Tag Archives: London

Christmas days: a Markino bonus

Today’s short post  is a small installment of pictures by an old friend of the blog, the Japanese artist who lived in London, Yoshio Markino. This one is simple called Autumn:

Studio Vol 33 p165 Autumn by Yoshio Markino - Copy

The woman wrestling with her umbrella has a stylized expression of sadness (or merely exasperation) on her face. Behind her the rest of the scene is indistinct ,in a traditional Markino mist.

Below, some images from a biography which was illustrated by Markino. In a Japanese setting a causeway vanishes into a lake of  lillies floating on barely glimpsed water.

Lotus lake at Tsushima p172

A monochrome temple.

Shinto temple of Tsushima p224

London. A stone lion couches in the wet square. Although this image is also in damp fog, the location is unmistakable.

Misty evening in Trafalgar Square p122

A house in south London. There are lights on the ground floor but above a single light blazes from a bedroom.

151 Brixton Road p136

This would have been one of Markino’s early London residences, in Brixton.

This picture, from the Studio magazine is another monochrome view of a familiar London sight.

Studio vol 35 p341 Markino The Clock Tower Westminster - Copy

A small group of people take a walk along the embankment. The night is dark but the woman in the foreground is carrying her coat so it must be a warm evening.

The final image is the most characteristic work. It has Markino’s favourite subject, well dressed women in London on an overcast day.

Two women window shopping in Bond Street, one looking towards the artist. Markino liked to compare London’s women with insects wrapped in carapaces of fur and thick coats.

Beautiful women in Bond Street p158

Behind them yet another mist.

Today’s soft toy is also characteristically Japanese.

PTDC0005 - CopyPTDC0003 (2) - Copy

Happy Christmas from the goth Hello Kitty. HK is also an appropriate companion for the anglophile Markino since it emerged that Kitty’s surname is White and that she and her family live just outside London. Markino would have approved.

See you tomorrow.


Unfamiliar streets: Paddington 1959

This week we’re on an excursion across the Kensington and Chelsea border into new territory. I hope you’ll forgive this incursion into unfamiliar streets but when I came across these pictures, which came with a donation of papers, maps, photocopies and photographs. I was fascinated by them.  The late 1950s is a time which looks both familiar and alien to me as history overlaps with my my own timespan.

The locations themselves were not immediately familiar but the London of post war dilapidation and demolition was recognizable. A few street signs were visible so I gradually placed them in that area to the north and east of my home Borough on the far side of the Harrow Road. These streets in the old Borough of Paddington seemed like an alternative version of North Kensington.


This view reminds me of a section of Portobello Road. The curve to the left as the road goes up the hill. But that side street is Lord Hills Road in W2 not W11. I tried looking on Google Maps at the view today but couldn’t see any of these buildings.

10 (3)

This busy corner is from that same sector of the former suburb which had grown up along the main line  into Paddington Station.


Behind the busy streets the process of demolition has begun. In this picture you see a first glimpse of a half byzantine half Gothic church which I saw in many of the pictures from different angles. I’m trying to avoid letting my imagination run away with me and put it into some kind of urban supernatural story.


In another kind of urban story, a kitchen sink drama or an angry young man a lone cyclist enters the construction zone where demolition has opened up a wide space.


And here’s another church backing onto an empty lot identified by these cryptic words: Lot 51 – basement to be demolished.


A small gang of boys go by. The sparse traffic enables them to walk down the middle of the street and claim it for themselves.


There’s the church again on the edge of the construction zone.


Bottom left,the sign of the Willett company, builders and developers (their headquarters in Sloane Square at this date)  on the edge of the site. A number 18 bus passes by along the Harrow Road going between Sudbury and the West End.


The whole church, looking as though it was perched above a series of catacombs.


It’s there again in a wider view. I can’t quite orientate myself in this picture in relation to the rest of the city but those chimneys on the horizon should provide a clue to someone.

A last glimpse at one of the side streets from this area. The abandoned car, which we’ve seen in other posts ten or more years later, was already a feature.

08 (5)

And a final view of the church looking even more as if it was on the edge of a precipice about to fall to its destruction.21570024


I hope you haven’t minded visiting an area where I’m not much use as a guide. It’s an odd sensation for me feeling lost in an old photograph. That was part of the fascination. I know some of you aren’t limited by the same geographical boundaries as me so feel free to comment with your own identifications.

We’ll be back in our proper place next week.

Costume Ball 4: Ladies only

It’s the time of year for parties so we’re back at that social event of 1897, the Duchess of Devonshire’s Diamond Jubilee Costume Ball which has proved to be one of the most popular subjects on the blog. The Duchess and her party organiser must have been well aware of the interest the Ball would generate. The Lafayette photography company set up their portable studio in a tent in the grounds of Devonshire House, and the photographers must have been working hard to get through nearly 200 subjects in the course of the evening. But it would have been worth it. They would have been able to sell postcards and prints of the guests to a public which was already generating an early version of what we now call celebrity culture. In addition there were expensive souvenirs. The book I’ve scanned these pictures from is a large heavy volume produced in a limited edition.

This selection features only female guests. Their costumes were the main focus of interest for the photographers so I’m following this example as any popular magazine edition would have done. As I’ve noted in previous posts (1st,2nd,3rd) the costumes were mainly historical with the 16th,17th and 18th centuries providing most of the subjects. But there were also literary, mythological and artistic costumes.

Lady Ampthill, as “a lady of King Arthur’s court”.

Lady Ampthill p219 as a lady of King Arthur's court

And here, Queen Guinevere herself:

Lady Rodney as Queen Guinevere p114

Lady Rodney’s costume designer has a slightly different take on fashions at Camelot. A similar free reign could be taken when creating costumes for characters out of antiquity.

Miss Keith Fraser as Delilah p152 (2)

Miss Fraser as Delilah, a Biblical character familiar to most people of the time.

Miss Muriel Wilson as Queen Vashti page 101

Miss Muriel Wilson as Queen Vashti, the first wife of King Ahasuerus in the Book of Esther. Vashti is sometimes called a proto-feminist icon for her refusal to appear before the King’s guests at a banquet.

Some of the costumes were more conceptual:

Lady Herschell as Night p251

Lady Herschell looking slightly unhappy as Night (costumes expressing ideas like night and day were quite common at fancy dress parties).

The Countess of Westmoreland as Hebe page 82

The Countess of Westmoreland as Hebe, the Greek goddess of youth, daughter of Zeus and Hera. Did she bring that bird herself, I wonder or did the photographer have it handy, in his box of props?

Lady Edith Villiers as Lady Melbourne after Cosway page 60

There were some costumes inspired by artworks including this one, Lady Edith Villiers as Lady Melbourne after a portrait by Cosway, and in a similar vein:

The Hon Mrs Reginald Fitzwilliam after a picture by Romney

The Hon Mrs Fitzwilliam after a portrait by Romney.

But as I’ve said, the majority of the guests came as historical figures. In this case the photographers were unable to identify the costume worn by Mrs Leiter:

Mrs Leiter p245

Suggestions welcome. Other ladies were more readily identifiable if sometimes a little obscure:

The Duchess of Buckingham and Chandos as Caterina Cornare Queen of Cypress p144 (2)

The Duchess of Buckingham and Chandos (a fine title) as Caterina Cornare, Queen of Cypress.

Lady Aileen Wyndham Quin as Queen Hortense  p139

Lady Aileen Wyndham Quin as Queen Hortense. I’m assuming that this is Hortense de Beauharnais, stepdaughter of Napoleon and daughter of Josephine. She was Queen of Holland as the wife of Louis Napoleon and the mother of Napoleon III.

The Hon Mrs Lowther as Madame de Tallion - Incroyable p186

The Hon Mrs Lowther as Madame Therese de Tallion an “Incroyable” according to the caption in the book, one of the fashionistas of post Reign of Terror Paris, although my cursory research indicates that the Incroyables were the male ones and that the correct term for the women was Merveilleuses (marvellous women). Hortense de Beauharnis was also a Mervelleuse in her younger days.

Lady Fitzgerald as Marie Josephe Queen of Poland

Lady Fitzgerald as Marie Josephe Queen of Poland.

Lady Moyra Cavendish as Countess Lazan page 62

Lady Moyra Cavendish as Countess Lazan, a person I haven’t been able to find out anything about, but it’s a good costume.

Lady Lister Kaye as Duchesse de Guise, time Henri III p131

Lady Lister Kaye as Antoinette de Bourbon, Duchesse de Guise and maternal grandmother of Mary Queen of Scots.

The Duchess of Hamilton as Mary Hamilton Lady in Waiting to Mary Queen of Scots p207 (2)

The Duchess of Hamilton as Mary Hamilton, a lady in waiting to the same Mary Stuart, and possibly one of her own ancestors.

Lady Alington as Duchesse de Nevers, Dame de la Cour de S.M. Marguerite de Valois p213

Lady Alington as the Duchesse de Nevers, a lady from the court of Marguerite de Valois. She looks to me as if she has been very patient with the photographer but is now ready to go.

The Hon Marie Kay as Mademoiselle Andree de Taverney AD1773  page 240

The Hon Marie Kay as Mademoiselle Andree de Taverney, another 18th century lady who has evaded me today.

And finally, posed as if walking away:

The Hon Maud Winn as Madame la Motte page 59

The Hon Maud Winn as Madame la Motte, possibly the thief and adventuress who was involved in the complicated affair of the Queen’s diamonds in the reign of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. It’s an incongruously disreputable note on which to finish with this grand and respectable event.


The Ball took place in July, which must have made some of those heavy costumes uncomfortable. Not really appropriate for this time of year either. One of the other characters who’ve appeared in the blog, Jerry Cornelius held a spectacular party in the Final Programme. So from him I take this message: a happy new fear to all my readers.

Title page - Copy

Return to the Dark City

It was with some trepidation that I accepted the explorer’s invitation to visit him in the Dark City. We travelled from the Overworld and disembarked quietly trying to attract no  attention.


We crept uneasily up the stairs under the blind gaze of the River Guardian.

The mystic

We walked quietly through the Garden of the Lonely Companion.


We saw no-one in the garden, but across the shining lake we saw light around the  palace of the Archduchess Persephone.


In the appointed place we found the sign. The whisperer directed us to the Dream Gate.


We had to waste precious minutes waiting for the gate keeper to admit us.

The King's Gate

Now we were in the inner precinct, outside the House of Forlorn Encystment.

All Souls

Snow had fallen in this sector. The tree was a message from the explorer.

The Little Tree

There was one more open space to cross – the Plaza of Inexplicable Desire.

Unto this las

Beyond the Plaza we stood under the statue of the Protector.

The Torchbearer

Someone had lit a fire to distract the watchers.

North of the Plaza we saw the meeting place in an upper room.

Red Lion Passage

I sat with the explorer for hours while he issued his instructions. My sister climbed to the roof to see the Temple of the Longest Night.


It is said that there are any number of ways into the Dark City but for every visitor a limited number of exits. My sister had learned a route through the narrow streets.

Dark street

It ended at the docks where we boarded a tramp steamer bound for the light.


Years later we came back to the Dark City intending to stay for good.

Signs of their times


Photographs by Harold Burkedin from the book London Night by him and John Morrison (1934). There are some references to the work of another of my favourite authors Jack Vance. This is the first in a series of seasonal posts. My thanks to everyone who re-posted the pictures in the original Dark City post especially those Operation Fallen Reich people. But for those who prefer a more straightforward factual text I think this is the final outing for the anonymous narrator and his (or was it her, I was never sure) enigmatic sister.

Next week, a first for the blog, a Christmas post. Look in on Boxing Day if you can tear yourselves away from the festivities. If not have a happy Christmas. Thanks to everyone who’s left a comment or clicked on the like button, or retweeted or facebooked, or just read a post.


More Markino: water and women

And then, as the Japanese smiled unperceived at me, and rolled a cigarette, the superb Wilton turned himself a little on the sofa, rearranged a cushion beneath his elbow, and began a long half-intoned speech about newspapers, the folly of reading them, the inconceivable idiocy of those who write for them, and so forth, while I agreed with him at every point, and the Japanese, who knew it by means of livelihood chuckled quietly to himself…

Wilton must have enjoyed that afternoon. He thought he had a proselyte in me, and he talked like a prophet, till I wondered how it could be possible for any one man’s brain to invent such flood of nonsense. I was happy under it all if only on account of the quiet quizzical smile of the Japanese, who was making a sketch of the orator’s face…

The Japanese excused himself from accompanying us, and went down to the river to make studies for some painting upon which he was engaged…

Arthur Ransome – Bohemia in London (1907)

Electric power works Chelsea COL (2)

Ransome’s Japanese artist with the quizzical smile was Yoshio Markino and he did like to walk by the river, starting in Chelsea but sometimes walking through the whole night.

A winter afternoon Chelsea Embankment COL - Copy

Below, the water runs swiftly past the piers of Albert Bridge.

The running tide Albert Bridge Chelsea Embankment COL (2)

A monochrome view of the same bridge.

Early evening Chelsea Bridge COL - Copy

This water level view was one he was particularly liked. Here is another version a good walking distance away:

Copy of Tower Bridge COL

An even longer walk , or even a train journey in the other direction, past the tidal river:Punting on the Thames - JB - Copy

Punting on the Thames. This picture combines Markino’s love of water, mist and dusk with the other thing he loved most about London, English women. One of the books Markino wrote was the eccentrically (and ungrammatically) titled “My idealed John Bullesses” (1912). In the introduction he apologises for his “home-made English” and admits to having been fascinated by European women since the age of six when his father brought home a chromo-lithograph picture of a young woman. “It seemed to me that this girl was always beckoning me; whenever I looked at it from distance and I always went under the picture and bowed down to pay my homage to her.”

“The quiet and deep blue stream of Thames is very beautiful, and it looks more beautiful when it runs round the green ground with many graceful trees. But these beautiful views could not be so beautiful if the John Bullesses did not visit there. Their dresses in white, pink, and all sorts of light colours break the monotonous greens on the shore as well as in boats, and give some delightful contrast. And when the dusk comes they look still prettier. Have you ever seen the religious picture of Buddhism ? Buddhas and all saints are always sitting on lotus flowers or on its leaves. The idea was to give some nice and cool feeling in such a hot country like India. If I have to paint a picture to give a nice and cool feeling I should paint a John Bulless punting a boat on the Upper Thames. John Bullesses in boats or John Bullesses on the green are the most important element to complete the beauty of the Upper Thames.”

It’s a strange book for the modern reader, half archaic and half modern. Markino was a great supporter of the Suffragette movement – there are chapters on the WSPU and the Suffragette  procession of June 1911. Others deal with his  fascination with fashion, shopping and social life.

Markino observed the women of London wherever he went, at night at the theatre:

Copy of Leaving His Majesty's Theatre the Strand COL

And during the day, in small groups:

Fog - Ladies crossing Piccadilly COL (2)

And in larger gatherings.

A party of tourists before St Paul's Cathedral COL - Copy

These two are set in Hyde Park. This one is of what he calls the Church Parade on a June Sunday:

Copy of A June Sunday - church parade in Hyde Park COL

This is the morning parade on Rotten Row:

Copy of Morning Parade in Rotten Row COL

As good as his daytime pictures are, Markino always returned to the gloom.

Copy of Christmas shopping Regent Street COL

“I often recollect some Japanese insect called ” Mino Mushi,” or ” Overcoat Insect.” This small insect gathers feathers, dead leaves, bark, and everything, and ties them up together with her silky webs, and wears this heavy overcoat. But when she takes off that overcoat, lo, she is a beautiful butterfly. Some John Bullesses bury themselves into such thick fur overcoats in winter. You can hardly see their eyes ; all other parts are covered with foxes’ tails, minks’ heads, seal’s back skin, a whole bird, snake’s skin, etc. etc. They make their size twice or three times larger. But when they get into a house and take off all those heavy wearings, such a light and charming butterfly comes out.”

Outside St George's Hospital - JAIL (2)

…my work is not yet completed. But we say in Japan “That which you like most that you can do best.” Having trust in this proverb I have decided to spend the rest of my life here to study dear London all my life.”

Markino reluctantly embarked on a repatriation boat in 1942. He was never able to return.

Tombstone design - Copy

Tombstone designed by Markino.

The pictures:

Electric power works Chelsea

A winter afternoon Chelsea Embankment

The running tide Albert Bridge

Early evening Chelsea (Albert) Bridge

Tower Bridge

Punting on the Thames

A party of tourists before St Paul’s Cathedral

Leaving His Majesty’s Theatre the Strand

Fog – Ladies crossing Piccadilly

A June Sunday – Church parade in Hyde Park

Morning parade in Rotten Row

Christmas shopping Regents Street

Outside St George’s Hospital

Quotations from the Colour of London and My idealed John Bullesses.


It was a close run thing tonight so apologies for any typos or spelling errors. I spent the afternoon following an architect round the all the little rooms of the library sub-basement which will soon become a smaller number of larger rooms.

Dark City: London in the 30s

There was another London, before clean air, before the Blitz, before post-war reconstruction. It was a night time London.

It was a city of alleys lit by dim lamps.


Grand but mysterious arches leading to dark halls and obscure institutions.


Secret squares.


Forbidding locked doors in isolated precincts


Deserted paths.

Path to the Temple

Cyclopean columns.

Seven pillars

Deserted back streets.


Gardens you should never enter.


Cul-de-sacs in which someone is waiting for you.


Dark alleys, barred windows. Whoever is in upstairs won’t let you in.

Black Raven Alley

There is an occasional welcoming light indicating a place of refuge and a waiting getaway car.

Blue Dog

A few signs of a new order.


But in most of the city the dark rules. Down long staircases you go.


To a place of ancient brickworks, hoping for refuge or an exit.


Just walk into the light. Will you find release?

Night Fantasy

“Are you a lucky little lady in the City of Light? Or just another lost angel…City of Night?”

Pictures from London Night – John Morrison and Harold Burkedin 1934

Quotation from Jim Morrison 1971


Quite a few people have looked at this post, rather more than I imagined. So my thanks to you all and here is a more definite set of captions to the images;

1. Grange Street, the Strand. The original Charing Cross Hospital in the background.

2. The Gateway to the General Post Office

3. Middle Temple Hall

4. The Sanctuary, All Hallows, Lombard Street

5. Path outside St Paul’s Cathedral

6. The Royal Exchange

7. A street in the City

8. Villiers Street, Charing Cross

9. Cul-de-sac, Brompton Road

10. Black Raven Alley

11. Cottage Place, Brompton

12. 55 Broadway, London Transport Headquarters

13. Essex Stairs Temple

14. Adelphi Arches, the Strand

15. St Bartholomew’s Hospital

How many of them did you know?

More Dark City pictures here.

Halloween story – the Librarian

The following narrative was found in a manuscript box sent to the Library by an unknown donor.


The closed garden at Thurston Square in South Kensington is gone now. The houses on one whole side collapsed during some rather unwise internal re-modelling in the 1980s. The garden was exposed and found to be an unkempt patch of scorched grass with some stubs of stone which might have been statues. Before the war according to a pamphlet I found in the J—— Street Library the garden was tightly wrapped in six storey housing blocks and tall gates. The few aerial views of the time showed thick vegetation which apparently filled the garden all year round.

The real oddity according to the pamphlet, a work on the garden squares of west London was that every property around the square was owned by a single body the Cyanography Institute. Cyanography (the name is quite meaningless) was a form of psychic research or occult philosophy dating back to the 1880s. The Institute had been endowed by a number of wealthy patrons and had been briefly fashionable but Cyanography itself had declined into obscurity after the war

In the 30s the Institute had a study hall and lecture room which took up the southern side of the square, some grand offices on the west side and although the other properties appeared to be separate households the pamphleteer, an unknown researcher named Keith Phelps had become convinced that the names in the electoral register were fictional. It was his belief based on a viewing of some 19th century photographs that all the houses were interconnected. All the properties were owned by the Institute and that no-one unconnected with it had ever lived on the Square. Furthermore, the Square which was laid out in the 1850s was built on the exact site formerly occupied by the house and gardens of Sir Richard Fletcher. Inevitably I thought Fletcher turned out to be a mysterious figure who had travelled extensively in the near east and north Africa. His son had been one of the founders of the Institute. Phelps believed both of them were buried in the closed garden.

The Cyanographers had left the Square in the 50s leaving their offices empty and derelict. The residential part of the Square remained lightly populated. People just didn’t want to live there so there was not much objection when a developer bought the whole thing. After the building collapse a series of owners failed to redevelop the site until it was finally cleared and boarded up.

I made a photocopy of the pamphlet. The largest part of it was taken up with the section on Thurston Square and its garden. It was partly rational local history, partly fevered ramblings. I got the impression that Phelps had included some dull stuff on a few other garden squares just for the sake of form. His researches about Thurston Gardens had taken him down a strange side road.

The librarian, a pale attractive woman about thirty had pulled out a hand written catalogue card which indicated that there was a photo of the garden in Henrietta Cole-Elliott’s West London Walks (1895) but even better that a collection of interiors and garden images could be seen in the archives of the Institute of Cyanography. I pointed out that the Institute was closed but this didn’t faze her. She consulted a few heavy directories and checked some of the details online, before writing down an address on a post-it. She wrote down the address without looking at the screen or the book. The Cyanography Institute archives were now it seemed at Morechester House, the final resting place for the papers and archives of a number of defunct institutions.

We examined the Elliott book together. It seemed that Henrietta Elliott was an indefatigable walker, an early psycho-geographer who had talked her way into many of the private places of Victorian London. The closed garden was the subject of great interest at the time as it was unusual for a garden to be so completely isolated. The single photograph was taken through a tall gate. It showed a large number of thickly congregated trees with a building just visible at the centre. There was another photograph at the back of the book with no caption, a much bigger garden, or a park.

As we spoke I looked closer at the librarian. Although she was conventionally dressed in a calf length skirt, boots, and long-sleeved top, all black, there was an accumulation of details in her outfit – the four straps on the boots, the double layered skirt, the almost flamboyantly baggy sleeves of the top, added to the four piercings on each ear and purple nails which made me realise I was dealing with a goth in her work clothes.

I like Goths. I made a documentary about the last gig played by Misery Town at the Missile Factory, the Belgian industrial venue. I’m on screen sitting between Honey Kuzlik and Aiofe Campbell trying to conduct an interview as they finally realise how much they hate each other. A few people recognize me because of this moment in front of the camera. I thought my helpful new friend, Marianne according to her name badge, must be one of them. She told me there might be one problem – some of the collection could only be viewed by clergymen. I said that technically I was still an ordained minister in the Rebirth Temple.  If that doesn’t work she said I can get you in there.

This is going the extra mile for customer service I said. She smiled at me as if she’d heard somewhere that I might be a bit flippant and said that as it was near closing time she would close the department and we could go for a drink. She went into the room behind the enquiry desk to get her coat. As the heavy door swung slowly shut..

..I saw another woman standing pressed against the wall just inside the room. I only saw her for a few seconds. Marianne came back quite quickly wearing a dark green trench coat. I looked again but the woman had gone.

It was only as we walked downstairs that I fully processed what I thought I had seen. The woman was only wearing her underwear. Had she caught my eye with an expression that said she was terrified but that I should say nothing, or was I reading that in to a fleeting impression? Marianne was talking, telling me to put on a suit and look serious the next day.


Morechester House was a grimy anonymous building somewhere near Marylebone Station. I had put on a black suit. Marianne had almost dressed for an Edwardian funeral, in a long black skirt and jacket. Her head was bare though and her hair down. There was some very subtle make up work which made her skin even paler than the evening before. The only colour on her was dark red lipstick. It’s a full time job being a goth, I thought without considering any other explanation.

It wasn’t necessary to prove my religious credentials. It seemed Marianne had called ahead. We just had to sign in and follow a receptionist to a search room where a man with a long grey beard greeted us effusively shaking my hand as if he had lived for this moment. He took us to a back room where a leather bound box sat on a table. A label said Thurston Square Celebrations 1875 He opened the ties to reveal the photographs all wrapped in tissue.

I’ll leave you to it, he said please take a seat. Marianne began unwrapping the pictures and laying them out on the table. At first I thought these couldn’t be what we had come to see. The exteriors looked more like a park than a garden square. No garden could contain the number of trees and statues depicted in these pictures.  I was about to say something when Marianne showed me a picture of a young woman running into some trees. Something in the picture captured a sense of panic. I picked it up and stared at it. While I stared Marianne went to the door of the room and chained it shut with a chain and padlock she produced from her bag.

I watched her remove an envelope from her bag and slip it into her pocket. She gently pulled the picture out of my hand and gave me another, of a small pond with an obelisk in the centre and a temple folly behind it.

Not much time here Daniel, so you’ll just have to believe me.

She was very firm like a manager setting a deadline for a target.

I’ve looked for someone like you, someone with the right talent. I know you have what I need. Just look into that picture for me and concentrate. Forget everything else.

I did as I was told, concentrating until the scene was all that mattered. I could hear rattling at the door and raised voices but I kept on looking. Marianne took my hand and the sounds outside faded as if the volume was being dialled down. We leaned forward together.


We took a couple of involuntary steps and checked ourselves at the edge of the water. I took a deep breath and looked around. We were in a kind of park but at each distant edge was a tall terrace of houses. The garden was too big, far too big but it was in a square. I exhaled and my breath steamed in the freezing cold air. I looked at Marianne. She was very calm, smiling at me in a friendly way but there was no air steaming from her mouth. She wasn’t breathing at all. This was a detail I could easily have noticed at any point in the time we had spent together but hadn’t.

You have to be alive to have the right talent she said. Come on, I’m not expected here.

We walked around the pond and made our way through the trees. But we weren’t in the garden anymore. We were on the edge of a landscaped park. I could see a domed building.

Beyond the temple a bonfire was burning at the feet of a statue. It was a very tall statue. Two vast wings spread out horizontally from its back. I looked up through the smoke trying to make out the details of the figure but it was so tall the head was lost in the heat haze and the darkening sky. It was a woman wearing armour holding a sword. The point of the sword was touching the ground in front of the feet. If we had still been in Thurston Square it would have been visible above the houses for miles. The wings should have been wider than the square itself. About fifty people were gathered around the fire, all quite silent. Some of them were fully dressed in Victorian street clothes as if they were observing a firework display at a pleasure garden. Others wore robes, and a few figures taller and thinner than the others circulated through the group. There was music, just what you’d expect for dancing. Maybe there was a maypole, or something like one in the background. Marianne pulled me away from the well kept lawn towards another building.

It was a glasshouse, its windows opaque with grime. Inside a few lights were burning. The stone path was narrow. We had to brush past thick foliage to get to an area which had been cleared in front of another statue. Marianne retrieved a long sword and scabbard from behind it and slung it over her shoulder. I stayed close behind her and as she crouched I slipped the envelope out of her pocket.

I want to thank you she said. I really couldn’t have got here without your help. But you don’t need to be with me now.

Outside the glasshouse she pointed me back through the trees towards the nearest edge of the square.

Go quickly, get upstairs if you can. I’ll find you.

There didn’t seem any point in arguing and whatever she was about to do I didn’t think I wanted to be there to see it. There was an open door ahead of me when I came out of the trees, with a staircase visible. I paused at the door to look back for the giant statue. I could see the face clearly now. I climbed up the stairs.

At the final landing there was a window looking out on the garden. The flames were higher. Marianne’s giant face was looking down at the ground. The music was no longer audible. There was some agitation in the trees. I would have waited to see what would happen next except for a rustling sound below me.

Looking down I saw an indistinct person ascending, his or her hand on the banister. The fingers of the hand were very long. I tore open the envelope. It was a photograph, of a London street. J— Street in fact. The rustling grew louder accompanied by muttering. I concentrated on the picture, tried to be as calm as I was the first time. The rustling was louder still and there were footsteps. I fancied there was cold breath on my neck as the volume died away and I leaned forward.


Morning light made me squint and flinch back from the kerb. I was in front of J— Street Library again but I didn’t go in then. I found a coffee shop a few streets away and sat there with a morning paper for an hour. If I was right, the picture had been taken the day I visited the library. Somewhere in another part of London another version of me was doing what I had been doing hours before. I wasn’t tempted to meet him. I whiled away the day till I was sure that he and Marianne had left the Library. I waited around outside until I saw a woman in a baggy coat probably not her own emerge and flag down a taxi.

I waited a couple of days before going back. The woman was at the enquiry desk, wearing the same kind of plainclothes goth outfit. The name on her badge was Marianne. I was a little ashamed when she recognized me, because I should have helped her. But as it turned out she was grateful that I had taken the other Marianne away.

When we got to know each other we started our own research into Thurston Square, and Sir Richard Fletcher. We found an account of the beginnings of Cyanography in a book about Crowley’s disciple Kenneth Grant which alluded to an occult working in Thurston Square.

We couldn’t convince the custodians at Morechester House to let us in to see those photographs again. But we continued our search. We found a number of photographs in a variety of sources which seemed to feature the other Marianne. She changed her look but I always knew her.

In the absence of someone with my talent, or the right picture she had been forced to come back the long way. But as the real Marianne observed given the amount of time she had to make the journey she was probably already here.

Editor’s note: you won’t find Thurston Square on any map of south Kensington. Morechester House exists but not of course under that name.


London Perceived – V S Pritchett and Evelyn Hofer 1962

Glasshouses and winter gardens of the 19th Century – Stefan Koppelkamm 1981

Other London – Paul Barkshire 1989

London after dark – Alan Delaney and Robert Cowan 1993

Two photographs from the Library’s collection.

%d bloggers like this: