Magazine article The Spectator

Adored Friends

Magazine article The Spectator

Adored Friends

Article excerpt

NO INVITATION REQUIRED: THE PELHAM COTTAGE YEARS

by Annabel Goldsmith

Weidenfeld, £16.99, pp. 179, ISBN 9780297854517

£13.59 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655

Years ago the late 'Brookie' Warwick, 8th Earl, asked me to ghost his memoirs. In conversation he was full of amusing scandal, but the transcript of his dictated reminiscences was painfully discreet. I suggested they might be 'sexed up' - a new, comparatively innocent but still obviously vulgar expression - and he looked puzzled. 'The first boy I met at Eton was my cousin Bingham, ' the transcript read, 'who was very stupid and rather dirty, and came to a bad end.' Bingham became Lord Lucan, so if there were more about his stupidity and dirtiness, along the lines of 'I remember "Lucky" in Uganda, beneath a pile of oiled Nubians. . .'

'Oh, ' he said, 'you mean an expose. I don't think so.'

The 7th Earl of Lucan was a friend of Annabel Goldsmith's, and of both her husbands. Here, complete and unexpurgated, is what she recalls of him in her latest book:

'Rarely did I walk into the Clermont and not see Lucan sitting at a table playing backgammon. Little did we anticipate the scandal with which he would be synonymous - to me he was simply part of the furniture.'

So no oiled Nubians.

No Invitation Required - a companion piece to Annabel: An Unconventional Life - records her sojourn at Pelham Cottage, in a garden down a lane in South Kensington, in the 1960s and 1970s.

She was married to Mark Birley, who named his nightclub after her, and they had three children. At the club's opening night she met Birley's friend Jimmy Goldsmith, who became her lover, husband, and the father of another three children. Goldsmith acquired Ormeley Lodge, Ham, where Lady Annabel (nee Vane-Tempest-Stewart, a daughter of the 8th Marquess of Londonderry) installed the Pelham Cottage furniture in her bedroom, which is of a similar size. So she still lives there, in a way, and remembers it with warmth and charm, in sight of the drawing-room sofa which so often served 'as a bed for those who came to lunch and stayed'.

George Weidenfeld suggested she write about her lunchers and stayers, 'including, ' as the blurb puts it, 'some of the most sophisticated and iconic people of the day'. Among them is Tony Lambton, whom she had a crush on as a girl when he stayed at Wynyard Hall, the Londonderry seat in Co. Durham ('I loved the promise of the three ballrooms . …

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