Basia Briggs is a remarkable woman. She has survived a medley of unexpected disasters that would have put anyone else in a permanent frenzy throughout their life. Yet she has proved to be indestructible both in body and spirit and maintained a sense of humour to compensate for the tragedies that seem to engulf her without any respite. Her book which Quartet published recently has not yet had the attention it deserves.
She has subsequently written a piece on the internet for a blog called We Heart Writing in which she describes her feelings since the publication of her memoir.
I believe that those reading her piece will ultimately rush to get a copy of her book which will prove to be a page turner hard to describe.
Here is what she wrote:
Revisiting the past and poking old wounds is a painful process, some call it cathartic but I found it very draining to remember my dismay when I discovered aged 23 and busy with two tiny children, that my mother Camilla aged 43 was having an affair with my then husband Graham who was only ten years her junior. I think I lost all faith and trust in humanity on that day. ♥
I think I had what the Americans now call ‘abandonment and rejection issues’ although I had never heard of such terminology until recently. Good old Americans have a name for everything. I didn’t know it before but ever since childhood having been dumped by my mum in a Spartan institution of a convent boarding school aged six, I felt a bit bewildered and chucked out. But one just accepted it as normal everyday life.
Ever since childhood I had been aware of my mother’s chronic nymphomania, but did not resent or disapprove of her for this, as she was kind to me and I loved her madly. I was never naughty or gave her any trouble as I knew that I was a dreadful burden to her, being an only child of a single parent, and so I loved her very much. Nevertheless I resolved to grow up and be a paragon of virtue and chastity, preserving my honour and never allowing any man the smug satisfaction of having ‘had’ me. I wanted to be admired and desired from a distance and to this day I dislike bodily contact. On the occasions that I had lapsed (i.e. two marriages ) I have always regretted it, save for one time only when I fell in love and was very happy with my man. Observing my mother and her friends, all of which were rather promiscuous and utterly miserable, and often treated with scorn by their seducers instead of grovelling gratitude and diamonds, I decided that sex only brings emotional trouble, unwanted pregnancy, heartache or herpes. Bewilderingly women in general seem racked with insecurities and a lack of confidence and self-worth whereas men possess far too much, goodness knows why.
When my Mother was 31 years old she married an ugly rich old man for his money and I watched with horror as she was irrationally terrified of him instead of being the dominant one by virtue of her youth and beauty. He bullied her with his capricious and sulky ways and he ruled her life totally, turning her into little more than a servant. Why on earth I wondered, at age 12, should women be subservient to men and cook, clean, shop, obey every whim and make themselves available for sex on demand and get nothing in return. What price would a housekeeper demand, not to mention what is essentially legalized prostitution?
At age 18 I married an Australian named Graham who was of sluggish intellect but seemed so insanely besotted by me I felt I had the power and considered myself a glittering prize, so I married him for a lark as he was handsome and all the other girls fancied him. I had no intention of it lasting and was not at all in love. I soon realized that I had also condemned myself to penal servitude and domestic drudgery as his expectations of me were quickly made clear.
It dawned on me that perhaps all men are maybe afraid of their reliance on women and hate themselves for being vulnerable and therefore hate women also. Sometimes I think it is because their earliest recollections of childhood are of being dominated by their mothers so they grow up and thereafter want revenge on womankind. I had totally deluded myself with thinking he was infatuated with me, he probably was to start with, but hated being in the ‘Married Man’ category. For him, recreational womanising was fun, but having a wife emasculated him as he felt he had lost his freedom.
I never felt appreciated or rewarded in any way. Once I asked him why never bought me a gift and he responded angrily ‘Who do you think I am, Father Christmas?’ He totally ignored my 21st birthday but I did not cry, accepting his treatment with contempt and a calm detachment and some sadness. I confided in my mother that I was unhappy and instead of comforting and supporting me, she seduced him herself. It took me a few months to discover the affair. When she finally admitted their sexual relationship, I left them to it with disgust and with ruthless practicality I divorced Graham for adultery. I first considered the grounds of ‘exceptional depravity’ but then thought that would look so ghastly on the certificate. They are both dead now having destroyed themselves with drink.
I had spent my life starved of affection and I think this has hardened me, but I didn’t realize this until I started writing the book and analyzing the past. Looking back on those years and writing my book about it made me melancholy for the treachery humankind is capable of and sadly I feel that I can trust no-one. All that being said, I was born under the sign of Sagittarius which means I am an eternal optimist!
Basia Briggs is a luminary of the London social scene and a distinguished fundraiser, having played a fundamental part in the installation of the Queen Mother’s Gate in 1993 and the regeneration of Hyde Park Corner. She has written for various publications including The Telegraph and the Daily Mail. Born in London, she emigrated briefly to Australia before returning to Sloane Square where she now resides.