Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Verevale Hunt - Characters & Floor Plans


Lord Levondale (Felix Lionel, 3rd Baron - GB 1880): sixtyish, stoutish, baldish, good-natured but with a bit of a temper; divides interests between City and hunting. Timothy West type.

Lady Levondale (Cynthia): a comfortable, cheerful woman of about fifty, pert-faced and ample-bosomed, expensively but sloppily dressed ("imagine the White Queen dressed by Chanel"), fond of card games and gossip; Pauline Collins type.

Hon. Lavinia Levondale: spinsterish 28-year-old, "painfully plain and agonizingly earnest," devoted to charity, animal rights, and her dogs; but burning with a secret passion? Sarah Crowden type.

Hon. Michael Levondale: the young heir (19 -20, second year at Cambridge), good-looking, athletic, mischievous and a little manipulative, sexually adventurous; Christian Coulson type.


Jingo - James Ponsonby, 4th Marquess of Faringdon, Earl of Jarrow, etc.: (introduced in "The Foxbridge Footman") a charming and glamorous cad, 27 years old, terrifically handsome, Matthew Goode playing George Sanders.

Dotty - Dorothea Ponsonby, Marchioness of Faringdon: (introduced in "The Foxbridge Footman") a seductive child-woman, willowy and voluptuous at 25, a brilliant and manipulative mind masked in the giddy frivolity of a Bright Young Thing… a cross between Zoe Tapper and Kelly Reilly.

Bertie Pargeter: (introduced in "The Tears of Amphitrite") a cheerful idiot, chubby and well-dressed, good-natured and fully aware of his own shortcomings, socially clumsy but good at sport, mid-20s; Jeremy Sinden as Boy Mulcaster.

Hon Julia Pargeter: (introduced in "The Tears of Amphitrite") plain but witty and very clever, hard-headed business-woman disguised as self-effacing young matron, late-twenties/early thirties; Harriet Walter in Wimsey series.

Foxy - Sebastian Saint-Clair, Viscount Foxbridge: qv

Chester Vandekamp: Middle-aged American business tycoon, burly and weathered but smooth-mannered; older Liam Neeson type.

Mamie Vandekamp: Tycoon’s ex-chorus-girl second wife, voluptuous blonde just going to seed, crude but kind-hearted; Muzzy van Hossmere played by Renee Zellweger.

Miss Virginia Vandekamp: Tycoon’s daughter, early-mid-20s, adventurous flapper, boyishly attractive, Carey Mulligan type

Sir Wilfrid Beckett Haven KBE: Conservative MP & Cabinet Minister, widower late-fifties, stiff and gruff ex-military, gentry married daughter of an earl, John Williams type.

Miss Muriel Beckett Haven: Unmarried daughter and hostess of above, thirty-ish, pretty but sour, socially gracious but fiercely snobbish, interested only in bloodlines and politics. Frances Barber type.

Constance Gosforth the Dowager Duchess of Tyne: Impoverished grande dame, airy-fairy demeanor with grasping habits, fifty-something Joan Hickson type ("annoyed that eldest son was so selfish as to marry for love instead of much-needed money").

Lord Rupert Gosforth: Duchess’s charming wastrel second-son, good-looking but weak in chin and character, Laurence Fox type.

Sir Peregrine Pendersleigh, Bart.: elderly Egyptologist, muddled but good-humoured, Brideshead-era Gielgud type.

Miss Abigail Smallridge: Lavinia’s best friend since school days, frowsy but cheerful and chatty, fond of animals, Phoebe Nicholls type.


18 Indoor Servants
Winborn, the Butler
Mrs. Fears, the Houskeeper
Mrs. Ingersoll, the Cook
Prevett, Lord Levondale’s Valet
Norrell, Lady Levondale’s Maid
Creacy, Miss Levondale’s Maid
3 Footmen
3 Housemaids
2 ea Scullery Maids & Kitchen Boys

12 Outdoor Servants
Gardeners, Grooms & Gamekeepers

10 Visiting Servants
Massingale, Lord Faringdon’s Pretty Valet
Wickson, Lady Faringdon’s Mysterious Maid
Pyburn, Duchess of Tyne’s Elderly Maid
Reginald Pond, Lord Foxbridge’s Valet
Moustafa Sassi, Sir Peregrine’s Exotic African Manservant
Heston, Sir Wilfrid’s Valet
Murphy, Miss Beckett Haven’s Maid
Maynard, Mr. Pargeter's Valet
Hibbert, Mrs. Pargeter's Maid
Celestine Dubois, Mrs Vandekamp’s Coquettish French Maid


Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Trulock: medium-sized, middle-aged, rumpled clothes of good quality, soft-spoken with an educated accent, shrewd hooded eyes; see Michael Kitchen in Foyle’s War.

Detective Sergeant Andrew Netley - young, tall, good-looking, exceptionally neat; see Anthony Howell in Foyle’s War.


Mock-up of Entry (north) Front

First Floor

Second Floor

Third Floor


Saturday, 1 March 2014

Untitled Exercise

Queen Anne’s Gate, London
Tuesday, 8 May, 1945

I leaned against the window in my study, sucking moodily on my pipe and gazing across my back garden to Birdcage Walk, watching the festive crowds streaming through St. James’s Park toward Buckingham Palace, and wished I could share their joy. The war was finally over, Hitler was dead and Germany had surrendered; the Americans were still at it with Japan, but for us the unbearable years of terror, death, and privation were at an end, and the entire populace were thrilled out of their minds.

But though I was grateful that it was all finally over, I just couldn’t work up any enthusiasm about this celebration of what the papers were calling V.E. Day. The war had cost me too much, much too much, and all I could think about was the grim inventory of all I’d lost.

I lost Pater first, early in the Blitz: he was hit in the head by flying débris as he was leaving his office in Westminster Palace, passing through St. Stephen’s Porch when it took a direct hit in September 1940. Vere House in Whitehall, a Palladian jewel built by my ancestors in the reign of George I, was destroyed by another bomb only a few weeks later.

My office in Bury Street was bombed in April 1941, killing my secretary and one of my investigators; around the block on St. James’s Street, Hyacinth House, the queer hotel where I’d lived before I married and later on bought and operated, was severely damaged by that same bomb and a couple of others, and had to be demolished; Verevale Court, a great Baroque pile on the Sussex Downs that had once been our principal seat, was requisitioned by the RAF for a training facility, and subsequently burned down when a wounded Spitfire crashed into it in October 1944.

I kept a careful list of friends and relations who’d been killed at home and abroad, compiled from letters and newspaper accounts and recorded in a special diary; but the number of people I lost in those years was too high to contemplate: dozens of classmates from Oxford and Eton, fellows from my various clubs, intimates from the queer demimonde, cherished friends and companions; though I had no blood relations but an elderly aunt, my wife’s younger brother, her uncle, and two of her cousins were taken, as well as numerous others of her sprawling and complicated family.

But the greatest loss of all was TwisterSir Oliver Paget, fifteenth baronet, Scotland Yard detective, the love of my life, my dearest friend and partner in myriad adventures, the godfather of my sons. He wasn’t dead, though, for which I did my best to be thankful: but Our Sort were not allowed to join up, not even during the conscriptions; Twister believed that the only way to retain his honour and the privilege of fighting for his country was to completely cut off all contact with every queer he knewincluding and especially me.

I was terribly hurt that he would put me away like that, but I did understand his motives, so I let him go; as a result, I hadn’t seen or heard from him in the last five and a half years, and only knew he was still alive because a friend in the War Office kept me informed of his doings.

On the other hand, it wasn’t like I’d lost everything, as many had done; in some ways I’d even benefitted.

Since my father died and I became the eleventh Earl of Vere, I had been very busynot so busy that I forgot about Twister, but busy enough to keep my mind off him for the majority of my waking hours. I’d had to give up my private enquiry agency when the office was bombed, but I’d already taken my seat in the Lords by then, and so used my Parliamentary influence and my detective experience to obtain a fairly important post in the Home Guard.

I have to admit that the Home Guard was considerably more satisfying work than I had expectedhaving gone into it simply to keep myself distracted with blackout enforcement and bomb shelter provision, I instead created my own sub rosa investigatory branch and soon found myself rooting out criminals disguised as Wardens to loot bombed houses, destroying sinister cabals of black-market profiteers, building a spy-network of queers and conchies to keep tabs on the regular and military police, and having more fun than a decade of Society sleuthing had ever afforded me.

And then, though the losses to my ancestral estates were great, I didn’t actually live in the houses we lost, and my own residences had remained unharmed: Foxbridge Castle, our principal seat in Gloucestershire which had been in the family since the Crusades, had escaped requisitioninglargely due to my wife Caro’s activities, turning the entire park to agriculture and filling the house with refugees and the Women’s Land Army; and our townhouse in Queen Anne’s Gate, which I’d bought when Caro and I married in 1929, escaped the Blitz without so much as a cracked windowpane, though dozens of bombs had fallen only yards away in the Park.

The family treasures had been spared, as well, since at the very beginning of the war we’d taken the artwork and the better antiques out of all our houses and stored them in a bunker built for the purpose in an old iron mine on the Foxbridge estate; so though Vere House and Verevale Court were no more, their Adam ceilings and Gibbons paneling reduced to rubble and splinters, the pictures and plate were safe and sound.

Then there was the money: Savarell Inc., the massive pharmaceutical concern founded by my American grandfather, the majority stock of which I’d inherited from my mother, won a lucrative contract to supply drugs to the US Armed Forces as soon as our cousins across the pond joined the fray, and the value of my holdings nearly doubled on the strength of it. I also had a great deal of the fortune I’d inherited from my paternal uncle invested in British industries that had boomed with wartime conversion and production, not so spectacularly as my American concerns but enough that the staggering death duties attendant on Pater’s demise were more than recouped in the following years.

I had so much to be grateful for that it was really rather churlish of me to sit brooding over my sorrows on that celebratory day. But there it is, I couldn’t help how I felt.

"I beg your lordship’s pardon," my valet Pond slipped quietly into the study behind me, "It is time to dress. Her ladyship’s guests will be arriving at seven."

"Are you happy, Pond?" I asked, turning to look at him. He’d been my boon companion for nigh on twenty years, my friend in Oxford before entering my service in 1927; but his neat ferrety face, entirely unchanged since first we’d met, and his small spare frame in its eternal black suit betrayed no emotion stronger than intelligent concern, and I still couldn’t read him as clearly as I can most people.

"I try always to be cheerful, my lord," he replied noncommittally.

"I mean about the war ending, V.E. Day and all that," I clarified, "Are you filled with victorious glee?"

"I would not go so far as victorious glee, my lord," he said after a moment’s thought, "I am extremely glad that the war is over and we can return to normal life. But your lordship is not feeling victorious or gleeful?"

"I feel like hell," I shrugged, "All I can think about is everything we’ve lost. I’m inappropriately sad."

"Sorrow is perfectly appropriate, my lord," he consoled me with a gentle voice, "These last years have been so fraught with loss that one has had little opportunity for grief, and more losses expected all the time, who will be killed next, what will be bombed next; now that it’s over, it is perfectly natural for the grief to come."

"It doesn’t seem to be coming to them," I indicated the cheering throngs beyond my garden gate.

"We are not all constructed alike, my lord," he pointed out, "I can send word that your lordship is ill, if you prefer to avoid tonight’s festivities."

"No, I’ll dress," I preceded him across the passage to my dressing-room, "Perhaps it will cheer me up, rubbing elbows with the giddy throng instead of watching them out the window."

"Very good, my lord," Pond followed me and started laying out the necessary tools for my evening spiff-up. I didn’t need to shave or wash first, so I took up my accustomed place in front of the triptych looking-glass and adopted the passive rigidity of a department-store mannequin.

I had turned thirty-nine the previous month, just around the corner from the dreaded fortyI’m not sure why, but I’d been dreading forty ever since I was twenty, as if it were a magic number that would turn me instantly into an old man; perhaps it is because my father was forty when my mother died, in the influenza pandemic of 1918, and he had turned quite instantly into an old man on that occasion.

Staring into the glass while Pond stripped and redressed me for the evening, I had to admit that the years had been kinder to me than they had to Pater, who was quite lovely in youth but resembled a particularly peevish buzzard in middle age; I wasn’t beautiful anymore, but I had kept my elegant figure and all my auburn hair, and my once-exquisite face was still firm at the jaw and unlined around the eyes, having only filled out and matured into a reasonable sort of handsomeness that was pleasing to look upon.

Still, I missed my beauty. This distinguished gentleman in the glass was better-looking than my father had been at that age, but he wasn’t a patch on the gorgeous creature I used to be. But there I go again, mourning my losses instead of enjoying my blessings: I was still alive and whole, when so many of my contemporaries were not, but all I could do was hanker after a pretty face I no longer wore.

"I can’t wait for cloth rationing to end," I said as he slid my dinner jacket onto my shoulders, "You’ve done an admirable job of keeping everything looking new, but I’m sick to death of these particular garments."

"Perhaps if your lordship didn’t give half his coupons to her ladyship."

"Yes, well. The hidden costs of marrying a fashion-plate," I smiled.

My wife the Countess of Vere (née Lady Caroline Chatroy, eldest daughter of the twelfth Duke of Buckland, known to all her friends as Caro) had never in her life worn any garment more than a dozen times, and was long accustomed to regular sojourns in Paris for entirely new wardrobes every spring and fall; she was also a devoted cross-dresser with a whole other persona called Charley, who dressed at least as well as I did, if not better: the loss of Paris to the Germans was a tragedy, and rationing a cruel and unusual punishment, forcing her to give up Charley altogether and wear her clothes until they practically fell off her. Her maid, Partridge, was a genius at altering her things to give her dressing a bit of variety, but there are only so many times you can dismantle and rebuild a dress or evening gown before the fabric starts to unravel. Her need was simply greater than mine, so I’d only used enough coupons to replace ruined socks and linens, and gave the rest to her.

"Oh, good, you are coming down," the object of our discussion suddenly hove into view behind me, virtually coruscating in a scarlet gown embroidered with gold bugle-beads in a pattern resembling fireworks, rubies at her throat and diamond stars in her golden hair.

"Did you think I wasn’t?" I wondered, turning to look at Caro instead of her reflection. She hadn’t aged a day in our fifteen years of marriage, which I thought rather unfair of her; but then, she has the sort of face that stands up to the test of time, square and sharp-boned, so much more durable than the dainty oval Nature had given me which relied so much on the bloom of youth. She’ll be just as beautiful at ninety as she was at nineteen.

"I saw you mooning in your window, earlier," she draped her arm around my waist and turned me back toward the glass so she could enjoy our combined reflection; we’ve always made a very attractive couple, and it gave me a lift to see us together, "when I was down in the garden. You looked quite desolate. I thought of giving you the Balcony Speech, but you wouldn’t have heard me over all the row in the Park."

"I am feeling rather desolate, but I thought the party might cheer me up," I explained, turning her back around and leading her out of the room, "Thank you, Pond. And please take the rest of the evening off to celebrate. I shan’t need you again tonight."

"Thank you, my lord," he bowed and started tidying the room.

"That’s a hell of a dress," I remarked as I preceded her down the three steps in the passage that connect my part of the house to hers, then onto the gracefully curving main stair, "Have you been saving it for a special occasion?"

"Brand new, actually," she bridled at the compliment, "specially made for tonight. Partridge started it when the Reichstag fell and just finished the beading yesterday."

"Quick work," I whistled appreciatively at the achievement, "Where’d she find so much silk?"

"It was the lining from my mink cape," she admitted ruefully, "I haven’t worn it in an age, and the colour is so festive."

"I am very much looking forward to being able to shower you in furs again, complete with linings," I nodded at the footman who opened the drawing-room door for us and made a beeline for the cocktail table, where Young Coldicott was assembling a shaker of martinis.

"I’ve heard they won’t be doing away with rationing any time soon," Caro busied herself over a plate of canapés the maid had just deposited on another table. We kept rather more servants than we required, as I’d made a habit of taking in the cripples and strays I encountered in my Home Guard work, pretty much hiring anyone who could carry a tray and refrain from stealing the silverwhen your first footman has only one leg, there’s a reasonable need for a second footman with another leg, a one-eyed cook rather requires the complementary half-deaf kitchen-maid, and next thing you know the servants’ hall is packed solid.

And then, Young Coldicott (so-called to distinguish him from his father, our butler at Foxbridge Castlethere have been Coldicotts running our households for three hundred years) was the only servant we still had from before the war, the rest had gone off to fight or to work in factoriesand we only had him because of his terrible eyesight, the poor thing was blind as a mole with spectacles thick as jewelers’ loupes. None of the new people had much experience, so we needed more of them to do the same work.

"I’ll have to make a noise about that in Parliament, I don’t think I can take much more of clothing coupons and no petrol and no sweets. I mean, what’s the point of having money if you can’t bloody buy anything?" I complained, bringing Caro’s and my drinks across and examining the food: light on the potted meats and heavy on the deviled eggs, filled out with turnips and radishes cut to look like flowers. Our little back garden was turned over entirely to chickens, with more coops in a caged run on the roof, so there were always plenty of eggs to eat if nothing else.

"If you weren’t so disgustingly honest, you could have made us fat on black-market delicacies," she teased, "One proper crook in your pocket instead of in prison, and you’d be swanning around in a new dinner jacket and guzzling sugared oranges right now."

"Oh, I do miss sugared oranges," I mused nostalgically, "Though we certainly wouldn’t be serving them as canapés, would we?"

"If I had an orange in the house, I certainly would," she laughed, "A rarer delicacy than caviare, these days."

"Papa! I want to go outside!" my younger son came barreling into the room and launched himself into my arms, very nearly knocking my drink out of my hand, "But Charlie says we can’t."

"Steady on, Poppet," I reproved gently, gathering him up under one arm and handing my slopped-over drink to the footman while the housemaid advanced on me with napkins to mop up the gin; he’s on the small side for a twelve-year-old, but rather too big to be climbing on me like a squirrel in a tree, so I had a bit of a struggle to hold him, "What’s the fuss?"

"I want to go to the Palace and see the King and Queen and Mr. Churchill," he explained in a rush, his pretty little face flushed and animated, "But Charlie says Saint-Clairs can’t go gawking at the Palace gates, we only go if we’re invited inside."

"You’re supposed to call me Foxbridge, Cyril," my elder son drifted in, scorn wafting off him like steam after a bath, "Not Charlie."

"I won’t!" Poppet swung around behind me and roosted on my back to make himself taller than his brother, clutching his arms around my neck in a chokehold, "Not even when I come to Eton next term. I’ll call you Charlie! Charlie Chucklehead!"

My boys are a study in contrasts: Poppet (the Honourable Cyril Vyvyan Chatroy Saint-Clair) has my curly auburn hair and big chestnut eyes, lively and inquisitive as a monkey, impulsive and affectionate, and consistently acts half his age; fourteen-year-old Foxbridge (Charles Oliver Chatroy Saint-Clair, Viscount Foxbridge by courtesy) is the spitting image of his mother, tall and handsome and sleekly blond, but solemn and standoffish, a miniature adult with a touchy sense of decorum, and had become a bit pompous since entering Eton two years ago.

Though they’re very different from each other, they’d gotten on reasonably well (according to Caro, who grew up with two brothers and three sistersI was an only child and had no idea) until Foxbridge started to school, whereupon the exuberant antics of the younger began to grate on the increased dignity of the elder; now with the prospect of Poppet joining him at Eton in a few months, opening up a thousand avenues for fraternal embarrassment, Foxbridge’s dignity was thrusting into overdrive and the two were at each others’ throats more often than not.

"Pater, tell him we can’t go," Foxbridge demanded. That was an Etonian affectation, as well, calling me Pater, he’d always called me Papa before; I shouldn’t resent it, I’d started calling my father Pater when I went to Eton, and I should be grateful that he hadn’t adopted the other option, Gov’nor. Still, it annoyed me a little, just as calling him Foxbridge, which had been my name from birth until just five years ago, annoyed me a little.

"You can’t go into the Park," I said sternly, pulling on Poppet’s arms so I could breathe, "Though not for the reasons you cite, Foxbridge, I’m sure the family prestige can survive rubbing elbows with the common folk on an occasion like this. But there are too many people out there, and a lot of them are going to be drunk tonight. I don’t want you getting trampled."

"But I want to see the King!" Poppet wailed, kicking me in the back of my knees and nearly toppling me.

"I’ll tell you what," I backed up to the sofa so the child could dismount without doing me any further injury, "Go up to my study and get the big binoculars off the window-seat; I’ll telephone to Lord Glenconner at the end of the row and ask if you can go up on his roof, you should be able to see the Palace from there."

"Thank you, Papa!" he leaped off the sofa and ran for the door.

"Kiss your mother, first, you little savage," I grabbed him by the collar and pulled him off his feet.

"Do I have to go with him?" Foxbridge scowled at his little brother as the latter delicately kissed his mother on the cheek before tearing out of the room.

"The governess can take him if you’d rather stay here," I reached out and stroked his hair. He didn’t like being hugged or cuddled, but at least he didn’t mind gentle demonstrations of affection: many boys his age would rather die a thousand painful deaths than let their fathers kiss them, "Your mother might let you have some champagne."

"May I stay for the party?" he turned and addressed Caro excitedly.

"You are not appropriately dressed," she said with terrible hauteur, casting meaning eyes over his neat jumper and necktie; he correctly interpreted this as teasing but responded as if she’d been serious.

"I’ll go put on a jacket," he said, leaning down to kiss her cheek, "And I’ll ask Miss Silberstein to take Cyril to Lord Glenconner’s."

"Thank you, darling," Caro beamed at him as he left the room, then turned back to me, "You spoil those boys dreadfully. Foxbridge needs knocking down a peg, and Poppet needs to grow up, but you just indulge them as they are."

"And you don’t?" I laughed at her as I took a fresh cocktail from the table.

"I’m their mother, I’m supposed to indulge them," she smirked.

"Well, if you wanted a disciplinarian, you married the wrong girl," I made a camp little curtsey, one of our long-running jokes, "I’d better get on the horn to Number 34 before Poppet turns up there and starts hammering on their door."

Glenconnor wasn’t at home, in fact nobody answered at Number 34, which rather threw a spanner into my plan; but then, if nobody was home, nobody would mind people on their roof, so I went downstairs to fetch the boy and the governess.

"Change of plan, old sport," I found the two of them in the foyer, Miss Silberstein industriously buttoning a squirming and impatient Poppet into his overcoat, "Nobody’s home at Number 34, you’ll have to go over the roofs. Do you mind a little climb, Miss S?"

"I do not mind, my lord," she replied stalwartly, though her eyes went big and she swallowed rather convulsively. She is a dour and mannish young woman, a brilliant scholar of languages and history who’d ended up billeted at Foxbridge Castle as an internee; she fled Germany when the Jews were expelled from the universities, and then been snatched out of Oxford as an enemy national when the war started; my old Nanny spotted her potential and made me take her on to teach the boys.

In the old days, a German governess would have been referred to and addressed as Fraulein; but German governesses are beyond unfashionable these days, and she wasn’t even teaching the boys to speak German, so we couldn’t call her that; and we couldn’t call her ‘Nanny’ since my own Nanny was still living with us at Foxbridge, my aunt’s long-time lover and secretary; therefore she was called Miss Silberstein, or Miss S. by those of us (well, just me, really) who found the correct pronunciation somewhat burdensome.

"I’ll go along with you," I offered, realizing that Miss S. might be afraid of heights; besides, it would be more fun to adventure on the rooftops and try to see the King than wait in the drawing-room while the guests trickled in.

"Why do I have to wear a coat?" my son groused as we climbed the stairs, "You don’t have to wear one."

"Because you have a governess and I don’t," I told him, ruffling his hair.

"Mummy says Mr. Pond is your governess," Poppet pointed out slyly.

"Yes, but he didn’t know I was going out on the roof," I paused at the door to the attic, "You think I should go back and put one on?"

"No! Let’s go!" he opened the door and pulled me through.

It wasn’t a difficult climb, the houses along Queen Anne’s Gate are about the same height, with flat or shallow roofs and no parapets, so it was fairly easy to hand Miss Silberstein over the obstacles without getting too close to the edge. But when we got to the end of Number 34, we found the view was not as unobstructed as I’d anticipated, the tops of the trees in the Park were just a tiny bit higher than we were.

"Well, this is a fine how-do-you-do," I surveyed the scene in consternation.

"Let’s climb up on the chimney," Poppet suggested.

"No, you must not climb chimneys!" Miss Silberstein gasped, "It is too dangerous!"

"Oh, I don’t know," I turned and examined the structure in question, which rose about five feet from the surface of the roof, with sufficient space between the flues that I could squeeze between, mounting the chimney like a horse, "I can get up there, easily."

"Oh, no, my lord! You will get so dirty," Miss Silberstein objected.

"I’m sick of this dinner-suit anyway," I shrugged with a show of bravado, although I knew Pond would have kittens when he saw all the soot; I jumped up a bit, caught hold of a grimy chimney-pot, and swung myself up, a little impressed with my own athleticism, "Boost him up to me, Miss S., I’ll hold him steady so he can see."

"Higher, Papa!" Poppet squealed once I had him in my lap, "I can’t see the balcony."

"Don’t squirm, your mother will never forgive me if I drop you off a chimney," I gripped his legs tightly and braced him against my shoulder while he adjusted the focus on the binoculars, "How about now?"

He went still and silent, so I assumed that the quarry had been sighted. He stayed still for quite some time, too, so it must have been a fascinating sighthe was as jumpy as a pea on a hot skillet until and unless something caught his attention, whereupon he became so engrossed one would think he’d been turned to stone.

"My lord, it is getting dark," Miss Silberstein warned after we’d been perched on the chimney long enough for my arms to get tired.

"We’d better get down, Poppet," I agreed, pulling him down into my lap.

"No, I want to stay here," he whined, "This is fun. Please?"

"It’s only fun for you, my dear," I laughed, hoisting him down into his governess’s waiting arms, "I’m bored and getting saddle-sore. I can’t imagine what’s so fascinating about watching the Royal Family wave."

"Oh, I stopped watching them ages ago, I’m watching the people in the Park."

"You won’t be able to see anything in a couple of minutes, anyway," I climbed down beside him and started batting the worst of the soot off my trousers, "It is getting dark, you know."

"They’ve got Kleig lights set up all around the Victoria Memorial and the Park," he objected, stamping his foot pettishly, "It’s not going to get dark in the Park tonight."

"What do you know about Kleig lights?" I laughed at the technical word in a child’s mouth.

"Thank his lordship for bringing you, Master Cyril," Miss Silberstein scolded the boy while strenuously rubbing his face and hands with her handkerchief.

"Thank you, Papa," he murmured sullenly.

"You’re welcome, Poppet," I wiped my hands on my own handkerchief and set off across the roofs toward home, "And thank Miss S. for coming, too. Now we both need to wash up and change into clean clothes. Tomorrow you can tell me all about the people you were watching."

"I’ll write you a report just like a real detective," he grinned up at me, his dudgeon put away in an instant.

"I look forward to reading it."

I parted from him on the third floor, where Miss Silberstein took him off to the nursery bathroom, then continued down to the second floor and through the passage to my own rooms. It was the sole spot where the two houses actually connected, and I only occupied the second floor of the other house; the large house where Caro and the boys lived was known to belong to me, but the slightly smaller building next door was owned and operated as a lodging-house by an anonymous holding company that is part of the Byzantine network of properties my stockbroker administers for me.

It was the safest way for Twister and me to live together: he rented rooms in an established lodging house in a location convenient to his work (if a trifle posh for a policeman); I took rooms in the same house under an assumed name and arrived every evening in a remarkably unflattering hat and a padded raincoat as a disguise, returning to Hyacinth House every morning through the abutting Bury Street office-block I’d bought at the same time; then, nearly a year later, I moved into the house next door with my new wife, and the mysterious third-floor lodger disappeared; after the children came, and Twister stood as their godfather, he dined with us every night, but always went home through the front door while I joined him through the door I’d had built in the second-floor passage.

It was unnecessarily complicated and rather a lot of fun, like playing at spies; and if Twister’s superiors at Scotland Yard ever examined his living arrangements, they looked perfectly innocent and above-board to even the dirtiest-minded investigator. We lived like that for ten blissful years.

Of course, there was no reason to keep up that fiction after Twister left me for the Army, but neither was there any reason to take over the rest of the smaller house, so I just let it continue as lodgings. It had come in handy on a couple of occasions when I needed a place for a friend to live, or a sham premises for Home Guard ‘sting’ operations.
To be continued...

14 - 20 Queen Anne's Gate (numbered right to left) in 1925

Floor Plans 14 - 22A Queen Anne's Gate; 14 and 16 are our setting.

Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II), Queen Elizabeth, (Sir) Winston Churchill, King George VI, and Princess Margaret celebrating VE Day on the balcony of Buckingham Palace

Crowds gathered at Buckingham Palace for VE Day

Map showing relative positions of "New Vere House" (A) and Buckingham Palace (B), about a third of a mile apart as the crow flies; the real 2nd Baron Glenconner actually lived at 34 Queen Anne's Gate (where the blue line takes its first turn) at the time; it is now the premises of St Stephen's Club.