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Carrie had brought her mother-in-law, Ginevra Brewer-Mead the

Saturday newspaper while she had been out walking her over-

weight pugs, Algy, Pooh-Bah and Humbug.

She had to leave them in the porch, as Magda, the carer

detested them.  Fortunately she was out shopping.

Suddenly the old lady put the newspaper down and sighed.

What’s wrong? asked Carrie.

Oh, it’s just an obituary for someone I knew.  All my friends

are popping off.

Carrie picked up the paper and scanned it.

Augusta Snodbury…passed away in Snodland Nursing Home

for the Debased Gentry…..choked on an olive in her Martini.

Dry Martini-2.jpg

Oh, she was the same age as you.  How did you know her?

Actually, I knew her through her younger sister, Berenice.

Remember The Palace had afternoon tea for Land Girls in

2009? We met there.  Got talking about The Queen Mother

and what kind of gin she preferred.

Was Berenice in Glasgow too?

No, no.  She joined in 1942 under Lady Denham.  Get me

that blue photo album out of the cabinet, will you?  Third

drawer down.

See, said Ginevra, after flicking through a few pages.

There we are.  Remember that fascinator I had?  Got quite

a bit of use out of it.  Augusta is on the right.  I’m the rose

between two thorns…she giggled.  Berenice looks the elder,

but that’s because she didn’t wear sunscreen in Venezuela.

Bolted to follow her dreams of Simon Bolivar, she told me.

She was boasting that she had once helped The Queen to

clean out an engine.  You know, Her Majesty was 2nd

Lieutenant Elizabeth Windsor and a very competent mechanic.

I told Berenice she was a hypocrite.  Can’t be a Royalist and

espouse Republicanism.  Anyway, The Queen didn’t seem to

remember her, not surprisingly.  She shook my hand. 

Berenice just got Camilla.  The Duke chatted up Augusta for

quite a while.  He said he didn’t recognise her with her clothes

on.  I didn’t get it at the time.

Duchess of Cornwall in 2014.jpg

It says here that Berenice died a couple of years ago,

commented Carrie, trying to get Ginevra off her uncharitable

tangent.  And it mentions that Augusta was Head Girl of St

Vitus’ School for The Academically-Gifted Girl.  I must tell


Not strictly true, muttered Ginevra.

What do you mean?

They only added the post-modifying phrase fairly recently.

It’s not the school it once was. It used to be a fairly ordinary

dumping ground for genteel girls whose parents weren’t very

affluent.  Anyone could go there if they had the dosh.  It should

have been called St Vitus’ School for the Academically-

Challenged Girl back then, or for the Financially-Challenged


Well, it’s not like that now, said Carrie.  Oh, it says here that

Augusta became the Muse and model for reclusive early

twentieth century artist and mystic, Hamish Diecast.  She

went to live with him in a remote island in the Inner Hebrides,

but managed his sales to London galleries and helped to

establish his reputation.  I suppose The Duke might have had

a portrait of her in his private apartments… He never forgets a

pretty girl, apparently.

Didn’t you see The Antiques Roadshow from Oban? Ginevra

asked.  I think it was last year.  That blonde chap, Rupert Maas,

identified a nude portrait that a gamekeeper brought along,

wrapped in an oilskin, as being Lady with an Otter, a lost Diecast

work based on Da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine.  It went at

Sotheby’s for an enormous price.

Dama z gronostajem.jpg

Shameless hussy!  She didn’t have a stitch on.  Wouldn’t have

caught me holding one of those creatures without a leather

gauntlet and full body armour.  That chap that wrote The Ring

of Bright Confidence…

That was a Colgate advert, Ginevra.  Do you mean Gavin

Maxwell’s book?

Whatever.  (Ginevra had picked up this insouciance from her

grand-daughter, Tiger.)  He had an assistant called Squirrel

Nutkins, or something, who had parts of his fingers eaten by

Maxwell’s vicious little pet.  Augusta was lucky she wasn’t scarred

for life, though she probably was, emotionally.  Diecast was a

womaniser and a weirdo.

Fischotter, Lutra Lutra.JPG

Anyway, she is at peace now, conciliated Carrie.  You know,

I have just had a thought: isn’t there a Senior Master at St

Birinus Middle called Snodbury?  I wonder if he is any relation?

Maybe he is the love child of Diecast and Augusta?

Shouldn’t think so, pronounced Ginevra. She was more

interested in power than sex. She wasn’t attracted to men

in that way.  She told me.

While you were at the tea at Buckingham Palace ballroom?!

Oh, we old girls cover a lot of ground!  I suppose there must

be a connection, but I wouldn’t think she had had a son.  No,

not with him.

A key was rattling in the porch door.

‘ello!  I am back.  Oh, shut up, you stupid little dogs!

Carrie took her leave and went to rescue Magda from the

tangled leashes round her ankles.

I got your paper! she addressed Ginevra, triumphantly.

But her charge had already read it.  It was destined for

doggy purposes.