Every family should have a Barbara by Lyn Deveson


I first met Barbara when I worked on a magazine in London way back in the 60’s. She used to write travel articles and sell her photographs. David, who I had just started seeing, and I took her out for lunch one day and she guessed long before anyone else that ‘something was going on between us’.

She always had her old faithful camera around her neck, which she loved because the view finder was on top and she could just look down and take pictures without anyone realising.

I remember her teaching Toby as a toddler how to drop stones in the grate outside our home in Milan and to listen for the ‘plop’ as they hit the water. She was very fond of Toby and said he had something that ‘made her heart turn’.

She loved Pears soap.

She and I talked about writing a book together years and years ago…we should have because there have been many books since with similar ideas and ours would have been one of the first. It was going to combine stories of our travels as a family with food and recipes. I may still do it, Barbara…

I remember visiting a piece of swampland Anne (Deveson) had just bought outside Sydney. It was a very hot day and Barbara decided she was going to get in the water, so she stripped to her underwear and swam in the smelly swamp.

She loved swimming.

She would always have crowds of people she cooked for in her tiny flat on the top floor in Fleet Street with no lift. They’d sit cross-legged on her floor, often staying for the weekend and she’d take them to the theatre.

For my first meal there with David in the late 60’s, she cooked trout with almonds which was a first for me.

Her bath was in her kitchen and with a piece of wood over it, doubled up as her work surface.

She told us many tales about her and Anne travelling around in her red post office van. I don’t think she ever had a driving licence and by the time I knew her, she had stopped driving.

She told me that she first met David as a little boy – his parents had invited her for dinner – he had stood behind his parents grinning at her with two cushions or balloons under his sweater, making fun of her rather large breasts. She thought it hilarious.

She loved her canaries and fretted about them when she was away.

Barbara came and stayed with us all over the world. She just fitted in, loved food, loved young people and, as Toby said, always looked the same. Her blue eyes, her stick, her camera – she was always welcome, always loved and we all miss her.

Further Reading

Article in The Independent: The story they didn’t want women to tell by Anne Sebba, 1st June 1994


Obituary in The Independent by James Buchan, 30th January 2003
Obituary in The Times, 22nd January 2003
Obituary in The Telegraph, 21st January 2003




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