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Peter L

 

I was born in 1928... on a farm down towards St Albans, Samuel’s Farm. My first memory would be a ride on one of the Elephants at London Zoo... so that’s my life. That’s everything.

In 1931 I was in Potter’s Bar and I saw the R101 airship go over… it was the only time I ever saw it… an enormous thing… it crashed in France and everybody on board was killed… that’s one of my very early memories… I would have been about two and a half years old. The earliest memory is still the zoo… but the R101 was very early. So now I’ve really told you everything.

But I do remember the fog in 1953 when I was in the lounge of the Park Lane Hotel with Metropolitan Anthony and the fog got into the building and you couldn’t see from one end of the lounge to the other. And it would be jet black at night… you’d have the most terrible job to find your way home. I was living in Philbeach Gardens at the time, up in South Kensington. That’s where I got to know an Australian actor called Barry Wade… he was very friendly with April Ashley, the man that had a sex change operation and was turned into a woman… one of the first! I met her… him... she, well it was a ‘he’ really… she was wearing a big fur coat and they had a restaurant called April and Desmond’s… their thing was to appear together in the restaurant every day and it used to fill the restaurant up. They made big business out of it but the food was horrible... mashed potato and kippers every day. Anyway he was quite convincing as a woman with heavy make up and false eyelashes and lots of lip stick and rouge and… I think a wig. I was an expert wig maker... a specialist! It was a long time ago. She was on Parky.

Do you remember the film The Killing of Sister George? A very strange film about lesbians… Beryl Reid played a lesbian with Susanna York as her girlfriend… I remember when I was at Wig Creations that Stanley Hall told me that he knew them all in the cast because he made all the wigs. They hated it. They didn’t like being connected with it at all.

And then...

And then I met John Gielgud and Noel Coward at a party… And now that’s it... until I became one of the funeral directors for the Royal Family. Do you remember the funeral of the Princess of Wales, when all the crowds threw flowers on the bonnet of the car? I was in that car. I was so proud. I remember we had to stop near a bridge to put some of the flowers on the edge of the road... somewhere near a bridge. I had to get out of the car to put the flowers by the side of the road. Someone went back to collect them.

I met Lady Diana three times... twice alive and once at her funeral... I only spoke to her twice. Once to tell her off and once in regard to a duck. Lady Diana was arguing with the Queen and I told her off… I told her she shouldn’t argue with Her Majesty… I said, “She’s the Queen and nobody argues with her and you shouldn’t argue with her either… you should know that”. She looked at me… you know she used to look at people out of the corner of her eye… she looked at me as if to say, “You fool, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I saw her and the Prince of Wales walking outside the gardens of Kensington Palace in Hyde Park… I was walking along and I saw two people walking along with their arms round one another… as I got nearer to them I realised that it was the Prince of Wales and Diana and that she was really quite distressed. Somehow a duck had become tangled in the wire fencing around the edge of the pond and it was fluttering... trying to get out. Diana was quite upset by it. They were talking in quite and animated way… they stopped talking as I went by but I caught the gist of it... she called for someone from the palace and just as I walked by I heard her say ‘Remove this duck’... The very next thing I was lifting flowers off her funeral car... I’m not sure it’s a real memory...

I didn’t actually see the duck at all.