Val's letters had always kept me in touch with what was going on in London so it was no surprise to me in October 1958,
when I read the front page stories that Val, Lew, Norman Collins and the rest of these TV pioneers had made enormous personal
fortunes in a massive £7,000,000 share deal.
Val received £190,000 and the Grade brothers (Lew and Leslie) shared £319,000. A month later, in addition to these
sums, Val's original £1000 investment was worth £278,000 and Lew's £1250 had soared to £284,368.
Their original 5p founders shares were soon to be worth £14 each. Today, all these amounts are worth ten times
My lover decided it was time to enjoy his newly acquired wealth. "I'm going to start living in the style to which
I'm entitled," he announced. "I want you to enjoy it too. But now that I'm back with Helen and she has accepted
you as one of the family, there's no reason why you and your mother shouldn't share some of the good things in life with us.
"I've bought a wonderful flat at Antibes in the South of France, and Helen is living there for the summer. Why
don't you and your mother fly down and join Helen and I as our guests for a super holiday?"
So, mother and I flew to Nice where we were met by a sun-tanned Val, who whisked us off to join Helen in his beautiful
white and gold apartment overlooking the blue Mediterranean.
Looking back after all these years I must say the situation was bizarre, but since Helen and I had made our pact to keep
our loved one happy there didn't seem anything unusual at the time.
Helen was the perfect hostess, as charming and attentive as Val himself. Their French chef cooked our meals; Val
dispensed the champagne. He had also acquired a yacht, on which we spent many happy, carefree days cruising along the
Provencal coast. We lived like millionaires ... which, indeed, Val now was.
The night before we were due to return to England, Val threw a little dinner party for us on the terrace of the best
restaurant in Antibes. He sat at the head of the table with Helen on his right. I was on his left, with mother
The air was heavy with the scent of pines; the sea sparkled in the moonlight - the perfect setting for our handsome host
to toast us all in champagne and make a little speech.
"My two darlings, I want you both to know this is the happiest moment of my life," he said. "I've always wanted
just to have you both sitting here on either side of me and for you to know you are the two great loves of my life.
"I'll always treasure this wonderful memory, sitting here on this beautiful summer's evening, secure and happy in
the knowledge that we all love each other."
He raised his glass. The crystal goblets clinked as the three of us toasted each other. Val solemnly kissed
us each in turn.
The next day Helen stayed on in the apartment to close it down for the winter. Val flew back from Nice with mother
and I. His Rolls Royce was waiting at London Airport, and he dropped us off at our flat in Cumberland Mansions.
"Wouldn't you like a snack or something?" mother asked.
"No thanks," he replied. "I've got a lot of work to do."
He kissed me lightly on my cheek, got back in his car and was driven off ... to his other woman.
I never saw him again. Nor did Helen. As far as we were concerned he went missing.
There was a divorce in November 1965. He gave Helen the Bayswater flat and a large income. Some weeks
after the divorce Helen rang me and asked me to go and see her. She poured out a glass of champagne.
"Noele," she said, "we've both been shamefully treated. As you know I pitied Aileen Cochrane. All the
time we were at Antibes Val was planning to leave us both and go to her. It's incredible that neither of us had any
inkling of what he was up to."
Helen went on to say that as I'd given her husband the best 20 years of my life, Val should leave me something substantial
in his will.
"Leave it to me," she said. "I'll arrange things for you. I'll talk to Val."
Whether she did ever talk to him or not, I'll never know. Val left me nothing. Aileen became the third Mrs
Val Parnell and was with him until 1972 when he died from a heart attack. He was 78.
Special thanks to Maria Brabiner for the article