Lesley’s marriage to Anton, while certainly not cold and unemotional, was not a success. Women found Anton more than attractive. Macho and sensitive at the same time, handsome as the devil, intelligent, charming and well spoken, he knocked them off their feet. Their husbands were less sure. I do not know any of the details of their unhappiness, which was not shared with us children except in the form of an atmosphere. Some of it must have been financial, for they ran the farm at a loss throughout most their marriage. Some of it was certainly interpersonal, for they fought often, and sometimes, in blind rage I thought, Anton hit or hurt her. Was Anton unfaithful? I do not know details. Probably. Later, yes. At some time in the 1980s, Lesley told me, and I have no reason to doubt her, that she had remained faithful to both her husbands throughout the marriages.

274 lesley antonLesley and Anton were not concordant. On one particular occasion, when I was ten or eleven, Lesley was on the point of walking out. I was sent to stay with Royden Hogan, a school friend whose father ran one of the White River chemist shops. The tensions were terrible, and Lesley wore dark glasses all the time to hide her smudged make-up and red eyes. In my memory, the car is in the driveway of the house, under a pergola hung with trumpet-shaped red and orange flowers. I am in the passenger seat, Lesley is behind the wheel in her dark glasses, but she hasn’t started the car yet. The understanding is that this time we are leaving forever. I am glad – perhaps now, I think, a way can be contrived to bring her and Jack back together, as the twin Hayley Millses did in The Parent Trap. A black-and-white photograph lies on the dashboard of our Taunus station wagon. It shows Lesley and Anton arm-in-arm on the day they married. I pick up the photograph and say, with some scorn, ‘I may as well tear this up.’ She snatches it from me and bursts into tears. ‘I loved him,’ she sobs, puts the car into gear and backs out of the driveway.

This drama, or versions of it, was acted out several times as I recall, but somehow they always cobbled it all together again, and I came back home to the room I shared with Raymond. Although I never realised it, and neither, I imagine, did they, it was a scenario indicating an abusive relationship.


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