The Rope Walk at Albany
Part of this chapter takes place in the exclusive London apartment complex the Albany (or just Albany as some have it. How it is referred to by its residents varies according to time and fashion) on Piccadilly. Originally the large house of Lord Melbourne, built in the early seventeen seventies, in 1802 it was sold and converted into 69 apartments (or sets as they are known) for bachelors by adding two long wings in what had been the rear garden. A covered walkway named the Rope Walk links these buildings.
Albany courtyard 1903
These days you do not have to be a bachelor (or even a man) to live there but no children under the age of fourteen are permitted to reside there. Residents are forbidden to whistle, make a noise or talk about the place, giving it a uniquely secretive cachet as a London address. Residents have to be approved by the trustees and the secretary and on the very rare occasions a set comes up for sale it will cost in the region of £3 million. Around half of the sets are owned by Peterhouse College, Cambridge.
Triple P had tea with a resident there once and we actually found it easier to get in for tea with the President of Colombia than past the porters at Albany. Famous past residents include poet Lord Byron, actor Terence Stamp, conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, three previous British prime ministers, singer Brian Ferry, pioneer photographer William Fox Talbot, writer J,B, Priestley, art historian Sir Kenneth Clarke, novelist Georgette Heyer, playwright Terence Rattigan and even, briefly, Greta Garbo.
Auguste Renoir After the bath (1888)
Inside Lord Hoxton's set Edmund Molloy is impressed by his lordship''s collection of nudes. Lord Hoxton shares a similar taste in art (amongst other things) to Triple P. His Renoir, we imagine, is something like this one which is Triple P's favourite of the artist's work.
Hoxton also posesses a Degas something like this one. We were introduced to Degas' nudes by a (red head) girlfriend when at university. She also bought us our first pastels so we could immortalise her form in similar style.
The picture that becomes part of the wager is a Boucher drawing similar to this. Boucher certainly did, as Hoxton observes, produce erotic drawings of his wife to sell to collectors. "Prostituting his own wife" as the philosopher Diderot said of Boucher.
Hoxton notes the beauty of women from the South Seas but also Zulu and Beja women. The Beja people of Sudan are the dreaded Fuzzy-Wuzzies of Kipling's poem about the Sudan War in 1884 (where Lord Hoxton served as junior officer). Some of the women are stunning.
Winchester 94 30-30
The Winchester model 1894 30-30, which Hoxton presented Molloy with, was a popular hunting rifle, eventually selling over 7,000,000 units. Production only ceased in 2006, it was so well thought of. Whether it will stop a dinosaur remains to be seen!
Molloy's own shooting experience is confined to a Lincoln Jeffries air rifle. This is Agent Triple P's Lincoln Jeffries and belonged to our grandfather. It dates from about 1906. For an air rifle it is quite potent and its .177 pellets could easily pierce a wooden fence. We did shoot a bird with it once (by accident when we shot it into a tree and a thrush fell out onto the grass). We were very upset but fortunately we had only knocked it off its perch (the surrounding branches and leaves seemed to have slowed the pellet) and it shook itself and flew away. We could never go hunting (or fishing); we are too sensitive!
Buses in Piccadilly Circus in 1912
Molloy catches the number 14 bus from Piccadilly, where he met Lord Hoxton, back to King's Cross to meet Mrs Challenor. The Number 14 still runs from Piccadilly to Warren Street, near King's Cross. At this time horse drawn buses had only just been withdrawn by the London General Omnibus Company and there were still some steam powered buses in service. Many of these motor buses would be taken across the English Channel to move troops during the Great War. Although eventually converted and painted khaki, originally they served in their red livery.
Type B buses in World War 1