Robert Temple - Author of The Sphinx Mystery
This charcoal portrait of Olivia (presented to her as ‘Pinkie’, as her nickname since childhood has been Pinky) was drawn by Kenneth Green (1905-1986), in 1970. It has been exhibited several times. Several of Kenneth’s portraits are in the National Portrait Gallery in London, such as his famous double portrait of Sir Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten.
Olivia in a tangle-wood at Portmeirion in North Wales in the 1980s
Olivia as a sea goddess holding a bunch of freshly-picked sea thrift, on the coast of Cornwall.
Olivia and our dog Kim on top of Mount Snowdon in North Wales. We walked all the way up, and fortunately it was a beautiful sunny day. From the top we could see as far as Ireland, and of course, the much nearer Isle of Anglesey.
Olivia as a naiad (stream nymph) in the aptly-named Fairy Glen in North Wales.
Olivia with a mischievous smile in the woods. This time she is a dryad (wood nymph).
Olivia on the porch of our room at Portmeirion in North Wales. Noel Coward wrote his play Blithe Spirit in that room in 1941.
Olivia doing a painting of corn stooks in a field in Somerset. The corn stooks were made by our friend Desmond Fry, a farmer who insisted on retaining the old-fashioned farming methods. Since his death several years ago, there are no more corn stooks in the area, and the old ways of drying the corn are gone forever.

The painting of corn stooks is finished.

Olivia painting in our garden.

Olivia is here very happy with the beautiful red wall flowers in our garden. The building behind her is now her studio.

Olivia beside our friend Lady Louise Stockdale. Louise, née Fermor-Hesketh, and Olivia’s mother Moyra became friends in their teens, and during the War they both drove an ambulance together in London during the blackout (a very difficult thing to do with no lights!) The Army officer who was requested to teach them how to drive their ambulance fell in love with Olivia’s mother and married her, and became Olivia’s father. Louise became a delightful friend of ours until her death in 1994. Her husband Edmund was knighted because he was Lord Mayor of London. Here Olivia is wearing an amusing brooch depicting an ocean liner, one of the many retro art deco things which she likes to collect and often wears.
Olivia in our garden wearing her glorious Second World War dress which bears the motto on its belt: ‘Now that coupons are scarce, I use my scraps’. She found the outfit in a box of bits and pieces that she bid for in a local auction in Somerset. It later featured in an exhibition at the Imperial war Museum in London and remained on loan with them for some time. It is made up of pieces of silk scraps, as are the hat and bow.
Olivia wearing her wartime outfit at a 1940s evening at the local village hall
At the races in Baden Baden in Germany. We are with our friend Clara Coleridge, who is now Mrs. Ben Hebblethwaite.
Olivia with Zoe Wanamaker, years ago, at the laying of the foundation stone by Prince Philip for The Shakespeare Globe Theatre in London. The Globe was the dream of our friend Sam Wanamaker, Zoe’s father, but he died in 1993, before this event took place. He devoted more than forty years of his life to raising the funds to reconstruct Shakespeare’s original theatre, and although his dream has now come true, he was cheated by death of the chance to see it. But perhaps he sees it from the Beyond. Let us hope so.
Long ago, when I still had dark hair. We were invited for Christmas by our friend Air Marshal Sir Victor Goddard (who had given the speech at our wedding), to spend it with him and his daughter Jane and her husband Paddy, at Naas, which is southwest of Dublin in Ireland. I wore a red shirt for Christmas Day, and Olivia has Christmas tree tinsel at her neck as a brooch, typically inventive as usual. Olivia and I are both part Irish, but this was our first visit to that unique island of Cuchulain, Deirdre, and the other mythical heroes of old. But with Sir Victor present, we had a real hero in our midst, as he is the man who proposed to the General Staff and Churchill during the War that the soldiers trapped at Dunkirk be retrieved by an armada of small boats. He is thus the only man we ever knew who had personally saved tens of thousands of people’s lives. It is a pity he is not in the picture with us.
All the sunflowers are staring at Olivia because she is so beautiful. This was taken in the Vaucluse, near Roussillon, in the South of France.
In the Chinese countryside, Olivia has stooped down to look more closely at the wildflowers known as er hua, which means ‘February Flower’. They bloom in profusion in China in the same season as the snowdrops bloom in Britain. They cover such vast areas that they create carpets of flowers like British bluebells.
With our friend Ying Ruo-cheng, at his house in Beijing. Ruo-cheng was a former Deputy Arts Minister in China. He also translated Shakespeare and was a famous actor in China. He appeared in a leading role as The Governor in the film The Last Emperor (1987). He also appeared in the film Little Buddha (1994) as Lama Norbu, and he played Kublai Khan in the TV series Marco Polo (1982). His English was flawless and he was a man of deep culture and cosmopolitan taste in the arts. He died in 2003 after many years’ struggle with cancer. At the time of this photo he was already desperately ill, but he bravely showed no signs of it and talked animatedly about his love for Shakespeare as if he were a young man who had only just discovered him. His passionate enthusiasm for the arts was an inspiration to all who knew him.
Olivia at the Shangri-la Hotel in Beijing, with one of the restaurant managers.
Olivia rubbing a Ming Dynasty spouting bowl at the Confucius Temple in Beijing, where I have always been very friendly with the staff. I arranged the funding for the revival of the annual Imperial Confucius ceremony, which involved making period costumes for 120 people. I took part in the ceremony as a mandarin myself. The music and dance in the ceremony were extremely ancient, said to go back thousands of years, before even the birth of Confucius. The Temple’s precious large chime stone was brought out for the occasion, which had been donated to the Temple personally by the Emperor Guangxi, and which was made of a gigantic slab of jade. Its tone when struck was remarkable. How many people can say they have heard a jade chime stone? As for the spouting bowl, it demonstrates the power of sound, and shows how water spouts arise and spurt into the air from the nodes of the interference patterns of the sound vibrations which appear on the surface of the water. The bowl is cast of bronze. These bowls and the principles of how they work are described in my book The Genius of China.
Olivia standing in the Blind Room of the Temple of Seti I at Abydos in Egypt. It is sealed off from the main temple and can only be reached from the roof. We had special permission to inspect it. When I saw that it was covered in so much sand, with windblown rubbish on top, I personally paid to have the room cleared. It took twenty men two months to clear the sand away, much of which had been there since antiquity.
Olivia as a Nile Goddess, drifting down that beautiful river in a felucca, which is a small sailing boat.
Olivia standing in the doorway of the Transverse Chamber (sometimes called The Sarcophagus Chamber) of the Osireion at Abydos. It is a room which is generally not open to the public, but we had permission to work there. Huge bats live in there, the size of crows. They made their displeasure apparent when we interfered with their territory, but after flying past us and nearly hitting us on the head as they made their frantic escape, they did not bother us. The canal, beyond which Olivia is standing, is about 30 feet deep. We had to wear wellies in the chamber because it was so flooded. And try buying wellies in Egypt! Rising damp has been rapidly destroying the important art work and texts inside the chamber. This is due to the construction of the Aswan Dam, which has over several decades wreaked untold damage on so many of the main archaeological monuments of Upper Egypt.
Olivia mysteriously seen through the high reeds growing in the Osireion at Abydos in Egypt.
Olivia as a wraithe in one of the chapels of the Temple of Seti I at Abydos in Egypt. She tends to dress like that, and also wear a white scarf, when we are working in Egypt. This is very popular with the rural Egyptian women, who all smile in a very friendly fashion at her, in approval of her efforts to show respect to their traditions. See the photo of her on the roof of the Temple of Denderah.
Olivia standing surrounded by a fruit she loves, on Banana Island, in the Nile River near Luxor.
Olivia eating the bananas she picked on Banana Island in the River Nile near Luxor in Egypt.
Overlooking the Nile. Olivia bought the dress in the bazaar in Cairo.
Olivia testing the depth of the canal of the Osireion at Abydos in Egypt. The lengthy stick has come to rest on one of the fallen stones which fill the canal. At left the wall is riddled with small chapels. Visitors are not normally allowed to walk along the narrow ledge and probe the canal. Olivia persuaded the inspectors to clean all the windblown rubbish floating in the canal in return for the gift of our wellington boots when we left.
Olivia saying hello to the Goddess Sekhmet in the small ancient chapel near the Temple of Karnak in Egypt.
We had permission to inspect the foundations of some Egyptian temples, but it did mean crawling through spaces like this on our hands and knees through the sand and feeling our way in some rather dubious places. I took this photo of Olivia crawling after me, in her usual intrepid fashion.
Olivia as a meadow fairy. This is a wild patch in our garden, with high grasses and ox-eye daisies.
The fennel ‘forest’ in our yard. I like to go and nibble the ripening seeds, which are just at head height, beside the various finches who are eating them at the same time. We have green finches, bullfinches, gold finches, and chaffinches. But there are plenty of seeds for everybody!
Olivia with our friends Gaie (Abigail Alling) and Laser (Mark van Thillo) who live on a boat in the Pacific Ocean most of the time studying coral, real adventurers and oceanographers! They also lived for two years in Biosphere Two, a sealed biosphere in America which was meant to simulate a journey to Mars. They have never stopped journeying, but have not yet reached Mars.
No, that’s not our country cottage in the background. That’s the private castle of the Prince of Liechtenstein, but what is more interesting is what is in the foreground, namely Olivia.
Olivia during our stay with Peter and Helen Mitchell at their holiday home in the Languedoc, in France, circa 1990.
Olivia as a nereid (sea nymph). She is about to jump into the sea off the coast of Ithaca. This was during the two weeks we spent with a friend on neighbouring Cephalonia who was in the cast of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, which we watched being made. But even Penelope Cruz in her bikini was no match for Olivia when it came to being a bathing beauty. (She was on the same boat, along with her mother Carmen and brother Eduardo.)
Olivia with our friend, the author Colin Wilson, on one of our trips to Egypt, at a temple which appears to be Karnak.
Celebrating the New Year in 1987 with our very dear friends Jake and Fiona Eberts in their huge flat in Holland Park, London. They have both now gone to that place which awaits us all.
Olivia as the Sybil of Cuma in a meditative mood, sitting in one of the carved niches of the Sybil’s cave on a bench carved from the solid rock.
Olivia as the Sybil of Cuma, standing in the place where the real Sybil stood inside her cave at Cuma, and with a giant hound tethered to the rock in the ancient carved tether-hold. In ancient times, the Sybil has three such hounds beside her, one on one side and two on the other, but we only had one hound available for the photo.
Olivia glimpsed in our garden.
In our office where we work together.
A snapshot of us exploring the many ruins, caves, and tunnels in the vicinity of Cuma and Baia in Italy. This one is a Roman military tunnel.
At the wedding of our friends John and Suzi Martineau.
Olivia on Kitchener’s Island in the Nile, near Aswan.
Olivia sitting and reading on a warm spring day in our yard. Behind her, against the brick wall, is the rare white-flowering japonica which we grew from a tiny twig cutting, in full blossom. I do not believe it is possible to buy this rare sport of japonica commercially.
Olivia in Saint-Sulpice Church in Paris. Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code got a lot of things wrong, whether on purpose or by mistake we do not know. This photo is a clue to the truth. The gnomon (glimpsed at far left of the photo) is a diversion, as is the brass meridian line.
A studio portrait photo of us long ago by the photographer Mark Gerson, when I still had dark hair.
Olivia with our friend Rebecca Gethin many years ago.
Olivia and myself in our Egyptian galabiyahs on a Nile boat with a friend.
Here we are talking with astronomer Patrick Moore at the launch of my book The Sirius Mystery in 1976.
Another photo with Patrick Moore. Our friend the space artist David Hardy is in the background.
A third photo with Patrick Moore.
In our office with my best friend from university, John Coggeshall, and his wife, Chris.
A recent Christmas card from us. The robin is no relation, but represents the bird life in our garden. And he sings a lot from a holly tree.
Kissing Olivia after leaving the church on our wedding day. The man in the top hat behind us is her father. Olivia would not let me shave off my beard for the wedding because she said she liked pulling on it.
Olivia and myself wearing a bow tie.
Another photo of Olivia and myself with the bow tie.
Olivia in a reflective pose in her twenties. She believes the dress was from Biba.
Olivia holds the dove of peace in her hand.
Olivia having her birthday in Singapore. I ordered her a few flowers! We stayed at the Raffles Hotel.
Appearing at Barnes and Noble in New York City to promote the launch of our Penguin Classic book, Aesop: The Complete Fables. I had laryngitis so that Olivia had to give the speech and answer the questions.
Olivia and me standing outside our house in the days when I still had dark hair.
Olivia as Maid of Honour at the wedding of our friend Liz Blundell to Charles Teall, in Warwickshire. At right are Liz’s parents George and Marcelle Blundell.
Olivia standing amidst a sea of the flowering herb feverfew which grows wild in our garden. She is holding a sprig of syringa (Belle Étoile, the beautifully scented one), and the tiny bush of it seen peeking up behind the feverfew is now enormous. The tree against the wall is a morello cherry.
Sitting on a lovely Italian restaurant veranda which you reach as you come out of the ruins of Pompeii. The food there is excellent, and the ‘mama’ makes her own limoncello which she keeps in a freezer and brings out to serve cold.
A studio portrait photo of Olivia by Mark Gerson.
When she was 20 and 21, Olivia ran this kitchen shop. She has just drawn the ‘S’ for ‘SALE’ on the window.
Olivia, aged 20, and Mrs. Shakespeare, the flower seller whose stall was on the corner of High Street Kensington and Kensington Church Street. Mrs. Shakespeare had been selling flowers in that spot since the War and all the locals knew her. She added friendliness and joy to the neighbourhood. Olivia is wearing a mini-dress which she bought at Bus Stop, around the corner, a shop which competed with Biba. This photo was published in the local Kensington newspaper at the time.
Olivia with little Mina Chen, showing her drawing, in Beijing.
Olivia with our friend Meng Fanjing in Bejing.
Here we are with Tom King, MP, when he was Minister of Defence. We forget the names of the other two people in the middle of the photo. Tom’s wife Jane is not in the photo.
Olivia always looks good when she is on the telephone in the middle of cooking dinner.



© Robert Temple 2009-2022