Back to Richmond, and two old friends

I made my two oldest friends in the Fifties, when I came out of the sanatorium and we moved from Kensington to Richmond.

Christine Lee

I started at the Vineyard Primary School at eight and a half, following two years with virtually no schooling. After a year I moved into the appropriate class for my age and soon made friends with Christine Lee. We were two of the three girls to go on to Tiffins and two of five girls who then went Oxford.

Parallel tracks in life? Not quite. Right from the start Christine showed not just an exceptional intelligence, but organisation, focus and determination.  Oh, and she was good at sport, art, needlework……. Pretty well everything. And was school captain in both schools, but combined leadership with modesty, so far from resenting her, we all admired her.

Christine and I lived near enough to play together from an early age, cycled to school through the park, played tennis, and went on CND marches together.

At Oxford our paths diverged: we went to different colleges, I disliked mine and did little work, while Christine worked hard and got a deserved top First in Medicine.

Our early friendship has survived years of seeing each other infrequently. Christine and her husband, Roy Pounder, rose to the top of their profession, much of it heading departments at the Royal Free.

Now retired they divide their time between a home in Gloucestershire and a flat in Richmond.

It was the first time I had seen their new Richmond home, a comfortable spacious ground floor flat in a perfect location, between the  Green and the river, on the site of the old Richmond Palace.

It was great to see Christine in good form, after a tough year health-wise. And to feel that our roots go back so solidly, with shared experiences and views, that the friendship continues.

After lunch, on to spend a brief time with Sally.

Sally Simon (Caplan)

The Caplans were initially my parents’ friends. Visiting Isidore and Joan on a Sunday – in their house on Richmond Hill, with a panoramic view of the Thames Valley – was always fun. They were splendid hosts with an entertaining collection of friends.

At first Sally and her younger sister Jane and I tolerated each other, and we went to very different schools. But we grew closer when Sally went to Tiffins the same year as me (in the form above as she was further on in subjects like French and Maths). Jane followed the year after me.

As with Christine, shared experiences and views have cemented a lifelong friendship with both sisters.

I perhaps saw more of Jane as a teenager (CND, Committee of 100, Anti apartheid demos…..) and then at Oxford. But it is Sally who keeps the links between the two families going.

As the years passed I have become very fond of Sally, and try to see once or maybe twice a year. We are both great talkers and are never short of something to say!  I have the sort of relationship with her which I like to think is not dissimilar to that of our mothers. And like her mother, Joan, Sally is a generous person with many friends. So I’m pleased she has found time to visit me in France and await the moment her schedule permits a repeat visit.


It was also good to visit these old friends in Richmond.  As an adult I spent 30 years in Scotland, but I suppose if I have roots anywhere it is Richmond; that is where I lived from eight till I went to university, and where I grew up.  It is now oozing prosperity, but it is still a lovely town, and we were lucky to have the park and river on our doorstep.