June 29, 2011

London SW3. August, 1972

My home in London. At least it was for a part of two summers. On the right, Madge Osborne, my landlady. On the left, Mary Hayes, her chatty friend and neighbor. Both ladies Irish, living in Chelsea. Mrs. Osborne was a wonderful lifesaver when I was looking for a room my first time away from home in the summer of 1969. She ran her terraced house as a B&B back then, serving up beans on toast, eggs, tea each morning. (Three years later she had dropped the second B and rented rooms long-term, but fortunately she had an opening for me.) She also told great stories: about actress/neighbor Samantha Eggar, about stage star Tommy Steele who was rude to her as she walked her dog Chubby one morning. Beaufort Street was still a bit rough around the edges back then; I’m told it’s quite posh these days. Rolling Stone Brian Jones had a pied a terre just across the street. (He was found at the bottom of his country-home swimming pool that ’69 July: “death by misadventure” was the coroner’s summation.) I could walk all over the city, go to the theatre for next to nothing, meet people from so many different countries. For the first time, I realized that the world was bigger and more exciting than hometown New Jersey. Life-changing those summers of European freedom.

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