You have to start somehow. I don’t mind doing this at all... speaking is a skill I still have. I could never write a book about my life... it wouldn’t have been up to scratch... but simply telling the story, yes I can still do that. I’m trying to remember but it’s such a muddle. I’ll try not to be a bore. Temperamentally I don’t think too much about what might have been.
I’m a hundred and three... that’s right... a long life but not very interesting now. All I seem to do now is sleep and have my hair done!
My early memories are generally clearer than the recent ones... in fact there are precious few recent ones... I know that only too well. It’s not that the old memories are getting better... nothing’s getting better!
I came here when everybody thought I was going to die... we gave all my paintings and furniture to the family... but I didn't die... everybody else did! I just keep on living... it's really quite extraordinary. I’d be delighted to be on the way out... I think being 103 is enough for anyone. I don’t like it one bit.
My grandparents... I remember a charming Sardinian gentleman... you see my father was born in Sardinia... they weren’t there for long... my grandfather was an engineer... it is a long, long time ago. We lived upstairs... I think we lived upstairs here... I’m trying to remember... is Jack stll up there? Am I doing well? It’s not easy... I was always interested in what was going on... ten years before the Titanic so I’m still of some small use to the historians.
We lived in Barnstable... and we had a nanny, and how we loved nanny! That was my life... you see it was all very banal... Elizabeth Buckley was the nanny’s name. Now isn’t that extraordinary that I’ve remembered that! I’ve never thought of it for at least a hundred years. I even remember that she was short and ruddy... she wasn’t very far away from my height and I was tiny. I can tell you that at the end of the room near the window there was a big painted toy-box... Oh the toy-box! I used to sit in the box and pretend it was a boat. It makes me smile. Back then I was only too happy to be in my box... I’m not so very keen now.
I travelled to London and started working for the BBC World Service in the war... my God! What a long time ago. I remember Jack, my older brother in his puttees. Poor Jack, I know he died in the trenches but I can’t really say I remember him at all. I know I had a brother called Jack.
I got married late because of the war... but what war was it? There seem to have been so many wars.
I was a sort of wartime radio person my whole life. De Gaulle complemented me on my French accent. There were hundreds of people... a new era. The whole of life was so utterly and completely different... so much more exciting. I’m not sure the people here understand... to even have a radio was very forward looking and I ran the whole studio. One really has to keep up with the times.
I can’t tell you how I met my second husband... an Italian, at the BBC I think. He was killed at the very beginning of the bombing. I think it’s a bit muddled. I was somehow used to it by then but it didn’t make it any less sad... I didn’t marry again but I didn’t want to.
The first thing I did when I left home was go on stage... you see my father knew everybody... and I went to Sybil Thorndike... I seemed to be with her on and off all my life. I joined the company when I was 18. By the time I was 28 I was rather bored with the theatre. I think we toured a production in Italy and, well, I met a man and stayed behind. I married and divorced three times by the time I was thirty.
I was still in Italy at the very start of the war... we didn’t seem to know what was happening... nobody knew what Mussolini was going to do... not for a long time... people were ragged... children in rags... it was really quite shocking, God help them it was so poor. When Mussolini later joined up with Hitler... that finished me... it was a huge problem... I was terribly torn because I was rather in love with an Italian... I really don’t remember his name. We might have got married but I don’t think his mother wanted him to marry me... or my mother didn’t want me to marry him... it’s awfully hard to remember... I’m terribly sorry. Isn’t it sad that I can’t remember? I remember he wasn’t very tall... nice looking.
Memories, memories… they will pass. We had time together… a little fragment of paradise. What can it mean? I thought I would never forget it but… life goes on. I had a big struggle to decide what to do... oh hell, I can’t remember his bloody name... something altogether ordinary like Mario... but not Mario. It was a big struggle... I was so worried because of the accounts of bombing in London. I worried about my family and finally, that worry was just too strong, and I had to leave him. I still wonder whether I made the right choice, but these things pass... I think that sooner or later they’ll pass. I never knew what happened to him. Somehow or other I didn’t want to know... not really... I was a little unusual in that I never wanted to get married... and I don’t think I ever did... the thought of marriage completely left me.