Byline: EMMA TENNANT
Picture the scene: the lawn at Wilsford Manor, at the foot of Salisbury Plain with the River Avon flowing through the garden, on a hot July afternoon in 1915. The house, newly built but looking romantically old, with its ancient stone and a mass of pink roses climbing under mullioned windows.
water's edge, yellow flag irises grow among the reeds.
My grandmother, Pamela (Lady Glenconner),
Glenconner), decides to while away this idyllic afternoon by recording the weights of her family. The big iron scales are brought out on to the lawn, along with a lined pad for her to write on. Nanny Trusler, the nurse whom, my father once told me, he had loved more than his
mother, is there too. The children, for all that they were Pamela's 'jewels', only visited their parents after tea and Nanny was always on hand to whisk them off upstairs. On the pad, my grandmother scribbled the names of the two Tennant children who were present that day next to their weights: David (who founded London's notorious Gargoyle Club) and Christopher (my father, who was sent off to the Navy at Dartmouth at 12 years old). Then Madeleine Wyndham, affectionately known as 'Gan-Gan', who was
my great-grandmother, and Edward, my grandfather who, at 9st 8lb was, surprisingly, the same weight as Gan-Gan; and then Roly the dog.
I visualised this touching scene as I pored over a copy of the chart that my grandmother wrote almost 90 years earlier. Then, near the foot of the list, a name in my grandmother's spidery handwriting stood out.
Why hadn't I noticed it before?
'Oliver 2st 4lb,' it said.
This was Oliver Hope, the baby we had always been told was adopted by my grandmother in 1916 from Salisbury Infirmary after the death of her best-loved eldest son Edward (or Bim, as everyone called him) on the Somme. The story goes that the despairing Pamela, beside herself with grief, walked into the hospital and declared: 'I've lost my baby.
Have you got one for me?' But the weight chart had been written in 1915, well before Bim's death, and she couldn't have adopted a newborn baby in 1916 if the child already weighed more than 2st in …