Chapter 19

Chapter 19

My friend Kathleen Risk had met an artist, Johann Plesner, in Florence. His scholarship let him master the history of Florentine art. They fell in love and married, and Kathleen then made her home in Denmark. Their marriage ended too soon, ten years later, when Johann contracted a severe pneumonia. He died suddenly, leaving my good friend with two sons, 9 year old Ulrik and 4 year old Erling, my godson. After Johann passed on, Kathleen stayed with her sons in Copenhagen. One of the Plesner sons, Johann, became a talented and very celebrated architect. He had a big commission in Ceylon to build a Buddhist Temple, and Kathleen had a fascinating time out there with him. Then he was invited to do a big job in Jerusalem, and, as he had married a Jewish (orthodox) girl, he was very happy to go there.

Kathleen followed them, and invited me to go and spend a holiday out there, which I did. We arrived in Israel the week before Pentecost, which is not only a fasting week, but one can only buy unleavened bread. To get ordinary bread, one had to go to the Arab shops. The many guided expeditions I was able to join gave me wonderful pictures of the whole of the Holy Land, from Galilee in the north to Jericho and the Dead Sea in Judea in the south. The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, was really brought alive for me. The great historic sites of the New Testament in Jerusalem, for instance, have been built over by several layers during the last two thousand years. But I was able to walk down the Via Dolorosa, and over the brook, and up to the Hill of Golgotha. It was a most traumatic experience obviously as a result of my Anthroposophical studies. I went down the road to Jericho and bathed in the fabulous Dead Sea, where one can only float, because of the density of the salt. Johann’s Jewish in laws were most kind and hospitable, and invited me to take part in their Passover celebrations. This was indeed a fascinating experience, as all the customs of thousands of years were faithfully carried out. Kathleen was all the time deeply involved in Anthroposophical studies, and as the birth, growth and development of Christianity was the central part of her research, living in the land where it actually all happened gave her studies a very deep sense of reality.

All the time I was studying Anthroposophy and endeavouring to bring it into my life. I went to whatever conferences I could get away to, but I did not like to leave home for any length of time as Hugh’s health was always a main concern. At one time, he was recovering from a mild attack of flu when Dr. Hicks came over to see him. Dr. Hicks told him to get away and Hugh said there was shortly to be a glass convention in Venice. “Just the thing for you,” said Dr. Hicks. Hugh always went to Scotland to shoot, and I usually took the family to Wales. This time I immediately insisted on going with him. So to Venice we went, and while the men were busy at meetings, we wives were taken on sightseeing expeditions. Of course the wonders we saw of architecture and paintings and sculpture were dazzling revelations to last all one’s life.

The conference had a second session at Leghorne on the west coast of Italy, and we – husbands and wives — had a most wonderful drive right across Italy to the Adriatic Coast with various stops on the way to see what we could of more wonderful places.

Another memorable holiday was to Greece, on a Hellenic Tour, that Hugh suddenly wanted to undertake. Hughie with his friend John Newall came with us, and as on these tours there were various professors and Greek scholars, it was a wonderful educational experience, as well as a joy to see buildings and places that are ordinarily only names in books. At one point, Hugh who had been absorbed in all the lectures and talks we had, said that he never realised how much Rome owed to Greece! I had with me Steiner’s lectures on the mystery centres, so it was fascinating, going all over Ephesus and imagining the rituals that had been enacted there.

Another memorable journey for me was the one to South Africa, by flying boat. Every night we stopped and had about one hour of sightseeing time before it got dark. At our first stop, at Cyprus, we were taken to see the Catacombs lived in by the early Christians. The next stop was at Alexandria, but Hugh had managed to arrange some business in Cairo, so that night we actually spent in a river boat hotel on the Nile! The next day while Hugh was occupied, I was taken on a wonderful sightseeing tour. I saw all the treasures from Tutankhamen’s tomb, as well as the pyramids. But what fascinated me was a tomb carved out of rock, which had defied explanation. I was certain that it was an initiation chamber, where the neophyte had his three days of death sleep. The next stop was Luxor, and there was just time before sunset to see the vast Temples and statues of the pharaohs. Then on down to Lake Nyasa, and finally to Livingstone, on the Zambesi. Later on, with son John and his friend Betty, we drove down to the Cape, so we had the whole journey from Cairo to the Cape! It was on this trip that John and Betty became engaged. We came home by sea, a fortnight’s voyage, loaded with every kind of “loot” collected on the way!

As all the four elder children eventually left home, some time in the 1950’s, first to take jobs, and then, for three of them to get married and make their own homes, it seemed to me that Caspidge was more than we needed for just Hugh and me. He was on the County Council, and very much involved more in the south of the County, and I thought we should do better to move down there. But it so happened that the house at Holy Cross, where Hugh’s cousins the Smiths had lived, became vacant through their death. Dr. Hicks suggested that Hugh should buy it and move over there, although I don’t know why. I did not want to do this, because I thought it would be much better for Hugh near Worcester, although he said I would be near my own interests at Clent Grove. He bought it, and we moved.

Bio-Dynamic Agricultural Association:
At this time I was both secretary and treasurer of the Bio Dynamic Agricultural Association (B-D. A. A.). Through all my time as secretary, I worked in close co operation with Maria Geuter and David Clement, and managed to do all the typing and duplicating myself. Through this I had a very widespread correspondence with members scattered in many countries and continents. It occurred to me that on one of my visits to John, I should arrange to see all our South African members. So this I did, beginning with a wonderful elderly German couple living outside Johannesburg. They had a small garden, and the husband was trying to grow the plants for the preparations, but actually without success so all the preparations had to be sent out from the U.K. I also visited a dairy farm in a beautiful part of Natal, which was fortunate in having a stream running through it. The water never dried up, so the old couple never had trouble during the years of serious drought. A place of exceptional interest was a large wine producing plantation. Here the owner, using the B-D preparations and sprays in areas where this was possible, produced an exceptional wine. But he would never tell anyone the secrets of how he did this.

The Camphill Home at the Cape had entirely B D gardens, but had not, at that time, spread out into an actual farm. I was asked to give talks at one or two of my visits, and found quite a lively interest in this new method of improving both plants and soil. It so happened that Dr. Koenig, head of the Camphill Movement, was on a lecture tour of South Africa, and we frequently found ourselves visiting the same places.

Life was not going smoothly between Hugh and me. Our difficulties had been growing up over the years, and when the children had gone, there was nothing to hold us together. Looking back over the years, I have tried to discover what was the matter between us and asked Hugh one day what so angered him about me. He said simply, “I don’t like your ideas” and that was all. He never got further or deeper. So after much heart searching and deep unhappiness, we decided to separate, and as he had given me St. Bride’s House, I decided to go and live there.

My sister Diana was already living at Morfa Bychan in a caravan just across the road from me, and we had besides our friends the Howsons, and Frank and Betty Jarvis. I was able to carry on the B D work and engaged a secretary to help me with the typing. After a time I was able to hand on both the secretaryship and treasurer job to John Soper, living down at Broome, and all the equipment, duplicator et cetera was moved down there. I was at this time also on the Council of the Anthroposophical Society, which entailed monthly visits to London.

While I was living at St. Bride’s House, I turned the two attic areas into rooms, and built gable windows at each end. One room I turned into my office and occasionally used the other as my bedroom when the gales made too much noise in my little front room.

Daniel Carr and Hughie had been to school together at Elmfield and at Michael Hall. When Hughie and Daniel went to McGill, Hugh met up with Daniel’s mother, Rachel Carr, who had been divorced for ages. A friendship had developed to the point where Hugh was now living with Rachel at her flat in London. This made my position very difficult, particularly my relationship with my children, as their friendliness with Rachel and my difficulties with Hugh were most disturbing.

Totally against my deepest feelings, I was eventually persuaded that the only proper course for me to take was now to divorce Hugh on the grounds of his association with Rachel. My solicitor friend, Dickinson, chiefly persuaded me to end the marriage. So this I did. It seemed the only decent and sensible thing to do. I totally disagreed with the reality of it, as nothing could invalidate my marriage vows. To me, it was simply a legal statement, and my union with Hugh would last me our lives.

All this divorce business meant many visits to London, as did the monthly meetings for the Council, so I sold St. Bride’s House to Tiggy and Bridget and rented a flat in New Cavendish Street, then in a house in Sheffield Terrace, Chelsea area, off the King’s Road. [New Cavendish Street is off Portland Place, Sheffield Terrace off Kensington Church Street].

While I was living in London, Roma Browne became a very helpful friend, along with her close associate, Gerda Jensen. Very much sponsored by Roma, I was elected on to the Council of the Anthroposophical Society in G.B., chiefly to represent the agricultural interests.

I lived in Sheffield Terrace a few years but found London not pleasant for me to live in alone, not far from the Notting Hill area, so decided to move back to Broome.


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