Meeting My Elizabeth
Having completed my work contract up North in England, I was staying in London for a few weeks in September 1961, before going back to Denmark. My stay was also ending, due to the visa restriction at the time, I was an Alien and could only stay for 6 months periods, each time leaving the country and having to get another visa.
One afternoon, I stopped for a coffee in Kensington High Street, a place I knew from before, a place to get a somewhat decent coffee and even Danish pastries, The Kon-Tikki, called after the famous Norwegian explorer. After ordering an expresso, I noted a petite blond sitting alone having tea, she did not look around, but sat and minded herself. She looked attractive, with long blond hair, but I did not have my spectacles with me, left them in my place in Stanhope Gardens. Therefore, I could not see her fully, nevertheless, we had eye contact and as I did not see so clearly, I could remain my eyes fixed on her. Steering her in the eyes, which must have made an effect, she was dressed needly, in a white blouse with long sleeves and a black, grey, and white check skirt,
Kon-Tikki was Norwegian, and I had previously seen Scandinavian girls in the café. When I decided to go over to her table. I asked her, after introducing myself, if she was Scandinavian and if I could sit down. To my surprise she stood up, I realise that she was very small but very beautiful with long blond hair and white skin. She put out her little hand and told me her name was Elizabeth and she was British.
I sat down and had another coffee, and she had another tea and we started talking. Liz had big blue eyes looking straight at me all the time, totally ignoring everything about us. We soon got into conversation, and as I told her about myself, she, however, was more reserved about her background and life. There was so mystic to her, something reminding me of a spy. I liked that. Sometimes when I asked direct questions, she was very good at answering and avoiding answering, like a trained diplomat. As I would later get to know, Elizabeth had quite a story to tell.
She asked me if I minded her smoking. She took out of a big black shoulder bag, some coloured cigarettes Sobranie, which I had never seen before and a cigarette holder, the length of a cigarette. She put the matches on the table, I took the matches and lit her cigarette.
After lighting her cigarette, she reached out with her left hand touching my hand and said: I would never speak to a stranger in a café, but there is something about you, which makes me comfortable like I have known you before. This gave me a positive immediate reaction, that she was special. She held her cigarette holder in an attractive and feminine way when she smoked, like some actresses in the movies.
Despite, I had known so many women up North, many very pretty and attractive, mostly married, for short affairs, this woman was something different. This moment, our first meeting, I have recalled again and again, because Liz become my wife for 52 years and gave me three sons. Liz never liked to talk about the meeting with the boys or anyone else, as she did not like to admit, we became lovers the first night. When we five years later danced to Frank Sinatra’s Strangers in the Night, at Sotogrande in Spain, we both loved the text and song, little did we know that this night our Hans Christian was conceived.
Wond’ring in the night what were the chances
We’d be sharing love before the night was through
Something in your smile was so exciting
Something in my heart told me I must have you
Two lonely people, we were strangers in the night
Up to the moment when we said our first hello little did we know
Love was just a glance away, a warm embracing dance away
Lovers at first sight, in love forever
It turned out so right for strangers in the night
Lovers at first sight, in love forever
It turned out so right for strangers in the night
Liz and I danced, at the opening of the Sotogrande Club, when we danced, there were lots of celebrities, including Prince Juan Carlos I, who nine years later became king after Franco.
Well, back to our first meeting, I told her that I just came from Sheffield, some days before, and she told me that she had grown up close by outside Doncaster, where her parent had a large estate. We talked and talked and as time went by; therefore, I asked her to join me for dinner. She accepted with a beautiful smile and when she stood up, I helped her with the coat, and she gave me a compliment – as a gentleman. She took out of her handbag a black beret, like the French wear, to put on, but put it back in the bag. I also saw she had long black leather gloves in her handbag, despite this being September.
We walked down Kensington High Street towards the Commonwealth Centre already the spirit of love. Walking, in the street, I noticed how petite, slim and small she was, she had to look up at me, despite that she had high heels on. She moved her hair constantly aside when she looked up at me and appear very feminine and delicate.
Walking down the street, I truly felt the attraction and already laid plans to take her back to Stanhope Gardens and had all “wicked” plans, not really just want her. But first, we enjoyed a meal with wine, I recall a French restaurant, just off Kensington High Street. To show off, I ordered a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, with escargots, and snails for starters, then entrecote finishing with the waiter cooking in front of us Crêpes Suzette pancakes with Grand Marnier. Liz was totally fixated on me and looked at me like I was her God, no one else mattered in the room.
Thereafter, I recall, it was very easy to get her into a taxi, although, we could have walked down Earl’s Court Road, I wanted to make sure that we went to Stanhope Gardens, I did not want to take any risks – this was my women.
She told me that she had just finished a photo session having pictures taken in men’s shirts. She was somewhat secretive about herself but said she had lived in Bournemouth, a place I knew. However, she told me that she was not tall enough to be a mannequin, therefore she took photo shots. Originally, she was educated as an SRN nurse. She told me that she had only been in London for a short time.
Well, I did take her back to my little flat in 38 (possible 41) Stanhope Gardens SW3, on the top floor 4th. She pointed out, coming out of the taxi, that she was brought up in a strict Catholic home and she did not do such things. (me responding – not knowing what she meant).
I had a habit to leave a large bowl of apples, smelling good in the rooms and I recall Elizabeth loved the smell of the rooms when she entered. I notices she smoked quite a lot, which I was not keen on, but thought it was to calm her nerves. Practically, all the women I had known up North were smokers. I told her this was a no-smoking flat, but that did not stop her. I was used to smoking around, as my dear mother smoked small cigarillos and my stepfather smoked pipes.
The bed was, quite high, possibly with many mattresses, as one sunk into it, we disappeared into the middle. Before, Liz had asked if she could take a shower and insisted that she wanted to wash her hair. Therefore, I had to put on the gas fire in the fireplace, where she sat for a long time to dry her hair. She told me that since I did not like cigarettes, she knew her hair would smell of smoke, therefore she washed it.
Considering that I was going back to Denmark, as my visa soon expired, I had given notice to the owner of the apartment (2 rooms + kitchen) and had to leave within at the time two weeks.
Interestingly, I did not detect when she spoke that she came from Yorkshire, but when I challenged her, she spoke like a local Yorkshire lass, saying aye lasse. “mardy, breadcake, summat, nowt,” and even saying taarah. She told me Yorkshire dialect phrases come from all over God’s own county. Nevertheless, she hid speaking like that in London. Sometimes it came out, like when she said our lass, speaking about one of her sisters or nowt. She somehow looked down on Yorkshire.
After the second night, I walked down to South Kensington Station, via Harrington Road, to buy some snacks, it is not like now, with many foods and snack shops, I recall only a few at the time. In the Italian restaurant-delicatessen, I could bring back lasagne and other Italian dishes I knew from Italy. I still recall buying various foods and soft drinks (no alcohol) and coming back to my flat on the 4th floor, with no lift, nothing for my young body, just seeing Liz in bed. I brought ready-made food, as Liz already had told me that she was not able to cook, as they had a cook and kitchen staff at home.
I brought a bucket of flowers and some fruit and apples. I did not have a vase, so the flowers we put into two glass milk bottles I had in the kitchen and placed them in the bedroom. Liz appreciated the flowers and seemed quite impressed, whispering many times into my ear, that I was a gentleman! Kissing my face.
After 5-6 days we entered out together, at least across the road to an Italian restaurant on the corner of Gloucester Road (now Nando’s). I still recall the place on the first floor, we could see from the flat every night full. I ordered some Italian red wine, I believe Valpolicella, which impressed her again. Also, that I knew many of the Italian dishes, I told her about my time in Italy and travelling the world. Liz had never been outside the UK and showed she was impressed, always looking into my face. I did feel her warm response to me and there were indeed emotions.
Since Liz, said she also like jazz, at least she knew Acker Bilk, the British clarinettist, I suggested one evening we should go to Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club at 39 Gerrard Street, in the basement, a place I had visited before. Gerrard Street had only one Chinese restaurant then.
The staircase going down to the club was rather steep and I lifted Liz down the stairs, which she was impressed by. Liz liked the place and the music, Liz was drinking Baby-Cham and smoking too many cigarettes. The place became very full, and I did not like all the smoke, so we left and walked down the street to Wardour Street and Whisky-a-Go-Go, where she danced, so nice, in front of me, swinging her skirt and showing a happy body and face, dancing like a 16-year-old girl. We went a few times back to Whiskey-a-Go-Go, with Liz always dancing in front of me and me sitting – yes, I was in love. Liz told me that she since very early had to dance solo Irish Dance, an old-style stepdance, in front of her father, him playing the old drums. She could really dance stepdance, dancing on the same spot, and did many times later including five weeks before Mogens was born.
Liz thought at the time I was older than her, possible late twenties, and got surprised when I told her my real age, also finding out that Liz was five years older than me. Such things do not matter when you are in love and no doubt I had been smitten.
After some days, Liz told me something, quite unbelievable, that she went to a fortune teller, the week before, and the fortune teller had told her, that she will meet a tall foreigner, with dark hair and with a white coat, and go across the sea to another country and get married. Liz thought it was a doctor, but the fortune teller said he was not. Interestingly, when I returned to Denmark, I worked at a local grocer helping out before Christmas and did wear a white coat.
I did not have a television or radio, as I only rented the apartment when I was in London. One day going for some snacks at night, I saw the newspaper headline that U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld had died in a plane crash. I like him and he was well respected around the world. I was sure then that this was not an accident, but murder. After decades, this was confirmed that he was killed. Yes, this was a time, without mobile telephones and instant communication, I had not even read newspapers for a week or more.
Every time we entered out, we could not come fast back to Stanhope Gate to make love – it was like a drug!! So, most days we spent in bed, only going out at night.
My car had been parked in the street for days, but when I drove her after the change of clothes, we afterwards went to Hyde Park, sitting in the car, kissing, and talking. However, we did have a confrontation, as I told her that I really had to leave London. Before this confrontation, Liz looked at some small children playing in uniforms, and said that she wanted her boys to go to the school of the children – that school was Hill House. I certainly did not think about children, however, afterwards thinking about it, we had no protection during I time together in London. Although I through 16 months up North had so many relationships, nearly all with married women, I had not for days, been lying in bed every day, even weeks, just making love. Therefore, this was something very special.
I told Liz that I must leave the UK by the 1st of October, she was not happy and could not understand why. Well, when your brain is between your legs, the authorities – any authority. go out of the window, so when the 1st came, I took my two suitcases and put them into the car. Liz packed a bag, a portable record player and some records with her favourite singer. and we just took off out of London. My people in Regent Street thought I left London for Denmark. They had been calling me and pointing out, that under no circumstances could I stay beyond 1st October 1961.
I had never been to Windsor before, and neither had Liz, so we went into Windsor for a late lunch, somewhat in the centre. Asking for a good place to stay, we were recommended a place outside Windsor. Somehow, I found the place, despite it being dark, it looked like a residential hotel, a large Victorian house, possibly with 25-49 rooms max. It was surrounded by a park, showing all the autumn colours and next door was a dog kennel specialising in Afghan dogs. Interestingly, when I was 5-6 years later searching for the hotel, I never found it, nor the dog kennel. Despite this, I got to know the area well when we lived in Sunningdale.
Liz, my boys, and I have stayed several times at the Berystede Hotel in Sunningdale, even with Wellington, our dog, but we never found the hotel we stayed in October 1961. Knowing the area well and having lived in Sunningdale, it is strange we never found this hotel later.
We booked in, just with my passport (good they did not look at my visa). Liz did not sign in, I think they thought we had just married. Breakfast and dinner were included in the price. I booked for a week. Somehow, I do not believe they took bookings for one night. We had a quite large room on the first floor, with a likewise huge bathroom with a bathtub for 2-3 people, one of the old Victorian, with the bathroom full of wall mirrors.
Good that Liz had her portable record player, but she had only 3-4 records, all with Kathleen Ferrier, who died in 1953, her life was cut short when she died at only 41: from breast cancer. Liz loved her voice, and I got after a while also to become a fan, hearing her Contralto voice, they became sacred pieces to me. We played every day while lying in the bed making love and recovering. In view that later, in life, Liz became rather prudish, it is difficult to imagine our sexual life then. Nevertheless, I learned the Friedrich Haendel – Serse Larghetto of Serse “Ombra mai fu”. Also, Blow The Wind Southerly. I told Liz about my experience learning opera with Edgard Midling-Jensen, even visiting La Scala in Miland, only two years earlier.
Well, we took breakfast in bed and did not leave the room for two weeks. Young, madly in love!! We did have some dinners brought to the room, but I can’t really recall, despite I remember some of our encounters in detail. I remember Liz was very open to everything and quite naughty, although later, “butter would not melt in her mouth”.
I think I told the hotel people, my wife did not feel well or something, as an excuse, since we never went for breakfast downstairs or dinner. After two weeks, when we finally decided to enter, going down the stairs to the dining area, all the hotel guests looked at us, as museum pieces. I do believe some must have heard lots of noise from our room and believed we were honeymooners.
After a week we did sneak out in the afternoon, just to get some fresh air, also we had heard dogs barking close by. It turned out to be Afghan dogs kennel, which had been very fashionable for model shoots. This eye-catching hound is extremely self-confident and with an independent streak. Liz just loved them, and I said that one day I would buy her one or two. Sadly, I took pictures of her with the dogs, all lost later in the London docks.
An issue which constantly was in Liz’s mind was the fact that I was leaving the UK, she could not understand that I had overstayed my visa. This led to confrontations, although always ended in making it up and making love.
Liz was a vivacious person in many ways, but no doubt later when the boys came along was more reserved, even prudish and a hypocrite. When we went out, she took her time for make-up and used always black eyelashes, using an Eyelash Curler and artificial eyelashes. When she was smoking, she used a cigarette holder and mostly only smoked 50/60 % of the cigarette. Later this caused a lot of problems because she let the cigarette burn in an ashtray, sometimes falling on the table or cabinet.
Both Liz’s parent was Irish, and Liz was very Irish in many ways, including having a bad temper at times. One night when we had returned to London, staying in Cumberland Hotel, she told me a story about her girlfriend. She had a boyfriend, who was a big strong man. Because he played around and was not faithful, she wanted to get him somehow. One night when he was asleep, peaceful at sleep, she took her long stiletto shoes, with a metal heal and hit him in his eyes. When Liz told me this story, I frankly was very frightened, as this was Liz, I even considered calling the reception and telling them to look out for this “crazy” woman.
Although, I always had cameras and took thousands of pictures, sadly most have been lost. Liz never liked to be photographed, therefore, not many pictures ever existed of her and me. Liz had a habit of moving her mouth and lips when she was mad or even had her picture taken. When I photograph her, she always pulled her face, for some unknown reason, I did find this infuriating, specific when I took a picture of her with the children.
Coming to Denmark
As the fortune teller had predicted Liz did travel abroad, across the sea (Harwich – Esbjerg) having taken the train from Liverpool Station in London, arriving at Copenhagen Central Station on the 19th of December 1961. I have seen to that my future wife, was travelling in style, first class, all the way – after all this was her most important journey.
My dear mother and I were there to receive her with a large bucket of red roses and Liz looked like a Hollywood star, coming from the train, with 5 large leather (of white) suitcases and a vanity box. She looked gorgeous and full of smiles, everyone at the station was looking, and she did make a good impression on my mother. Further, one case was full of presents for my mother.
I embrace your body
A thousand moments
In my yesterday’s arms
With all the wonders
Of life before us.
With my honour in dust
And my body debilitated
I send you a rose
With the true knowledge
That our creator one day
Will embrace us all.
The above words I wrote and sent to Elizabeth in April 2014, little knowing, that she died later that month.
The picture above was taken in April 1961. All happy and so in Love, I was 20 years old.
The first picture below was taken in Denmark, Charlottenlund in 1975, also happy and in Love.
The second picture in Denmark, Gentofte April 1984, after all the terrible events in Denmark in 1980-84, a difficult time for our family.