Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Memories of Beryl Bainbridge

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 2nd July, 2010

Beryl Bainbridge was one of life’s performers, not just at literary festivals or soirées, but in her daily life. Visitors to her house in Camden were startled to be greeted by Eric the water-buffalo and to find a model of Nevlle Chamberlain seated at her table. But she was on show whenever she went out. I vividly remember her stretched out under the grand piano at Bernice Reubens’s duplex off the Finchley Road, a glass of whiskey in one hand, a ciggie in the other. ‘Fancy joining me under here?’ she asked cheekily. ‘Too many people out there!’ Always a drink, always a cigarette. It was inevitable she would die riddled with cancer the way she treated her body, though the Grim Reaper kept away until she was 75 (or maybe 76, by some accounts). It was hilarious that she was made a Dame for her services to literature, as anyone less like a dame it was hard to imagine. But Beryl was a fine writer and she did do a lot for literature, as well as being a good though sometimes exasperating friend to many of us in London literary circles. She could be stubborn but also kind, loving and yet also distant. Maybe most writers need to be. She deserves a riotous wake.

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