I announced the news of my pregnancy while dining with Jonathan at ‘L’Artiste Affame’. In my distress at telling him, I burnt my tongue on the boiling oil of the meat fondue we were dipping into.
The happy event was not well-received by him. Unsurprisingly. I had not knowingly or willingly tried to conceive a child with him.
However, to be fair, in the following weeks, Jonathan’s moods ranged from ‘joy’ at the thought of a child , to the utter horror of the prospect of ‘the pram in the hall’.
Either way, his reactions were ‘all over the place’. He mentioned how the literary critic, Bonamy Dobree, had had an illegitmate child with his father,Peter Raban’s sister, which made little sense to me.
In contrast, my beloved employers – Mel Calman and Karen Usborne – were overjoyed by my happy news. They clucked and fussed over me at work; urging me to sit down and rest; rushing out to buy me fried egg sandwiches ( my current craving) from the ‘greasy spoon’ caff next door. They then gave me the keys to their flat ( to use in order for me to have a ‘lie down’ during the day), promised that I could continue in my job -. and that I could bring the baby with me to work, once he or she was born. Finally, they whisked me down to their country cottage in Kent to relax and to have a little holiday.
They were both marvellously kind to me, and I shall forever be indebted to them for their support and nurturing in my hour of need.
For years, I had considered myself to be infertile. I was currently ‘under investigation’ at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson hospital’s Infertility Clinic at the time; and when the doctors there confirmed that I was pregnant, the unit was overjoyed for me.
They, and Karen Usborne both counselled me that this baby could be ‘my only chance’. So I was determined to go ahead, whether Jonathan was involved, or not. And so I did.
Karen and Mel were not the only friends that I had who spoiled me.
George would take me out to dine at ‘The Barque and Bite’, and The Trattoria Terraza to make sure that I ate properly, and to keep me ‘up to speed’ with all manner of literary gossip.
Over my insalata alla Sinatra, Dover sole, with shrimps, mushrooms, cauliflower and sauce gratinee, followed by fruit salad, George would read to me from the diaries he kept in the 1940s – as a little boy – full of price lists, facts and figures.
The writer and a friend from UEA, Clive Sinclair , would take me ‘out and about’ to restaurants, the theatre and parties. I remember that we went to see a production of Twelfth Night, in which Vanessa Redgrave, Ann Beach and Nyree Dawn Porter played the starring roles.
Jonathan would continue to phone, from time to time, to see how I was, from his duplex flat in the basement of Robert Lowell’s home.