I’ve just stepped out into Kilburn in the jubilee line to notice the lovely broad old grand mansion streets up Exeter road as I went to look at a Yamaha piano…today’s weather whipped up a sense of old fashion cold and I spoke to the vendor whose emigrating to Canada like a right old Londoner ! I felt exhilarated and nostalgia swept me up remembering all the places I’ve lived in and how!
I started life in London in 1984. A mere Mia 17 year old who flew on the back of a suggestion from my best friends sister, Jackie: ‘Why don’t we go to London for the summer?’ Yes. I said but how would we do it. She drove us into Swindon and WHSmith straight to buy The Lady and slapped it on my very youthful enthusiastic seeking approval persona and off I went phoning up mothers help jobs. I got an interview two days later and boarded the then national railway train to Paddington. I got that job and moved to London on March 31st. It took all of 5/6 days from suggestion to destination – Holland Park, W11. I had no clue where, what, how London would define me and to that W11 was posh, with its white stucco big grand houses, gardens and on top I came alone. I couldn’t really say that my first position in London was special, if not cliche with my employer trying it on with me one lunchtime. He was old. I was practically still a virgin but not quite. I pushed him off, headed to the One O Clock club in Holland Park to tell my one nanny friend, Leslie from Australia about me going back to the countryside. She told me of another family desperate for a nanny as they were travelling to Le Lavendou in the South of France. I was thrilled, got their number and went round after. I moved in and upgraded to my own little contained flat on Landsdowne Avenue. I travelled with them for three weeks with their sons, Jack & Henry 2 & 4 and experienced my first real taste of France, a country I had always fantasised about. Growing up on a farm in the 70’s/early 80’s, BBC2 did a whole season in the summer of ’79,’80 on French films. I would sneak off from the hay making feigning tiredness to watch these world films. https://www.timeout.com/paris/en/film/les-demoiselles-de-rochefort-1967.
I became fascinated by the sospistication of French culture, sexual education and romantic allure…this French trip had some ooh la la for me on the beach with a character as I practiced my school education.
This became my story. Whilst with this family I met another nanny, Scarlett Van Legge Bourke, aka Susan Tonkin, – this time live-out who took me to Portobello Market & Camden Town. I became initiated and enthralled by the immense organic secondhand/vintage plucks of golden eras materialised in chinon, linen, silk, organza, velvet, polyester, that became my dressing up box. We had fashion at our feet and so cheaply too. I gorged on styling my hearts desire to create a new Mia. And the road to unfolding the unchartered road to the beginnings of Who Am I began to take form in this very exciting medium. I was just 18, and London held me in a trance dance of unimaginable tricks and treasures that unfolded in its own unique path. Scarlett Van Legge Bourke was very louche, full of bravado and dazzled me with her sense of style, she dressed between Siouxsie, and a baroque baroness. She was immaculate and set the bar for my London. I began a life long binge on all things that punctuated the youth of that day. My own swing time was filled with a sense of counter culture spilling our injustices of the day with social class wars, marches, our acute generation turned up to demonstrations as we began to recognise that the Britain we were living in was categorised by wealth, class, circumstance and whom was affiliated with. Tory Britain and its charismatic leader, Thatcher was tearing up the unions, bringing in draconian laws and carving up the housing charters. I quickly began to sense and realise that the path I travelled on was not going to be secure, dusted and put to bed, blanketed in a snuggly wrap – no some innate calling kept me stepping forward into the unknown fearlessly, accepting that my life held some congenial truth dappled by the promise of love, magical leanings, socio-political meaning that identified with the unusual, different and popular underground club/drug culture.
In a nut, the party began in 1984, as a very gullible youth searching for a tribe that offered authentic collaboration brimming with enthusiasm and a courage that may well have been born out that childhood and teenage-ness that was still in me.
I was naive, fairly good looking, and somehow had a very unique love of finding beautiful vintage dresses, ball gowns, lace blouses, crazy Sock Shop stripy socks bought in the tubes station shops. I was a goggle with choice. My senses were alert as Scarlett and I would step out on Saturday to Portobello to eye up the talent and the look. Mesmerised by the definition of what London had to offer, life began to bubble a blazing new trail as we found Kensington Market. Oh my! We had found our club. Filled with little shops, a throwback to life in a different century with a bizarre theme full of goths, punks, trendies, rockabillies, pyschobillies, mods, and people like me! Kensington market was a brimful of eclectic mayhem. There was a hairdresser on the top floor and a basement cafe serving egg rolls for new-be vegetarians and builders tea. My time spent there can still smell the heady fumed passages of joss sticks, jewellery, banter and finding like minded groups. We were all interested in being trend setters who adventured into the flyered club scenes. Here we discovered The Mud Club (https://shapersofthe80s.com/tag/mud-club/) and would head over to Shaftesbury ave to queue in a line of wannabes to be plucked out of obscurity and into the ascension of being spotted by Philip Salon, host avant-guard who dressed up to the nines, in sequins, dimonte and dazzling dare that gave us fledglings clubbers permission to shine, fly and experiment with our own de-rigueur.
Between 1984-1986 I look upon these early years in London as growth and education out of something only potentially expressed on the screens of the 70’s watching Top of the Pops, and not so much The Old Grey Whistle Test. That was more to do with rockers, prog rock more precisely . No TOTP carried New Romantics, New Wave, Punk, Two-Tone, Ska, and a concoction of alternative forums dressed to impress that planted peerage seeds of a promise to practise the cultural Einstein a Go Go landscape whilst growing up on a farm. I was set to frame and be me, no matter how mad, bonkers and crazy that looked.
I figured out in the first two years of life on the boardwalk of this capital city, I lived in Holland Park x 2, Earls Court in a bedsit on Courtfield Gardens, then I began to sweep up in the arms of lovers where they opened doors, and gave me a taste for sweet life that stood me firmly in my essence. My second nannying job, on Landsdowne Avenue, had communal gardens and three beautiful landscape gardeners brothers, Johny, Charlie and Chubb worked in those glorious, private gardens. Charlie took a shine to me and invited me on the back of his British Norton. That bike sped us to a seriously fabulous pub, called The Moscow Arms. This was a premise full of scene makers. A denizen of wild debauchery, very tasty looking people, dressed up in the wild and wonderful abstractions of each others own imagination. I felt like I had arrived in some theatrical setting, and London really began to move and shake. Chubb was well to do and my first kind man that showed me the way. He and his brothers invited Scarlett and I to their sisters big party in Purely, Surrey and asked me not to tell my employees of who they were. My employees were odd anyway, I was their 13th nanny allegedly, and asked me not to talk to the gardeners. It was quite strange when I realised upon arriving at the stately home of the brothers family seat, that they were Lord and Lady Keyes children. I was happy to keep stumm! There we were in our dressed up ball gowns, mine a velvet fitted 1930’s bias cut number. I felt shapely, keen and apart of a special group of uber-echelon crowds. Their sister was the assistant editor of Vogue. It felt like we had arrived!
More to come….