I remember when we had The Rt. Hon Edward Heath at one of The Birmingham Post Literary Lunches. He was travelling by train and unfortunately it was running late. A message reached me that he was not best pleased and when I met him in the Front Lobby of the Metropole Hotel at the National Exhibition Centre, he brisquely said I need a telephone and a private room. The Manager who was waiting to be introduced, quickly said he could use his office. I waited outside the door and had a malt whisky ready for him, and then introduced Mabel and ushered him into the main reception room where over a hundred people were waiting to greet him. Mabel was seated next to him at lunch and she told me he was difficult to talk to and did not seem to want to talk. But Mabel saw that everyone was looking and clearly it was not good for him to be seen sitting sullenly and silently at the top table, so in his interest she kept at him and was determined to get him talking! Challenged by this Northumbrian Ward Sister, trained at the Newcastle General, he didn’t stand a chance: and talk he did!Mabel was superbly good at these Literary Lunches and having met the authors would do her best to get as many people introduced to them as possible. She would ask little groups if they would like to meet a particular author, and armed with their names said come with me! Mabel made many friends for us both, and they would look out for her at these lunches, knowing they would soon be talking to one of the guest authors. On an occasion when sitting next to Sir Peter Ustinov she discovered he was travelling back to London that day and had not arranged any transport to the station. She at once offered my car and the next time I used it there was an obvious impression in the back seat where he had sat!
Mabel was always ready to help. At a conference with International Editors and Journalists in London, she at once responded to the wife of delegate who was seeking a family that would look after her daughter when she came to this country to improve her English language skills. It was a kind gesture that was to establish a long and happy relationship with the Belanger family.
Claude Belanger was the chief director and president of the largest daily circulation newspaper in France Le Parisien (established in 1944 as Le Parisien libéré) and Madame Belanger was a distinguished French writer, her first book I am Fifteen and I Do Not Want to Die was about her life and escape from Budapest during the Second World War. Claude Belanger was credited with having produced the first underground newspaper in Paris during the German Occupation. First their daughter Christianne stayed with us in Coventry then her two brothers Pierre and Francoise Belanger spent many holidays with us in Barnt Green. Mabel took a close interest in them and continually helped the boys with their use of the formal and colloquial English language. Pierre Belanger became a successful entrepreneur of commercial radio in France. When Claude Bellanger died, Mabel and I attended his Memorial Service in the Temple son Marcelle, Port Royale, Paris, representing the National and Provincial Newspapers of the United Kingdom. Christine Arnothy stayed at ‘Westerly for a few weeks after the death of her husband and started writing a new novel which she hoped would become a stage play.
One of nicest things that happened to Mabel and I during our long life together was when Pearson and Ann suggested that for our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary they would take us on a celebration trip to France, provided we accepted we stayed at the places they choose. We had a leisurely and lovely drive down the Loire Valley, and at overnight stops Pearson and Ann would checked the rooms to ensure they were suitable, culminating at a memorable little hotel in Biarrritz.
It was a most lovely way to celebrate our vows made at Bedlington Station.