It made me think of my cousin who died long ago, Doreen Shaw Dorinova, who danced with her partner Vadier in Clements Variety Show. In those days legitimate dancers had to have a Russian sounding name. I wish I could go back seventy years and meet Dorinova as a young woman, or even find someone who can tell me about her life. She was a frail woman who began ballet classes to strengthen her legs after rickets. Apparently she wrote a memoir, but it was left with a ‘boyfriend’ and disappeared from the family. The only memory I have is of a tiny lady in a fur coat smiling over my pram. She gave me a gold chain bracelet and a rabbit fur cape I adored and was allowed to wear on special occasions.
Doreen’s mother Auntie Carrie was much disapproved of by my mother’s farming family. There’s a marvellous photograph of her in a strapless dress, smiling over her shoulder at the photographer, little curls plastered to her forehead. I thought she was so pretty. Uncle Ernest, Doreen’s father, had a paper eye painted in lurid colours. It fascinated me when I was little and I remember wondering if it worked. Sometimes there was just a wodge of cotton wool in his eye socket.
Doreen also spent much time embroidering. My sister has an elaborate screen, much shredded by my grandmother’s cats, embroidered with a rustic scene of deer by a stream, surrounded by strange trees looking like green clouds.
I have this tablecloth. Around the edges are the signatures of all the people Doreen worked with - performers far more famous than Vadier or Dorinova. I like to think of her picking it up to stitch away between the acts.