Thu 30 Apr 2020: Eleanor Farjeon’s house, N.W.3., July 2015 (2 min read)
Today I revisit a walk from 2015. It involves a lost garden not unconnected to Edward Thomas and feels sort of zeitgeisty: we all seem to enjoy peeping into celebrities’ homes at the moment. The fact that I could revisit the walk without stretching government exercise guidelines is irrelevant. I don’t want to know what it’s like today. It’s hard to find a house in Hampstead that doesn’t have a blue plaque.
Eleanor Farjeon is most famous for writing the lyrics of ‘Morning Has Broken’ but my interest in her was sparked by her friendship with the Thomases and DH Lawrence during the First World War. She was a well known and respected writer in her day – is still rated highly in some circles, including my own, if one autistic writer can be described as a circle.
My walk also took in the Lawrences’ house in the Vale of Health and, more importantly, Carmelli’s bakery.
2 July 2015
‘E.F.’s pad is very atmospheric. It started life as a coach house in a cobbled mews in NW3. In a later incarnation, it may have been a shop. More recently there seems to have been an office behind the bay window. Now it is a romantic ruin. But the decrepitude is beautiful: blue rope holding the canvas over the roof; weeds in the drains, broken windows, brambles and campanula climb the walls, mock orange, the garden gate. Through the window, I can see a map of the world, empty shelves and an electric radiator. The floor is strewn with magazines and unopened mail. On the wall, children’s heights are recorded: Vlada – 09.06.07, and Katya – 16.08.06.
E.F. died fifty years ago this year and is buried in the churchyard that tumbles down Hampstead hill in the angle between Church Lane and Holly Walk. Robert Louis Stevenson stayed for a while in a house at the top of the hill. Graham Greene got married in the Italianate Catholic Church halfway up, where E.F., another Catholic convert, worshipped in later years.
In 1915 she had been schlepping around the Sussex countryside with DH Lawrence singing “Where’s my shandygaff?” The Lawrences only lived in Hampstead for about six months. It was their road I followed next, taking the little path opposite Jack Straw’s Castle and dropping down past fireweed, gorse and bramble.
Thoughts had I none, which at least had the benefit of saving writing them down. I climbed back up to the ridge and marched past Jack Straw’s Castle. I remember it as a pub, but there is no shandygaff there now. I turned off North End Way to walk through the Hill Garden and from there through Golders Hill Park to Carmelli’s, the tube, and home.’