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Posts Tagged "Marjorie Kenyon":

‘You gotta circulate, else you won’t percolate’

Marjorie Wiley Crutchfield Kenyon was my most unforgettable character. I met her in the late 1960s when I was 17, on one of her annual trips to London from her Connecticut home to find an apartment. She took me with her to see what I called a flat, which looked very nice to me but which she pronounced quite unsuitable. She was looking for a first floor apartment at a good address in an architecturally distinguished building in one of London’s squares with a garden in the middle. Quite a tall order, but it took me many years to realise that she didn’t really want to buy such an apartment, she was more interested in the chase which gave purpose to her annual visits to escape the cold New England winters.

I used to lunch with her at the Naval and Military Club in Piccadilly, where she based herself. The lunch was a frugal sandwich and a cup of coffee, for she was watching her pennies, but you would have thought it was lobster at the Ritz. She was the greatest of great ladies, and did not hesitate to give me lessons in deportment and etiquette. She told me stories of her grand past, of the family home in New York’s Washington Square, with its own carriage house, which the family left for Newport in the summer. She told me about the cotillions, the visits to each other’s houses and the yacht trips to Spanish Town, then the capital of Jamaica. I swallowed it all, until we got to Spanish Town. There was no Google in those days, but a quick trip to the library told me that Spanish Town had not been the capital of Jamaica since 1872. She did look immensely old, but it gradually dawned on me that we were in the realm of fantasy, based on the novels of Henry James, Willa Cather and who knows else. Once I realised this, I played along happily. She was a great story-teller and needed little prompting to launch into stories of her childhood and time as a debutante. I loved it all.

When I was 22, I went to live in New York. As you could then, I turned up in Manhattan with a few dollars and some introductions. I found myself a job at the British Information Services at 845 Third Avenue and spent three of the most exciting years of my life. Weekends in Old Lyme with Marjorie in her clapboard house were, as you can imagine, the greatest possible antidote to the single life in Manhattan. But Marjorie now regarded it as her main mission in life to find me a husband (no easy task in 1970s Manhattan). She decided that the best way of doing this was to go to church, and braced herself to spend a weekend with me in the city. We went together to St Bartholomew’s Church on Park Avenue, lingering over the post-service coffee. I could see that, while the service was lovely, it was not going to work for me as a marriage market as I had never been with such a homogeneous group of people – they had all clearly known each other since they were in their cradles. I had a similar group of people whom I knew in London; Marjorie found it difficult to accept that my main reason for coming to New York was to rebel and meet people I would never otherwise have met.

But, and we are now getting to the point of this shaggy dog story, her parting words to me each time I saw her were ‘You gotta circulate, else you won’t percolate!’ Bless her, she meant it in a social context but I have realised since starting the Lay Anglicana website and trying to spread the word about the Anglican Covenant that it is also a great motto for the digital age and campaign trail.

Thank-you, Marjorie, for your friendship. (Oh yes, and I did find a husband eventually, back in England and many years later).

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