Obituary: Barbara Ker-Seymer

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The Independent Online
WHEN I first encountered Barbara Ker-Seymer during the Second World War, writes Marie-Jaqueline Lancaster (further to the obituary by Val Williams, 29 May), I found her intimidating in the way she summed up the young with that amused look which signalled every likelihood that he or she would be found wanting.

We seemed to meet mostly in the more salubrious of the subterranean bars and night-clubs where the sounds and effects of the continual bombing of London would be muffled. She was often to be found iwth the Surrealist artist Johnny Banting at his most morose, when she could only deflect his despairing, suicidal moods with her mixture of compassion and humour.

One such evening I remember vividly. Barbara, who was sharing a banquette with her old friend Goronwy Rees, beckoned me and my then companion, John Rhodes, to join them. I was anxious as to whether Barbara would like John but all too willing to sit beside the devastatingly attractive Goronwy. As the night wore on I became aware of our foursome having turned into distinct entities - Barbara and John on one side of the table, Goronwy and myself on the other. I suppose I should not have been so surprised when a few weeks later John and Barbara were married]

Not so long afterwards when I, too, was newly married Barbara gave a party to show a short jazz film by her great friend Len Lye, that endearingly eccentric master of the cartoon film and exponent of jazz. As the film was so short it was immediately run through again and in the appreciative silence that followed I heard my husband's only too audible voice saying: 'I preferred the second film.' I cringed with embarrassment but Barbara turned this gaffe into wit.

There were other parties with tantalising, half-recognised faces, combined with wickedly strong drinks that sent shyness flying, but family life intervened when John and Barbara's son Max was born.

One day Barbara brought Max to nursery tea, humping his pushchair in and out of buses from one end of London to the other. The occasion was not a success as Max would keep launching himself like a missile against the nursery window while my two girls cowered under the tea-table. How odd it was to see Barbara totally content with late motherhood and sublimely unruffled at what I feared were going to be young Max's last hours on this earth.