I wrote this on 8 October 2011 for a now defunct magazine.
All over the world people are expressing their admiration for Steve Jobs and sorrow at his passing. Steve made a difference in many lives (mine included) and it’s sad to see him go so soon. He should have had many years left to enjoy. So long Steve and thanks for the ride.
But I’m not here today to talk of Steve, but of Diane Cilento.
I’ve followed her adventures all of my life, she was always that gorgeous, glamourous girl that I so dearly wanted to be.
My mother and her mother were cousins and I clung to the thought of that family connection all through the years.
Was it important to me that she was ‘famous’? Well, no, because she wasn’t really famous at all when I was growing up and not much more famous after I had grown up. But she was beautiful, ah me, she was beautiful. I wanted to be beautiful just like her. And she had a certain poise, not just elegance, but a way of holding her head and looking straight at a camera that knocked me out. I used to practice that straight-in-the-eyes look myself. I never did get it.
If our grandmothers were sisters then one day I would be beautiful too. I never quite managed that one either.
We’re both descended from one woman, through her daughters, and I thought in my youthful vague naive way that you and I were alike. Apart from you being older and, as I’ve already said, beautiful.
Our foremother was light-haired and pale of eye, just like us, and with (so the family story goes) a “bit of a temper”. Apparently she gave as good as she got. I don’t really know what that means, do you? I certainly do know that I have a bit of a reputation for tongue-lashing and that you also have this peculiarity. It was also said that she had the “gift of the gab”. Maybe it’s in the genes like our pale colouring, what do you reckon, Diane?
I’m sorry, Diane, really sorry, that you never mentioned your convict heritage, the one we shared. I’m proud of that small boy who was sent here in chains. Did you know he was described as golden-haired with piercing blue eyes, a boy who managed to talk his way out of all sorts of trouble? He had the gift of the gab alright.
Without him I wouldn’t be sitting here thinking about you. Without him, you would never have been.
When you married Sean Connery I ran around telling everyone I knew (and a few complete strangers) that James Bond was my cousin!
Thanks for that, Diane.
Your mother wrote to me twice, many years ago, and she was prompted to do so by my Aunt Cora, a gentle soul and a prolific letter writer. I had burned my arm in some escapade or other and Lady Cilento sent me advice about vitamin E and scar tissue.
Thanks for that, Phyllis.
And thanks for just being alive and beautiful, Diane. I’ll miss reading about you.
Vale Diane Cilento. October 5, 1933 – October 8, 2011