|Lyndsy Spence with first-ever copy of her new book|
Lyndsy is about to reawaken our interest in the Mitford girls and the values and style of the 20s and 30s. I fear she has an altar at home upon which flapper idols swan figuratively on votive incense. She has written some sort of instruction manual based on the musings of all six granddaughters of the man who founded The Lady magazine, among other things. I have not read the book yet but I know a winner when I spot one. The papers and fashion mags will fall for Lyndsy because she's quite a Liz Taylor-ish looker - superficial I know, but then pulchritude played its part in the Mitfords myth, too - so let's not slip up and confuse authentic complaint with Suzanne Moore.
Soon, the media will learn that Lyndsy lives on another, much more exotic planet and they will want to inhabit it, also. (Oh, and lest I forget, Lyndsy has a tribute site to the Mitfords called The Mitford Society).
Because I am a cruel, heartless beast, I decided to treat Ms Spence with the utmost tenderness, though perhaps I slipped up here and there in this her first proper interview....
Q: Darling Lyndsy Spence! I can't wait to read your new book The Mitford Girls' Guide To Life (out August 1). Is it your first tome? What inspired you to write it? What's its USP (that's unique selling point, a term I picked up when I used to hang out with commercial whores and vampires with no imagination).
LS: Yes, it is my first serious tome! I was inspired quite randomly when my friend and I started to imitate how they spoke to one another and I suddenly thought, wouldn't it be wondair [this is too modern! - MA] to adapt the Mitfords for modern life. I suppose you might say it was an etiquette book that just escalated into a full-on Mitford tribute. The unique selling point is that there is something for everybody. My agent always speaks about this and my own USP is writing about ladies from the 30s and 40s.
|Lyndsy's new book: out Aug 1|
Q: Tell me something I'll learn from the book - for instance: I would like to totally destroy a certain journalist and make them wish they were never born. What would be the Mitford girls' advice be to me?
LS: Diana would most definitely look at you with her beautiful blue eyes and declare in her deadpan voice: "It is more painful to hate than to be hated." You will certainly learn how to undertake specific Mitford rituals i.e. Debo's guide to a Debutante Ball, Unity's Guide to Stalking (The Ostaria Bavaria, anyone?), Diana's Guide to Prison, Decca's Guide to Running Away, Nancy's Guide to Fashion and Pamela's Guide to throwing a Jubilee Party. You'll also learn how to be a terrific Honnish Hon whilst wearing your stoutest tweeds.
Q: Do you think Unity enjoyed carnal relations with Hitler? Can you imagine? Them humping? I've always pitied Eva. I can scarcely believe Eva and Adolf used to do it, but they must have done something at night. Hitler had awful gas, I learn. Too much veggie soup.
LS: I'm lost for words. I think we should draw on Nancy's cruel comment: "Have you seen my sister?" Poor old Boud was almost 6ft tall and quite clueless. In today's society I think 4 of the Mitfords would be supermodels, so they were always destined to ride the coattails of those "media" jobs aristo people go into.
Q: And have you ever met the legendary Debo [the dowager Duchess of Devonshire], still with us? Have you had any Mitford communication (or other aristocratic missives) that proved encouraging?
LS: No, I've not met Debo but I have a lovely postcard from her. I was in touch with some Mitty relations who were very nice.
Q: I've looked at your horoscope (Pisces) and I see ruler Neptune next to Mars in your 5th gifts you a very attractive personality and inclines you to high glamour - and/or a rather pronouncedly idealistic approach to relationships. Are you in love with the world of the Mitfords - the style, the talk, the attitudes? Should we be concerned, Lyndsy?!
LS: Yes, lock me up and throw away the key!! I love the world of the Mitfords, everything about them. I love anyone who can do something spectacular, you know making something out of nothing. Let's face it, any girl from that era who did anything wonderful is worth talking about. I'm also enthralled with 20th century courtesans (not naming names!) and old movie stars. Margaret Lockwood is my favourite. Funny you should mention high glamour, I used to wear a fur coat to school!
Q: Who's the wisest of the Mitford gels? And whom among the six do you regard as the most idiotic?
LS: Oh, I'd say perhaps old Pam was the wisest to quote Diana, "Pam was often right and seldom listened to." I don't like to refer to Unity as idiotic, but she was on another planet, but we all have a Unity character in our family. I don't know, there is something awfully Unity about Carol Thatcher, what do you think?
Q: Well, Carol is sleeping with a skiing instructor not Hitler! But anyway... Tell my tawdry, atheistic readership something about yourself. For instance, do you originate from a world not unadjacent to that of the Mitfords? Where do you live? Are you a vegetarian? Did you get an A Level in English Lit? Is there a photograph you would rather I did not publish?
LS: I suppose Nancy might find my background a bit Non-U. I live in N. Ireland but my grandmother is from California and her father came from a very interesting family: her grandfather was from a Cuban family who sold port wine and cigars. And her grandmother, although born in Texas, came from an aristo French family who were, in fact, linked to the Mitfords' Farrar cousins. 'Tis a small world. Decca would probably appreciate an ancestral grandfather of mine, John Greenwood, who tried to overthrow the Church of England.
Q: I hear your dog tried to eat you and that your cat ran off during a thunderstorm. Please elaborate. Do you think the prospect of imminent fame could be traumatising the poor creatures as they seek a quieter life?
LS: Most definitely, I dedicated my book to them, "The Counter-Hons"...maybe they can't cope with the fame!
Q: Will you write more about the Mitfords or high glamour worlds? Perhaps one day you'll write a novel set in worlds set apart from tedious weather reports and Prof Brian Coxes. How do you see your future, poppet?
LS: I'm writing a book about Diana Mitford and Bryan Guinness, I cautiously call her "Diana Guinness" when referring to it! I've also written a biography of Margaret Lockwood which is lingering around in the first draft stages. I hope to write fiction, probably set in the 1930s or with a supernatural undercurrent. I dislike anything too mundane.
Q: Describe the window scene outside from the room in which you find yourself right now.
LS: Well, there are a lot of trees and my bird houses are dangling from branches (rather scary in a storm).
Q: And finally - have you ever had a supernatural encounter or psychic experience?
LS: Yes! When I was a little girl in Canada I awoke in our holiday cabin and spotted three Cherokee Indians sitting at the foot of my bed. Two grown-ups holding a baby. I was only 8 and I half wondered if I was on You've Been Framed (no idea why!), Too bizarre to admit!
The Mitford Girls' Guide To Life can be ordered here