Saturday, October 27, 2007

Olga Nethersole

At the NYTBR, Alida Becker reviews a book I think I must read, Liza Campbell's A Charmed Life: Growing Up in Macbeth's Castle:
While Campbell’s grandfather was alive, her father presided over the family’s other vast estate, in Wales. It was the swinging ’60s, and while his children played in a Gypsy caravan in a rural setting straight out of Beatrix Potter, Hugh “treated his sex life as if he were James Bond,” pursuing love affairs as far afield as Africa when not busy crashing sports cars (he went through six Jaguars before switching to Ferraris). He and his wife sat down to a formal dinner every evening, whether they were alone or entertaining strangers Hugh had raced with on the road from London. Even the more conventional guests could be strange: Uncle Bill, with “a child’s mind in a burly adult body,” fond of marching up and down in his bedroom to brass-band music; Tia Honsai, a martial arts expert with a “greasy quiff,” in reality a Welshman named Ronald Thatcher. The household servants also had their quirks, but most of the nannies weren’t around long enough to make an impression: the Campbells went through almost 30 of them, and not, Liza observes, “because we children were waking them up in the dead of night.”

Despite his nanny-stalking, much could be forgiven a glamorous father who paid surprise visits to his daughters’ boarding school via helicopter (even if they happened to be away at the time). And his domestic dictates, while puzzling, weren’t deeply problematic: corgis, cats, chewing gum and custard were frowned upon, as well as “most ornamental conifers, any talk of money and the color mauve.”

The author's father and brother practicing aikido in front of Cawdor Castle

(For the sake of accuracy, it must be added that the castle was built 300 years after the time in which Shakespeare's play is set.)

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