My grandmother Sarah Colmer, who has died aged 95 from Alzheimer’s, was an actor, model and giver of great dinner parties.
Daughter of Ben Williams, an insurance broker, and his wife, Barbara, Sarah left home at 16 to go to art school and get away from her native Guildford, a town she considered far too drab to stay in. She went into rep (taking the stage name Sarah Hilton), then the Entertainments National Service Association (Ensa) during the second world war, touring Europe entertaining the troops. When peace returned, she was in Italy having what she described as a “stonking affair” with a young colonel in the British Army.
She met and in 1949 married Tom Colmer, with whom she had two children, Lou and Charlie. They lived in Camden Town, north London, and then Primrose Hill, when the area was full of struggling artists and actors. Her advice on childbirth was “it fucking hurts, but darling, you get the best present at the end”.
Sarah modelled for the Queen at Hardy Amies. She had many, many friends in London theatreland and every Thursday there was dinner at Sarah’s. She loved throwing the party but hated the cleaning up. “Darling, I’m a terrible slut,” she told her friends. She was “deeply superficial” – her own words – but well read and very, very glamorous.
Beneath that glamour there was also a much more vulnerable side to Sarah, one that her close friends witnessed. During the war she was stuck in a tube train during the blitz with bombs falling above ground. She put her lifelong fear of crowds down to that experience. For years, she resisted this debilitating agoraphobia as best she could.
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