The last time Joelle and I visited London together was thirty years ago, January 1978 after our French family, Christmas Day French wedding. We had already been married in Fremantle in June for Australian Immigration. I had travelled alone since to London in 1984; leaving Joelle and Remi with her
parents in Lay St Christophe. On that 1984 visit, I purchased a Yashica Mat twin lens reflex. It was a camera styled on the Rolleiflex, the medium format camera that made square pictures. Square pictures became my favourites. There is something about a square. Perhaps it’s a square being so sure of itself. Perhaps it’s because it’s the same shape as the vinyl LP record covers that window dressed the 60s. The Rolling Stones’ 12×5. The Beatles’ A Hard Days Night. The Kinks’ red album. The sound tracks of our raggedy lives were all perfect circles packaged in perfect squares. Bauhaus master and mystic, Johannes Itten, wrote; “Square: calm, death, black, dark, red.” Imagine being an art student at the Bauhaus! I began a sculpture in London just after settling in Fulham. Its face took on the appearance of Keith Richard then Donatello’s Mary Magdalene. It was never finished. Unfinished so many happiness and sadnesses ago. Forming hands in Plaster of Paris proved too difficult. I named the sculpture Superman.
Hammersmith is 4 Piccadilly Line tube stops from Alistair’s South Kensington home. We’re spending our first morning revisiting Fulham. The Hammersmith Odeon must be nearby, but I can’t see where. It’s now called the Hammersmith Apollo. Bruce Springsteen played there; Born to Run posters dotted along Fulham Palace Road. Joelle invited me to the Odeon for A Hairy Ape concert. It was a Uriah Heap concert. They were awful. When we met, Joelle’s English was limited and I spoke no French. Misunderstandings were frequent. When I invited Joelle over for tea, I should have said dinner. She arrived having already eaten.
There’s the Fulham Palace Road exit. We begin the walk to Putney Bridge. On the way we shall find the Greyhound Pub, where we met, and later Finlay Street. Fulham Palace Road curves easy with the Thames like an inviting, beckoning finger. Suddenly, a biting wind whips at us, and a fierce sun scorches our eyes. It’s surreal. As if the sun and the wind are conspiring to turn us back to Hammersmith. Our arrival provokes forces better not disturbed. Identities transform. Howling from the south, the wind is not Notus, but devouring, kidnapping, snakes for feet, the cold of winter, North Wind, Boreus. The four winged horses drawing Helios’ chariot; Pyrios, Aeos, Aethon and Phlegon, spit blazing darts of fire. We’re walking into the midst of a cosmic battle. Blindfolded Fortuna rolls her ball and wheel that spin in any direction. Clotho appears, the Fate, the weaver of destinies, with her two sisters, she is a daughter of Night. Zeus, still brooding over the Fates allowing Sarpedon’s life taken by the spear of Patroclus, hurls a lightning bolt at Clotho. The Battle of SW6 is swift and decisive. The night that Joelle and I met at the Greyhound Pub would not be undone. The departure of a daughter and sister from family and home and France, would not be undone. Jacqueline waving goodbye, from the kitchen window, would not be undone. The vanquished sun and wind abate. Zeus, the storm gatherer, taking the form of an eagle, launches into the air, and flaps sulkily northeast towards Chelsea. Fortuna and Clotho, indifferent to their victory, make no carry on.
We continue to Putney Bridge and Finlay Street. The Greyhound Pub is now The Southern Belle. We had walked this road many times, yet there are buildings we can’t recall, even the cemetery. Those London, autumn and winter months of 1975 were such an intense time. They were the days of the end of everything. Leaving Fulham by New Kings Road; it’s a long way to Sloane Square. We catch a bus. The number 22 for Piccadilly Circus stops frequently on congested Kings Road. By a bus stop behind a high wall is The Pheasantry. Eric Clapton and Oz Magazine illustrator and designer of Cream album covers Martin Sharp, had a studio there in the 1960s. Perched high on the Pheasantry’s wall, are two large eagles, and two, larger than life statues of woman in classical Greek dress. Which of the eagles is sulky Zeus? Fortuna is not wearing her blindfold? I first glimpsed Fortuna on The Pheasantry wall in 1975.