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I do remember exactly where we were: on a fibreglass rowing boat on our local estuary. And I also remember him discontinuing his talk with a pained silence, which I later interpreted as a reflection of his ambivalence in being open with me about his homosexual relationships. There was also the time he came back from the Philippines, which he had visited with a close male friend of his who was openly homosexual, having caught gonorrhoea.
He told me that his first sexual awareness was at the age of eight years, with an adult woman.
There would have been the usual sexual experimentation at boarding schools modelled as they were on Spartan culturealthough he never told me much about this. It might have been what he was referring to when he mentioned being urged by the school chaplain to pray for forgiveness in the school chapel.
He went from school to a German University in Freiburg-im-Breisgau to study art history, and fell in love with the daughter of the family with whom he lodged: he was rather vague with me about how far this relationship went. Perhaps his love was unrequited, but it certainly improved his German. They all qualified inwhen there was no work for architects, so my father and Bill Edmiston set up a photographic studio in the London Strand.
Despite having a private income deriving from his German banking great-grandfather, my father seems to have struggled financially too: he regaled me with stories of begging at restaurants for left-over chicken carcasses, which the kitchen staff willingly gave to the two hungry photographers to pick bare this was before the days of health and safety regulations, which force trucklo of edible food to be thrown away. He taught me how to detach the most delectable bits Bi dad stories meat from next to the bone.
It seems all four went to Berlin for the sexual freedoms on offer, in search of younger boyfriends. My father never told me who his boyfriends were during this period.
He did tell me that Isherwood, contrary to his subsequent reputation as exclusively homosexual, had a sexually intimate relationship with Jean Ross, allegedly the original of Sally Bowles. I wonder if they were more in love with the feeling of being infatuated than with the boys themselves? For instance, Stephen went to Valencia innot to fight in the Spanish Civil Bi dad stories, as many of his friends were then doing with the International Brigadebut to rescue his boyfriend Tony Hyndman, who had done just that.
So my father told me about some of his male friendships, and some of the interesting bits of his life in Germany, but left out the sexual bits. Unlike their eldest brother Michael, who was a consistent womanizer, both Humphrey and Stephen were sexually interested in both males and females, probably throughout their lives.
Maybe I should be as critical of my father; or maybe he was just trying to protect me.
I never asked my mother whether she minded Humphrey having affairs with both sexesbut I suppose she must have. She reciprocated by having her own exclusively heterosexual, as far as I know. He emigrated as soon as he could, first to Australia, then settling in Michigan.
My father idealized Lolly, which must have been very difficult for my mother, who of course could never live up to her. Bizarrely, both the stillborn child and Lolly died on Christmas Day, so Christmas was always a very difficult time for the three of us. My mother and I tried to distract my father by taking him on picnics not a common Christmas Day activity in the UKwhich mostly seemed to work.
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Feb 18, news.Bi dad stories
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