Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Alan Bennett's cat

A highly recommended book of letters is just out: 'Love, Nina' by Nina Stibbe (Penguin £12.99). The joke is that Nina aged 20 arrived from Leicester to look after a household in north London that resembled the late lamented 'Stella Street' - the John Sessions comedy show where everyone on an anonymous street with a corner shop was famous. I had a glimpse of this world one evening when in the course of the job my husband was doing at the time running cultural relations with the Russians we went for supper with Ursula Vaughan Williams in the same street where Nina went to be a nanny. Ursula, widow of the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, had invited her next door neighbours the author V S Pritchett and his wife to meet us. During dinner, a cat strolled in to the room. 'Oh bother. That's Alan Bennett's cat!' said Ursula - Alan (known as 'AB' in Nina's letters) lived in the house on the other side to Ursula. Two doors down were Michael Frayn and Claire Tomalin, and - read on to know exactly how far down the street - was Jonathan Miller.


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