Holiday weekend in London
A Maclean's leisure feature
The Tower of London — and other renowned landmarks — get short shrift in this spirited, nostalgicvisit by a Maclean’s editor to whom London was once home and is still a delight that “calls me back every now and then with an irresistible voice"
LONDON'S EIGHT MILLION denizens live like the cells in frog spawn, in a teeming, frigid, palpitating propinquity, in a vast togetherness of isolations that sometimes becomes so intolerable it erupts into the most ghoulish murders of our times. Kippered by smog, mildewed by rain and tousled by daily strap-hanging, Londoners return from their jobs to toast their chilblains around fierce little fires that heat but a corner of those glacial caves they call every man’s castle. Icy bathrooms discourage most Londoners from more than one tub a week. Rube Goldbergish laundry rooms perpetuate an enormous sale of shirts with detachable collars, a device that permits the major garment to be worn two or three times without washing. A crease in the pants is so difficult to preserve in London’s dank homes, that most people give up trying.
The dark, narrow terrace house of the average Londoner smells of cats, yesterday's cabbage and the old leather campaign trunk that greatgranddad brought back from Omdurman. The stamp-sized backyard of the typical London dwelling, sprouting its incongruous culture of roses, radishes, carnations and cauliflowers, is enclosed by a high brick wall that intensifies the warren-like nature of metropolitan existence.
From tiny garages there emerges erratically onto London’s streets such an ear-splitting, boneshaking assemblage of scooters, bubble-buggies, motorcycle-sidecars, three-wheel runabouts and other midget rattletraps that the annual Londonto-Brighton Veteran Car Run comes as an amazing demonstration of mechanical sanity.
Londoners still drink coffee adulterated with the dried roots of chicory, a fleshy, blue-flowered weed that thrives in highway ditches and is used otherwise to bulk out cheap cattle fodder. They still eat sausages so full of old bread and minced
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animal muscles that such sausages were prohibited from sale in the British Pavilion at the recent Brussels World Fair by the same Belgian health authorities who blithely sanction for orphanage dinner tables the meat of sway-back horses. At the railroad stations Londoners still gnaw like rodents on buns that have hardened for days under flyblown glass covers. And in the average London café the waitresses still look as though they’ve slept all night on the kitchen floor.
Oh yes, life in London can set on edge the teeth of Canadians, even New Canadians like myself. I cleared out of London twelve years ago and came to Canada where I bask blissfully in centrally heated cleanliness, in functional plumbing, in man-sized automobiles and in the appetizing vision of herds of fat steak beasts meandering endlessly up the ramps to the abattoirs.
Yet every now' and then, darn it. I find myself called back to London by an irresistible voice.
It’s not the ancient buildings that draw me. I worked for ten years in the shadow of St. Paul’s and never once went inside. I was once dragged into Buckingham Palace but only because I had to pick up a medal. I’ve been in Westminster Abbey twice, once for the Coronation of George VI and once for the wedding of our present Queen, but these w'erc invitations I couldn’t turn down. I’ve never seen the Changing of the Guard, having done quite enough of that routine myself, though never in the musical comedy garb of red tunic and bearskin. The Tower of London bores me stiff. I wouldn’t be found dead in Madame Tussaud’s Waxworks even if some friends do feel that my effigy will stand in its Rogues’ Gallery.
I know you can ride around London on tops of buses all day for about fifty cents, but 1 prefer short sharp rides in taxis at twenty-five cents a mile. 1 know there are some marvelous Rembrandts in the National Gallery and that the Kensington Science Museum is a “must” for all who take the atomic age seriously. But none of these attractions summon me, because I’m a Philistine. I’m also acutely conscious of the brevity of life and so I do only the things I like to do and I avoid whenever possible the things 1 merely ought to do.
So what carries me back to London? Well murder is not the only folly that lures the guilty to its scene. 1 am pulled to London by Fleet Street where 1 committed the folly of becoming a journalist; by the West End. in whose theatres, cabarets and restaurants I tried to forget that doltish act; and by Richmond, the ancient suburb where I took in wedlock Kathleen and begat Timothy, the wife and son who for more than twenty years have shared the absurdities of my inkslinging life.
On my recent weekend in London, which began at the degenerately journalistic hour of Friday midday, I headed for Fleet Street as irrevocably as the wraith of Henry VIII flits toward the Bloody Tower. That half-mile-long canyon between Temple Bar and Ludgate Circus is flanked by the tall buildings of newspaper publishers, honeycombed by a hundred pubs and shaken gently during many hours of the day and night by the vibrations of roaring underground presses. The most striking building—“It strikes me pink.” wrote the late Victor Thompson, a Daily Herald man—is the black glass cube of Lord Beaverbrook’s Daily Express. The most famous pub is Ye Qkle Cheshire Cheese
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This admitted Philistine is lured hack to London by its theatres, pubs and atmosphere
Holiday weekend in London
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“You can be touched for ten bob by a genuine starving genius”
where, two centuries ago. Samuel Johnson and James Boswell founded the Fleet Street traditions of scribbling, talking and drinking.
Some three thousand journalists employed by eight morning newspapers, eight Sunday newspapers and three evening newspapers, by half a dozen domesticand foreign-news agencies, and by the London staffs of scores of provincial and overseas publications, staunchly uphold the Johnsonian cult.
At Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese they drink fifteen-cents-a-pint beer out of pewter tankards that were used in Johnson’s day. Some even sit in Johnson’s chair and eat, for about a dollar a plate, his favorite dish—helpings from a steamed pudding stuffed with steak, oysters, mushrooms and wild larks. At Fleet Street’s second most famous pub. Ye Olde Cock Tavern, a haunt of Pepys, they buy on draft any of a dozen of Britain's choicest beers and drink them from beautiful silver tankards. An occasional Cock specialty, at ten cents an item, is hardboiled gulls' eggs. These delicacies are collected by small hoys who dangle over the white cliffs of Dover on the ends of lifelines held by their fathers. There is little danger of supplies petering out. 1 am assured that if the boys come up empty-handed, or utter one cry of fear, they receive a well deserved thrashing.
Although there is one excellent French restaurant in Fleet Street — paradoxically named The Wellington — most of the journalists dine casually on tento fiftcen-cent meat pies, sausage rolls and sandwiches in their favorite pub. Kemsley men returning from overseas always head for Barney Finnigan's because it is that Dublin worthy's custom to pour them on the house a "welcome home” glass of champagne. Daily Express men huddle in Poppin’s, a tiny bar standing opposite the shop in which Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, used to slit his clients' throats. Daily Mail men hang out in Ye Olde Bell which was built immediately after the Great Fire of London and survived a World War II bomb that demolished a whole block across the road. The Guardian men like The Clachan, which in Johnson's time was called The Mitre. Here Johnson used to dandle on his knees pretty Methodist girls "solely with a view to their conversion." Today The Clachan offers not Methodists but the smallest and most succulent meat pies in London. They may be popped into the mouth whole and arc called Ticky Snacks. In the Evening Standard pub. the Two Brewers, Randolph Churchill, the burly son of Sir Winston, often has a drink with a man who’s beaten him twice at the parliamentary polls—Michael Foot, the frail, asthmatic brilliant little Labor Party essayist.
The biggest Fleet Street pub, and one in general use, is The Falstaffe whose downstairs bar is hung with an everchanging photo gallery of the newsmen who are currently on top.
Here the savants who write elegant prose for The Times or The Guardian about the latest diplomatic deadlock rub shoulders unflinchingly with the vulgarians who scribble for the tabloid Daily Sketch and Daily Mirror about spicy murders, unfrocked priests and the gallivantings of titled chorus girls. Both cliques mingle congenially with the pro-
vincial, commonwealth and foreign correspondents who mercilessly scalp their stories. An exotic touch is added by the Asian and African correspondents who file angry dispatches to Aden or Freetown about the Colonial Office’s inflexible determination to maintain an import duty on Cadillacs for tribal chieftains.
It’s easy to pick out, by the unashamed way in which they touch you for ten bob, the genuises who are starving, and sneaking nightly sleeps in the printing cellars, while searching for somebody who’ll read their poems. Such a Fleet Streeter was the late Dylan Thomas.
But at a glance it is impossible to tell which average Fleet Street man works for which paper. Some dress in sloppy fedoras and trench coats, some in hacking jackets and desert boots, some in bowler hats and striped pants and some in the latest Savile Row styles. Hannen Swaffer, the aging Daily Herald columnist, affects a wide-awake black hat, a voluminous black cape, a long black cane and other accoutrements which give him the panache of a Cockney Zorro. Noel Whitcombe, the Daily Mirror columnist. and Fleet Street’s outstanding dandy, buys a fresh carnation for his buttonhole every morning. The late Ian MacKay, a superb News Chronicle columnist, who used to roar, "I have every vice save that of virtue,” wore a shabby old raincoat and in lieu of a hat a shock of frizzy, gingery hair standing eight inches high above his massive forehead.
"A race of noble madmen”
Fleet Street men have only one aspect in common, an awful look in the eye. Noting this the late G. K. Chesterton, the journalist, poet and novelist, summed them up as "a race of noble madmen." Chesterton, a huge Bohemian figure in a billowing Ulster and a Wild West hat, may have been thinking at the time of little Dennis Dunn, the great comic writer of the Twenties and Thirties. Once, for his Daily Express column, Dunn rode on the shoulders of a Japanese high-wire artist one hundred and sixty feet above the old Crystal Palace grounds, and spurned a safety net. On another occasion he rode a lady’s bicycle. the most demeaning mount an Englishman can bestride, from Land's End to John o’ Groats.
But Chesterton was more probably thinking about the prank he plotted with George Bernard Shaw to enliven a dull dinner of Fleet Street celebrities held on the stage of the nearby Savoy Theatre. After feasting, the guests moved down to the auditorium expecting to hear a learned speech from Shaw on Fabianism. Shaw, who remained on the stage, launched into an astonishing and vituperative attack on one of the guests, Sir J. M. Barrie, the mild little author of Peter Pan. Shaw's denunciation of Barrie developed into a frenzy. Suddenly, at the climax of his diatribe, Shaw brandished a sword. On this signal Chesterton and two Fleet Street cronies sprang up in the audience and. drawing swords too, rushed the stage. There they fenced Shaw back into the wings and vanished for the rest of the evening, leaving the audience bugeyed. "Never from that day." wrote Chesterton, later, “has the slightest light
been thrown upon the reasons for our remarkable behavior."
Chesterton, with his friend the late Hilaire Belloc, the poet, used to frequent a pub called El Vino’s. Chesterton loved El Vino’s so much he once described heaven as "the other inn at the end of the world.” It’s a shabby old Regency wine and spirits bar with enormous barrels and racks of bottles around the walls. One of the heavy oaken chairs that surround marble - topped tables mounted on cast iron eagles’ legs is inscribed "Lord Northcliffe,” in memory of its one-time user, the founder of the Daily Mail and originator of modern, popular journalism. The Caspar Milquetoasts of El Vino’s drink double Scotches and gins at fifty cents a shot but the classic potwallopers down hefty goblets of claret. Burgundy, hock and champagne at between forty and sixty cents a crack.
Frank Bower, the florid, mountainous, hot-tempered licensee, who has a brother in Toronto, wears fancy Edwardian waistcoats and employs the most dazzling and ladylike barmaids in London. While he cultivates ân aura of conviviality Bower is a zealot for decorum. Any customer who flirts with a barmaid is bundled into Fleet Street. Bower seizes by the scruff of the neck and the seat of the pants and frog-marches to the door all singers, whistlers, staggerers and shouters, no matter how distinguished. Although he admits customers from the highest and lowest echelons of Fleet Street life he pounces like a tiger upon any junior who persistently buttonholes seniors with the object of gaining favors. No man who’s been thrown out of El Vino’s is ever readmitted. Fleet Street crawls with men, many of them famous, who are barred. I’ve been allowed in for the past twenty-five years largely because I stand quietly in a corner, keeping my eyes modestly on the carpet, watching my Ps and Qs and murmuring every time I raise my glass to my lips, the humble words, "Excuse me.”
Bower is the only publican in the world who cows me. When I was beckoned in El Vino's on my recent trip by a man named Hugh Cudlipp I first caught the eye of Bower, and received a nod of permission, before daring to move over.
Hugh Cudlipp, editorial director of the Daily Mirror group of tabloids is, at forty-six, probably the highest-paid journalist on earth. He started work at fourteen, for a dollar-fifty a week, as a cub reporter in his native Cardiff. Today he drives to work behind a chauffeur in a Rolls Bentley, flies about the country in his private piloted aircraft, spends his weekends aboard his yacht and uses the Daily Mirror regularly as an instrument for rocking the country. He’s a lithe, dark, galvanic Welshman with the mind and face of a good-humored fox.
When I was working as a cub with Cudlipp our careers almost terminated simultaneously. We neglected our duties or.e afternoon to ride the Dodge - Ems on one of the small permanent fairgrounds that used to litter English cities. To our horror we saw riding in one of the other little cars Norman Calvert, our city editor. Zooming up alongside us Calvert said: "I thought you men were covering city police court." I was too terrified to speak. But Cudlipp said: “Don’t worry, Mr. Calvert, we’re on our way.” We sprang from our cars and
trotted toward city police court. Suddenly Cudlipp stopped. “Hey,” he said. “It's just occurred to me. What the hell was Calvert doing on the Dodge-Ems?”
After our meeting at El Vino’s Cudlipp took me to lunch at Quaglino’s in Bury Street in the West End. It’s all gilt, red plush and crystal chandeliers. Many of the customers have that crimson, popeyed. gasping appearance of men who wear girdles and eat the fat of the land thrice daily. We lunched on turtle soup, caviar, Dover sole, strawberries and cream, hock, port, brandy and Turkish coffee. I tried to get some vital statistics from the menu for the benefit of Maclean’s readers who might wish to visit this most expensive of all London restaurants. But the menu seemed to be in a blurry kind of writing. The only figure I can remember was the price of the caviar — twenty-five shillings or four dollars a serving.
I slept off that lunch at the Strand Palace Hotel, a bright, clean, efficient place that appeals to middle-incomegroup Canadians and Americans because its bar serves iced drinks and its cafeteria offers excellent hot dogs. The one thousand rooms rent, with breakfast thrown in free, for roughly five dollars a night. Few however have private bathrooms and in the mornings and evenings the corridors are thronged with blue-chinned men in Mikado robes, and white-faced women in Desdemona shrouds, all shuffling and slinking apologetically to and from the tubs. In anticipation of this boudoirish parade I’d purloined my son s gorgeous dressing gown and had left him to suffer the unspeakable shame of my own at a Toronto fraternity weekend.
After a fifty-cent snack at the cafeteria later that evening I went up to Piccadilly Circus and marveled at the manner in which the new Street Offences Act has swept that once notorious region free of prostitutes. There 1 dropped into the Criterion Theatre to see the smash-hit play, A Taste of Honey. Like all London’s thirty-odd theatres it is half the size of Broadway houses but is more fun because it boasts a fine bar. The best seats are only three dollars. A Taste of Honey was written by Shelagh Delaney, a nineteen-year-old bus driver s daughter. Set in the slums of her native city it’s about a middle - aged trollop with a seedy boyfriend, and about the trollop s teenage daughter who gets pregnant by a Negro and is cared for until the baby arrives by a pansy art student. Sordid? Yes. But it’s electrifying in its savage, searing, authentic Manchester dialogue, in its poise and counterpoise of hilarity and despair, and in certain magical, youthful properties of observation which make the audience end up loving the characters they initially detest.
I went for supper to Albert's, a French restaurant on Beak Street. Soho, where I used to go as a youth. Albert, an effusive Latin with an infectious laugh, has always catered to fledgling diners-out. He puts the courting kids into one room and melts them into matrimony with candlelight, wine and flowers. When they’re married he promotes them to a more elaborate room. For parents whose children are dining there separately there’s a third room where many discover that life begins at fifty.
Albert has never been able to forget me because once, around 1939, when I was dining there in the uniform of a lance-corporal of the London Irish Rifles, a reserve regiment, 1 evoked some complaints from fellow clients by a too-loud and a too-anatomical description of the aims of bayonet fighting. But I was forgiven about the time bands began to play
and have been welcome ever since. On Albert's advice 1 consumed, for a little over three dollars, vichissoise, a waferthin minute steak with brown sauce, ice cream and half a bottle of claret.
On the way back to the hotel I dropped in at the Latin Quarter where the most beautiful naked female torsos in London are admired by those who are ready to pay six dollars a head for a three-course supper. If you've eaten, and call for drinks only, they have some gimmick that makes the bill amount to six dollars anyhow. These nudes, according to English law,
are supposed to remain immobile. The law may have stopped them moving but it cannot stop them from breathing and the girls exaggerate this act of self-preservation to show off better their charms.
On Saturday morning I went to Bayswater, where 1 used to live as a single young man. It's famous for its gently curving terraces of Georgian houses. Since the war these houses, long employed as rooming houses, have been filling up with an even more bizarre type of bachelor, and the district has slipped into decay. But the old terraces are being
torn down, and splendid new homes and apartment blocks are going up in their place. Prices and rents of these are astro nomical. In this way Bayswatcr, withir five minutes' walk of Marble Arch, is be ing taken away from reckless and impecunious young rascals and given back to the rich who used to inhabit it a hun dred years ago. The transformation is he ing speeded up by the fact that nearby Mayfair, once the swankiest district in London, rapidly is degenerating into a region of fusty little office buildings.
I lunched lightly at Bayswater's best
and oldest pub, the Queen Victoria. Lately it’s been renovated so skilfully that it looks unchanged. The upstairs bar is a reassembly of the bar saved from the old Gaiety Theatre which, in spite of the many noisy protests heard from London's lovers of the relics of tradition, was knocked down a couple of years ago.
After lunch 1 went to see a matinee of The Complaisant Lover, the sell - out Graham Greene play at the Globe Theatre. Again the best seats were only three dollars. The theory behind the plot, which combines glinting dialogue with French farce situations, is that lovers can have the halfpenny and the cake. An unfaithful wife persuades her husband, whom she doesn't want to leave, and her lover, whom she doesn’t want to give up, that everything in the garden will be rosy, especially for the children, if they’ll cast away conventional prejudices and accept her unsanctified polyandry rather than go barging into the divorce courts. With me at this show was Miss Gladys Shenner, a Toronto girl who now works on a London women’s paper. Miss Shenner commented sternly of the plot: "We’ll never go for that nonsense in Canada.”
I left Miss Shenner to join my kid brother, a thirty-eight-year-old North Country bachelor who had come tearing down to meet me with two tickets—three dollars each—for the biggest rage of the London stage — Brendan Behan’s The Hostage, at Wyndham’s Theatre. It’s about an Lnglish Tommy taken prisoner in Ulster by the Irish Republican Army and hidden in a Dublin brothel. In the end the Tommy is executed in reprisal for the hanging of an IRA gunman by the British authorities in Belfast. But before this tragic denouement is reached you enjoy a parade of some of the richest back-street Dublin characters ever portrayed since Joyce wrote Ulysses. The plot is so fluid that the wild, hulking author Behan, a great man for Guinness and Bushmills, sometimes wanders on in mid-scene and. without interrupting the action, joins with the motley in roaring songs around the whorehouse piano, songs with titles like The Bells of Hell, ard Don’t Muck About With the Moon. At the end my brother and I stood up and cheered for this play which, along with A Taste of Honey, will help to kill the mincing “country-house-party-andanybody-for-tennis” tripe that’s been suffocating English drama for half a century.
On Sunday morning 1 thought of sailing up the Thames to Richmond on one of the little steamers that charge about a dollar a trip. But to give myself a longer day 1 went by train from Waterloo Station. Richmond is one of the most venerable and agreeable of the Greater London boroughs and at weekends is packed with W'est Enders and East Enders who enjoy its open spaces It had not changed by one brick since I lived there twenty years ago.
Across the enormous green, enclosed by eighteenth-century houses, including the home of David Garrick, Sunday walkers were moving toward the Royal Botanic Gardens, or Kew Gardens, or the gardens that once were the big backyard of poor old dotty George III Here grow trees from all over the commonwealth and empire, the tallest being the famous Douglas fir, a gift of British Columbia.
Reluctantly I cut out Kew and moved in the other direction across the Green.
I went under the archway of the Old Richmond Palace, built for Cardinal Wolsey and long occupied by Elizabeth I. who died there. Then I emerged onto the banks of the Thames. Thousands were sitting in rented deck chairs watching
thousands more sail by in punts, canoes, racing skiffs, motorboats and yachts. It’s regatta every summer weekend at Kew. I cut up through the steep gardens that line the slopes of Richmond Hill, which offers a superb view of all Surrey. As usual, young Richmond bucks w'ere following a forty-year tradition. They were stepping aside from friends and relatives to push up the slope the wheel chairs of the wounded veterans who live in the Star and Garter Homes at the top. On top is The Stuart, a pleasant hotel kept by Betty Nuthall, the great English tennis star of the Thirties. There is also a pretty little pub with a fairy - lamp garden named The Lass, where The Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill used to live. Another pub, a very old low-ceilinged place, is The Roebuck where, for thirty years, movie extras have gathered at Sunday lunchtimes.
I avoided all these to walk for a time in Richmond Park, an unspoiled tract of land eight miles in circumference. Here, small red deer, whose ancestors were hunted by William the Conqueror, live a wild, carefree life within sight of Westminster Abbey. The park’s White Lodge, where the Duke of Windsor was born, was given some years ago by its owner, the late Queen Mary, to the Royal Ballet, the old Sadlers’ Wells Ballet, for use as a training school. Many men and women were enjoying a canter on horseback along the various rides. I remembered how I used to sit on a log and wait for my wife coming back from these equine adventures. Once, to please her. I tried to ride horses myself, but they wouldn't let me.
Feeling hungry I wu.!! ’ down
1 be hilt ‘o Ivienmond town, a huddle of narrow streets and alleyways full of antique shops. I went in through the back door of the Castle, a big. busy, mediumpriced restaurant with an open terrace, decked with gay umbrellas, overlooking the river. In the inside dining room I lunched on oxtail soup, roast beef and
Yorkshire pudding, apple pie and cream, and a pint of ale, for about two dollars. I sat at the same table I occupied during an air raid just before I went overseas in 1941. On that occasion four bombs dropped in Twickenham, on the other side of the river, each one lifting us gently out of our seats to a height of about six inches. But the band went on playing and the dancers didn't pause for a second. The only reaction I noticed was that of a woman at a nearby table who said rather loudly: “As I w'as saying before those men came ...”
Later I w'ent down the kind of alley that footpads used to haunt, to the White Swan, my old local. Its owner. Tommy Hogg, calls it the Mucky Duck. He gave me a brandy on the house but wouldn't drink himself. Tommy never drinks in his own pub. He doesn't think it is the right thing to do. To show that there can be graciousness even in business he does all his personal drinking in Short’s, a rival house just across the street.
Tommy still has a droll, mobile face, almost clownlike, and he still wears, winter and summer, gleaming white flannel trousers with black-and-white buckskin shoes. But one thing is missing nowadays from his pub — a large model of a lion reclining about the flagstaff of a Union Jack and clutching in one of its outstretched forepaws a fairly hefty slice of the world. Beneath the figure were the words “What I Have I Hold.” Tommy told me: “I chucked it out the day we balled up Suez. '
From the White Swan I walked to the Green Club w'hose members are divided into a variety of fraternities. One of these has the curious name of The Anglo-Richmond Anti Tiger Patrol. I am told that to get into it you have to be English and to have taken part in a hunt for a tiger that once escaped from a side show in the carnival that now visits the green annually. This always precipitates to The Times a flood of protesting letters from the occupants of surrounding houses.
Every year Jack Nicol, a stockbroker, telephones the biggest, richest and most pompous of these residents, and putting on a Cockney accent says: "This is Syd. Oi’m puttin' up the ’Elter Skelter ahtside your ’ouse this year and Oi’m lookin’ fer a plice fer me boys to stay. There’s twelve of ’em. Oi’m offering you five bob each fer ’em, bed and breakfast. Whaddya say, guvnor?” The words "the guvnor” chooses for his reply could not be written even into the script of Brendan Behan’s The Hostage.
For nearly thirty years Jack Nicol, and his wife Vera, whose daughter Shirley now works in Montreal, have lived in Lichfield Court, Richmond, the block of apartments to which I took my own bride Kathleen in 1936. Jack arranged with the present courteous occupants for me to see my old apartment. 1 hadn't been in it since August 15, 1939. when I went away to a reserve army camp and remained in uniform for the following six years. It was odd to look over the first of the eighteen homes I’ve lived in. It was odder still to discover that despite its age it is just as good as any of the modern apartments now offered in Canadian cities.
It’s a two-bedroom place with a living room twenty-four by twenty and a recessed dining room under an archway. There is a serving hatch from the kitchen to the dining room. In the kitchen are an upto-date refrigerator and stove. The bathroom has not only a gleaming hot towel rail but a heated floor that dries up steam and keeps the feet warm in winter. A pretty private balcony is approached from the second bedroom by a big French window. All the windows are set in metal frames. The front door opens onto an open-air but canopied balcony that is much more attractive than the interior approach corridors used in Canada.
Besides passenger elevators rising to the six floors there is a freight elevator also used by mothers with big English perambulators. Tenants acting as hosts may rent for one or more nights one of a row of guest rooms. They may also eat in a tenants' private restaurant. By picking up the phone they can call the janitor for a cleaning woman. Those who travel by train use a private covered walk to the station. On top of the big communal garage are two tennis courts. In my old apartment the central heating still works perfectly, and so does an ornamental electric fire for those who like to see a glow.
In 1936 I paid thirty dollars a month for this apartment. Today it costs around ninety a month. Looking it over I realized more clearly why I came to Canada after the war. It was here I got a taste for comforts. If I'd been able to get that apartment back when 1 came out of the army I might never have come to Canada. It was largely the misery of more typical London dwellings that induced my wife and me to emigrate.
Later on Sunday evening I went up to a smart part of Chelsea where an old friend of mine, now a titled woman, lives with her husband. She spends a lot of her time carrying buckets of coal up three flights of carpeted stairs and carrying buckets of ashes down, and she shivers whenever she leaves the semicircle of chairs and chesterfields huddled around the main fireplace.
“Why don't you live in a place like Lichfield Court, Richmond?" I asked. “It’s just like living in Canada."
“For Heaven's sake!" she snapped. "Don't be so bloody bourgeois!"
She had me there. Fm bourgeois, as v,ell as a Philistine. And with this thought I returned to Canada, glad to have spent a one-hundred-dollar weekend in an old home, but glad to return to the new-. *