Art School & RADA
Elaine seized an opportunity to be an au pair in France where she stayed with Madame Gaugois and her family in Rue Platon, Amiens. Reginald accompanied her on the outward journey. She did little in the way of au pairing but for almost a year enjoyed the company of Madame Gaugois’ grandchildren, Janine and Michel. She went to the art school in Amiens, which she very much enjoyed, and learned to speak French quite fluently.
With so much money having been spent on nurses and childcare and with Reginald’s early retirement the family were not very well off. When young, Elaine had not been allowed to use her late mother’s sewing machine but she managed to pick the lock and get it working so that she could use it to make herself clothes. Ever practical in adult life, this ability to repair and make good was typical of her.
After art school it was very difficult for women to get jobs in art so she then decided to pursue another interest. Eric took her up to the Old Vic and Elaine won a half scholarship to RADA. She loved the year she spent there and a report of summer 1939 shows just how highly her tutors thought of her. They wanted her to return for a final year, offering her an increased scholarship, but, anxious not to be a drain on her father’s funds, she left.
She played once in Rep at Watford’s Palace Theatre and she was also given the leading part in a pageant written by Charles Walter Stansby Williams (1886-1945) though its production was interrupted by the outbreak of War. For the next few years she and Charles Williams remained very good friends, exchanging letters and visits. He sent her some of the books he had written, penning notes to her on the flyleaves, and she drew some amusing sketches for him. For many years a Reader at Oxford University Press, he was a great conversationalist and lecturer. According to his biography, he was a writer of several anthologies, prefaces, regular reviews, over 30 volumes of poetry, plays, literary criticism, fiction, biography and theological argument and
his influence on the minds of the young was salutary and inspiring.