They wrote it this week: How did the Bond girl really break her arm?
Extracts from diaries and letters written between September 21 and September 27
[To Noel Coward, who was worried about his Paris flat, which he had been forced to abandon when Germany conquered France, and which he had asked Fraser to check up on after the Nazis had been driven out.] Now, the flat. I visited it. The concierge nearly fell in my neck. The place has been occupied by what must have been a particularly unpleasant pair of Gestapo hounds, never properly house-broken. The filth is indescribable, but I think it is more surface than anything else.
The chief victims are the carpets, notably in the dining room, which bear an historical record of the gastronomic, alcoholic – and I much regret the coarseness – purely colic history of the inhabitants during a twelvemonth. C’etaient des salauds, et plus que ca [They were pigs, to put it mildly]. There are too some remarkable stains on the bed, notably on the brown satin headboard, which, if my deductions are correct, are a remarkable commentary on the acrobatic agility of the occupants.
- Ingram Fraser, British secret agent.
The Letters of Noel Coward edited by Barry Day, Methuen, 2007
1978, Los Angeles
We went to pick up Ursula Andress first. She’s staying with Linda Evans. Ursula was wearing a YSL scarf over the cast on her broken arm. She was surfing in Malibu with Ryan O’Neal when Hurricane Norman hit her and broke her arm, tore it out of her socket. Joan [Quinn] whispered that everyone in LA wonders if it was Hurricane Ryan that actually did it.
- Andy Warhol, US artist, 1928-1987 (Andress was having an affair with O’Neal, who was a drug addict with a notorious tendency to domestic violence that stood in stark contrast to his clean-cut, handsome public persona.)
The Andy Warhol Diaries edited by Pat Hackett, Pan Books, 1989
In the evening we went to the Alhambra and then on to a party given by the lesbian girls I met the other day. Sir Francis Laking, dressed first as a girl and then stark naked, attempted a Charleston. A Russian played a saw like a violin. Lulu Waters-Welch came. He is living in sin with [the 5th Earl of] Effingham. Alastair and I both got very drunk indeed. I think I was rude to Bobbie. There was a fight between two men. Also a policewoman who scared everyone and made Joan very pugnacious.
- Evelyn Waugh, British writer, 1903-1966.
The Diaries of Evelyn Waugh edited by Michael Davie, Penguin, 1979
1942, the Warsaw Ghetto
[The clearance of the Warsaw Ghetto was in full force. Berg, who was one of a number of foreign nationals awaiting deportation in an adjoining prison, had to watch helplessly as the massacre unfolded.] Yesterday was the Day of Atonement. A temporary synagogue was organised in the room occupied by the men. We had sentries, who were relieved every quarter of an hour, to warn us if the Nazis came to visit us, too. But no one came. The women prayed together with the men. Madame Sh., the wife of the Grand Rabbi of Warsaw, stood near to the improvised altar, and prayed in heartfelt tones. Now and then she wrung her hands, and I saw her eyes fill with tears. Then, suddenly, she began to sob loudly, and all those present wept with her.
- Mary Berg, Polish-Jewish Holocaust survivor, 1924-2013.
Growing Up in the Warsaw Ghetto: The Diary of Mary Berg edited by SL Shneiderman, Oneworld, 2018
[To the comic writer Kenneth Hathaway, with whom Williams was developing ideas for a radio sketch show.] I can see why they want to introduce the “phone-in” element. Terribly funny some of that! “Hallo hallo – are you there? is that Irene of Clapham? – no? you’re Ruby from Romford? – ah yes – well go ahead.”
“I heard what you were saying about wheelchairs earlier on.”
“O yes – the mad granny from Chipping Sodbury?”
“Yes well she certainly has a lot to put up with.”
“Not as much as me.”
“My legs were blown off in the blitz.”
“Oh dear! that’s a very different kettle of fish.”
“Both my arms were blown off as well.”
“How d’you get to the phone Ruby?”
“They’ve rigged up these wires and pulleys like the old change in the draper’s shop; I’m on this meat-hook.”
“What is your problem?”
“You should take up something.”
“I’m up already.”
“No, Ruby, a hobby … you should take up a hobby.”
“Hm. Well I have learned this touch typing with my navel.”
“Yes I can push it right out! I could come over and show you –”
“Not just at the moment Ruby! the public are not quite ready for that sort of thing, but you keep right on pushing in Romford cos I’ve got Irene in Clapham waiting on the other line, all right? Thank you for calling Ruby! and more power to your elbow – er – I mean navel – Hallo? is that Irene of Clapham? hallo? –”
It’s all such meaningless rubbish you can’t believe a word of it. I think it has something to do with the fact that it is all happening late at night. I don’t think any of them would be able to go blabbing on in that fashion if it were morning.
- Kenneth Williams, British comedian, 1926-1988.
The Kenneth Williams Letters edited by Russell Davies, HarperCollins, 1994
1961, Oakland, California
[To her friend, Virginia Durr. Jessica’s sister, Nancy Mitford, had just published a pen-portrait of the family’s childhood nanny, known as Blor, which painted their mother in an unflattering light.] The Blor article is being the cause of much fury in the family, my mother loathes it, she wrote a very cross letter to Nancy saying “I wish you would not do any more portraits of me until I am dead”. The day the letter came, Bob [her husband] and I were at the Louvre where we saw among other things the Whistler’s Mother painting. I told Nancy she probably said the same thing to Whistler.
- Jessica Mitford, Anglo-American writer and left-wing activist, 1917-1976.
Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford edited by Peter Y Sussman, Phoenix, 2006
Lord Harlech [the British high commissioner to South Africa] tells me that the sinking of ships homeward bound from the Cape has been alarming, But the Admiralty refuse permission to publish losses. One submarine was located on the surface, but the South African Ventura which took off to attack discovered, on reaching the target, that no bombs had been loaded!
- John Colville, British World War 2 pilot and private secretary to Winston Churchill, 1915-1987.
The Fringes of Power: Downing Street Diaries Volume Two: 1941-April 1955 by John Colville, Sceptre, 1987
2006, an NHS hospital in London
How the other half live. In antenatal clinic, an extremely posh patient attends for a routine appointment. All is well with her extremely posh fetus. Her extremely posh eight-year-old asks her a question about the economy (!), and before she answers she asks her extremely posh five-year-old, “Do you know what the economy is, darling?”
“Yes, Mummy. It’s the part of the plane that’s terrible.”
You can see how revolutions start.
- Adam Kay, British obstetrician and comedian, b. 1980.
This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay, Picador, 2017
I put some high heels on and my driver Massimo’s face lights up when we meet. He says, “You look glamour today,” and he stands exaggeratedly upright to indicate my increased height. I take this as a compliment. Would others find it intrusively sexist? So often now I realise that the way men behaved when I was younger would be regarded as intolerable now, the general flirting, touching and teasing. We found it amusing, sometimes flattering and at worst tiresome. Nowadays the offenders would be facing an HR inquisition.
- Alexandra Shulman, then editor of British Vogue, b. 1958.
Inside Vogue: A Diary of My 100th Year by Alexandra Shulman, Fig Tree, 2016
[To his mother. Hitler’s moves to annex the Sudetenland had suddenly made the prospect of war all too real.] I had to drag old cook almost by main force to be fitted for a gas mask yesterday. Vivien [his wife], Freda [their maid] and the children are being done this morning. We had an hour’s wait in a queue. Nasty smelly things! Of course war may not come, but one has to organise on the assumption that it will.
- Graham Greene, British writer, 1904-1991.
Graham Greene: A Life in Letters edited by Richard Greene, Abacus, 2007
1984, Beverly Hills
I went to see the “superagent” Swifty Lazar at his Trousdale house, perched on the hills overlooking the flat roofs and the sparkling swimming pools of the people he represents. Swifty is tiny and bald and hairy in the wrong places. From the back his bald head and ancient baby’s neck look like crinkled foreskin. He perched on a coffee table with his tiny legs swinging, holding forth about stars having no clue how to entertain anymore. “Warren Beatty? Lives in a hotel suite. Al Pacino? Lives in a truck. I don’t know what’s the matter with them. They don’t have a chef. They don’t buy art. Debra Winger? What can I say? Never shaves under her arms.”
- Tina Brown, then editor of Vanity Fair magazine, b. 1953.
The Vanity Fair Diaries 1983-1992 by Tina Brown, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2017
These [official] Nordic tours are a complete fuckface. God knows what’s going to happen tomorrow. A kind of “getting to know you” day has been laid on, with fishing on the lakes, drinking schnapps and (I don’t like the sound of this at all) a sauna. Doesn’t everyone wander around sweating, but naked? I can’t even urinate if someone else comes into the gents.
But I don’t in the least mind letting girls see my penis. I suppose it is because I fear – for quite extraneous physical reasons – becoming lightly, or even heavily, tumescent and attracting the attention of other men, either whose curiosity or disapproval being equally unwelcome.
- Alan Clark, British Conservative Party politician, 1928-1999.
In Power: Diaries 1983-1992 by Alan Clark, Phoenix, 2004