This has nothing to do with walking whatsoever, but I felt it might provide sufficient amusement to merit a post anyway.
I’ve always regarded the Upper Classes, the Establishment, the Landed Gentry and posh folk in general with considerable disdain, it’s always felt like a perfectly natural attitude to possess. I grew up on a council estate, went to a fairly dysfunctional secondary comprehensive from which I was ejected aged 15, for a litany of serious misdemeanours; I was always in trouble with the police, made a number of appearances at juvenile court, gained a criminal record, sniffed glue, took drugs; I became a vegan, hunt saboteur, rabid anti-monarchist and embryonic anarcho-class war fruitcake. I went on every demo going, and worked on fund-raising gigs for the striking miners. I hung out in squats in Brighton, London, Berlin and Amsterdam and I still held doors open for old ladies!
So, I’ve always felt that my proletarian credentials were pretty solid, yet people often take me for posh because of my speaking voice. I’ve always found that quite funny as to my mind being ‘well-spoken’ isn’t necessarily a class thing – definitely not in my case. In the early-nineties I found those ubiquitous middle class drop-out wannabe-New Age traveller kids very amusing when they attempted to disguise their accents by adopting something earthier, which often made them sound as if they were auditioning for The Wurzels.
Nope, definitely not posh me.
So why is it, then, that returning from a pre-xmas working and visiting trip to my native Sussex, TLF was able to derive a great deal of pleasure from repeatedly calling me a posh twat as we motored up the M6 on our way home?
The origin of TLF’s enchanting new pet-name for me was a little window onto the murky mists of our family history opened by my 85-year old mum. Details of our family past have always been a bit sketchy, not least on my father’s side; he was, to say the least, a bit of a dark horse. For instance, he was known to all and sundry as Tony Edwards, yet when he died in 1994, this is the name that was inscribed on his headstone;
Captain Henri Anthony Lemoine Edwards
While he was alive, no-one bothered to mention that his natural father was French, a mining engineer, who had been killed in 1914 (the war?) – the year my father was born. He was then shipped out to relatives in Blighty, but subsequently went to boarding school in France. He was a fluent French speaker, but never bothered to teach me a word of the language. All I really knew about him was that he had served throughout the second world war during the campaigns in the Western Desert, Italy, France and Germany. I was immensely proud of this. Other than that, he wasn’t a great communicator.
Anyway, while we were down in Sussex, myself and TLF visited my sister and family over in South Heighton to celebrate mum’s birthday. My niece, Abbie, cooked a roast and after we’d eaten my mum chipped in with a bit of a jaw-dropper…
I’d known for a long time that my father had a cousin, name of Penelope Dudley Ward, who had been a reasonably famous actress before and during the last war (starred opposite Larry Olivier in Moscow Nights (1935) and the wartime dramas In Which We Serve and The Way Ahead). This is a picture of her from the National Portrait Gallery:
Well that’s okay, isn’t it? Actress with posh name, never mind, starred opposite Larry O – that’s quite cool, ne c’est pas?
So then my mum tells us about Penelope’s mother – my great aunt – Freda ‘Fifi’ Dudley Ward, also known as the Marquesa de Casa Maury. ‘Ooh that sounds a bit posh doesn’t it?’ I hear you say. Bloody right it does, but guess what? It gets worse: she was only King Edward VIII’s mistress for 15 years while he was still the Prince of Wales and before he met Wallis Simpson!
Great aunt Fifi, how could you? There goes my reputation…