Passing time on the web, I discovered that a long-lost friend died in 2009: Anna Mendleson.
I knew Anna for 3 days only. Drinking hot sweet tea with a friend at a cafe in Bodrum in 1968, I watched her climb out of an old landrover. She came over and asked if we were looking for a place to sleep, explaining that she had come to collect someone who had not arrived. We said ‘yes please’ and were driven on a rough track to a peaceful villa in a remote seaside village, where we spent time swimming, cooking and eating – for which Anna took no money. One night there was a village wedding. The unmarried girls from the village, in long dark clothes, took it in turn to do modest shuffles on a low stage. Each was greeted with mild applause. There was a little moonlight and a glow from some tungsten bulbs. Anna, in a very short orange dress, then took the stage and lit up everything. She did a wildly energetic dance with bare limbs shooting in every direction. All the fire of the 1960s was there. This led to a storm of applause from the menfolk and dark frowns of frozen fury from the girls. The next I heard of Anna, she was arrested for being a member of the Angry Brigade. The police arrived and were horrified to find a large room with many people and a doorless doorway beyond which was a visible toilet with a girl using it. The police were genuinely horrified and, not for this reason alone, Anna was sent to jail for ten years. They released her on bail after four years. She changed her name and became a poet. I believe she was a kind person and wrongly convicted. Given all the police fabrication of evidence for terrorist trials since that date, I am convinced that Anna told the truth at her trial – and that the police lied. One can but remember Kipling’s words, after the death of his son in the First World War: “If any question why we died/ Tell them, because our fathers lied.” Here is one of Anna’s poems, published under the pseudonym Grace Lake:
i.m. Laura Riding
if thought be woven from the brain wished ill may learn to love again
a moonlit dusk by lamplight’s side a less anxious life
where proof of purse is not in pride nor strife a jokey vendetta
beginning twice more to examine extremes of sanctioned shapes
which knew to lighten mechanics with previewed disfunction
once the essentials are proven and normalities intergraved
it will not be mine to decide who are the damned and who the saved.
She died age 61 and here is her obituary. RIP