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The Warp

Conversational Gems of Diana (2)

‘My husband Freddy had been a Jewish lawyer in Germany. The Nazis came to get him but he’d been warned. So he rushed over to the French frontier in his little car and got into Paris, so they didn’t get him, absolute luck really. And the person who warned him was a judge, he said warn little Freddy that they’re coming for him. Freddy didn’t know that this judge had become a Nazi, you see, so he had inside information. A lot of Germans at that time became Nazis because their pensions and so much else depended on it. He was probably quite a harmless fairly ineffective chap but at least he did that one good deed and Freddy got away from certain death.

‘He arrived in Paris and hadn’t got anywhere to go, he went to see a cousin of his, and his cousin said, I’ll find you a room somewhere, and the room had a big population of bedbugs, they were climbing up the walls and Freddy sat on his bed hitting out at them with a bedroom slipper. This was a quite usual thing to be doing in those days, much more common than now, and they had special chaps who advertised Atilla Chasseur de Pinés, they made quite a living out of it.

‘As he couldn’t practice as a lawyer in this country, Freddy gradually became a painter. He loved painting Wales in winter when the bracken was browny red. He started doing scenes in Paris. He loved to paint things like a French soldier pushing a pram. Then, as he became more of an artist, he went to Spain and did some lovely things there. He was never uninfluenced by anyone else. He was rather a primitive to start with, then he developed into a more serious painter. He adored the Welsh landscape and Francis, my son, inherited this enjoyment and still lives on the top of a mountain in Wales.

‘I can remember you, Jeremy, going to stay there in that very cold winter when everything froze. It was a terrible terrible winter but you all went off, I didn’t, I stayed here. You had a bottle of water in a fizzy water bottle, I think it exploded in the car.

‘My son Francis became Welsh speaking and became chairman of the Welsh Fell Runners and took them running up Everest, no, not to the top, but as far as a camp they built half way up and then they all ran down, and he did a video of it and when they were talking they passed the microphone from one to the other because they were so breathless that they none of them could talk for very long.’

Diana spoke about fox hunting, which had many enthusiasts among the neighbouring gentry.

‘We didn’t let them meet at the castle. They had their meets at the farm. I was never interested. My brother Michael was never interested.

‘Jimmy Croft had been Master of Hounds. I don’t belong to that world at all. The only time I ever hunted was staying with the Maharajah of Jaipur. This was on a visit to a cousin who was with a cavalry regiment out there. We were hunting a jackal, going through land where there were many antelopes and they all scattered to either side of us as we came along. They used jackals to chase instead of foxes, but I don’t think we ever killed a jackal.

‘The trouble with this life was that in India they expected you to want to watch polo, the last thing I wanted to do was watch polo.’


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