I left my job at Cambridge University Press, because I had managed to be awarded a British Council grant to study ‘Belgian Symbolism’ ( in Art and Literature) in Bruges and Ghent.
In the months before I left for Belgium, I was still writing pieces for Michael:a book review of The Hidden Dimension: man’s use of space, in public and private’ by Edward T. Hall; an appreciation of the work of Ivy Compton-Burnett; and he’d also accepted another poem of mine: ‘Blows’.
Meanwhile, I’d had tea with the poet, Stevie Smith ( see my piece ‘Tea with Stevie’) in the company of George MacBeth at her home in Avondale Road, and I’d also had dinner with the writer, Francis Huxley (see: Bach’s Guiding Light’: a meeting with Francis Huxley).
Michael had friends who lived in Somerset Maughan’s former flat at 12, Cliveden Mansions, Cliveden Place – an extraordinary place, lined with wooden panelling that had been put in by Coutts, the bankers. I remember visiting it and Michael’s friends – Joe Briggs and Ann Weaver – ( a dancer for the Royal Ballet) , and the four of us going to see ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ starring Anthony Dowell and Antoinette Sibley. We met both dancers backstage, and had supper there in the interval. The next day, Ann and I went to watch Fonteyn and Nureyev rehearse at Sadler’s Wells to an empty auditorium.
I had enjoyed my time with Michael, but I needed to move on now. On my 24th birthday, Jonathan had been in touch, and we were still seeing each other. I still had strong feelings for him , but we were only seeing each other occasionally. However, there seemed to be no ‘future’ for us, as a couple.
Now I was 25 and anxious to ‘settle down’, and, more importantly, my longing to have a baby meant I was now doing some serious ‘husband-hunting’. I can remember seeing the word ‘BABY’ in neon lights appearing in my dreams nightly. The biological ‘urge’ was such that thoughts of a career, and the benefits of an expensive education, were being pushed aside.
The ‘break’ in Belgium allowed me to escape from my hectic socialising in London, breathe and to reflect a little on the future.
Not a great deal of work was done on the various degenerate poets and painters ( Maeterlinck/ Fernand Knopff et al) of the period by me ( although there was talk of a series of books on Symbolism that Andrew Graham-Dixon was going to be editing), while I was in Belgium. However, I was quite conscientious and spent my lonely days in various libraries, amassing as much information as I could, while reading ‘Ulysses’, by James Joyce, for company, until a week or so before I was meant to return home. It was then that I met a group of delightful young lawyers studying at the prestigious ‘College d’Europe’ in Bruges.
One was a handsome, charming 35-year-old Norwegian fellow, called Harald Brusgaard, on the look-out for a wife.
Here was perfect ‘husband material’.