HAMAD & MANDY – pt 2

We were a motley little group at the bowling lane. Irishman Danny, missing his home in Ireland, a lost girl, me, unsure of her choice of university, and young Hamad, achingly homesick and anxious about his future.

However, we all got along pretty well, so Hamad suggested that we meet every day for the rest of the week. He seemed desperately lonely, and needed our company.

So, for the next few days,this pattern was repeated. And Danny would drive down to Shenfield and then drive me home. Until Friday, when Hamad asked me if I’d spend the weekend with him.

I declined. I was keen to get back to my friends and life in Birmingham.

These were the days when I was called ‘Mandy’, and always felt slightly embarrassed to share this name with another rather notorious Mandy – the Rice-Davis one.

Much later, when I came to Brighton, I reverted to calling myself by my proper Christened name – Amanda, because so many people thought the name – Mandy – was rather ‘common’.

He sulkily accepted my decision. I felt that not many people said no to him.

For a few weeks , he would phone me at the university. And I got used to being teased mercilessly when the tannoy system would announce to all and sundry that there was a call for me from the Crown Prince of Bahrain.

Now when I am reminded of him when there is a Formula One meeting in Bahrain, or Amnesty protests about human rights’ violations there, I take a peep at photos of Hamad, and see a good -looking man with those same fine, direct brown eyes.

Only three years after I met him he was married at 18 to his first cousin.

And his son Salman, was born a year later.

In all, he has had four wives and 12 children now. But all I remember is the fretful and rather sweet young man who so urgently needed a friend to talk to all these years ago.

Hamad & Mandy

I met the newly annointed Crown Prince Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain at a lavish party given for him in a glamorous house in Mayfair in 1964. I was just 19, and a ‘fresher’ at Birmingham university. In my first year there of a Philosophy degree course.

How I managed to be present at this rather louche party, given in Hamad’s honour, was somewhat surreal.

Because I had accompanied my father, rather hastily, to this function.

So much so, that I arrived with only freshly-washed hair, no make-up, and wearing a cheap little cotton dress from a shop called Neatawear, that no longer exists. In the fashion of the day, the skirt length was short.

The first thing I noticed were the girls. Seated on chairs around the room were several very young teenage European girls, mainly blonde, very pretty and heavily made-up. I realise now that they were high end call girls.

Hamad, who was barely 15 at the time, looked nervous, and was seated at a large, round table with several men, who all looked like security guards.

As I walked into the room – my father had disappeared somewhere, one of these guards approached me and said that Hamad would like me to join him. I had noticed him watching me, as I entered the room.

My absolute plainness and absence of any make-up might have intrigued him.

As we sat together, I noticed that his chubby, schoolboy fingers were covered in gold and diamond rings, and he was wearing a very fine, slightly shiny Alpaca suit. He seemed interested in me, asked me about my university course, and mentioned that he was quite nervous about going to officer cadet course training at Aldershot and later Sandhurst shortly. I noticed that he seemed quite sophisticated for his age.

Wordly, but possibly still a virgin.

Anyway, he was a freshman,of sorts, too! Our conversation bonded us.

I briefly left the table to go to the Ladies Room, were I was immediately surrounded by bevies of the pretty young girls who had been lining the rooms.

They were fascinated to know how I had ‘bagged’ the Crown prince, and congratulated me. They were slightly in awe of me. How had I achieved such a thing.

And, to my astonishment, when I returned to my seat next to Hamad, he asked for my address, and invited me to come to lunch with himat the Dorchester hotel the next day. He said that his chauffeur, Danny, would drive down to Shenfield , Essex, where I lived, in his Silver Cloud Rolls- Royce to fetch me. And this is exactly what happened.

Exactly on time, the next morning, this beautiful grey Rolls drove up, outside my house,and a uniformed Danny, opened the door for me, and drove us both up to London.

When I arrived at the Dorchester, I discovered that Hamad and his entourage of men occupied an entire floor.

But I noticed that there were still a group of girls lining the walls.

The women in his family, however, occupied another floor.

Lunch was served to us – only Hamad and I were at the table – and I found the food delicious, but I don’t recall what we ate.

After lunch, Hamad then said that he wanted to go bowling in Golders Green, and asked if I would go with him, which I duly did,


Women who Love too Much ( cont.)

Norwood describes that these kind of women often had abusive and neglectful parents who failed to ‘provide a basic sense of security and validation to their daughters in childhood, so that they are programmed endlessly to seek out men who remind them of these familiar familial abusive patterns.

These women want to fix things/people and make things right.

That old ‘Freudian repetition syndrome’. For to these women ,romantic love must be full of suffering, longing, pain and torment.

I think this can also apply to men, who may seek out abusive, emotionally unavailable woman who remind them of their neglectful mothers.

The hand that rocks the cradle is often the first individual a child meets who is abusive in some way.

I’m thinking of writing a sequel entitled ‘Women who Love too Little’, to all those women who failed to provide basic love , care and kindness to their offspring. And who set in motion these awful scenarios that are constantly repeated in life. For, as we all know, it’s the sub-conscious that runs the show.

And, incidentally , people who become therapists and counsellors and who are drawn to their craft, are often the very people who experienced some form of emotional neglect themselves.They are usually more ‘fucked up’ than their unwitting clients.

But all these dysfunctional patterns are established in childhood.

Parents really do ‘fuck you up’, as Philip Larkin so eloquently put it.

Women Who Love Too Much

I recently picked up my copy of this seminal book from my bookshelf to re-read some of the wisdom described in it.

It’s a classic. One of the first relationship self-help books in the genre, written by Robin Norwood, a family and relationship therapist, in 1985.

Its premise is simple. It describes a certain kind of woman who seeks out emotionally unavailable partners, and deeply dysfunctional men in order to help, even rescue and save them. Thereby sacrificing their own needs.

Setting Sail: Remembering Jonathan Raban – part 2

In 1970 , I graduated, and also came to London to seek my fortune.

I had no idea which career to pursue, so I dabbled in publishing ( I worked for Cambridge University Press), journalism ( wrote book reviews/pieces for Twentieth Century magazine and Arts Review), did some academic research, then settled into running the Workshop gallery for Mel Calman. I was drifting. Uncertain which career path to take. At one point Jonathan said:

‘Make me your career’.

But I was eager to move on from him, find a loving partner, and start a family.

Jonathan had found his metier, his dharma, his ‘raison d’etre’, and was writing plays, short stories and reviews for ‘The New Statesman’, ‘The Sunday Times’ and countless other newspapers ,BBC and so on.

But in June 1972, around Jonathan’s 30th birthday, we collaborated on our last joint venture together when our son Alexander was conceived.

I am eternally indebted to Jonathan for the gift of my beloved son, and now for my enchanting granddaughter, Esther.

l then went on to meet and marry my marvellous husband, Nicholas Sewell in 1979, who loved Alexander and raised him as his own until his untimely death in 2010.

And in recent months, Alex and his father were in contact with each other before his unexpectedly sad passing.

R.I.P. Jonathan.

Pictures of Esther and Alexander below.

Setting Sail: remembering Jonathan Raban

(June 14 1942- January 17 2023)

I was 22 when I first met Jonathan at the University of East Anglia. I was a student in a class he was giving on American poetry. He was 25 then, and a junior lecturer in the Department of English and American Studies.

I was older than my compatriots because I had worked at the V&A museum in London and spent a year at the University of Birmingham, reading Philosophy before taking up my degree in Fine Arts at UEA.

But I had been writing poetry from a young age, and Jonathan was interested in looking at my work. It was the first time in my life that anyone had taken my little poems seriously, although I had already been published in magazines and ‘Sprouts on Helicon’ (Deutsch).

Jonathan took out a red pen and corrected, advised and made alterations and suggestions to my work. Here was a bright, brilliant, enthusiastic young man, full of energy and enthusiasm, who was eager to encourage me. I had never met anyone so full of life. He was vital, fun and dynamic. On the brink of leaving university teaching and academia to become a full-time writer. I knew him then as the fledgling about to leave the nest. It was an exhilarating time for both of us.

I introduced him to my friends the poet George MacBeth and to Prof.M.L. ‘Mack’ Rosenthal .He invited both of them to lecture to the Faculty. Jonathan had a sweetness about him then. He wanted avidly to extend his circle. We became close at this time.

Friends as well as lovers. He moved into my flat and wrote a short story

that was published in ‘London Magazine’. We were both thrilled,and celebrated this triumph together. It was the beginning of his literary career. I sent a poem off to ‘The Listener’, and it was published in July 1969. Again, we celebrated. It was our annus mirabilis. It was the year he left UEA and went to London to become a full-time writer.

Picture of Jonathan taken on the balcony of his flat in Unthank Road, Norwich. June 1969. The tie was a gift from me. I took the photos and ironed the shirt.



In the days that followed the visit of Prince Charles to our home, I was

recognised in the streets around us ( We had made the front page of the local newspaper ‘The Evening Argus’ -an exclusive – with photos), and people constantly approached me for first-hand information on Charles. This became tiresome. My friends jokingly referred to me as ‘Your Royal Tea-ness’, which I loved.

In the end the pressure of it all became too much, so I took myself off for the weekend to Rye, to escape back to anonymity. I had become sick to death of being approached by people . How do ‘celebrities’ stand it.

Some go around in disguise, I’ve discovered, but others need to be recognised like my friends Martin Bell, and the late Anna Wing, the actress. Both were disappointed whenever they weren’t recognised.

However, when I returned after my weekend away, I decided to accept the invitation from BBC Radio Sussex , as it was at the time, to give an interview ( over the phone – a landline in those days) to a news programme.

The interview went well. The questions were general: ‘Did he take sugar?

What did he look like? What did he think of your house? ‘Where you nervous talking to him ? Etc. Etc,.

But the other thing I had to put up with was the amount of threatening hate mail I received from militant republicans. This was another reason why I fled to Rye.

I decided to ‘fight fire with fire’ to the writers of these letters, tell them that they were ‘preaching to the converted’, that I’d never been much of a royalist, but that I had invited him in ‘for a laugh’.

Much of this was true.

However, in this platinum Jubilee of the Queen’s 70 -year reign, more attention is being focused now on her likely successor : Prince Charles.

And all I can say is that I have become a real fan.

Even today on Sunday July 3 2022 I heard on the Paddy O’Connell programme on BBC 4,the journalist, Matthew Parris defend Prince Charles against some of his detractors, and I had to go along with him.

I think Charles is a good and honourable man, and will be an almost ideal and appropriate King to have in the following tumultous years to come .

He is our best bet in these uncertain times and in place of the most nefarious bunch of politicians we’ve had in a long time.



Charles then started to ask about various artefacts in our living room, and was particularly intrigued by legions of wooden figurines of soldiers in military colours and clothes from various 18th and 19h century regiments that lined the walls, and had been made by Nick.

At one point, he asked: ‘Well how did you do this all?’

‘With hard work’, Nick replied.

By now, a large crowd of people had gathered outside the house, and there were photographers gathered outside. Our sitting room, too , was crammed with security people and the Press. When, suddenly Charles said:

‘Would you mind awfully if I looked round the rest of the house?’.

At this point, I almost collapsed at the thought of unmade beds and untidy bathrooms.

Charles looked outside and then said; ‘I think they can wait’.

I then ushered him up to the staircase, he went up, then I followed,

pointing out various views of Brighton lining the walls.

‘Look, sir, I said’, here’s a picture of the Theatre Royal’, or here’s a pen and ink drawing of the Royal Pavilion’, Places that I thought might interest him.

He looked into each room briefly, and with interest, going past the ‘belle etage’ of our large Victorian town house until we reached a large bedroom, where he admired some glass handkerchief vases. I then offered one, which he politely refused. Then Nick chimed in with the following remark: ‘

‘Well the old Queen Mary would’ve taken it, wouldn’t she?’

At this , Prince Charles laughed and Nick then recounted how Queen Mary had patted him on the head as a child, as Nick’s parents who lived in Little Chester Street, Chelsea, and often went to the Chelsea Arts Club, were aquainted with her. Nick described a dark green car that she had with a basket seat at the back, and Charles laughed in astonishment that he, too, knew of this vehicle.

The two men, who were both of the same build and size ,then bonded as brothers, and continued to chat and reminisce. And a photographer was later to take a lovely photo of a very happy and similing Prince Charles leaving our house, with my beloved Nick on the front steps with him.

As soon as Charles’ entourage left to dash off to the waiting helicopter, the phone started ringing. It was ‘The Daily Mail’ , ‘The Mirror’ and ‘Hello’ magazine on the end of the line.


I offered a seat to Charles on our comfortable red velvet chinoiserie settee, and he relaxed completely, and looked intently round the room , with much interest and curiosity.

With good reason, as the room was a tastefully-decorated treasure trove of fine antiques collected by my husband over the years.

It isn’t every day that members of the royal family visit an ordinary commoner’s home. If ever!

I sat on a pink velvet upholstered Victorian chair opposite him, and asked him how he took his Earl Grey tea, which was what I offered to him.

‘With milk and two sugars, please’ he replied.

I was surprised at the request for sugar, and I told one of his entourage what he wanted. This was relayed to my husband in the kitchen.

Nick, my husband, duly arrived with a cup of tea, gave it to Charles, and then plonked himself down next to Charles. I was a little alarmed at this complete lack of solicitude on his part.

‘Hello Charles’, he said.

I winced,as I had been adding ‘sir’ to every utterance.


At 3pm precisely, a fleet of immaculate limousines swished up College Road, and a rather bemused Prince Charles alighted from one of them, surrounded by his security team and his Press secretary.

A growing crowd of people had gathered to see him.

It was a cold but sunny day, so I put on a rather fetching faux fur hat to greet him.

I went out onto the entrance of our house, and watched him climbing the stairs down to a basement entrance, at which I called out to him, thus:

‘When you are finished in there, sir, would you like a cup of tea?’

He looked straight up at me, smiled, and replied:

‘Yes. A great idea’.

Truly astonished I and raced back into the house, calling out to my husband to put the kettle on.

Almost immediately, a group of plain clothes security men turned up at our front door to check us out. To case the joint and see if we posed some kind of security threat . They were most displeased with me ,as I had managed to wreck the entire afternoon’s schedule and timetable with my cheeky request.

I was not to know that there was a helicopter on stand-by, just down the road in East Brighton park, waiting to whisk Charles and his entourage back to Highgrove, and that this would now have to be delayed.

I had ruined their well-laid plans.

Suddenly, a slightly flustered Charles arrived at our front door. I welcomed him in politely and warmly, and watched him nervously playing with his cuff links as he walked into our sitting room, at which point he doubled up with laughter, as he saw an original Ingres print of a young Napoleon Bonaparte on one of the walls. My late husband was an avid collector of Napoleana.

This broke the ice, and laughing with him I swiftly pointed out another painting on an adjacent wall.

‘But we’ve got Wellington over here’. I said.