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The Warp

Cheyne Walk

Nell and I moved into a Georgian house looking over the Thames on Cheyne Walk. The house was beautiful, with extensive wooden panelling. Beyond the road the river Thames flowed swiftly, sliding between its grey and sludgy banks.

It did not occur to us to buy furniture. We moved our few belongings into the vast rooms and they seemed insignificant, dwarfed by the expanse of elegant emptiness.

Entering the house from the street one would see first a hall, flanked by Ionic pillars. In the middle of this room stood our film projector and a group of dustbins.

At the end of this vast hall whose panels and pillars were painted light green was a boudoir which, because of its small size, seemed to us to be the easiest room in the house to heat and inhabit. We slept on a mattress on the floor. We strung strings across the room from which we hung our clothes.

Another room in this mansion was also inhabited, and this was the cellar directly under the boudoir. The writer Michael Alexander lived here. He spent his days in silence, working on a biography in the well of this room to which the light came only obliquely through a small window. Like us he slept on a mattress on the floor.

The ten or twelve rooms of the rest of the house were empty. Too large to heat, empty even when our meagre collection of furniture had been placed in them, they stretched away beautiful and desolate.

Later, after we’d sold it, it came to be lived in by Bianca Jagger.

Nell was pregnant now and one day I drove her to the tall block of a hospital in the Northern sector of the city. I remember standing at one of the vast windows on the seventeenth floor, looking out over London, a London that was covered with coursing snowflakes, coursing down past the window and sometimes adhering in damp globules to the outside of its panes.

Nell was delivered of a boy to whom we gave the name Roc, after the Chateau du Roc in the Dordogne where he had been conceived.


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