days before D-Day: that's her in the centre of the back row.
There was something wonderfully sophisticated about Helen, which it's hard to put a finger on: perhaps it was her skill as a raconteur (with mordant sense of humour), and her penchant for a cigarette, not to mention gin. I loved it when her eyes creased into a smile, as they did so very frequently. The Priory was accordingly a happy house to visit, as was the Browns' subsequent rather grander manor house near Worcester. There I remember once counting the leaves on a pineapple.
After Watty's death, Helen moved to her beloved Cornwall, her new home barely a 3-iron from the golf course at Trevose. I looked for it when we were staying at Mother Ivey's one Summer (1997). Arriving unshaven at the Constantine Bay Stores, I enquired of the proprietor exactly where the bungalow was. No response: she clearly looked upon me as a potential mugger or worse. Luckily Helen drove up just then in her battered Fiesta, claiming me for an old friend - "whose pram I used to push". Cue for another infectious chuckle.