Friday, September 05, 2008

The Churchill Series - Sept. 5, 2008

(One of a series of weekdays posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

By virtue of his position, Churchill's long-time bodyguard, Scotland Yard's Detective-Inspector Walter Thompson, was witness to many of Winston and Clementine's private moments.

Tom Hickman is author of Churchill's Bodyguard, a book part Thompson biography and part collection of Churchill anecdotes Thompson collected. Here are two of those anecdotes:

Churchill ends his autobiography, My Early Life, with the oft quoted words: “until September 1908, when I married and lived happily ever afterwards.”

It was the late 20s and the Churchills were about to drive in an open two-seater from London down to Chartwell. Thompson sat in the back in what the Brits call the dickie seat (our rumble seat).

Winston was habitually late, but this was one of those rare times when he was ready first, seated at the wheel. Soon Clementine joined him.

Thompson carries the story from there:

[Clementine] appeared dressed in a most gorgeous black dress decorated with gold thread. Winston voiced his delight.

“Clemmie,” he said, “you look beautiful. What a lovely dress.”

“I am so pleased you like it, darling,” she replied, as she took her seat beside him.

It was not until we were out in the country that the dress was again mentioned.

Winston gazed sideways and quietly said: “And what did it cost?”

She replied: “I dare not tell you.”

“I thought not," he said. “I am sure it was very expensive.”

“I will tell you later, Winston,” she replied.

“But there is no harm in knowing now, in view of the fact you have bought it.”

The car almost came to a standstill when she said: “Two hundred guineas.”

“I suppose,” he said, “you have not paid for it yet?”

“Let us talk about it later,” she replied.

Dead silence followed and not another word was said.
Where trains were concerned, Churchill was a classic last minute race-to-the-station traveler.

When he was a cabinet minister or PM, and later when out of office but "a great man," Churchill's last minute habit didn't cause him any problems. Staff simply phoned ahead and the train was held.

But when out of office during the 20s and 30s, Churchill frequently had to race to catch a train. Often he lost.

Thompson once heard Clementine explain Churchill's "last minute" habit this way: "Winston's a sporting man. He likes to give the train a chance."

I hope you all have a good weekend. Special thoughts go to those of you in areas hit by the storms.