Margaret Bottrall (1)

The other thing I found in my study which I didn’t know I had was a notebook containing a short memoir of her life which my aunt wrote for her grandchildren not long before her death.   I found it very poignant because it describes not only her childhood, but by inference my father’s as well (and he has added very characteristic factual corrections):  born in Sydney next door to St. Chad’s, Cremorne;  back to London in a liner which nearly sank in the Bay of Biscay;  a childhood in 123, King Henry’s Road in what she calls Hampstead, but is more Primrose Hill;  she had read every novel by Dickens by the time she was fourteen.   I always thought she was entirely home educated, which she was for a period of two years, but then one of her seven aunts, Aunt Mabel, objected and she was sent away to a small private school near Beaconsfield where she was befriended by G.K. Chesterton.   After Oxford, she went off to Yale where she married a Cornish poet, Ronald Bottrall, who is conspicuously absent from the narrative.   They moved just before the outbreak of the second world war to a large house in Thaxted which my grandmother bought for her out of her inheritance.   Three things come across:  how much time people had for reading and amateur music-making before the days of television, air travel and the mobile phone;  the hardships of two world wars – porridge made of maize and margarine;  and the overwhelming importance to my aunt’s generation of religion, aunts and servants.

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