In Scotland they call them kelpies; in Ireland, gremlins; in England, elves. They are, as everyone knows, the "little people," endowed with boundless energy, a talent for making sober humans smile and the habit of never staying in one place for long. Sometimes they even turn up in the pages of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, as does Janet Graham this week. Janet is a 5'2" blue-eyed brunette whose story on skiing behind the Iron Curtain—well, a sort of skiing—begins on page 64.
British-born Janet Graham comes from a long line of writers. Both maternal and paternal grandmothers were authors, and Janet is the daughter of the late Jan Struther, the famous novelist who wrote Mrs. Miniver, thereby supplying Actress Greer Garson with a one-way ticket to stardom.
If Jan Struther's daughter writes in a style that may seem more American than British it is because Janet was shipped off to America in 1940, at age 11, to escape London's bombing. Her visit lasted nine years, and after being educated at the Quaker George School in Bucks County, Pa., she moved to New York to begin her writing career in the poetry department of Good Housekeeping. "I left Good Housekeeping to do a couple of years of footloose travel and free-lance writing on the Continent; did a short spell at the British Embassy in Paris, but quit to go by barge to Marseilles with an anarchist."
Janet, who has always considered herself more writer than athlete, spent her early years in a "golf-mad household," did her first sports reporting at the age of 7 when, seated on a backyard wall overlooking the 3rd green of a Rye, England golf course, she scrupulously wrote down some unfamiliar expletives under the title, "Golfers' Conversations." "My nursemaid took one look at 'Golfers' Conversations' and temporarily halted my promising career."
When not on writing assignments, Janet lives in picturesque Streatley, Berkshire with her husband Patrick Rance and six children, "three of each kind," who range in age from 6 to 16. "My husband claims he only married me because he knew I'd been a Good Housekeeping editor. Imagine his chagrin on discovering I'd been dealing with poetry, not food." The Rances own a "cracker-barrel" type store that specializes in 80 different varieties of cheese, something for Rance to nibble on while Author Graham is not there to cook for him. Her footloose travels have taken her to Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Turkey, the Outer Hebrides, the Algerian Sahara and the scene of her most recent article, Rumania.
"My measurements," reports Miss Graham, in a modest cable from England, "if anyone is interested, are the same as the Venus de Milo...she needed to go on a diet, too." Skiing in Rumania, as the reader will discover, turned out to be a harrowing way to travel, and surely should have taken off a few of those Venus de Milo pounds.