Friday 01 September 2006
I first met Charlotte Kell [obituary by David Buckman, 22 August] at Oxford in the Sixties,
writes Tim Heald. She was notionally at secretarial college but it was immediately obvious that she was never going to be anything as conventional as a secretary. I acted as her manager when she entered the Miss Oxford Competition.
Although she was strikingly attractive, she simply didn't possess conventional beauty-queen looks and came last. I'm not sure the bathing costume - a bikini held together by a fish-net midriff - really helped and we applied far too much mascara. That finished her career in the modelling business.
Over the years as everyone else grew older and more boring Charlotte seemed to change remarkably and disturbingly little. At her house in Fulham she continued to give parties characterised by dim lighting, joss sticks and bottles of red plonk. She dressed in an eccentric, mildly hippie poncho-and-jeans sort of way and her life seemed a bit of a muddle.
To her more staid friends it was never entirely clear what Charlotte really did. She wrote poetry, painted, assembled collages, became an enthusiastic member of Pen, took photographs, but she never seemed to have anything as ordinary as a steady job nor any immediately visible form of support.
Yet she always seemed cheerful and indomitable. Her voice, huskier than ever - as the result, I suppose, of too many self-rolled and noxious-smelling cigarettes - was optimistic and buoyant. She was wonderfully loyal and she laughed a lot. It was sad that she never achieved what she would have liked in a material or even critical sense, but she was brilliant at being herself.
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