My mother was an accomplished classically trained concert pianist – and a stunningly beautiful actress! She lived on the Isle of Wight.
She was only 19 when she met my father on a cruise. My father was 47. Perhaps my mother was the pianist – or part of an orchestra. Perhaps she was with a boyfriend? I have no idea what my father was doing on that cruise or what sort of cruise it was, but, bearing in mind one doesn’t usually go on a cruise alone, I wonder, and I have never thought about this before, I wonder what that story was? Hmmm….
My father by this time had built a highly successful international company around his invention for an expanding suitcase (“Revelation” was destined to become a household name in luggage). He had begun to re-accumulate some of the lost wealth he had known in his youth.
What I do know is that they were married shortly thereafter and my brother Graham was born in 1936. There would be a second World War and another eight years before I arrived
First introduced to me as mummy. I would later come to know her as mum. I remember her mostly as a mix between a saint and a hostage negotiator. She was the go-between whenever I broke something valuable or got caught doing something “bad”. She would be the one I would tell first and she then would form a defense committee and at the appropriate moment gently pass the information on to my father.
I was her favourite. In retrospect, with good reason. I was quite cute and funny and by far the youngest. My only sibling, my brother Graham, had been born eight years before me. So when I was 10 years old for example, he was already 18 and more than capable of defending himself against me. To put it mildly! He was a really tough guy and would on occasion show me how tough he was. To be fair, he was probably pissed off that after I was born, for the next ten or so years, he would be given the official position of “babysitter”. I think I can imagine how it might feel to be an only child, but I can only wonder what it would be like to be an only child and then suddenly have an adorable baby brother who now takes centre stage and makes you have to stay in whenever your parents go out.
My mother was brought up in a prominent Isle of Wight family. Her father was a banker – but still – it was the Isle of Wight – not known as a particularly sophisticated piece of England, whereas my father had been brought up in a grand London house with nannies, footman, cooks, butlers, etc., and was driven around in Rolls Royces by chauffeurs. Educated at top schools, he had travelled the world, fought bulls in Argentina, lived in luxury, and been on the front page of newspapers etc. etc.
My mother’s maiden name was Browne. I have several books on her family one of which is called “The Genealogical Memoirs of the Brownes of Caverswall Shredicote and Bentley” (I used to have an old Bentley!… ah well). Her grandfather was Birket Foster (Foster is my middle name), a prominent water-colourist -and a member of the Royal Academy.
I have a book about him filled with many of his better known drawings and paintings. I also have two of his paintings. In addition, in the attic, I came across a book called “The Pedigree of the Forsters of Cold Hesledon”. So I assume that Foster had been derived from Forster.
My mother loved Beethoven – I can almost hear her long manicured fingernails clattering up and down the keys whilst I would lie under the grand piano and listen to her play the Moonlight Sonata. Dad made sure we always had a grand piano in our house wherever we were. I remember some of the names – many of them began with B: Bösendorfer, Blüthner, Bechstein, and of course – Steinway.
Later on after my father had died and she had married my stepfather, they bought a small Finca (farmhouse) on the island of Menorca. The only person who had any idea how to tune a piano (it was very humid on the island and it needed tuning often) was actually the mailman.
At the time I was living in an apartment just off 5th Avenue in New York with a baby grand Steinway and when the piano tuner came (I remember his name to this day – Norman Yeend. He had a great ear for tuning but poor fellow his eyesight was ailing and I remember the lenses in his glasses were so thick they made his eyeballs look so large it seemed that if he took off his glasses the eyeballs would go with them). He gave me enough information to buy the necessary tools and try to do a better job than the mailman which I did when I was next in Menorca. My mother was thrilled even though I know it wasn’t perfectly in tune. Apparently there is some magic as well as skill required to tune a grand piano.
The Kennedy’s in South Africa
Clive, Mum, Dad, Graham