West End Lane

January 29, 2009

Hitch-hiking, commonplace in the 1970’s, had disappeared in England by 1980. I kept thumbing it, usually from Brent X. Like a seabird struggling to take a leap from a sea cliff ledge. The wrench of leaving etc. Although I loved Geography, I was awkward with fellow college attendees. Contacts outside college led to riveting adventures. At Angel, I worked evenings and weekends at Muskrat Mirrors. Despicable individuals at college had spent their grants. I was earning for then very much money. There was a fashion for those mirrors. Mick, an art student from Bradford, who looked and dressed like an everyday Harold Wilson, drove a Rolls Royce. He founded Muskrat with Jeff, an art school hippy. We had contact through Dave Hart because of their art school origins. He borrowed us the white Bedford van at weekends and we drove out to see girls from Jarrow living in Staines. Spa, a superb skilled very fast driver was leant the Mercedes or Mustang. Other characters were Steve and Dave, two lovely Jewish lads who brought in work from Showbiz. Sidney Venning’s hardware shop was still open on West End Lane. There were links to Cambridge and Heaven beyond the scope of this story. I frequented the Blitz, The Wag, Heaven and the Embassy Club, and played football in the West Hampstead cage.
Public Houses in West Hampstead changed and the Black Lion’s name changed back again to the Black Lion. A vortex of provincials, foreigners and local lags. That’s where I met Marlene, a friend, and beyond the scope of this story. A man she met regularly at mysterious Mr Koch’s Charlotte’s Café was an Austrian count. He had a bit of finger missing, was a half-Irish Punjabi. Very haughty, perhaps in that Brahmin way. The year before he had been an Arab Sultan him.
Henry, the Hong Kong house minder looked after the building. Quite frail, he rarely left the basement. Sundays were slow and the faulty TV was tipped off the window ledge still plugged-in landing on the retaining wall adjacent to Henry’s window.
The workshop, off a short corridor where the Chinese boy grew vegetables for the upstairs restaurant. A foisty smell, registered at a definite point, remained un-locatable.
At the V and A an Exhibition on child death in the 17th and 18th century. Women in black and Nottingham lace, the child’s coffin portable and neat, like the ultimate travel accessory. High mortality meant a mix of siblings, uncles and opportunistic marriages in a time when bigamy was common and long before the Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages. It reminded me of a visit I’d made to morbid museums in Vienna.
Hampstead Heath to me had no feeling of antiquity, despite the Saxon dykes. The presence of the ice age though was obvious especially when the glacier edge was right here. Accidental fields and overlays by poets etc. On the occasion of the Great Storm on the evening of the 16th and the morning of 17th of November, 1987: I went up to Hampstead Heath. Several trees had fallen beautifully across crushed fences and paths.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: