“My last glimpse of him was about six years ago. I saw my King walking down Shaftesbury Avenue wheeling a pram – a large Victorian pram. I thought to myself: ‘Ah, my dear John: life has caught up with you as well. Like the rest of us you have shackled yourself with children, three lots of twins I’ll be bound, and have been forced to walk them in the Park instead of writing the sonnet you had in mind.’ But judge my relief when I caught up with him, for the pram contained nothing more sinister than a mountain of beer bottles – empties, which he was on his way to sell. We were delighted to see each other, and of course repaired to a pub to celebrate.”
From Lawrence Durrell, Spirit of Place (Some notes on my friend John Gawsworth). Photograph below: Lawrence and his first wife Nancy.
In my forthcoming novel there is a scene where an English missionary escapes from a city on her bicycle, taking with her a baby in the basket. My dilligent copy-editor asked me if this were feasible? ‘Of course!’ I replied (for the purposes of my story it had to be). So I was interested to read that when Durrell and Nancy fled Greece when the Nazis invaded in 1941 they carried their three month old daughter Penelope (‘Pinkie’) in a pannier basket ‘like a loaf of bread’.
I’m looking forward to reading more about Nancy in this book, Amateurs in Eden, due out next month.