Book and Profile
Mungo loves music and singing in a choir. He works in the theatre and becomes an accomplished actor. But his sexuality remains confused, even the prospect of marriage and parenthood offers him no solace. Will he find himself or is he destined to live a life of lies?
An Undesirable Marriage
Photo: Meriel and Archie.
Meriel Brooke has always wanted to be a writer, but it's taken a long time and several careers to achieve this ambition.
She was born in Malaya, where her father was the manager of a rubber plantation. At the age of three, she was sent to boarding school in England, with her sister, who was five. They saw their Mother, briefly, every two years, and their father every four years, so they did not have a family life as children, but they had happy holidays in homes, where they met other children whose parents lived abroad. Meriel and her sister were evacuated to Canada during the Second World War, and soon began to enjoy school life. Meriel was a bright child, and did well in all subjects, especially English and Dramatic Art, and excelled in sport as well.
After returning to England, she gained a place at Bristol University to study languages. However, she decided she wanted to go into the theatre. Her parents were not supportive, and at the age of seventeen she had to earn her own living. She became a student nurse at Saint Bartholomew's Hospital, earning £100 per annum. While a student nurse, she became engaged to a medical student, whom she married after she qualified, and later had two wonderful children, a boy and a girl.
Meriel answered an advertisement in The Times, and became the nursing assistant to a Guy's plastic surgeon, who sent her to do some extra training under Harold Gillies at Rooksdown House, Basingstoke. Years later, Meriel discovered that Gillies had done reparative work on her father's serious facial injuries after he was shot down as a Royal Air Corps' pilot in the First World War. Her father had been awarded the Military Cross for the action in which he sustained those injuries.
After eleven years working in Plastic Surgery, Meriel's love of acting once more came to the fore, and she gave in her notice. She auditioned for Joan Littlewood and, after working in her Company, acted on television and stage, including the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre, and the American Shakespeare Company.
She divorced in 1974 and re-married in America in 1982, to an Englishman working in IBM. It was difficult to get work in the theatre when she returned to England, and she took a Drama Teacher's Diploma, LLAM, gaining Gold Medals in Verse and Prose and in Public Speaking. She wrote a thesis on Stress and Relaxation and made a professional relaxation tape for actors, and was short-listed for Voice Assistant at The Royal Shakespeare Company.
In 1990 Meriel wrote a play, Apples of Gold, based on movement and verse-speaking, which was runner up for the Arts Council Best Fringe Play Award. She directed three plays and was elected to the Directors’ Guild.
In 1993, she moved to Herefordshire with her husband and they set up a small organic farm, rearing rare breeds of geese, poultry, pigs, cattle and sheep, and working with a horse.
In 1997 Meriel Brooke wrote the book, Pot of Gold, a humorous account of smallholder life, which was published by Miller Freeman. She has since written two novels, An Undesirable Marriage, a historically accurate fictional story of life in the colonies, partly set in Malaya, and based on her father’s life, and Mungo Warner (a revised edition of 'Sweet Mungo' which was published in 2014) about a boy, born in the prejudicial era of the 1940's, harshly treated by his father and abused by his tutor at Choir School. She has also written a children’s story Jacqueline and Gladwin, about a clever jackdaw.