Saturday, 6 October 2007

Spilling the Beans by Clarissa Dickson Wright

Spilling the Beans
Clarissa Dickson Wright
Hodder & Stoughton

ADORABLY pretty, brilliant, wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice - Clarissa Dickson-Wright had it all. Or so it seemed.

But genetics is destiny, sometimes. And her father's family were monsters.

An ancestor, thrown out of the New Model Army for having a strong weakness, was taken back for Cromwell's Irish campaign, and after the brutal invasion of Drogheda, settled in the town.

The family continued to love the drink and hate the Catholics. On her parents' marriage, "my father had written to [his mother] that my mother was a Catholic, and received a missive back which included the line: 'I would rather she were a black naked heathen whore than a papist'," writes Dickson-Wright.

This was 1927. Short years later the gloss had come off the marriage, and Arthur Dickson-Wright, by now a famous society surgeon who treated the British royal family, was battering his wife and children and starting the day with vodka-laced orange juice.

Dickson-Wright's book is a hair-raising account of her own alcoholism, until she finally found AA and became one of the Two Fat Ladies whose cooking delighted a worldwide audience.

It's full of eye-popping gossip, my favourite of which was an appealing description of the Marquess of Waterford's tattoo of a hunting pack in full cry down his back, with the fox's brush disappearing into his ass-crack.

xxxxx stars

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