Anna Harper arrived in my office breathless, having climbed three flights of stairs [the lift, as usual, being out of order]. Her condition was not surprising, as she weighed all of 18 stone: she was never less while I knew her, and told me that she had been up to as much as 22 stone. Her obesity arose, she said, from scoffing copious quantities of cream buns and other junk food to assuage unhappiness during a stressful period of her life. Today’s New Labour universal nannies would have strongly disapproved of her for that. And for many other reasons as well.
Anna, who lived in Brighton, was in
Anna, who was a few years older than me, had an innate sympathy with the young, and especially with the young in trouble. She owned a grand Regency house in one of Brighton’s posher squares [on the cliffs above where the
Through this initial contact with the world of illegal drug users, Anna became a dedicated campaigner for the humane understanding and treatment of drug abuse. Now and then, almost inevitably, she was conned as a ‘soft touch’ but this did not deter her and she was gleefully proud of the fact that a Brighton magistrate in whose court she had appeared as a witness for one of her ‘tenants’ had described her as “the most dangerous woman in Brighton”!
Anna’s family were – like my own great-grandfather – upmarket hardware merchants and ironmongers, in
I often used to visit Anna in her lovely house, and these occasions were always interesting and usually involved some unexpected happenings. I once spent a holiday with Anna and Hughie in a Cornish cottage, where she involved herself in a séance with some local mystics [which I didn’t join]. She had a large motor caravan, and from time to time used to tour the country with Hughie, going wherever the Lord led them.
After Hughie’s death, Anna sold the
But alas! her physical problems of chronic overweight and diabetes took their toll, and she died suddenly in September 1983 aged only 63. The owner of the retreat house wrote to tell me, saying she was sure that the celestial trumpets were blowing for Anna, who would be receiving a great welcome in
Dear Anna, rest in peace.