(see link at end)…I had read a quote from Hélène in which she had reportedly said that she has to take the odd break from Ustinov because, “You couldn’t live with Peter day and night. You’d get confused. Sometimes it’s like living with 12 people.” Does she really think that? He says I’ll have to ask her. I knock on the bedroom door. Come in, she says. She’s taking her stockings off. She tells me that she’ll be out in a sec.
Ustinov translates my question for her. (They always talk French to each other at home in Switzerland). She draws in a deep breath and tuts. “I certainly didn’t say that like that. No, no. But yes, Peter is not one person. He is so many persons, that is true. He is a genius.” Read More:http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2002/sep/23/artsfeatures.books
…Six weeks after Ustinov’s birth, his deeply religious maternal grandmother, then living in Cairo, insisted that he be baptized a Lutheran in water from the River Jordan. Ustinov’s agnostic father reluctantly agreed to meet her halfway, at Stuttgart, to which city he transported Peter in a basket lent by the White Heather Laundry. River Jordan water from a hot-water bottle was dripped onto Peter and he duly became a Lutheran. The ceremony had no lasting effects. Ustinov later declared: ” I believe people should be judged by their behavior rather than by what they think. I prefer an agnostic who helps an old lady across the road to a theologian too busy with his religion to notice that she wants to cross. Religion is temperamental and climatic- I can’t imagine a Norwegian on a pilgrimage to Rome; he wouldn’t look right or feel right.”
The boy had an easy and peaceful upbringing. His mother, an amateur painter, brought home artists for dinner; his father brought journalists, diplomats, exiles- all of whom sharpened Peter’s instinctive ability to catch personality, voice, and attitude. One of his earliest recollections was that of appearing entirely nude, before his parents’ friends, to impersonate Prime Minister Bonar law. He quickly manifested the talent for drawing that later enabled him to dash off lightning-fast sketches of politicians, artists, and friends. At the age of nine he outraged his mother’s cook, who doubled as her model, by proposing to paint her in the nude.
“As an only child,”said Ustinov, “I soon settled into a small bachelor existence. It gave me self-reliance, but at times it was lonely. I had another difficulty to contend with: I wasn’t English. Oliver St. John Gogarty used to say that the only way to make the English treat you as an equal is to treat them as superiors.” ( to be continued)…