clean up

In the midst of a long overdue clean up of my poor work room, which had become submerged by the number of projects, completed, abandonned (but maybe only temporarily) or just begun. All the material for Amateurs is now being filed away – at some stage I must do some kind of index so I don’t waste hours looking for things. But that is for a later stage of virtue than the present one. I can across the address that Richard Harris, a Times journalist, gave at Nancy’s funeral, June 1983 – almost 30 years ago, goodness gracious and all that. He began:

‘Forty years ago when I was stationed in the hills above Beirut – a peaceful Beirut in war, compared with the warring Beirut of peace – I used to go for a swim, outside the town, to the French Officers’ Club, a beach and a cove where the sea was embraced by a horseshoe of rocks. Several times I noticed, sitting at the far end of the rocks, looking out to sea , a young woman, a beautiful young woman: alone, evidently content with her solitude, seemingly enigmatic and yet appealing.

‘After more than a decade in the Far East, I returned to The Times in London, where my friendship with Teddy and Nancy began: easily and happily, because I, too, could share their wartime experience of the Middle East – that place of so many wartime friendships … And what, as time passed, did I discover? That Nancy had been in Beirut in 1943 and indeed, had enjoyed entry to the French Officers’ swimming pool, and had been a frequent visitor there. The silent beauty of the distant rocks had come into my life in reality.

‘But I must not convey a wrong impression. Nancy was absolutely without any artificially presented lifestyle; no side, no pushy self-expression, no outward display of any kind that seemed to demand admiration. Not a bit of it.’

And so on. Someone asked me, I think on the Guardian Q and A, if the photographs did her justice. Reading Richard’s piece again, I think probably the answer is No. She must have had some quality of stillness and mystery that the camera never quite got.

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