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Mother’s Day in the UK is this Sunday, while tomorrow is International Women’s Day. This is a post I wrote in 2014 which some of you have seen before.

First Night Design

Benedicta Leigh 1922—2000Benedicta Leigh 1922—2000 [photo: David Sim] Born Benedicta Hoskyns in 1922, my mother spent a large part of her childhood on the island of Malta where her father was serving in the Rifle Brigade.

She later spent a year drawing from life at Salisbury School of Art. During World War II, she nursed with the Red Cross in Auxiliary Hospitals and Convalescent Homes throughout the country, also finding time to write, produce and play in several revues for her patients.

The war over, she trained for the stage at RADA where she received commendations from Sybil Thorndike and Laurence Irving and won the George Arliss prize as well as sharing the Dialect prize with Cyril Shaps.

Her subsequent career included repertory at Windsor, Bromley, Sheffield, Coventry and Nottingham, No Other Verdict at the Duchess Theatre in the West End (“stealing all the notices as the maid” she would tell me…

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Don’t ask me why but the fact that there is no way to comment on this post is obviously a WP glitch.  It’s certainly not intentional. All my settings are as they should be to allow for comments so the WP gremlin strikes again. Thank you, Pete Johnson, for letting me know.

Size: Lumbar Pillow 13″ x 21″

Accent your home with custom pillows from Zazzle and make yourself the envy of the neighbourhood. Made from 100% grade A cotton, these pillows are the perfect complement to your couch!

  • Dimensions: 13″ x 21″ (lumbar)
  • 100% grade A woven cotton
  • Fabric is made from natural fibers, which may result in irregularities
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  • Machine washable
  • Made in the USA

 

Source: Beautiful Flowers for Mother’s Day Lumbar Pillow | Zazzle

Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah


Benedicta Leigh 1922—2000

Benedicta Leigh 1922—2000 [photo: David Sim]

Born Benedicta Hoskyns in 1922, my mother spent a large part of her childhood on the island of Malta where her father was serving in the Rifle Brigade.

She later spent a year drawing from life at Salisbury School of Art. During World War II, she nursed with the Red Cross in Auxiliary Hospitals and Convalescent Homes throughout the country, also finding time to write, produce and play in several revues for her patients.

The war over, she trained for the stage at RADA where she received commendations from Sybil Thorndike and Laurence Irving and won the George Arliss prize as well as sharing the Dialect prize with Cyril Shaps.

Her subsequent career included repertory at Windsor, Bromley, Sheffield, Coventry and Nottingham, No Other Verdict at the Duchess Theatre in the West End (“stealing all the notices as the maid” she would tell me gleefully) films such as The Eternal Question and Hands of Destiny.

Benedicta Leigh & Michael Aldridge in See How They Run 1951

Benedicta Leigh & Michael Aldridge in See How They Run 1951

In 1955 she married my father, the actor Richard Vernon, and after giving birth to me and my brother Tom, she gave up the stage to look after us, though occasionally returning to do the odd episode of such series as The Main Chance with John Stride.

Diagnosed as a manic-depressive in the late 1960s, there followed a series of breakdowns. It was only in the late 1980s that she was able get her life back on an even keel. After divorcing Richard, she wrote an autobiography The Catch of Handswhich was published by Virago in 1991 and won The Mind Book of the Year Award in 1992. She followed this with a work of fiction, Unlock, and Remind Me of the Sea, also published by Virago. Following this association with the mental health charity, Mind, she spoke at a Stress Against Women conference and contributed details of her treatment at the hands of professionals for MIND to use in their campaigns.

In 1997 her health began to deteriorate and she had to be sectioned once again. Chronic renal problems were diagnosed in 1999, probably a result of the length of time she had taken the anti-psychotic drug, Lithium. She died in Kingston Hospital on 8 February 2000.

Sarah Vernon © 2014 (adapted from a bio originally published on Rogues & Vagabonds in 2001.)

The Catch of Hands
Published by Virago Press Limited 1991

Blurb

With the piquant with of Colette, the lyricism of Laurie Lee and a passion all her own, Benedicta Leigh tells the story of her life — a life made remarkable by her determination to rescue it. Born in the 1920s, to parents who allowed her delightful eccentricities and dreams of glory, her childhood and adolescence were a restless seeking out of life.

But after her beloved father’s death during the Second World War, and the suicide of her lover some years later, came the first of many shattering breakdowns.  It is twenty years later that, with an undeniable force of will, Benedicta Leigh bravely takes up the sword to tackle the nightmares, and to loosen the knot within herself.

Extraordinarily perceptive, The Catch of Hands is written with powerful candour and a painterly skill. Benedicta Leigh’s is a unique voice, full of beauty, longing, pain and courage.

Biography

Benedicta Leigh was born in Hampshire in 1922. After working as a VAD during the Second World War, she trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and has since performed widely in the theatre. Although she has written most of her life, this is her first full-length work. She has two grown-up children, and lives in London.

In this remarkable autobiography, Benedicta Leigh portrays with painterly skill her insouciant, untrammelled childhood and her troubled adult years.  Using language with a wonderful freshness and originality, hers is a unique voice, full of beauty, longing, pain and courage.

Excerpt

The bullet bit into my forehead as I skidded across the lawn and crashed to the ground  The decks ran crimson, and away by the hedge my mother slowly hauled up a great dandelion, its acrid milk spattering her knuckles.  She was too busy to notice the rattle in my throat, my dying, my death, oh, the perfection of it, and she missed Ned the cabin boy weeping over my body and saying ‘O Captain, Sir, what will we do? Mr Peyton is dead and done for, and who shall drive the boat now?’ ‘Well, not him, anyway,’ said Captain Tollemache. ‘Get a coffin and some flags, and we will have a long dull funeral and a party with ginger-beer. Everyone can come but Nanny, and my caterpillars will do an entertainment.’

I heard the boys whining and thumping up in the nursery as I turned over on to my stomach. My mother had gone indoors, leaving her straw hat on the steps, and spikes of grass bent beneath the anxiety of a beetle’s progress. Over my shoulder blades a concentration of heat spilled, and the dog of war walloped towards me and leaned against my shoulder, a raggle of tongue pushing into my ear.

I said, ‘You’re being rather intimate with me today, my dear,’ as I stroked him. His coat felt like  a hot flannel. I sang: ‘O dog of war, who forged thy dread breath?’ And I sang that if it was stew for lunch, then I would be sick unto my plate a great lot….


While there are copies to be had of The Catch of Hands and her second book, Unlock And Remind Me Of The Sea, they are now out of print. I am hoping to persuade Virago to republish. At the time, Benedicta received a number of letters from people saying how much the memoir had helped them immeasurably by allowing them to realise they were not alone.

An interesting postscript is that in January this year, I commented on a post by Judith Haire at the Mentally Wealthy blog about my mother’s bi-polarity and mentioned her memoir. An instant response to my comment came from Jean Davison who said, ‘That’s so interesting, I bought that book years ago and kept it on my bookshelf. I have it in my hands now. It was one of the books that inspired me to write my own memoir and try to get it published, which I eventually did.’ (The Dark Threads – a vivid memoir of one young woman’s psychiatric treatment)

It is a small and supportive world out here.

blhiiBenedicta in 1991
[photo: Bill Moody]

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Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah


A few ideas for Mother’s Day.

Butterflies and Moths Pitcher Butterflies and Moths Pitcher by FirstNightDesign
Browse other drink pitcher designs on Zazzle.

Hollywood Vintage Louise Travel Accessory Bags
Hollywood Vintage Louise Travel Accessory Bags by FirstNightDesign
Look at Louise brooks Bagettes Bags online at Zazzle.com
Back Off!
Back Off! by FirstNightDesign
Find more Typography Candy Tins at Zazzle
Vintage with a Twist Mother's Day Post Cards
Vintage with a Twist Mother’s Day Post Cards by FirstNightDesign
Browse Land of make-believe Postcards online at Zazzle.com
Queen of Every Thing Mug
Queen of Every Thing Mug by Retro_Zombies
View Queen Mugs online at zazzle
Funny Retro Mom Greeting Card
Funny Retro Mom Greeting Card by ChiaPetRescue
Check out Mom Cards online at zazzle
The Best Mother Mug
The Best Mother Mug by FirstNightDesign
Get the best in mug printing from Zazzle.

Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah

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Pink Bustier Mother's Day
Pink Bustier Mother’s Day by FirstNightDesign

The bustier or corset was once a vital part of a lady’s wardrobe, not, as today, a fashion statement that anyone can choose to embrace, whether Madonna, Rihanna or Eddie Izzard. Worn as an under- or outer-garment,  its purpose has always been to enhance female sexuality by narrowing the waist and pushing up the bosom to effect an enticing décolletage.

silkcorsetblog

Woman’s corset, France, c. 1730-1740. Silk plain weave with supplementary weft-float patterning. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. [photo credit: Wikimedia]

But imagine the pain of a whale-boned corset, for such they were until relatively recently when mesh panels became an option. Prior to that, iron had been used; even when whalebone replaced iron, wood was sometimes used.  Imagine, also, the laces at the back being tightened beyond the reach of breath!  Do you remember wincing at the scene in Gone with the Wind where Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) is having the laces of her corset pulled to a circumference of 18 1/2 inches — thought to be the ideal for female beauty — by Mammy (Hattie McDaniel)?

In the 19th century, corsets were sometimes advertised as postural health aids, even though such physical strictures “could lead to fainting and headaches, or even to internal organ damage”. †

Although corsets have been around, possibly since 2000 BC, their popularity was especially marked in European society during the 16th century and later in the Victorian era. The bustier graphic from Digital Kiss probably dates from a Victorian fashion plate illustration.

Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah


Altered flower clip art from The Graphics Fairy.

Mother’s Day in the UK is almost here — Sunday 10 March.  Click here for other Mother’s Day products.

Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah


Carte Postale Pour La Mère mug

Apologies for my absence.  My computer was in the Apple hospital for nigh on a month and left me very frustrated, particularly creatively – but I’m back!

Mother’s Day for many of us is on Sunday 8th May and fast approaching. This mug bears a new design, which would, in fact, be suitable for any occasion as it features flowers and music. To see the full range of Mother’s Day products, click here.

Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah

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© Sarah Vernon and First Night Design 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sarah Vernon and First Night Design with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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