By the time I went away, in 1971, holidays at Palm Court though no less enjoyable, had become increasingly Spartan. Hugh and Marie had no staff in residence at all, except for Marie’s old ayah, and she was spending more and more time away as the demands on her grew greater. Lilian however, surprisingly, still managed to have two women staying in, though one of them was mad, she claimed in a hushed whisper, and frighteningly so when the moon was full. This was in addition to Olga Kelly, who mellowing with the years had continued to survive the rigours of Palm Court, including the mad woman chasing her out of the kitchen with a broom.
A few months after I had left for Oxford, Hugh died. Lilian followed less than six months later, almost as though, blind but tenacious, she had especially hung on to outlive her much younger brother. Her section of the house was closed up, to be opened for cleaning at increasingly rare intervals. Roots began to thrust themselves through the walls, and the time came when one had to gather up courage to go in there, in case snakes were slithering around.