22 August 2011


               Time present and time past

               Are both perhaps present in time future,

               And time future contained in time past.
               Footfalls echo in the memory

               Down the passage which we did not take

               Towards the door we never opened

               Into the rose-garden.
                                                       T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Photo by EP
Forgive the sitter’s hand, portrayed with a technique that manages to be both tentative and laborious at the same time, but I have not yet finished. The sitter is none other than the erstwhile officer of the Indian Army (with his exotic tales of the British Raj) whom our dog, Bean, managed to introduce me to, as you may remember, in July of last year. I passed the captain again only last week in the same spot on the same street, and asked him if he would allow me to paint his portrait. Yes!

I have worked from photographs I blush to admit, and the painting depicted on the wall is a portrait of my captain, Captain Cox, as a young man. I thought it might be good to include it in my composition, though it is not displayed in the room where he sits. I felt it would lend a perspective in time.

Talking of exotic portraits, I suddenly noticed one in the form of a mural or a sophisticated piece of ‘graffiti’ this very day. It is of Billy Fury, the famous singer of the 1960s and 70s.

Photo by EP

A local politician wanted to bestow some sort of appellation on a long unnamed alley that joins two main roads near here, simply for ease of identification in reporting crimes that take place in it!
Photo by EP
It is claimed that suggestions were invited, and Fury came up winner. Round the corner in the next street there used to be a Decca Recording Studio where Fury recorded some of his big hits. Laurence Olivier and full cast recorded an LP of Othello there in the early 60s, too, to which I contributed two lines, crowd noises and a tin-whistle continuo in the Cyprus scenes. By the way the road sign was stolen within days, but Billy Fury Way is now out of reach without a ladder.

Continuing the roll call of remarkable residents of NW6 (Kathleen and I are in search of the remarkable in West Hampstead so as to compile a local-history slim volume), Kathleen has discovered that a distinguished modernist poet, feminist and futurist spent her childhood and adolescence around another corner not far away – one Mina Loy, friend of Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Jean Cocteau, Marcel Duchamp and Tristan Tzara; married to Arthur Caravan, the Dadaist poet and pugilist; proclaimed by the New York Evening Sun the exemplary ‘modern woman’; and admired by Ezra Pound and by T. S. Eliot, who, with his wife Vivien, lived in the same local street with his in-laws upon his marriage in 1915.

Mina Loys childhood home. Photo by EP
Loy certainly set herself apart in composing an apology of Genius:
               Lepers of the moon 
               all magically diseased 
               we come among you 
               of our luminous sores …

I discovered a couple of finials atop a house nearby the enormous one in which Loy had grown up. I understand the dragon is a new addition though the weather vane dates from 1883, like the house … perspective in time again!

Photo by EP
And perspective in a prehistoric monster in suburban privet:

West Hampstead topiary. Photo by EP

A minimalist estate agents near West End Green.
Photo by EP
On the way up the road from my quest today, a fifteen-minute walk, I counted fifteen estate agents, most displaying photos of flats – swish minimalist interiors hidden inside their Victorian brick facades; the words ‘Gone’ or ‘Under Offer’ were much in evidence.


  1. As always such interesting visual and textual perspectives but I most particularly love the portrait of the Indian Army officer - I've wondered about him since you mentioned him first as he sounded such an interesting character. Thank you for revealing him, he looks as interesting as he sounded.

  2. Oh there is nothing quite like English topiary! A lovely set of anecdotes. Thank you.

  3. What an interesting subject your Indian Officer made, He brings to mind actor Patrick Godfrey.It is fun to see another model from time to time.

  4. I stumbled across this great blog by pure chance when looking for dragon finial photos. I can't be sure because the dragon is about 20-30 foot away but it looks like one of our very own large dragons

    They make for a great architectural feature on the roof and both the dragon and weathervane look very nice on the property. If it is any of interest we are one of a few places that still sell dragon finials similar to the one shown in the picture above: