All the world's a stage - February 10
Holland Park - Picturesque area between Virginia's shop and Julies Restaurant
Virginia with Steve on a recent visit to her emporium
The local hole in the wall
In the mid seventies the Holland Park area of London loomed large as a backdrop against a life of relentless touring. I'd constantly fall back exhausted from red eye flights into various crash pads, cafes and watering holes like a pale green cadaver. It was there I bought my first house at no 28 Princedale Road.
I was often on my own but I found time to connect with friends like Ralph and Virginia Bates. Virginia still runs an extraordinary shop like a fairy grotto specialising in beautiful antique clothes opposite the characterful Julie's restaurant a few doors away from home. Luckily I became part of their extended family. They often took in waifs and strays for Sunday lunch. I must have befriended half the acting community of London there along with comedian Tommy Cooper and screenwriter Jimmy Sangster who worked on many of the Hammer Horror movies which Ralph starred in. I often saw Ralph on TV hanging someone or pushing them into a vat of boiling wax, but in reality he was such a warm, gentle soul who shared the same birthday with me - he was exactly ten years older. I was desperately sad when he died at the age of fifty, whilst I was a mere forty.
Breakfast was usually at Tootsies (now Giraffe) on Holland Park Avenue where the staff often handed me the wall phone as though I was in situ at the office. People knew where to find me! This Tootsies was also a favourite haunt of Van Morrison and Adam Ant. Next door was the Singapore Mandarin Chinese restaurant bedecked like a Shanghai brothel with exquisite food and small dance floor - perfect for entertaining friends whilst dodgy dancing to "Oh Island in the Sun" played by an equally tiny dance band. Lurchers in the night...
It was in Holland Park that I wrote Spectral Mornings. I lived there from '76 to '84 covering the time of my leaving Genesis in '77 and marrying my ex-wife Kim in '81. It spanned an era of many changes, particularly in the music business. The fertile climate of creativity in '76 soon gave way to an atmosphere of struggle as the business sought to re-define itself through the nihilistic, ignorance hailed as virtue, era of Punk. It was even hard to sell the house in the early eighties... There was always a sense of impermanence at Princedale Road as transitory as the comings and goings of the patrons of the Prince of Wales pub up the road. But the warm village atmosphere of the local community and the loyal support of some fantastic eccentrics from that floating world continues to have a special place in my heart.
Virginia's fairy grotto of the fashionistas