Obituary: Rosemary Sutcliff
Friday 31 July 1992
We invited ourselves, with diffidence, because the children were devotees, as was I. We sat in her study, she in her wheelchair behind the desk, the rest of us uneasily perched, the children - as they then were - awed into total silence. A housekeeper brought tea on a trolley: cucumber sandwiches and dainty little cakes. Two chihuahuas snarled from a cushion and occasionally shot out to snap at our ankles (on subsequent visits I learned how to deal them a surreptitious kick). It was all dreadfully genteel and strained. I made some comment about the fantail pigeons on the lawn beyond the window. 'Actually, they're a nuisance,' said Rosemary. 'They crap all over everything.' And suddenly we all relaxed, the children recovered normal speech, the gentility subsided and we got over the shock that first meeting her must have induced in anyone - the amazement that from that tiny misshapen person, whose whole being seemed subsumed into the enormous, alert eyes, sprang those vivid, intensely physical books.
The children had brought copies to be signed. I remember looking at those hands and wondering - idiotically - if she could hold a pen. Of course she could, in a wonderfully idiosyncratic and innovative way, writing almost upside down, it seemed, and she drew them her dolphin logo and a great flowery signature, in their cherished Charles Keeping-illustrated hardbacks.
I have a hefty prejudice against historical fiction - but I could read Rosemary avidly, and still do. There is a marvellous passage in her memoir of childhood, Blue Remembered Hills, in which she describes her wheelchair falling over, when she was quite small, depositing her in the long grass, where, instead of yelling for help, she simply lay, observing and recording the close-up miniature world of plants and insects. The incident sums her up, in a curious way.
- 2 PornHub begs users to stop uploading video clips of Brazil getting beaten 7-1
- 3 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
- 4 L'Oreal cuts ties with Belgium supporter Axelle Despiegelaere after hunting trip photographs
- 5 The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week
Instagram of US airport security chiefs: Lipstick knives and IED training kits among items seized
Game of Thrones author George RR Martin says 'f*** you' to fans who fear he will die before finishing Westeros saga
Loom bands: Bids for dress made from colourful rubber reach almost £154,000 on eBay
Israel-Gaza crisis: Eight killed in Gaza Strip cafe while watching World Cup semi-final
Supermoon 2014: When and why will the moon look bigger and brighter this summer?
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
There’s a nasty smell in the political air – and it’s coming from the Tories
£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...
On Application: Council of Europe: The European Court of Human Rights’s judgme...
£28000 - £32000 per annum: Charter Selection: A professional services company ...
£400 - £450 per day: Orgtel: Project Manager (PM), Key Banking Client, Retail ...