In July, I went with George to the Poetry International meetings at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the Southbank.
One of the highlights was the appearance of W.H. Auden. George and I had seats in the front row. Auden shuffled on to the stage, in his carpet slippers, and spoke to a hushed audience.
He coughed and choked his way through several poems, then abruptly stopped speaking, exactly when his ‘slot’ had finished. Punctual about time to the last. At this point, many of us rushed to climb up on to the stage to meet the great man. He signed my programme – I have his precise signature to this day.
Ian Hamilton, the poet and literary critic, and Karl Miller, the then somewhat ferocious editor of The Listener, were both at the ‘after party’ and came up to talk to George and I. I like Miller. He came across as a gentle, astute, quiet man; who suddenly said to me: ‘You are a nice girl, Amanda’ We also talked to Lynn and Alan Brownjohn, the poet.
Later, George and I walked along the South Bank together. It had been a momentous evening for us both.
I was still missing JR. I sent him a gift of a tie – up to Norwich – where he was staying with Lorna and Snoo. I was still lovelorn and ever-hopeful.
On July 19th, I had an invitation to tea at the home of Cecil Harmswoth King, the editor of The Mirror. and his wife, Dame Ruth Railton, founder of the National Youth Orchestra. Both friends of my father, who accompanied me.
My diary of July 19th, 1971 records the following:
‘Yesterday I went down to Hampton Court. When I arrived I walked along the tow-path to their magnificent house ‘The Pavilion’, built by Wren in 1630. We had tea in the kitchen. Cecil was jovial, and joked with me a great deal. We ate birthday cake to celebrate his recent 7oth birthday, and fresh bread and butter with home-made lemon curd. Ruth chided me for smoking too much.
Cecil spoke about how he was working with Lord Longford on the Committee into Pornography.
Pan, a Japanese violinist, who plays with the London Mozart Players ( under Harry Blech), was also there.
It was a gloriously sunny day; and the house is exquisite’.