Lady Macpherson, 78 (pictured, top), is sitting in the front room of her dainty London mews house having her hair cut. There is much giggling. Her identical twin sister, Anne Mallinson arrives a few minutes later. She lives around the corner, a few doors from Tony Blair, in a magnificent 1830s townhouse she “downsized” to when her brood flew the nest.
Anne bustles me downstairs to make coffee while her sister, Jean, gets a blow dry. “Now, tell me all about yourself,” she twinkles, even though I am here to interview her. We talk eyebrow threading, being a twin, children and my career. She’s warm, witty and conspiratorial.
Upstairs, the hairdresser leaves. “She was half an hour late,” Jean tuts in her Scottish lilt, before the poor girl is out of earshot. There is wet hair on the floor. “Have you been plucking birds?” asks Anne.
Jean and Anne were born in 1930 in Manchester, to liberal parents who were friends with the then Manchester Guardian founder CP Scott. They were evacuated during the war, first to Devon then to Canada. Jean, an ill, asthmatic child, married at 23 to Tommy, now Sir Tommy, Macpherson, a war hero. (He shuffles in later and shakes my hand – a good military grasp.) On her wedding day she was so frail, Anne had to stand in for her. Anne was married the following year. Unlike some identical twins, they married quite different men. Though they have the same initials: TSM.
These grand ladies live in a different London to me: one where the local parade of shops – upmarket florists, boutiques – feels like a village where everyone knows you. Where everyday London life – tubes, corner shops, buses – doesn't intrude.
Anne was the first female Lord Mayor of Westminster, and is still active with committees and charities. She gets tons of free tickets, which Jean steals. “I’m a sponger!” Jean ran the family estate in Scotland: her eldest son has now taken over.
They often get mistaken for each other. Once or twice a year they take part in twin research at King’s College – eye tests, blood tests, bone tests.
“We’re sometimes there all day – we once got a £2 sandwich voucher,” says Jean.
“But we got a parking fine the same day,” says Anne.
“We do memory tests, too,” she adds.
“I don’t remember those,” says Jean. And they throw back their heads and laugh.