I think my dad wrote this part in the 1970s, so perhaps those 40-odd years made it more melodramatic in his memories than it really was. He mentions his local was The Mitre which is right at the bottom of Ladbroke Grove – these days, that’s considered more a part of Holland Park. A lot of this part of west London was much rougher before WWII, particularly Notting Hill, but these days it’s all pretty fancy. – AZ
It was 1937. I, a young artist who’d recently been abandoned by his wife, had been milling around in the horrible emptiness of my studio in Ladbroke Grove.
We met in the street – she was with her sister, looking for a hotel. Scots. I offered to put them up at my place. Later on, her sister returned to Edinburgh, and Mimi stayed at mine.
She had beautiful outfits and knew masses of popular songs. It became more cheerful in the studio. As a matter of fact, she was very beautiful – dark-eyed and brunette – shapely, with beautiful legs and exceptionally expressive hands. She reckoned she was a dancer.
She lied to me from the start.
She conducted mysterious conversations on the phone. In fact, she spent all day hanging off the telephone in an unbuttoned dressing gown, only getting dressed in the evening before going out.
I demanded she told me where she went dancing. She simply replied that they wouldn’t let me in without a dinner jacket. She knew I didn’t own one.
Sometimes, a silver sports car would pull up outside the studio and Mimi would go running to it after kissing me affectionately goodbye.
One time, I followed her. I found her very close to home in our local pub The Mitre, drinking gin at the bar surrounded by several young people with excellent style. She introduced me as her landlord. She felt no embarrassment.
I tried to figure out who these people were and what they were talking about. My English back then still left much to be desired, and they spoke in abbreviations. I had to pay for a round which completely ruined me financially. Mimi just laughed.
At a certain point, everybody said goodbye to me with a wave of their hands and went outside to the beautiful cars they’d parked outside the pub. Mimi got into the silver cabriolet again.
I was left alone.
She eventually returned in the morning. I’d been waiting for her, pacing back and forth across my studio.
“Where were you?”
“Dancing, as usual.”
Typical questions for a tormented lover.
Suddenly, I noticed her hands. Her nails were broken and her skin was raw, practically down to the flesh. I grabbed her by both hands.
“Tell me, what did you do?!”
She narrowed her eyes, looking at me as if I were an enemy.
“I did whatever I felt like,” she replied insolently.
I slapped her in the face.
“What did you do?”
Her eyes were like daggers. A grimace full of contempt was on her lips. I hit her again.
“I’ll call the police,” she spat.
“Then call them,” I retorted, handing her the receiver to the phone. She didn’t take it.
With visible effort, she changed her facial expression and tried to laugh. I didn’t buy it. I bordered on genuine fury.
“What do you do at night?” I shrieked. “Who are these guys you keep meeting with? What’s the meaning of these injuries on your hands? I mean, it looks like rope burns.”
She burst into tears and finally told me everything.
In a particular spot along the English Channel, a yacht without any lights would sail up at night from the side of a Dutch freighter. That night, there had been a storm. The exchange of goods, which normally took a minute, was dragged out. A package fell into the water. It turned about stern and returned that same night to a small port along the county of Kent.
It usually worked as follows: Mimi and the dishy Goodall, the boss of the syndicate, who, as his surname implies, came from the upper classes, would immediately take the cocaine by car back to London. The rest remained, as innocent as ever, on the yacht.
“Take it back to where?” I shouted.
A hysteric attack of tears.
“Where is the cocaine hidden?” I demanded an explanation, full of the worst premonitions.
Another burst of tears.
She eventually led me to the bathroom and told me to unscrew the front panel underneath the bathtub. I removed the panel and couldn’t believe my eyes.
Beneath my own bathtub in my own bathroom were tens of small packages of white powder, all evenly lined up like it was a pharmacy.
I was a foreigner. The thought of deportation did not amuse me. I didn’t want to have to deal with the police. Neither did she.
I ordered her to call Goodall and tell him to remove the whole lot immediately from my home. He arrived with two empty suitcases. He didn’t say a single word but took it all. Then I ordered Mimi to move out. I took her personally, upon her request, to Maurice’s.
I never saw her again, not even till this day.