Gin and cigarettes

Just a few lines today. My best friend’s mother died last night. It’s been done in a lot of books: I fell in love with a family.

I often hid from semi-detached unhappiness at their house: a farmhouse hidden down a country lane and always my ideal of the perfect place to live. Eileen often seemed to be waiting,  beautiful and glamorous, with gin in one hand and cigarette in the other, for her husband to arrive. He worked in London where he won awards for copywriting, advertising the cigarettes that probably shortened her life. His office was in Bram Stoker’s old house and my friend had lived in Kensington: too exciting and exotic for me to imagine.

My friend and her twin would be squabbling by the fireplace that is always the size of the one in Citizen Kane in my memories. There were amazing pictures on the walls, secret staircases and books everywhere. It was paradise and Eileen – though I never called her that, always Mrs Surname – was at the centre of it all.

David Puttnam was a close friend and told a lovely anecdote of her utter surprise, gin and fag in hand, some 15 minutes after giving birth to a daughter. It was the days before scans and my friend was an entirely unexpected second twin. It represents her so well. Eileen was witty and vague and capricious and I adored her.

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