Lives well lived
To be remembered fondly is a kind of immortality. In these pages, British men and women who died in 1996 live on in the recollections of their friends and admirers. John le Carre on Beryl Reid, Sting on Vivian Ellis, Bella Freud on Ossie Clark - by their friends shall ye know them
Saturday 28 December 1996
At around 4am, Jessica Mitford would be up, tap tap tapping at her typewriter, which had the kind of typeface forensic experts match up to anonymous letters in spy movies: you could recognise a fax from Decca from any single wonky character. Also, from the abbreviations that peppered the page: her language was a kind of shorthand all of her own, her writing - sprinkled with dots and ellipses and ampersands and capitalised and truncated words, from her nickname, Dec or Decca (after one of her sister's childhood lisping of her name) to her particular style for the place she had lived since her early twenties: "Calif". She liked to conduct exchanges in questions, exclamations, asides, and monosyllables: "Go on, do tell!" "Now, here's the thing!" "Too good!" "So long to know..." When she gave a party, which she did, often, spontaneously, generously, with no fuss, she drew up a guest list so that she could let you know exactly who was coming (and why): she was business-like as well as gregarious. Even from such a list, her spirit jumped off the page, as if out of a bottle, as if she were present talking to you with her merry eyes and her dry drawl: no wonder some US archive was collecting every scrap of paper she'd ever scribbled on. Even her shopping lists were idiosyncratic.
Struggling with smoking, she took to Nicorettes with a vengeance, and was chewing 20 a day for the last few years of her life. She dreaded, she said, that there would soon be announcements by the air hostess: "There will be no chewing on this flight"; the last time I saw her, at home in Oakland, the door bell rang and the delivery boy from the chemist was there, with a brown bag full of Nicorettes to tide her through the party.
Her style of talking and of writing was succinct, dry, and merciless: her favourite method of demolishing an opponent was to make them listen to themselves and crumble in embarrassment.
She loved to quote exactly word for word, showing up the hypocrisy/pretension/folly of the perpetrator. Among her favourite books were Rotten Reviews Vol 1 and Rotten Reviews Vol II, in which experts pronounce that Wuthering Heights "will never be generally read", or the New Statesman opines that "there are no surprises" in Brave New World, and that Buddenbrooks is "nothing but two thick tomes in which the author describes the worthless story of worthless people in worthless chatter".
Even if her aliveness to human folly was always too sharp to be charitable, it would be a huge mistake to think of her as malicious or even waspish: though her wit and turn of phrase belonged recognisably to the grand cru vintage that produced her sister Nancy as well as Evelyn Waugh, she was also affectionate, loyal, effervescent, generous: she once handed my son $50, found him two friends to play with, and turned them all loose to enjoy themselves in "SF" (San Francisco) for the day. He was overjoyed; I was dumbfounded: he was then 11 years old. She thought my generation made far too much of a fuss about children and child-rearing. She had opened her Running Away account at Drummonds at the age of 12, after all.
Life was an adventure, to be seized, to be lived to the hilt. It had proved so for her, from eloping in 1937 at the age of 19 with her first love (later her husband), Esmond Romilly, to her blithe and irrepressible political campaigns, first against the undertakers, then the obstetricians (The American Way of Death,1963, The American Way of Birth, 1992). She still subscribed to morticians' trade journals, and liked to read out the ads for the latest model coffins, chuckling over the trimmings. In revenge, one firm called a particularly modest version The Jessica Mitford. "All the right enemies" was a slogan she lived by.
This mixture of the satirist, the intrepid adventurer and the true-hearted, tonic friend comes through the list of her works, which could strike the reader as oddly inconsistent: Poison Penmanship: The Gentle Art of Muckraking (1979) mixed in with a biography of Grace Darling (1988); a personal tribute to Philip Toynbee alongside memoirs of the communist party, A Fine Old Conflict (1977). Her early masterpiece, Hons and Rebels (1960) combines both the personal and the political in this inimitable way: it begins with the hilarious (and now legendary) account of home-life at the Mitfords, but becomes a memorably tender but utterly unsentimental story of her struggles as a young mother and widow. She wrote about Grace Darling because Darling was an intrepid heroine, the saviour of shipwrecks; and about Philip Toynbee because she loved him; he had been a friend of Esmond Romilly's, and she never abandoned her friends. She remained a tenacious protester and fighter, too. With Bob Treuhaft, the selfless civil rights lawyer whom she married in 1943, and who, equally caustic and droll, encouraged the mordant, pamphleteering side of her wicked talents, she struggled to establish justice on her home turf in Oakland - not in grand, headline- grabbing gestures (though she was no slouch at publicity) but in the boring, small-print detail of legal tangles and individual cases. (In his mid- eighties, Bob Treuhaft is still fighting on.)
To read A Fine Old Conflict, her memoir of her life in America during the McCarthy period, is to realise how footslogging, dedicated, hard-working, serious and brave she and Bob were. This wasn't some kind of Mitford prank, as people all too easily think: she was committed, and she didn't take an easy path. Her class privileges may have given her a certain daredevil confidence, but she wasn't well off. Kay Graham, the owner of The Washington Post, who knew her in her first years in America, remembers how she used to bind her breasts and tummy so that her pregnancy would not show and she would not lose her job as a sales assistant in a clothes shop. The year that the Bay Bridge was damaged in the earthquake, I was staying with her and we were invited to a very grand party for the English Speaking Union, given by Ann Getty in San Francisco across the Bay. Decca was rather frail that winter, but determined to go, so we took the ferry: she wore, with great panache, her best coat; it was A-line, short, and a little worse for wear; she had bought it from Dior under Nancy's supervision in Paris 30 years before with the money from American Way of Death. She liked society, but was blissfully immune to the ruthlessness of style conventions. She also requested, as a fine last touch, that there should be no flowers at her funeral; donations were to go instead to Send-a-Piano- To-Havana (c/o Global Exchange 2017 Mission Street, San Francisco 94110). Her son Benjy, a piano tuner, has been running the US blockade to Cuba with nothing more inflammatory than reconditioned pianos, so that the Cubans can enjoy music in tune once again.
She was hankering for England when I first met her, in the early Eighties: she wanted news of old friends and connections, gossip. She wanted to reconnect with the "green unpleasant land". She had not been "home" for something like 40 years, though it was hard to believe, from her English rose complexion and cornflower eye prettiness, that she had ever left the Cotswolds. Gradually, she picked up the dropped stitches, and began coming back, renting this house and that and writing articles and making films; most evenings would end with Decca singing. She knew French songs from her governess, and traditional parlour numbers from her mother, but her favourite was "Maxwell's Silver Hammer", which had caught her attention when the Beatles first sang it. She'd learned every word: it had just the right mix of the deadpan and the grisly for her taste. "Bang bang Maxwell's silver hammer came down on his head/Bang bang Maxwell's silver hammer made sure that he was dead", she'd sing out. Her voice was light, clear, wobbly and tuneful; it drew attention to the absolute peculiarity of the words.
To the end, Jessica Mitford had the quick- wittedness and hungry curiosity of a very young and very bright girl who has never pretended to know anything she does not know and is determined to find out more. Decca never missed a thing; she threw a different slant on all experiences, salting them, brightening them, bringing more vividly to life life itself, for those lucky enough to know her.
Jessica Lucy Mitford, writer and campaigner: born Burford, Oxfordshire 11 September 1917; married 1937 Esmond Romilly (died 1941; one daughter, and one daughter deceased), 1943 Robert Treuhaft (one son, and one son deceased); died Oakland, California 23 July
Lady Caroline Blackwood by Alice Thomas Ellis
Once, after a party, Caroline and I decided to extend the evening by going somewhere for a drink. We could have gone anywhere, back to her place or mine, or any number of salubrious hostelries, but for some reason we found ourselves in Tottenham Court Road in a most peculiar "club". The bar was constructed to resemble a boat and the carpet was decorated with sinister stains. The clientele was largely foreign and the drinks exorbitantly expensive. We were approached by various men inviting us to dance and, after a while, we realised that each time we declined, the atmosphere worsened. We were not, as it were, playing the game, so we downed our drinks and left in an air of general disapproval. For years afterwards, when life seemed dull, we would remind each other that we could always return to Tottenham Court Road and go dancing. Caroline was open to adventure and virtually fearless, but I'm not, so we never did.
Caroline Maureen Blackwood, writer: born 1931; married 1953 Lucian Freud (marriage dissolved), 1959 Israel Citkovitz (marriage dissolved; three daughters, one deceased), 1972 Robert Lowell (died 1977; one son); died New York 14 February
Percy Edwards by Esther Rantzen
Nowhere is quite as claustrophobic as a radio studio. When I was working as a sound effects assistant, it was like rattling around inside a cardboard box. The walls were windowless and hessian-covered. The air felt dank and motionless, the cloth-covered tables were stained with coffee or some nameless BBC soup. But when Percy Edwards arrived, he brought the English countryside with him. His blue eyes seemed to focus on a distant horizon, his smile was unforced and untheatrical. His Suffolk voice brought a breath of fresh air into the luvvie voices of the radio drama department.
Best of all was the moment when, according to the script, a lion roared, a blackbird sang or a fox barked. Then we could see how Percy did it - cheeks fluttering as he whistled in birdsong, roaring into a glass funnel to imitate an angry lion - he could grunt for a hippo or snarl for a tiger, whatever animal he created for the microphone he was not only accurate, he managed also to be exactly in dramatic character. No wonder his Psyche, the dog he created for the radio series A Life of Bliss, had a fan club of her own.
When I moved from radio to television, I made a documentary about Percy entitled The Man Who Talks to Animals, and he did just that on film. A herd of cows ambled across a field to moo with him, a lion in Colchester Zoo roared conversationally through the bars with him. Percy was, of course, a superb naturalist, and he identified and copied every bird in his garden hedgerow. I asked him why he hadn't made a fortune out of his movie career; after all, he played Alien (the voice) and The Belstone Fox (the bark). He said, "Bless your soul, if I had a swimming pool I'd only keep fish in it."
Paradoxically, Percy began his theatrical career in the Windmill in Soho. We took him back there to recreate his overnight success. When we arrived, a troupe of nude young people were rehearsing some blush-making stuff. But when Percy started his famous monologue, evoking birdsong in a country field, they clustered round him, fascinated. Once again, he brought the fresh air in with him.
In the temperamental world of show business, Percy lost his temper just once. He was asked to dub a feature film with the sounds of a herd of reindeer falling to their death over a cliff. Reindeer are not blessed with mighty vocal cords to match their horns so Percy produced realistic reindeer grunts. The producer insisted on more. Percy ran through his repertoire of deer: the red, the fallow, the muntjak. The producer chose his rutting stag. Percy was indignant: "Over that scene of magnificent reindeer falling to their death, all you could hear in the end was a stag shouting, `Come on, girls, I'm in the mood'."
The stars queued up to pay tribute to Percy in our film - from Bruce Forsyth to Peter Sellers, they all hugely admired his professionalism, his knowledge of animals and his astonishing ear. When Percy Edwards died, we lost a charming man, an extraordinary, original talent, and the animal world lost a great conversationalist.
Percy Edwards, animal impressionist: born Ipswich 1 June 1908; died Hintlesham, Suffolk 7 June
Molly Keane by Clare Boylan Molly Keane first became aware of her "mild talent to amuse" when she was invited to a party at the age of six. The refreshments included a "superb booze-up" of freshly iced orangeade, which she gulped copiously in between dances. When the moment came for her host, Buffles Millbanke, to claim his dance, "orangeade streamed from beneath the blue accordion pleats to the floor". Her shame was overcome by the reward of seeing Buffles and her brother clinging together in a paroxysm of laughter. "`Apres moi', Buffles might have thought if, at the age of eight, he had known the saying "le deluge", she later reflected.
To friends, she was Moll (as in gangster's). Her talent to amuse brought her late fame as the most elegant of contemporary writers, but celebrity was no substitute for a party. Her passions were for hunting, dancing and drinking White Ladies. When nine decades had confined her to home and limited her refreshments to oxygen, she remained an indomitable wit, a great hostess and a delicious gossip.
The author of Good Behaviour and Time After Time had an enormous appetite for both life and love - a reaction to her puritanical upbringing among the Anglo-Irish aristocracy. "For many years, I had a sensation of shame as well as guilt about second helpings; a deep-rooted sense that the enjoyment of food was unattractive, something to conceal. This corresponds to another axiom of my later youth: `An eager girl (greed again) never gets her man.' In my time, I have proved the falsity of both."
At an early age, her mother had warned her against sex by telling her: "There's a thing men do, and you won't like it." In fact, she was enchanted by sex - only marginally more so by the bruising furniture with which respectable society surrounded it. She and her great "chum", Elizabeth Bowen, must have been a terrible pair. When Molly questioned Bowen's conservative choice of spouse, the other unhesitatingly confided, "Marriage is like a train. You just run until you catch it, and then sit down in a compartment and stare out the window and realise you're bored."
In her books (and in life), Molly came down on the side of the "bad" girl - hard-bitten, chain-smoking and funny. The caustic edge of her own wit was reserved for hypocrites. Late in life, she summed up her findings. "I have come to believe that the two strongest motivations in life are sex and snobbery and I do most awfully believe in love."
Now that Molly Keane is no longer with us, we of the guilty, smoke-free generation can only raise a toast of tepid Aqua Libra to the last of the fabulous heroines.
Mary Nesta Skrine ("MJ Farrell"), playwright and novelist: born Co Kildare 20 July 1904; married 1938 Robert Keane (died 1946; two daughters); died Ardmore, Co Waterford 22 April
Ossie Clark by Bella Freud
I first met Ossie in 1985 through a mutual friend, Ben Brierly, formerly married to Marianne Faithful. We were invited to Sunday lunch and, before we arrived, Ben told me, unreassuringly, that though Ossie was great and really kind and funny, he could also be mean and spiteful, and so I was reserved when I went to meet him.
At this moment in his life, Ossie was at an all-time low. He was living in a hideous modern mews flat in Bayswater, kindly lent by a friend for a limited period. Crammed into the minute sitting room was his industrial sewing machine. He was sewing labels on to T-shirts for 10p a time. He was also making some lingerie for a well- known Italian designer. This was when I first saw what a brilliant technician Ossie was. He showed me a dainty satin camisole, inlaid with lace which looked as if it had been gilded on. When I expressed my wonder and admiration at his proficiency, he took my compliment and added a few of his own in a matter-of-fact sort of way. I never, ever, in the 10 years of knowing him, heard Ossie express a single iota of doubt about his ideas or his talent.
In spite of his reduced circumstances, lunch was delicious and was presented with much attention to detail. Ossie's extreme lack of cash never interfered with his high standard of glamour. There were always flowers, and when they hadn't been sent by a friend, they were stolen from Holland Park. The council flat where he lived for the last eight or so years was so small it could only have been invented for the most solitary and static existence. None of this thwarted his morale. Ossie had soon carpeted the concrete floor with pattern cutting card, cushions were made of old scraps of duchess satin and silk ("Darling, this was pounds 30 a metre in those days!"). Ossie was a Buddhist and he had built a shrine which was intricately inlaid with what looked like iridescent mother of pearl, but was, in fact, hundreds of Sobranie cocktail cigarette packets. Another one of his masterpieces.
In 1992, I had the brainwave of asking Ossie if he could give my pattern cutter some extra tuition. He used to appear at the studio once or twice a week with Oscar, his old King Charles spaniel, and a huge and menacing pair of scissors stuck into his belt like a dagger. He was quite reserved and quiet in those days, but nevertheless demanded to be waited on with tea and cigarettes while he worked out solutions to fit and finish. Though he was strict, he was patient and encouraging. Occasionally, he would come in and snap at a terrified student to clear off the tables and lay out one of his dresses that he occasionally made for a friend or client. He loved women, especially beautiful ones, and relished a good feature ("She has a marvellous bosom and ankles like glass!" he said of Patti Boyd).
Given his technical and instinctive knowledge of pattern cutting, he could have been a brilliant teacher. When I asked him if he had the inclination, he replied savagely that he had tried and hated it: "All those students are in such a hurry to be famous, they don't want to learn anything."
Sometimes, when I used to go round to his flat, he would pull out an old chiffon dress or quilted leather jacket which laced up in the front and make me try them on. Once, he showed me an ankle-length snakeskin coat he had made for Britt Ekland. Even though these garments were 20 years old, they were still completely contemporary because of their elegance, proportion and beautiful details. They were the most covetable clothes. Ossie was not just a great designer, he could make all of the things he dreamed up, from underwear to ballgowns, shoes, bags, menswear and womenswear. He knew everything there was to know about corsetry. He could write a knitting pattern. He was an artist.
Two years ago, I proposed to the British Fashion Council that Ossie should receive a Lifetime Achievement award. A number of others had also suggested his name. There was a Seventies revival going on and Ossie's name and genius was very much bandied about in the press. Clinton Silver, the chairman of the BFC who had favoured Ossie's nomination, told me later of his surprise at the hostility with which this suggestion had been received. There had been some fear Ossie might cause a scene and reject it, embarrassing everyone.
Yes, Ossie was difficult; it is the prerogative of many brilliant people. He was self-destructive and did bring about some of his own downfall, but he was abandoned by the fashion industry. Most people flourish with a bit of appreciation, and Ossie was no exception.
Once, he told me wistfully that at the height of his career it had been arranged that, on a trip to New York, he spend the evening with Jimi Hendrix. "You know Bella, I'm not saying this to boast, but I was so famous."
One of the last times I saw Ossie was backstage at my show. The final model, a Brazilian, was just coming off the catwalk. Ossie was seen shoving her back on to do another turn.
Ossie, I will never forget you.
Raymond Clark, fashion designer: born Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire 1942; married Celia Birtwell (marriage dissolved 1975; two sons); died London 6 August
Terence Donovan by Peter Evans
We had not met for nearly a decade, although we talked to each other on the telephone perhaps two or three times a year. The last time he called, I was in New York.
"Hello guv'nor," his voice on the answer-machine was as unmistakeable as Hitchcock's silhouette on the screen. "That book you did with Bailey on the Sixties: why don't we do one on the survivors of the Sixties?"
By the time I got the message a few days later, Terence Donovan, one of the greatest Sixties survivors of them all, was dead.
A massive - massive in the way that Orson Welles was massive - deceptively complex man, with the slouchy friendliness of a giant panda, Donovan ran his career, as he did his private life, with the efficiency of a single- minded businessman. Of the three most famous English fashion photographers of that era - Bailey and Duffy were the other two - it is Donovan's work that may resonate longest.
And if this son of an East End lorry driver, who left school at 15 - and whose death was mourned by royalty and rogues, as well as his family and friends - made it look easy, he always knew that he worked in a world where the best do not always survive the longest. "Listen," he said to me one night, "whether you work in Versailles for the Sun King, or Florence for the Medicis, or swinging London for Mary Quant, the best will always attract the imitators. And imitation is a doddle, especially in this game."
But he never copied anyone, although he was often a generous admirer of the work of other photographers. "Always be realistic," he once advised me when I was struggling with a book I was writing. "Always go for the impossible."
Donovan always did. And sometimes he got it.
Terence Donovan, photographer: born 14 September 1936; twice married (two sons, one daughter); died London 22 November
Barbara Skelton by Cressida Connolly
The first time I met Barbara Skelton she was in tears. It was the winter of 1974, and my father - her first and favourite husband, Cyril Connolly - was dying in a London hospital: he had arranged that she and I console each other over lunch. Slender, elegantly swathed in several layers of beige cashmere, she cut a glamorous figure even as she wept into her soup. She cried because she couldn't bear for Cyril to die while I, an awkward 14 year old, sat glumly opposite.
During our friendship over the next 20 years, I was often grateful that this first encounter had revealed the vulnerability which was usually guarded behind her ironic, sometimes peevish persona. Having seen her weep made it easier to like her; to forgive the times when she snapped or, worse, fumed in silent fury. For Barbara was as famous for being difficult as she was renowned for being a femme fatale. Modern psychiatry would recognise that she suffered from a depressive temperament and very low self esteem, but she was born in 1916: to her generation she seemed just plain sulky. "Tell me," she once demanded, with characteristic candour, "do you find me very unpleasant?" When I grinned in silent reply, we both roared with laughter. She was under no illusions about herself.
There were plenty of redeeming features. She was funny, affectionate, intelligent. She was good company. She loved paintings and books and the cinema and relished discussing them. She was an outstanding cook of the Elizabeth David school and had tremendous style: never a frills and flowers type, she preferred simplicity and quality. She always dressed beautifully: well-cut linen trousers, a man's shirt, thick gold jewellery. But she was thrifty, too. After she'd died and I had to sort through her wardrobe I was surprised by how few clothes she'd actually owned. She only had three pairs of shoes.
Her taste was much influenced by many years of life in France. After the break-up of her fleeting marriage to millionaire scientist Derek Jackson (the third and final husband, following a brief middle marriage to Lord Weidenfeld), she settled near St Tropez. There, she restored an old stone farmhouse, drove a two seater convertible with unnerving dash and began a long affair with the French writer and critic Bernard Franc. Francoise Sagan was a visitor, as were various descendants of Augustus John. But Barbara always kept her friends in compartments: you never knew who else she saw, or how often.
No-one spoke like Barbara. Her voice was unique, with its mixture of French inflection with English self-deprecation, and the odd nursery phrase thrown in. If you didn't know her well, she might well have sounded slightly mad: sing-song and abrupt at the same time; cynical and yet childish too. "This chicken is simply inedible, no?" she'd inquire, putting a delicious plateful in front of you. "Tough as a boot, no? We'll simply have to give it to the pussas - lucky little babies."
She loved animals. She probably like them better than people. Over the years, she'd kept everything from a coati - viewed with suspicion by Cyril, who considered it a rival - to geese, hens and finally a succession of bitter-chocolate coloured Burmese cats. Only a few weeks before she died, she was writing an article denouncing English quarantine regulations.
Like her beloved cats she relished luxury and warmth and a certain stealth. She didn't like people to know her age, or how much money she had, or how she continued to look so young. She had a lawlessness about her, too: she never paid parking fines; and at nearly 80 she still had the spirit to re-appropriate a painting she'd given her sister by simply removing it in the middle of the night.
She was completely unconventional. One of her last friends was an abundantly dreadlocked itinerant with a radiant smile whom she christened The Vagabond and with whom she smoked pot (he attended her funeral in a fine black suit). She was never a snob and was always fascinated by other people's lives - she was not afraid to ask the most personal questions, even of near-strangers. She had the softest skin in the world. She had the black sense of humour you'd expect from a former consort of cartoonist Charles Addams, and a musical laugh like a little girl's. She was nicer than people thought she was, and lonelier.
You wouldn't think it would be someone's failings that you'd miss, but I do. I miss her barbed remarks and her idiosyncratic stinginess and her constant complainings - about the weather, the food, the traffic, the telly - scratchy, imperfect, familiar, like an old song.
Barbara Skelton, writer: born Maidenhead 26 June 1916; died Pershore, Worcestershire 27 January
Marje Proops by Robert Proops
My mother the journalist and my mother my mum were two different people. My mother the journalist was famous, feted and charismatic. She helped fashion and changed laws and spoke on behalf of so many people who could not find their own voice. She championed the underdog and espoused a myriad of causes, particularly those that freed women to play their full role in society. Her readers' problems were her own, and yet she had the ear of Prime Ministers.
My mother my mum was altogether someone else; someone special and, most importantly, mine alone. Warm and caring, my childhood was not of the latchkey variety, even though I had a working mum. To commemorate both of my mothers, I have started a charity in her name so that her work continues. It is called Marjorie Proops, Courage with Cancer. It aims to help women with Breast Cancer. Donations can be sent to The Marje Proops Appeal, PO Box 7291, London E14 5DE
Rebecca Marjorie Israel, journalist and agony aunt: born Woking, Surrey c1911; married 1935 Sidney Proops (died 1988, one son); died London 10 November
Phyllis Pearsall by Charles Jennings
The incidents and anecdotes of Phylis Pearsall's life seemed to belong to several different people simultaneously: starting at Rodean, being abandoned by her crooked father and infatuated mother, surviving destitution, a plane crash and a near-fatal stroke, pursuing a career as an artist while, at the same time, becoming the patron saint of all those who have to cope with Britain's road system, by founding - and matriarchally ruling - the A-Z Map Company.
She started by drawing up a new map of London in 1935 (for the sales reps of a company owned by her "completely dishonest" Uncle Frank), but found that the only way she could do it was by walking down 3,000 miles of London streets; 23,000 separate roads. She would rise at dawn and walk for 18 hours a day. At night, she committed the details to a card index, while a lone draughtsman drew the maps. The first copies were ready in 1936, but the trade didn't want to know. "Foyles told me, `The map trade has remained undisturbed for years' and showed me the door. Others said, `What a riddiculous title. Nobody will buy anything with letters in the name'."
It was only when she persuaded WH Smith to take some copies (which she delivered herself, in a wheelbarrow) that business took off, and she could devote herself full-time to maps, and (through yet more triumphs and disasters - including the plane crash which nearly killed her) to formalising her own multifaceted legend: an uplifting mixture of Management Today and John Galsworthy. The happy ending finally came with the founding of the A-Z company and its expansion over the years to embrace a pounds 5 million HQ and a 100-strong workforce - which, in turn, became Ms Pearsall's extended family: she never had children of her own.
She had crammed two, even three lives into one, and, so far from being exhausted, she radiated life, tenacity, a desire to grasp every passing experience. She also professed a kind of semi-Christian pan-spirituality, which clearly helped her to make sense of the overwhelming life she'd led.
Phyllis Isobel Gross, artist, writer and publisher: born 25 September 1906; married 1926 Richard Pearsall (marriage dissolved 1938); died Shoreham-by-Sea, Sussex 28 August
Abram Games by Pat Schleger
It is always too soon to lose a good friend, even if he is 82. Abram was 15 years younger than my late husband, Hans Schleger (Zero). Abram had seen and admired his work as he himself set forth on his own spectacular rise to fame as an internationally known commercial artist and designer.
In 1952, eight British designers were invited to exhibit their work in the National Museum in Stockholm. The King of Sweden was at the opening ceremony, (design has always had an important place in Scandinavia). Hans had left his shaving kit behind and asked Abram if he could borrow his, they got talking and there began a friendship for life.
Abram was a practising Jew and his faith meant a lot to him. Also central to his life was his family. Life and work were for him intrinsically bound together and, unlike other designers of his generation, he worked from home. Very tragically, his wife Marianne got MS, and Abram nursed her at home for eight years with incredible devotion, carrying her upstairs to their bedroom every night.
Although Abram was orthodox, he was far too wise not to respect the beliefs and opinions of his friends. I remember when my elder daughter was ordained as a priest in St Pauls, Abram rang me a couple of days before and said he would like to be there on such an important occasion for her. He wanted to bring her a present, and what did I think she would like. She said "a prayer shawl". He was quite surprised, though pleased, but it was Friday evening and the next day was Sabbath - no shops open. However, he arrived triumphant with the shawl. He had found a shop open on Sunday.
I taught design at Croydon School of Art & Design for many years and used to ask my designer friends to come and give lectures to the students. Abram was on my list and the students were rivetted by his talk, he linked design to social history and never left it in isolation. On one occasion, another speaker had to cancel at very short notice. I rang Abram and asked him if he would step in. He agreed, and I said someone else would have to meet him at the station and how did he wish to be described. He replied "Tell them I look like a skinned rabbit with a pipe, a black beret and a sheepskin coat." There was no hitch.
A few months ago, Abram told me a great story. He was upstairs in bed when he heard someone moving about in another room. He thought the burglar was bound to come into his bedroom, so he got up, put on his dressing gown and waited behind the door in the pitch dark. Sure enough, the door opened and Abram leapt onto the man and brought him to the floor saying, "How dare you come into my home!" The guy was astounded and fled. It was only when he got up that Abram saw the intruder was well over six foot tall. Abram was of medium height, but that did not come into his thinking.
Tenacity, courage, loyalty, courtesy and integrity are just a few of the qualities which spring to mind when I think of Abram. Good memories and good work do not die.
Abram Games, graphic designer: born Whitechapel, London 29 July 1914; married 1945 Marianne Salfeld (died 1988; one son, two daughters); died London 27 August
Vivian Ellis By Sting
Do you remember our lunch at the Garrick, shortly after your brilliant recording of my 50-year-old song? [In 1982, Sting's version of Ellis's "Spread A Little Happiness" reached the top of the charts] You arrived (after carefully chaining your motorbike to the nearest lamp-post) wearing an open-neck shirt. Hustling you passed the hall porter, I persuaded you to wear one of my own ties (Christian Dior) I'd had the forethought to bring in anticipation of just such a contingency. No need to have worried, nobody gave us a second glance.
The last occasion we met was right here among the Ivors [the Ivor Novello award] when, surrounded by pressmen, you whispered to me, "I still have your tie. I often look at it." At least I can disown the one you are wearing in the photograph.
Gratitude, in our profession, should always be regarded as a bonus. Mine in you dates from the day I first listened to your recording of my song, made with the same flair and understanding you would have given to one of your own. Since that day, I must have heard it innumerable times and every time I say with thankfulness "there goes my index-linked old-age pension".
With my love to you and Trudie,
My dear Vivian,
How thoughtful of you to have brought a tie for me, I suppose you knew that musicians of my generation rarely own such things, much less think of wearing one for lunch. But then you came from an era of grace, of good manners, of form, of thoughtfulness. And what is thoughtfulness but an acute intelligence that was as evident in the way you wrote music as it was in the gracious way you treated other people.
I shall wear your tie today and I shall miss you.
Vivian Ellis, composer: born London 29 October 1904; died London 20 June
George Mackay Brown by Archie Bevan
Recovering from his first attack of tuberculosis in 1941, the young George Mackay Brown wandered out of the sanatorium on to the streets of Kirkwall, and presently stood for the first time in the nave of St Magnus Cathedral. According to his autobiography, the experience was intense. "I can't remember the details except for the one thought - I would like to be buried in this place."
Fifty five years later, on St Magnus Day, Orkney's poet was carried out of the great Viking church on his last journey home to Stromness and its quiet kirkyard by the shore. The time and the place were hugely appropriate. Ever since that youthful moment of revelation, the Cathedral of St Magnus and the Saint himself had loomed large in the poet's life and work, firing his creative imagination to a degree matched only by the Nativity and the Passion, and of course his beloved "Hamnavoe".
But the Orkney landscape is haunted by its history. The poet's funeral cortege passed within yards of Maeshowe, one of the greatest of all megalithic tombs, built so as to allow the setting sun at midwinter to reach through the long entrance passage and cast its dying rays deep into the heart of the tomb. Half a mile to the west lies the great ring of Brodgar, and two miles beyond that, on the Atlantic coast, the incomparable neolithic village of Skarabrae. Little wonder that this poet chose to stay at home and find his inspiration and subject matter in Orkney and its people, across the full sweep of their long history.
Despite his apparent insularity, George Mackay Brown was always something more than just a very good regional writer. What set him apart was the transcendent vision by which he transformed the familiar Orkney scene into something timeless and universal. His work is imbued with a deep sense of compassion, a gentle humour, and a quiet assurance that all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well. He was a religious poet who achieved some of his finest work in a non-religious context. He was beyond question one of the greatest wordsmiths of our time.
George Mackay Brown was never a best seller, despite winning numerous awards and being short-listed for the Booker prize in 1994. Nevertheless, his books were published in a dozen or more countries, and every year brought a stream of pilgrims to his door from Europe and America, Israel and Japan.
Visitors were received with quiet courtesy, though morning callers were usually confronted by a faded old notice pinned to the door, announcing that the writer was not at home. He was, of course, very much at home, closeted in his kitchen for the daily three-hour stint with his ballpoint.
George Mackay Brown was a visionary with his feet firmly on the ground, and a strong sense of his place in the local community. Every week, for quarter of a century, he wrote a column for the local paper. His last contribution appeared two days before his death. Characteristically, it was a welcome to spring, and a salute to April, his favourite month of the year. Alas for his fellow Orcadians and for his many friends across the globe, April 1996 was the cruellest month.
George Mackay Brown, poet and novelist: born Stromness, Orkney 17 October 1921; died Kirkwall, Orkney 13 April
Donald Cammell by Nicolas Roeg
Donald Cammell, lost friend, artist and my partner on Performance, a film we made together nearly 30 years ago, a "crime of its time", was a star. He was such a cocktail of a man. A strange and potent mixture of impeccable manners, arrogance, romantic sensuality and sexual imagination, poured into a double measure of intellectual and artistic brilliance.
He was a man who stayed at the peak of his power, who was a tremendous and lasting influence on many of the leading popular personalities and artists of the Sixties.
However, he used his apparent easy-going charm and free-thinking sociable behaviour to hide a deep loneliness. A dangerous route to take, which can so often lead to complete inward-thinking isolation.
We all remember what we wish to remember and I shall remember him as a great bright distant star whose light is still reaching us and will continue to do so for years to come, although the source of its brilliance has gone.
Donald Seton Cammell, scriptwriter, director: born Edinburgh 17 January 1934; married 1954 Maria Andipa (one son; marriage dissolved), 1978 China Kong; died Los Angeles
Julian Amery by Robert Cecil
The evening before his memorial service, Julian Amery's children held a party in his house in Eaton Square. In its way, it must have been one of the most remarkable parties even that drawing room had seen. Every man and woman there had spent many hours in that room, but they had never before assembled there together. Each had come that evening to pay tribute to the owner of the house, but also to recapture for a moment the flavour of a man whose friendship had influenced all of them.
There was, of course, champagne. There was also orange juice for those whose religion forbade them alcohol. As we drank, the sense of Julian Amery's spirit in the room was overwhelming. It seeped from the faded green paint on the walls; from the well-used but elegant furniture; from the photographs of foreign monarchs and statesmen on the tables; from the presents they had given lying about the room, golden swords and daggers, oriental carpets, arcana from all over the world. Above all, it seeped from us: British Cabinet ministers and politicians, spies, adventurers, servants of Empire, post-imperial servants of the Crown in foreign lands, Omanis, Afghans, Romanians, Albanians, Persians, Jordanians, Americans. Some, including the British, were political exiles. Some were high in their countries' governments. Many had travelled far to be there. All were intent on absorbing just once more the distilled essence of the man whose character that room conveyed. We did not talk of him much. We did not need to. The chatter was subdued, the atmosphere relaxed. We were a club that was to meet only once. Few who were asked failed to turn up.
Who was this man whose memory was so important to us? He was a British politician who never became a member of the Cabinet, an Air Minister who later became Minister of Housing and Minister of State at the Foreign Office. He was caricatured by the press as a white supremacist, a right-winger, an anachronism. And for them it must have been true. He had a plummy voice to prove it. In fact, Amery was a politician with a certain idea of this country. He was a patriot who believed in a British mission to the world, but who was convinced that our place was in Europe. He was a romantic, reared on the romance of Empire and of the great game, but who made a study of the realities of power. He believed in British culture and tradition, but he sympathised with the traditions of the peoples of the book. He believed in representing the interests of his constituents in Parliament, not the interests of Parliament to his constituents, and he interpreted those interests as having a global compass. He was a man of intellect who always gave the impression as he landed at a foreign airport, whether as a minister or not, that the might of the British empire was at his back. His courage, both physical and moral, was legendary. His advice was imaginative and original. His humour was idiosyncratic but irresistible.
Above all, he was loyal to his friends. Whether they were prosperous and successful or broke and in exile, he welcomed them and listened to them with courtesy and understanding. He never belittled them behind their backs.
Is it surprising that we gathered to remember him that evening in Eaton Square? The flavour will linger on.
Harold Julian Amery, politician: born London, 27 March 1919; married 1950 Catherine Macmillan (died 1991; one son, three daughters); died London 3 September
Douglas Jay by James Callaghan
Rugby football enthusiasts say that somewhere in the South Wales valleys there is a hidden factory which turns out a continuous stream of dazzling Welsh fly-halves, whose destiny is to outwit the English back-row forwards.
Winchester College, where Douglas Jay was at school, has much the same effect on me, although, unlike the Welsh factory, it is no myth. It produces generations of clever young men; highly intelligent, cool, rational and seemingly somewhat detached from the everyday concerns that beset lesser mortals.
Shaped by Winchester and finished at Oxford, they emerge to become high- flying, high- minded, public servants or leading luminaries in the law and the professions. Probe more deeply and, beneath the understated manner, you will frequently discover a passionate flame of commitment to great causes that catch their attention. Douglas Jay was a perfect example of the species.
I admired his dispassionate, ruthlessly logical mode of discussion; I chuckled at his total disregard of how he looked and dressed; I was aghast whenever he took the wheel of a car; I thought the long walks on Dartmoor that he relished were typical of his spartan approach to life, and I happily shared his whispered conversations on the Front Bench as he insisted that the sweet peas he had grown in his garden that year were the best to be found in Oxfordshire.
He was always game for a bit of fun and, as a youthful Economic Secretary to the Treasury in the 1945 Attlee Government, he enjoyed teasing his fellow Treasury colleague Glenvil Hall, the Financial Secretary, a gentle and self-effacing minister. In the Chamber of the Commons, Douglas would send messages along the Front Bench, via the other ministers sitting there, to Glenvil Hall, pretending that Harry Pollitt, the then Communist Party leader, was waiting in the Commons Lobby, demanding to see "his old friend" the Financial Secretary - a scandalous untruth which Glenvil Hall took in good part.
So, too, did Chris Mayhew (now Lord Mayhew), who suffered on one occasion while a group of us who regularly dined together were being subjected by Chris to an enthusiastic and lengthy description of the Buchmanite Movement. Douglas could stand it no longer. He leant forward, picked up a bowl of flowers that decorated the table and, turning it upside down over Mayhew's head, left him with a tangled garland on his brow and water streaming down his shoulders. They remained good friends.
Throughout his life, Douglas was passionate about the imperative need to end the evils of unemployment, particularly in the Distressed (later Development) Areas of South Wales, Scotland and the North East. As a civil servant and as a minister, he devoted himself to the task of bringing new factories, new jobs and new hope to the men and women who lived there. It would not surprise me if he had regarded his success in doing this as the most rewarding part of his political life.
He objected fiercely to Britain's membership of the European Community and spent his last years campaigning against it. As far as I can remember, this was the only issue on which we publicly differed, although it never interfered with our personal friendship.
Both as a civil servant and during his time as a Cabinet minister, Douglas was puritanical in upholding the highest standards and probity of public life. He loved his country, its history, its literature and the beauty of its countryside. He believed there was nowhere better than Britain, but he would have disdained the flag-waving, anti-foreigner sentiment that afflicts some present-day European sceptics.
He was a stimulating and loyal friend, fun to be with, and stoical at the end. We all miss him.
Douglas Patrick Thomas Jay, politician and economist: born Woolwich 23 March 1907; married 1933 Peggy Garnett (two sons, two daughters; marriage dissolved 1972), 1972 Mary Lavinia Thomas; died Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire 6 March
Bob Paisley by Graeme Souness
Bob Paisley, to my mind, was the greatest manager Liverpool Football Club has ever had, and, quite possibly, the greatest club manager in British football history. That is quite some statement to make, especially as Bob followed the legendary Bill Shankly into the hot seat at Anfield, but no matter how hard anyone might try, nobody will ever get close to his record of success in the game.
While Shankly was a dream for the media, Bob kept himself very much to himself. I think this is why he has never fully received the credit he undoubtedly deserved. For while he took over at Liverpool after a very successful spell under Shankly, Bob created a totally new side that went on to twice win the European Cup, as well as sweep up all domestic honours.
Bob's greatest strength was in selecting players whom he felt could do a good job for Liverpool FC, and play for each other. He was not a great one for standing around at the training ground and barking out orders. Above everything else, he always liked to simplify the game. He used to laugh at some of the terminology that crept into the game, and used to ask us exactly what it all meant. For him, the game always had to be kept simple, and looking at his results, he was right.
Sometimes the players used to crack jokes about Bob, usually for affectionate reasons, but the thing about him was that he was extremely sharp, and always had the last laugh on anyone. Bob never lost his temper, but if a player overstepped the mark with him, he would usually find himself out of the team, and often on the transfer list. He loved Liverpool and, in his own way, he loved his players, but he could be ruthless if he needed to be.
Every morning, before training, he and I used to meet up at a garage and have a cup of tea and a chat. He would always go there to read up on the racing for the day, and select his horses. Then we would both make our way to the training-ground.
Apart from that, he kept himself very much to himself. I will always remember the night we beat Real Madrid to win the European Cup in Paris. You could not pick a greater place to celebrate such an achievement, but within a couple of hours of the game Bob was in his hotel room, with his slippers on, talking to the coach about horses.
It was dreadful to see such a sharp man decline due to Parkinson's disease, and it was particularly tough on his immediate family. But, even during his last years, he underlined a point with which I, for one, wholeheartedly agree. Whereas Bill Shankly was famously quoted as saying that football was more than just a matter of life and death, Bob Paisley showed to us all that family and friends are far more important.
Robert Paisley, footballer and football club manager: born Hetton-le- Hole, County Durham 23 January 1919; married 1946 Jessie Chandler (two sons, one daughter); died Liverpool 14 February
Rabbi Hugo Gryn by Michael Buerk
Rabbi Hugo Gryn was a founder member of the Moral Maze panel and, week after week ever since, his wisdom and humanity, delivered in that unmistakable voice, made him loved and admired by thousands of people who had never met him.
His life was shaped by his part in the most hellish collective experience of the 20th century, the Nazi death camps, where he was taken as a teenager and so many of his family and friends were put to death. It framed his view of this world, and the next, and it stirred his passions and fired his energy, never more so than in the last weeks of his life when he repeatedly shrugged off his mortal illness to make a final contribution to the people and the causes he loved. Morality was not an abstract academic theory for Hugo, though he had been an academic. He saw it as one who had stood among those who were being murdered; he himself had killed and felt the emotional vacuum of vengeance. Good and evil were realities to him, not theories. He had been there, suffered and not just survived, but triumphed in a victory of the human spirit. On the way he found out, in every sense, what man is capable of.
Hugo was almost obsessed by reconciliation. He wanted to reach out and touch the humanity in everybody he met. So many times, sitting next to me, he would cut across the questioning of a witness about how bad a situation was, to ask how it could be made better. He was warm, without being soft; he could be angry but never unkind. He hated prejudice and bigotry, was intolerant only of intolerance. He had such a zest for life, it's almost impossible to think of him dead. The thousands at his funeral, overflowing his synagogue, some crying out in the street, blocking half the West End, felt the same.
I still can't believe he won't be bustling in on Thursday mornings after I have trailed the programme at eight o'clock saying: "I've just heard you on the radio" - he did it every week. Or that we can end the programme without one of Hugo's homilies, which always managed to be funny, touching and wise, a couple so good we heard them twice. No more.
Hugo Gabriel Gryn, rabbi: born Berehovo, Czechoslovakia, 25 June 1930; married 1957 Jacqueline Selby (one son, three daughters); CBE 1992; died London 18 August
Ronald Fletcher by Graeme Garden
Ronald Fletcher and I appeared together in a short-lived (and perhaps best forgotten) TV series in the late 1960s. Twice a Fortnight also featured Bill Oddie, Jonathan Lynn, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Germaine Greer and Dilys Watling, and played host to musical guests such as Cream, The Who and Cat Stevens. It was directed by Tony Palmer, who was hoping to become an enfant terrible when he grew up.
We were reasonably fresh from university, and, therefore, knew exactly what was wrong with the world, and how to put it right. We were convinced that nobody older than us could possibly share this insight. Our target was the austerity, blandness, class system, pomposity and earnestness of the post-war Fifties we had grown up in. In fact, all we were doing was performing very silly sketches and making a lot of noise. However, like several radio and TV shows before us, we decided to have a stuffy BBC type to act as link-man and, it must be admitted, to be the butt of some of our gags. Ronnie appeared to fit the bill perfectly.
He had been a BBC radio announcer and newsreader of some distinction for many years, and had the bearing and the sumptuous diction to go with it. We chortled at the idea of having this unworldly creature on the show, but determined to make him feel at home, fetching him cups of tea and explaining the jokes and references gently to him. How wrong we were!
We, the witty, worldly-wise zanies, soon discovered that we weren't even in his league. He had elegance, charm, great sweeping wings of hair, serious spectacles and an account with a bookmaker; already we were impressed. He had inherited, and made, and lost, fortunes. He was, if it is possible, more cynical than a new graduate. He had seen it all. The reason he had embarked on a career as a newsreader was that, while he could not perhaps be trusted with a company balance sheet, or his own cheque- book, or the boss's wife, he could at least be trusted with a bit of paper with some words on it.
As we sat nervously going over our scripts before the show, he would be on the phone to his bookie. He would offer us tips on the horses, or the dogs, or - if we chipped in a few quid - he could set up a jolly little party with some nice young ladies. All of these, we prudishly declined. We may have come to mock, but Ronnie's graceful good manners and the twinkle in his eye soon told us who was sending up whom. Beneath that cultured and courtly exterior, there beat the heart of a little scamp.
Ronald Fletcher, broadcaster: born Salisbury 10 July 1910; married 1938 Terri Hann (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved 1958), 1959 Rita Dando (one son, one daughter); died Roehampton 6 February
Beryl Reid by John Le Carre
Beryl Reid played Connie Sachs in the BBC TV productions of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Smiley's People, and played her magically, bringing a maverick pathos and beauty to the part of a retired vestal of the British Secret Service. She shamelessly upstaged Alec Guinness, and Guinness was wise enough and large enough to let it happen, knowing that the comedienne's imp in her would never let her go. She was in her fifties when I met her: rakish and twinkly, very quick to sum you up and, if necessary, put you down; a wonderful mix of bete intellectuelle and boozy fairground fortune- teller. In rehearsal, she never did the same thing twice. I suspect she was much the same in life.
Beryl Elizabeth Reid, actress: born Hereford 17 June 1919; married 1950 Bill Worsley (marriage dissolved), 1954 Derek Franklin (marriage dissolved); died 13 October
Fitzroy Maclean by Magnus Linklater
The gravel outside Strachur House was sheet ice. Fitzroy was still getting the hang of the two sticks he needed to manoeuvre his way around the garden, but he insisted on coming out to open the car door for us.
"Don't be such a fool, Fitz" ordered his wife, Veronica. "Just wait for them to come inside."
He ignored her and ploughed on. With one hand he held two sticks, with the other he opened the door. Balanced precariously on the treacherous ground, he leant forward and planted a kiss on my wife's cheek, before escorting her gallantly into the house. That's how I still picture him - bent, determined, heroic.
However old or lame, Fitzroy always seemed to have a young man's enthusiasm and panache. I bet he was just the same when he was crossing the Oxus in his astrakhan hat, or bluffing his way past Italian sentries at Benghazi or talking tactics with Tito.
Old age to him seemed nothing more than a temporary inconvenience. As we talked in his big study, where he sat in his tartan trews, books spilling off the sofa, dogs panting on the rug, he would run through his latest plans. This time, he wondered whether my newspaper, The Scotsman, might be prepared to stump up enough funds to send him to Afghanistan.
He wanted to do a story about the Mujahedin and their guerrilla campaign against the Soviet army. He knew one of the warlords, and he had a fancy that they wanted to restore the monarchy in Afghanistan. The idea of having a king back on the throne in Kabul rather appealed to him. I wasn't entirely certain whether he might not be a candidate for the job himself; I could certainly think of worse choices. The small matter of whether he might find it tricky stumbling round the Hindu Kush on two sticks seemed not to have occurred to him.
Every trip to Strachur, the Maclean house on the shores of Loch Fyne, was an adventure, because he invested everything with a touch of drama, whether it was a perilous walk along the burn, or an evening's expedition to the Creggans Inn next door, which he and Veronica had turned into a centre of gastronomy as well as the most comradely pub in Argyll. Not for nothing was his whisky called McPhunns.
With him, you became the centre of attention. He adored women, of course, and they in turn adored him, so he was always at his best in female company. But it was his reminiscences that made the evening. With Veronica prompting - to his intense irritation ("Darling, I'm telling this story...") - he would embark on a traveller's tale, full of diversion and caustic comment. He was immensely knowledgeable about Scotland, about the Soviet Union - in particular, Georgia - and he was a natural gossip. The combination made him the perfect story- teller. At the end of the evening one would walk back to the house, head swimming with rich memories and liberal quantities of the McPhunn.
Someone asked me the other day to name one dead person, non-family, whom I genuinely missed. I didn't need much time to think.
Fitzroy Hew Maclean, diplomat, soldier, politician, writer: born Cairo 11 March 1911; married Veronica Phipps, nee Fraser; (two sons); died 15 June
Willie Rushton by Humphrey Lyttelton
On I'm Sorry, I Haven't a Clue, I had Willie down from the very early days as a man full of surprises. There was the subversive, youthful wit coming out of the cultivated old buffer image, and the fact that in a quickfire game he was happy to take his time. Quite often I looked along the line and thought "Willie's dropped off", but he was doodling on his script. And then, when a gap came along in the verbal traffic, he'd come in with something outlandish which convulsed us all - especially as it was delivered in the voice of someone raising a point of order at a shareholders' meeting.
William George Rushton, cartoonist, writer, actor and broadcaster: born London 18 August 1937; married 1968 Arlene Dorgan (one son); died London 11 December
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