This week Christine got her entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, a record of national figures who have helped shape Great Britain. I think you get your mention a few years after your death, so I am again reminded of the story Christine would tell me about what Stanley Baker said to her. Stanley Baker, probably best known for his starring role in Zulu, said, “Christine, you are the most famous person here, we’re all actors and we will be forgotten, but you, Christine, you are in the history books forever.”
We have just finished another draft of the pardon document and are really pleased with how it is shaping up. So fingers crossed it won’t be too long, but these are strange times.
Some memories are much harder than others to write down and share but they are just as important as they paint a more rounded picture of our lives. This year I wanted to talk more about the price that Christine Keeler paid.
It wasn't long after Christine was released from prison she met James Levermore. She said he was sweet with a great personality, he was educated and chose to work as a labourer in the outdoors. They fell in love, a whirlwind romance, and in 1965 they were married at Reading Registry Office. It was a normal wedding, her family all came too. Her mother and step-father, her grandmother and one of her aunties, who being more or less the same age as Christine, was like a sister. Of course the press were there too, so maybe not an entirely normal wedding.
Christine wanted to start afresh, she would play the part of a wife and play the part of being happy and maybe even for a time she was. A few months later she was pregnant with my half-brother James and things started to come apart. At the hospital she went into a panic, in fact a complete meltdown. “You are trying to kill me,” she said to the doctors.
One of the team that night in the maternity ward was West Indian and maybe because of the drugs they gave her something snapped, maybe she thought Gordon was there or maybe she thought it was a friend of his, but that night going in for her Caesarean section she was terrified they were going to kill her.
Christine went home with her new baby and played the part of a new mother and housewife but something was wrong, she was desperately unhappy. She was struggling to bond with her son Jimmy. She said, “I didn't feel he was mine at all.”
Christine then became convinced that her husband was going off with other women, because, why would any man want to be with Christine Keeler! She was so insecure, she would secretly follow him to work to make sure he wasn’t seeing other women. Her suspicions and insecurity destroyed her marriage.
The marriage was over and her husband James left. Christine had a three month old baby who was a stranger to her. Her mother stepped in and offered to help, she would look after Jimmy until Christine felt better. They used to call it the baby blues but now we call it post-natal depression and it is surprisingly common. I don't know if it was linked to the bad experience when Jimmy was born or finding herself trapped or maybe it was everything, but Christine was very sick.
Jimmy never came to live with Chris, her mother would always find a reason to extend his stay. She would tell Christine, “You’re not settled enough to look after a child,” or, “The baby is holding my marriage together”. So days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months and months turned into years.
Five years later Christine remarried and Jimmy still wasn't with her, and then I was born. I had moved around so much inside Chris that my umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck, so it had to be an emergency C-section. Christine used to tell me that the doctors asked, “If it’s a choice, who do we save: the mother of the baby?” and Christine told me she said, “Save my baby,” and, no, I don’t really believe that story, but she never let me leave her side. So maybe it’s true!
I met her mother, my grandmother, only a few times. I stayed there for a week one summer when I was seven; according to Christine they didn't want me back again, I was too much hard work and it upset Jimmy.
The last time we saw either Jimmy or Christine’s mother was at the Worlds End Estate in 1988. I can’t remember how it came up, but Christine was saying, “At least tell him I bought your house for you.” I think Christine wanted to show Jimmy she had done something for him. She wanted to show him she wasn't “just a bum”.
Then we argued some more because Christine’s mother talked about all the “black faces” in London and how frightening she found it. I was only 16 or 17 and said, “That’s what Hitler would have said,” and they left and we never saw them again. I have sometimes wondered if I was the one who went too far that night.
Christine sent them birthday and Christmas cards and even tried to call them over the years, but it was done.
Looking back, strangely, I have no recollection of ever talking to my grandmother, of ever making eye contact or being hugged. I always thought she was a cold woman.
I once asked Christine if she had any regrets, she thought about it for a while and said, “My cat, Thomas, I took him to the vet too late. I think he suffered and I blame myself for that’
Now I am a parent and I think to myself, of course that’s what she would say to her son. Of course she had regrets, but what else could she say?
Jimmy was her one major regret.