September 23, 2015: She Could Have Been a Duchess

~by Paula Veloso Babadi

My oldest son was recently in London when he called to ask the address of my childhood home. He was surprised when I rattled it off zip code and all. When he found the location, Jahan took a picture of the three story row home at 9 New Kings Road, Fulham, London, S.W. 6 – home to William and Edith Pumfrey, my mother’s parents – my beloved Nanny and Grandpa.

It was easy for me to remember the address because at age eight, when we moved to America, I wrote letters to Nanny and Grandpa all the time. They responded, each writing in their own hand on the thin blue air mail letter paper rarely seen these days. Grandpa had beautiful penmanship, grand enough to grace a scroll with his English script. He wrote to me in rhymes and I still have those letters today, over fifty years later. Nanny’s penmanship on the other hand was often difficult to read but her letters were just as eagerly anticipated as those of my grandfather.

Writing back and forth with both of them created a treasured bond that the thousand -mile distance could never break. My grandparents were an important part of my life. So, when Jahan send me pictures, I was overjoyed. I remembered looking out of my third story bedroom window in the mornings listening to the sound of London waking up. I imagined what it might be like if our family still owned 9 New Kings Road.

No one lives there right now. The home is up for sale in Fulham’s historic district for £3 million! It may be worth $4.6 million dollars, but there is no price that can match the treasured childhood memories and the loving family who once lived there.

She Could Have Been a Duchess

She could have been a duchess –

crocheted silk turban

neatly broached

at the center seam,

tortoise shell cigarette holder

sporting an unfiltered smoke

in perfect lips framed with

peaches and cream soft skin.


She didn’t pencil in the mole

cornering her smiling mouth,

it was her own mark

signaling her beauty

more than the fashionable hats

she wore and loved.

She laughed a lot.

Plump and stubborn,

she wore short neat wigs

when turban or hat

was not her fancy.


Green was her favorite colour;

she loved Tom Jones

and Englebert Humberdinck,

baked rice pudding in

white porcelain clad pans,

and gathered us for afternoon tea

with dainty buttered cucumber sandwiches

or sometimes,

fish paste and Marmite.


She was the most glamorous person

I knew back then

sending packages of

“mod” dainties across the Atlantic

in tissue-papered boxes

from Selfridges

accompanied by thin blue

aero-mail letters penned with a

nearly hieroglyphic hand.


She could have been a duchess –

this Welsh coal miner’s daughter,

orphaned at three

tenderness toughened

from years of boarding school

afforded by her kindly

tea-magnate uncle-

almost disinherited

when she wed

her blue -eyed blond

pure Anglo-Saxon commoner

for love.


She could have been a duchess but

she was so much more to me,

my grandmother,




Paula Veloso Babadi has worked in the health care industry for over thirty five years, but her true passion is poetry. She is a member of the St. John’s Chapter of the national Catholic Writers Guild and a regular contributor to the St. Joseph’sReflections Newspaper. Growing up in England and Pensacola with her Filipino and British parents and marrying into her Iranian family, she now lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband, daughter and nearby three grown sons and grandchildren.


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