Thursday, June 25, 2020

Tales From The Vicarage ~ Scrabble, Shakespeare, The Queen Mother, And Tommy Steele

While I lived at the vicarage, I befriended a young actor from the Old Vic who taught me to play Scrabble and invited me to the theater to see some of the world's best actors perform in Shakespeare plays. Once I was at the Old Vic when the Queen Mother attended, but I couldn't remember anything more or how I came to be there at a gala performance. 

So again I went to the pile of my letters home, those with the sender address of : The Vicarage, Handen Road, Lee, London S.E. 12, England.

And there it was. This is what led up to me being at a fancy performance of Romeo and Juliet at the Old Vic in London.

The vicar and Mrs. Smith were good friends with a couple named Mr. and Mrs. Harris and their son, Douglas. The family would come over for tea or dinner every once in a while. 

There was going to be a special performance at the Old Vic to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the theater's reopening after the second world war. Mr. and Mrs. Harris were invited to the performance. When her husband became sick, Mrs. Harris invited me to come along and I accepted of course. 

We arrived and walked into a theater full of glitter, gowns and celebrities. The Queen Mother was there with the Duchess of Kent and I remember watching her.

I've never been much for royalty, but being in the presence of someone like that, even if I only saw her at a distance, must have made an impression on me. And on my memory. But as far as my memory goes, that's about all I remember. 

Reading my letter home, I learned that sometime during the evening, I ran into Tommy Steele, the singer who was Europe's answer to Elvis Presley and a huge star at the time. I have no memory of this, none. 

But I told my parents about it in a letter, so it must have happened.

I told my parents we had a conversation, Tommy Steele and I. And I didn't realize who he was until Mrs. Harris excitedly pointed out to me that I had just talked to one of the greatest stars in England, well in Europe actually.

Now about memory -- I never was a Tommy Steele fan, but wouldn't I remember that we talked for a while?

As I'm writing this, I keep thinking about the red fox I saw cross the ice on Jackson Lake at Yellowstone Park one winter's day in 1970. I remember it so clearly, I will never forget it's deep red coat against the snow. 

Tommy Steele -- I have no memory of meeting him at all. 

Douglas and I remained friends and, as time went by and I got better, I may have won a game or two of Scrabble. If not, I'm pretty sure I beat the vicar at it. 


  1. Hi Inger - this is delightful ... I think if something doesn't resonate - then you wouldn't over time remember ... as happened with Tommy Steele, while the red fox grasped your heart memory for wildlife.

    Lovely memory though ... and you have some thoughts and memories of the time ... and that experience - not many of us have had that chance. Scrabble - a good way to improve your English ... and the vicar - I bet he was happy enjoying his games with you.

    Fun and a delight to read ... on a hot day (for England) with some easterly wind cooling us a little as we're lucky living by the coast. All the best and with thoughts - Hilary

  2. I agree with the commenter above! It has to eat either be a really really good or really really bad to stick in our memory. Evidently you weren't all that crazy about him are you would remember it. What a great story and I've never met anyone famous and I've never seen a play of any kind except one high school play that my friend's son and daughter was in Fiddler on the Roof the only play I ever saw

  3. You probably don’t remember Tommy Steele because he was not very important to you. I think our memory is stirred up by things and people touched us in our lives.

  4. Human memory works selectively. It deliberately chooses to to remember certain things we wish to remember (the red fox), and forget the rest (Tommy Steele).

  5. I love that you're no groupie! Royalty, hm, Tommy Steele, hm, that red fox on the snow, ah now that I remember! I think you had your priorities straight even then.

  6. Such lovely memories to revisit. I am always fascinated by the things that stay in our memories and the things that don't.

  7. Our memory is really interesting. When my siblings and I get together we tell stories the other swears is made up. Sometimes wonder if we were raised in the same family.
    At least with the queen mother, you have the letter. Looked up Tommy Steele and he was a cute fellow. Never heard him sing though.
    You and all of us remember the things that impressed us. A red fox would have impressed me.

  8. Funny the things we remember and forget. And strange too that two people can experience the same thing and remember it differently!

  9. How thrilling to be at a performance where the Queen Mother and Duchess of Kent attended, and then to meet Tommy Steele, and not remember it, except through your letters.

  10. Interesting! this is the first time I have seen The Old Vic. quite unimpressive from the outside. Isn't it strange how selective our memory is? Tommy Steele must not have stuck in your memory because at the time you were unimpressed, and didn't know who he was. but the gorgeous visual of the fox crossing the ice, I think I would remember that forever. What a glorious image!

  11. For a minute I thought that I was reading Hilary Milton Butcher's blog post.
    Such details and about culture as well.
    Thanks for sharing, and providing us with good reading material.

  12. This was so enjoyable to read. I get that about certain memories we retain and others one would think would be the most important - kind of fade away. And Wow about being in the same vicinity as the queen - i would have been really excited to be there. Never heard of Tommy Steele but now I'm going to go google the name. I love your memories of your younger days. FAscinating to read them. It's so cool you have those letters to look back on. i know for sure if digital cameras would have been a thing , I would have filled a card. Have to say a red fox crossing Jackson lake would have stuck in my memory also.

  13. Letters are great keepsakes to help remember. I find that I have forgotten a lot of things when I reread my old journals but to read it brings back the memories. Thanks for sharing those wonderful memories.Enjoy today to the full.
    Hugs, Julia

  14. LOL! I so enjoyed this. just like everyone else I found it fascinating.
    but then I'm an anglophile from way back! and I like royalty. simply from the history of it. however... that being said... I'm glad the red fox has stayed vividly in your memory instead of Tommy Steel. like Sandy... I'm afraid I'll have to google him.
    I wasn't even that rabid an Elvis fan. I always swooned over Rick Nelson. LOL!
    those beautiful eyes of his. and I liked his family show ... with Ozzie and Harriet and David! good old memories. xoxo

  15. Memory is a fascinating thing, and how it works (or in some cases doesn't) is beyond me. I have many life events that are hazy, or even totally missing, from my memory! Wonderful post.


Thanks for leaving a comment.. ~~ Inger


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