5 Hamston House, London W8

In the late 70s I was living in Paris and was a dealer of dreams, having clients extending from London, Paris, New York, Vienna and Germany. But, despite being busy during the day with work rushing here and there, I was desperately lonely in the evening.  Could I possibly live again in London I asked myself?

I had rented out my West Hampstead flat to two couples, one after the other. They turned out to be erotic dancers at Raymond's Revue Bar in Soho! One couple was Egyptian and Swedish and the second couple,  who he knew, were Swiss and Moroccan.  I had an arrangement that I could stay in my flat between the rentals so I thought I would start the search to buy a better flat in an upmarket part of town - Kensington, London W8.

I found a delightful young man in a Kensington estate agency who seemed to take a personal interest in what I thought I wanted. After all I was in the world of antiques and just had to step back in time. He said he had just the place but unfortunately it had been taken off the market. However, he wanted to show it to me. A little odd if it was not available but I went along nevertheless out of curiosity. 

It was the flat of my dreams. An attractive first floor flat in a small red brick Edwardian mansion block. Art nouveau stained glass front door and a hall full of Victorian mirror tiles making the hall cum dining room look larger. A big kitchen and bathroom extending off the central circular hall. Two bedrooms and a lounge with a grand piano all tastefully decorated with mahogany furniture. My dream destination and I wanted it.

The owner was Jack X with an ordinary surname I have forgotten. He was a batman for a British diplomat. I think they both lived there but that part is unclear or whether he had inherited the flat. I know not. He also cleaned the silver for the Lebanese businessman opposite, Mr Hakim from Beirut in exile. This was the time in the late 70s when the war was raging in his country. 

After seeing the flat I was disinterested in viewing any others.  I also knew that one day this young man would have his own estate agency. He was too good to be wasting his time and energy for anyone else! I was right, years later he had his own agency in Knightsbridge.

I went back to Paris and thought again about moving back to London. It was 1980 and I was now commuting between the two capitals setting up to exhibit at the monthly Ephemera Society fairs and buying like crazy for my Paris clients in London and my U.K. clients in Paris. I specialised in conjuring and pre cinema objects, Ephemera, books and prints as I had joined the Magic Lantern Society and even the Mechanical Music Society. My clients taught me everything.  I learned fast and had no competition for 15 years.

I flew back to London one Friday and got into a bath exhausted around 5.00 pm.  I concentrated my thoughts on my dream flat, even thinking of wall plugs and the position of my lamps. I was right there 'walking' around that flat. How I wanted it!  I shot out of the bath and raced to the phone dialling the estate agency. It was after hours by this time as agencies closed at 5.30 pm but my mind was set on the flat. The young man answered the phone.

'Jilliana, I've been trying to call you in Paris just now.  That flat in Hamston House you wanted came back on the market only today.'

'I'll take it!' said I.

And I did!

Written in Casa de los Bates, Motril, Spain on 7/2/17.