The Ka of Gifford Hillary and Dennis Wheatley: Stella arrives in Leighton Buzzard to steak and kidney pie, mash, and baked beans.

Stella’s diary February 1st 1969 -from Only One Woman

I read The Ka of Gifford Hillary on the bus all the way to Leighton Buzzard.

I’d spoken to Scott on the phone the night before and he was a chapter ahead of me, so I had some catching up to do.

Just before I’d left the Leighton Buzzard house, a week ago, Scott and I had found two battered copies of the Dennis Wheatley book in one of the tall bookcases, and as neither of us had read it, we decided to make it a shared experience.

Scott, apparently, was a massive Wheatley fan, and I’d never read any of his books before, so I was really looking forward to it.

That evening’s meal was tinned steak and kidney pies, mashed potatoes and baked beans. Mo had allowed half a pie per person and each plate was piled high with mash and beans.

Survival rations for Narnia’s Children
Image: Pixabay

We again ate in the big sitting room with music in the background and the group talked about gigs as they ravenously shovelled down the food. I ate only slightly more slowly – it was fab comfort food – again with Scott leaning against my legs…

Pies were a staple diet.

Narnia’s Children were starving in their cold, damp, Victorian house, rented for them by their manager. He was topping up their income from his own pocket as they waited for their record deal. Touring in the late 1960s didn’t afford much by way of earnings, and so they lived from hand to mouth.

Photo Jane Risdon

Their manager was wealthy, but even-so, he didn’t want to put the band into too much debt so they survived on very little. Vesta Curries, Fray Bentos Pies, Baked Beans, and lots of rice and vegetables: healthy but hardly filling enough for the band and their road crew.

Stella tried to help out when she stayed with them. she’d buy food and supplies when she could but she wasn’t flush with money, either. She worked at the AERE Harwell, as a clerical officer, and she had little spare cash to spread around, but she loved Scott and the band…

Leighton Buzzard

If this has sparked your curiosity about Stella, Scott, and Narnia’s Children, the late 1960s music scene, and the epic love triangle unfolding throughout the story, listen in to Jane reading Only One Woman

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Only One Woman on the Authors Show.

Jane will be reading a chapter from Renza’s diary.

Turn on and tune in to to hear the whole interview and reading.

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Please leave a reply and comment - your input is really appreciated. Thanks, Jane

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