Uit: Auberon Waugh’s hilarious memories of the family mansion now for sale
“Returning to my home in Wiltshire after lunch with friends on Easter Day 1966, I found a policeman waiting outside the door with a long face.
Was I Auberon Alexander Waugh of this address?
For a terrible moment, I thought that something had happened to the children, left behind with our help Lolita who spoke no English.
It came as a relief when he said that my father, then 62, had died suddenly at Combe Florey House, the Waugh family home in Somerset.
It transpired that after a Latin mass in the parish church at nearby Wiveliscombe, he had failed to turn up at lunch and been found dead of a heart attack in the downstairs lavatory.
When I arrived at Combe Florey towards midnight, the house still smelled strongly of paraldehyde, the foul substance he took as a sleeping draught. In the heightened awareness of the moment, that familiar, revolting smell seemed to have the odour of sanctity.
That night there was a fire in the house. Somebody had left a door of the Aga in the kitchen open and it became hot, setting various things alight.
Firemen tramped through Combe Florey, squirting things, before being given glasses of Guinness and sent away. My mother Laura, the widow Waugh as she became from that moment, remained in her bedroom and did not emerge through all the night’s alarms and excursions.
In the days that followed, my father’s body lay in the library, boxed up in a coffin to await burial and attended in shifts by members of the family.
My feeling of relief on hearing of his death remained an ingredient in the mixture of emotions.
In his last year at Combe Florey, he had many of his teeth drawn, choosing to have it done without anaesthetic, for some impenetrable reason of his own (the vulgar new school of literary biographer attributed it to some strain of sexual masochism, but I am not persuaded by this).
In the event, his teeth seem to have been drawn not only physically but also metaphorically. Where before he had been gloomy, bad tempered and on occasions aggressive, he became benign and affectionate, but still his death lifted a great brooding awareness not only from Combe Florey but from the whole of existence.”
Auberon Waugh (17 november 1939 -16 januari 2001)