THE THREESOME EVERY MARRIAGE NEEDS (it’s not what you think!).
Novelist LIZ FREMANTLE and jeweller DINNY HALL are such close friends they couldn’t imagine living apart – but where does Dinny’s partner Piers fit in? ‘There are three of us in this relationship
Have you ever had that dreamy conversation with your girlfriends about the future? You know the one; it’s where you pledge to sell up and move in together once the planet has run out of single men and/or the children have left home. In theory, it makes perfect sense – until you realise that in practice a houseful of women would drive you bonkers. Oh, and you also have a partner, remember him? He’s definitely not a commune sort of guy.
But what about a cosy threesome? You, your soulmate and your best mate escaping to the country, far from the madding crowd and sharing pretty much everything. Yes, tongues might wag in the village shop, but a little gossip is a small price to pay for a thoroughly modern ménage à trois, as jewellery designer Dinny Hall has discovered.
When she and her partner Piers Blofeld (nephew of former cricket commentator Henry) moved out of London into a rambling farmhouse in Norfolk last year, she couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her best friend behind. And so she invited historical novelist Liz Fremantle to come, too. ‘I asked Piers how he felt about it first,’ says Dinny. ‘He replied that he’d expected Liz to be involved because he knew how close we were and as he also enjoyed her company, it seemed like a marvellous idea.’
As we all sit drinking coffee in the summer stillness of their garden, it’s easy to see why Dinny and Liz fell in love with the place. For Piers, a literary agent at Sheil Land Associates, this corner of Norfolk is his ancestral home; he and Dinny rent it from his elder brother Tom who inherited the sprawling Hoveton estate.
‘I’m a Londoner through and through,’ observes Liz, with a bemused sigh. ‘I love living somewhere so leafy, but Dinny is the only person in the world who could have persuaded me to leave the city.’ Blonde and willowy, Liz is a charming foil to Dinny, who is fabulously outspoken, with a take-no-prisoners sense of humour. Piers, by contrast, is the very embodiment of ancien régime good humour and well-bred affability.
‘The great thing about Liz being here is that I can wander off all day with a chainsaw and Dinny
won’t feel abandoned,’ he says mildly. ‘We do things separately and together; Liz and I watch the football, whereas Dinny and Liz watch Strictly – it means I dodge that bullet. They also go to pilates, whereas Liz and I will accompany each other to literary events in Norwich or London.’
These three trailblazers reflect a key social shift in how older people are reassessing their lives. Academics call it co-housing; where people over 50 live in shared ‘intentional’ communities as a way of reducing social isolation – with its proven negative impact on both mental and physical health – and offering support to one another in the decades ahead. It makes sense now we’re all living longer.
It also makes for fun. Presenter Mariella Frostrup recently admitted she’s been begging female friends to move in with her and her husband, human rights lawyer Jason McCue, after her own jolly ménage à trois recently came to an end. ‘My best friend, who was living with us, went back to Florence and it’s very lonely without her,’ the 55-year-old mother-of-two said. ‘My life is bereft. I want her back.’
Here in East Anglia, Liz, Dinny and Piers are clearly making their threesome work. They spark off one another intellectually and laughter constantly bubbles up, as well it might; what could instil greater cheer than friends with benefits in a sylvan idyll? ‘Let’s make it plain: the benefits do not extend to the bedroom,’ points out Dinny firmly. ‘Only Piers and I share a bed.’
Liz adds her voice for extra emphasis: ‘We may be Bloomsbury in the Broads, but without the sex; the only meetings are of minds. Dinny and Piers are fabulous, good-looking people, of course they are, but that’s as far as it goes.’ This is slightly disappointing, not least because Liz has had relationships with both men and women in the past, which is, by definition, a thrillingly Bloomsbury Set thing to do. Piers puts paid to any lingering doubts. ‘Liz is an attractive woman but ours is a sibling type of relationship and the boundaries are so clear we’ve never even needed to speak about them,’ he says. ‘For example, I wouldn’t dream of popping over and asking Liz for a cup of sugar if we ran out. I’d drive to the shop.’
‘Would you really?’ asks Dinny in astonishment. ‘Honestly?’ echoes Liz.
‘Yes, and I have done just that,’ Piers says. ‘It’s a matter of principle.’
By this stage, you will have gathered that although the three technically live under the same roof, they reside in and rent separate cottages – albeit with an interconnecting door. Liz always knocks first if Piers is at home. Piers always knocks. Dinny and her schnauzer Bo wander about at will. ‘I think we’ve all reached the age where we are
LIZ and DINNY are best friends
And they all live HERE DINNY and PIERS are partners