Marigold Says...

Random thoughts on travelling and life in general.

The First Murderer G Ever Interviewed and Certainly the Most Prolific

Marigold Says...

The things I remember from our flat life in London starting at Holland Park are the many flights of stairs to our top flat and the shared telephone at the bottom. If somebody rang and it was for us, your name was shouted once by whoever answered. You had to be quick.

It was obviously a source of entertainment for one of the old ladies on the third floor as you always heard her door creak open and she listened to your end of the conversation over the balcony sometimes tutting. She was very much a Miss and used to leave notices by the shared toilets , always pinpointing the many vagaries of men. One I always remember said “Can the gentlemen please close the lavatory seat after use”. Somebody added underneath “Can the ladies please not sh.t on the floor”. It was hastily removed, but to this day I still find it highly amusing.

No it wasn’t G who wrote it.

Miss Dowler who lived underneath us in her bedsit used to have a loaf of bread delivered every day from Harrods. She would use any excuse when I returned from work to invite me in and give me a sherry and tonic. These old ladies were of a bygone age with a very old fashioned nostalgic view of the world. Her nephew worked at Buckingham Palace of which she was very proud. She was leaving all her money to him as he was the only one who visited her “regularly” which was about twice a year.

I had to knock the Sherry trips on the head as sometimes I couldn’t safely make it up the two flights of stairs home.

I was temping when I first arrived in London. The travelling on the tube frightened me to death. Every Sunday night G used to map out and do a practice run with me to a new assignment. The words Country Bumpkin come to mind but I was still a teenager and London was just so BIG.

Temp jobs were sporadic and I eventually got a permanent job in Bentinck Street, next to Harley Street, working for a prestigious firm of solicitors. I was Legal Secretary to the senior Partner, Mr Muscat. He was tiny, inclined to go into furious rages and very eccentric. He had numerous celebrity clients and refused to allow them to have a coffee or a biscuit if they called at the office in case they imagined he was impressed by success. Everybody else got tea, coffee and biscuits. He always worked with the office windows open and when anyone on the telephone annoyed him he used to throw the phone out of the window. I had to pull it back up on its dangling flex.

One day G was waiting in reception to collect me and I had been delayed by one of my bosses tantrums. As I walked down the stairs to meet G a tiny, dishevelled figure ran down after me shouting, ‘I love you, don’t leave me.’ He used to say that quite often after one of his rants at the world and it was a good job that G was very understanding.

If you worked on Saturday mornings they provided a Jewish buffet, rolls with different weird fillings, all of which I loved, dishes of pretzels and home made pickles. I adored my time there and it opened up a new world.

I worked some evenings when G was out working as a sports coach at a hotel just at the end of Holland Park Avenue, near to some very big mansions that were all foreign Embassies. One night Nana Mouskouri was staying there and we were all told we had to pretend we didn’t know who she was as she hated a fuss. It was easy for me, I didn’t care. Her backing band, the Athenians, had to sleep in a much lower standard hotel in Shepherds Bush because she was the ‘star’.

The woman who owned the hotel was always very smart with bouffant hair like a film star and one night she asked me to make a cup of coffee and take it to her room. When I went in she was sitting on the bed and combing her wig. She was completely bald. I screamed and when she said, ‘go away, stupid girl’ I ran out and couldn’t stop laughing. My friend on reception said the owner hated her own hair and had shaved her head as she preferred to wear wigs.

I also managed to get a Saturday job later on in Selfridges on the button counter. I lasted 3 weeks and was asked to leave. I was supposed to measure 20 yards of ribbon, which I did, forgot how much half way and was told off. The final straw was when a woman customer had the handles of her crocodile bag cut and the thief ran off with the bottom part. She shouted “somebody has pinched my crocodile” which I thought very funny and was told off again for laughing. What a supercilious place it was. I had a dismissal letter that day in with my wages. I was delighted.

My next Saturday job was at Wallis in Bond Street. That was great. We earned 1p in the pound commission. The old shop floor ladies fought for every customer who looked rich, and cries of “mine dear” rang out. It certainly hardened me up. I can still get to the front of any queue before anybody else.

G Says...

Portobello Road, from the musical Bedknobs and Broomsticks, 1971.

'Portobello road, Portobello road.

Street where the riches of ages are stowed.

Anything and everything a chap can unload,

Is sold off the barrow in Portobello road.

You’ll find what you want in the Portobello road.'

 

Portobello Road by Cat Stephens, later known as Yusuf Islam, from the album Matthew and Son.

‘Nothing is weird, not even a beard

Getting hung up all day on smiles,

Walking down portobello road for miles,

Greeting strangers in Indian boots,

Yellow ties and old brown suits,

Growing old is my only danger.’


Our arrival in London in 1969 was at a time of huge change throughout all society, about previously unconsidered freedoms, particularly among the young, and rampant experimentation in art, fashion and music. Despite this breadth of options virtually everybody we knew had the same albums, still largely referred to as LPs, by the Beatles, most probably Sergeant Pepper, and Simon and Garfunkel playing constantly and listened to the surreal and faintly anarchic Kennie Everett on the radio, 10.00 to 12.00 every Saturday morning. He got the boot from the BBC in 1970 for making a fairly innocuous quip wondering if the wife of the Minister of Transport had offered the examiner a bribe to pass her driving test.

When we decided to move from genteel and distinctly upmarket Holland Park it was in search of a more affordable flat - we were finding the weekly rent of a top floor small bed sitter, accounting for about three quarters of our income, a bit of a financial struggle and also wanted a tad more floor space. Our (normal size) bed took up half the room, so it was a bit of a squeeze.

A turning point came one Sunday morning after a dispute with a neighbour, Doctor Patel. We never discovered where Doctor Patel worked as we never saw him go out, but our other top floor neighbour, Miss Foote, was convinced he was an eminent surgeon and had operated on members of the Royal Family. We thought this unlikely as his bed sitter was only the same size as ours, hardly befitting the lifestyle of a top surgeon.

We’d soon realised Miss Foote wasn’t the most reliable source of information. She was friendly enough, always said, ‘good morning, Clive’ when we met on the stairs. My name isn’t Clive and on many occasions it wasn’t in the morning either, but the greeting never varied. Marigold did not rate a name at all, just a curt ‘good morning.’

Our ablutions took place in the bathroom on the floor below, a dingy little room with a rusty bath, toilet and basin where hot water was obtained by lighting a wall mounted gas boiler that bellowed loudly when it was eventually lit. Our resident wise man, the caretaker Kiwi John, wasn’t even a New Zealander – he was Irish - but had lived there for ten years so became known as Kiwi John when he returned to differentiate him from the many Irish Johns in the area.

Yes, it was a bit confusing.

Kiwi John told us about the temperamental boiler, how it was difficult to light first time and responded best to a system of switch the gas on, wait for up to a minute and then strike a match near the gas jet.

‘That sounds dangerous,’ I said.

‘Oh, God, it’s that all right. Best stand right across the room and throw matches at it.’

Right. That explained the vast numbers of matchsticks on the floor and the permanent smell of gas. Marigold refused to even enter the bathroom until I had dealt with the boiler and survived the blast of flame that burst forth.

It wasn’t a very large bath, but we were young, fit and nimble then so usually shared a bath as the metered gas supply didn’t last for long. One day we were going out in the evening so Marigold nipped out of the bath first and went back upstairs as she invariably needed more time than I did to get ready. Of course this meant the door was now unlocked. I stayed in the bath, using the hot water to have a shave. I had no sooner applied shaving cream to my face when the door opened and Miss Foote rushed in.

She didn’t say ‘good morning, Clive,’ so I just kept very still and tried to be invisible. Miss Foote wasn’t a large woman, she was very thin and always well turned out, but until you have experienced someone using a lavatory about two feet away from your face you can’t really say you know them. I can only compare the sound effects and general ambience of the occasion to being what I imagine it’s like sitting immediately adjacent to a difficult and protracted birth in a maternity ward. She finally arose, understandably looking a little weary I thought, and wandered off out again.

Doctor Patel, like many of the residents, left his rubbish outside the door for Kiwi John to collect as part of his caretaker duties. His only job as far as we could see. On one occasion Marigold noticed a pair of desert boots on the landing and came in very excited to say they were just my size. I had a look, tried them on and they fitted perfectly. Superb recycling we thought and I wore them to work the next day.

Several days later a notice went up in the entrance hall referencing the theft of some new shoes left outside flat 10 by Mrs Patel for unspecified reasons. I went back up, removed the shoes, reluctantly, and placed them outside the door opposite. Miss Foote told us later that Mrs Patel had thrown missiles from her window at Kiwi John as he sat in the garden and told him she had contacted Scotland Yard to report his theft of the valuable shoes. Maybe it was time to move out.

Marigold in Newquay, just before we moved to London.

G on arrival in London. Not as pretty as Marigold but with hair about the same length

More from G

We looked at Earls Court, lots of flats, lots of Antipodean accents, lively area, but had no luck as Aussies and Kiwis had already snapped up the good flats, happy to share an apartment with a few like minded mates. We met a girl we’d known from our surf bum days in Cornwall, sitting outside the Sun in Splendour pub in Notting Hill. This pub introduced us to the recently arrived concept of ‘pub grub’ and their specialty, sausage hotpot’ was to become Marigold’s most appreciated dish when we had dinner guests in the future.

Our surfing friend worked at I Was Lord Kitchener's Valet, a clothing boutique which sold antique military uniforms as fashion items. Regular customers included Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix. Peter Blake, the artist who designed The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, said that he and Paul McCartney got the idea for the record sleeve while they were walking together past the shop. She also told us about a two roomed flat in Paddington that had just become vacant. Even more interesting.

St. Stephen’s Gardens couldn’t make up its mind whether it was in Paddington, Bayswater or Westbourne Grove – locals used all three definitions with impunity. Whatever it was called, the area wasn’t remotely comparable to Holland Park. The houses had been smart enough in their day, but their peak had long since been passed.

The landlord, a Polish man with heavily accented English, was Mister Fenkul. The flat was on the ground floor, at the rear, with a (communal) lavatory outside the door and the bathroom on the next floor up. As for the anticipated two rooms, well technically it was one room with a dividing wall separating living space from the bedroom extending halfway across the width of the room. There was the familiar sight of a small sink next to a Baby Belling cooker to form a ‘kitchen’ but our initial attention wandered to the colour scheme. Two walls painted vivid purple and the other two a bilious shade of orange.

Plus points? It was half the cost of our Holland Park flat, Portobello Road was just around the corner and Paddington/Bayswater/Westbourne Grove had plenty of shops that stayed open all night. It wasn’t much, but it was enough. We agreed to move in and Mister Fenkful said he would call to collect the rent every Saturday morning at 08.30. ‘On the dot.’

The big talking point in the Bayswater area at the time of our arrival was a vast concrete monstrosity scything through the area, bisecting Portobello Road. The Westway was Europe’s longest elevated concrete roadway carrying the A40 trunk road, which was formerly a motorway, linking the western outposts of London to the centre. Hundreds of houses had been demolished to facilitate the building of the flyover, intended to ease the notorious traffic bottleneck around Shepherds Bush, yet it had remained empty of traffic for many months.

It wasn’t a complete waste as a thriving shanty town grew up beneath it and the local drug dealers and alkies, of which there were many, appreciated it as a place to shelter from the elements. The scent of cannabis was all pervading under the flyover and marked a major point of difference. Beyond the antique stalls and the fruit and veg sellers, the traditional market that had been in existence for ever and a day, was a very different world. We could walk here from our flat in five minutes and were so captivated we made the short trip almost every Saturday.

It didn’t take long to realise Portobello Green, a leafy little area of trees, lawns and benches right next to the Westway which had somehow evaded demolition wasn’t the restful oasis it promised to be. Winos, drug dealers and wiped out ‘users’ filled the benches and fights were common. When we first discovered the seedier end, (the best bit of Portobello Road in our view), from under the Westway onwards usually called Portobello Village or just ‘the village,’ it was just a scruffy area where the Market Inspectors didn’t seem to show their faces. Second hand clothes and the sort of ‘junk’ you saw in skips were on offer, very cheaply, along with a thriving stall selling cannabis paraphernalia: bongs, large size rolling papers and Rastafarian knick knacks. A couple of years later the stall morphed into a shop called Alchemy, Britain’s first ‘head shop.’ It became a Village institution and only closed its doors very recently.

This area of Portobello was where we first encountered organic, vegetarian and vegan food, these concepts being virtually unknown in 1969. If we took an alternative walking route through Golborne Road, which we often did, there was another street market selling battered furniture and stalls specialising in ethnic food. Yams, spices, goat meat, horse meat, jerk chicken, these weren’t readily available in any of the shops and supermarkets we’d ever been in; it was literally a glimpse of another world.

We loved the different accents, the friendly banter and the realisation that bartering a price downwards wasn’t considered an insult here. We bought food – what we thought were huge unripe green bananas that turned out to be plantains and virtually inedible until cooked on one occasion, never repeated – clothes and many items of furniture, all at knock down prices. The leather sheepskin lined flying jacket, in dreadful condition, I bought there in 1969 for ‘ten bob,’ (pre decimal so 50p), has only recently given up the ghost despite it being banned from numerous successive wardrobes on the not unreasonable grounds of being throughly unsanitary.

The Westway flyover opened in July 1970 – we were there – and it was a raucous occasion. Michael Heseltine, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, officially opened the road and as he was trying to cut a thick strip of white ribbon, with apparently very dull shears, the noise from the crowd/mob was deafening. All along the tops of a row of terraced houses opposite was a huge banner that read ‘Get Us Out Of This Hell, Re-house Us Now’.

After the crowd dispersed we drove along the new road, both ways. Amazingly, it proved less of a life enhancing experience than we’d expected.

Life in the new flat was similarly underwhelming. Our nearest neighbour, a wild haired Greek man who told us he was ‘in hiding’ from unspecified threats played Greek folk music, very loudly, all day and for most of the night. Like living under an aircraft fly path, we didn’t notice it after a while. He’d been a tenant for many years and complained bitterly, in his almost incomprehensible Greek accented English, about the number of ‘foreigners’ who were living in the house. There were 14 flats in the house, some no bigger than the proverbial shoe box, bringing in a fair income yet the landlord dressed like a tramp and collected the rents from all the tenants in a plastic carrier bag. He collected cash from five other house in the road, but was said to be ‘well protected’ ensuring he would never be robbed.

Did Art Garfunkel have the best moustache ever?

Sadly not, this is the full picture

This was our road, shortly before the demolition orders took effect. Come on, we weren't fussy

Our actual house, to the left of the Mini

Our house, 50 years later, looking very different

I Never Tried the Liver 'Sosage' - but this shop stayed open for 24 hours offering sustenance for the hungry. As I may have mentioned before, we weren't fussy back then

Almost Done Now...

In the week we took possession of the flat a film crew turned up in the road outside. In an episode of Steptoe and Son, Harold left the family home after the unannounced arrival of Albert’s supposedly long lost Australian son and moved to a particularly run-down bed-sit in a particularly run-down terrace of houses. The location chosen was St Stephen’s Gardens and our front entrance was the one chosen for filming.
A member of the film crew confided to Marigold on one of her numerous attempts to appear ‘in shot’ during filming that they wanted to film in a decaying and run-down area and chose St. Stephen’s Gardens as it had once been an early part of Peter Rachman’s property empire and the first house he purchased and used for his infamous multi-occupation was this very house.

After extensive demolition in the mid 1970s this area is now very smart indeed and a similar tiny bed-sit (now of course it would be called a ‘studio apartment’) to the one we lived in in what’s left of the very fashionable St Stephen’s Gardens, will cost an obscene amount of money. A current Notting Hill resident, Damon Albarn once lived in St Stephen’s Gardens, presumably under far more salubrious circumstances than we once did.

Peter Rachman – his name invariably prefaced by the description ‘infamous slum landlord’ – worked as a ‘fixer’ (his actual title being ‘investment consultant), for the ‘Maltese’ family, the Messina Brothers who dominated much of London’s organised crime ‘rackets’ for over twenty years. The five brothers, Salvatore, Carmelo, Alfredo, Attilio and Eugene whose father was Sicilian but had married a Maltese woman built a prostitution empire in Malta before exporting the trade to London where the term ‘white slavery’ first came into use. The family name was DeBono, but they adopted the surname Messina to confuse the U.K. authorities.

‘Houses of ill repute’ as brothels were termed back then were highly sought after and Peter Rachman proved adept at finding new properties. The Messina brothers were long gone from the scene when we reached London, but I worked with a man, a former police officer, who had attended dozens of raids on brothels in Bond Street and Mayfair and gave me a tour of dubiously acquired properties once owned by Peter Rachman. Of course, the tour started at our front door.

Rachman bought up hundreds of almost derelict houses in Bayswater and Notting Hill and converted them into small flats. He neglected to improve the fabric of the buildings and charged exorbitant rents, mainly to immigrants who were unable to show references or bank details required by more reputable agencies. He has the dubious honour of having his name added to the Oxford English Dictionary. Rachmanism is defined as the exploitation and intimidation of tenants by unscrupulous landlords. In other circumstances, a penniless Polish refugee who died a multimillionaire would have been applauded for his business acumen.

Christine Keeler and 16 year old Mandy Rice-Davis who lived with him for two years were heavily involved. After he died after a sudden heart attack, Miss Rice-Davis was so upset the only words she could bear to utter were, ‘did he leave a will?’

The Rachman Empire crumbled on his death as details of his vast wealth were only ever stored ‘in his head’ and thereby untraceable after his demise. Those Swiss bank accounts remain unclaimed. Naturally we peered into every crevice in our flat hoping for hidden loot, to no avail.

We were still managing to cope without a television as there was so much to do and see. Highlights were the free concerts in Hyde Park. We’d missed out on seeing The Rolling Stones in July 1969 and the next offering just after we arrived in September didn’t appeal. From memory the headline acts were Soft Machine and Al Stewart, but we did join half a million others for the summer concerts of 1970.

I can remember seeing Pink Floyd, Edgar Broughton and that most unlikely offering at a ‘rock concert’, the soft voiced Roy Harper who despite having the appearance of a middle aged geography teacher reduced the vast audience to a rapt and appreciative silence.

On another occasion King Crimson topped the bill, but I remember being blown away by Jack Bruce, beginning a solo career after the break up of Cream and his successful collaboration with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker. It was one of those occasions, three years after the ‘summer of love,’ when the twin slogans of the age, peace and love, were at risk. Security for the half million spectators was provided by a motley group of Hells Angels and one particular faction were being particularly aggressive in our vicinity. It was getting out of hand, numerous fights were breaking out and the arrival of a dozen or so skinheads spoiling for a fight didn’t help at all.

Having (fairly) long hair and a sizeable moustache had already caused me a few problems in London I’d not previously experienced elsewhere. Skinheads tended to go around in groups and thousands of ‘long–haired hippies’ all in one place were fair game. Faced with the choice between extirpation of my facial adornments or the potential for strive I chose strife and there had been a fair few ‘hairy’ moments if you’ll forgive the expression. A mass brawl on a sunny day in the park wasn’t in the plan for almost all of us.

A familiar face stepped up to rescue the day: Roy Harper again who must have been permanently available as this was his third Hyde Park appearance. The tranquility of a lone folk singer accompanied only by his acoustic guitar calmed the mood and prevented the threatened riot. Even the skinheads went off to mug old ladies somewhere else.

We still had our A35 van, but it was only rarely used as public transport was much easier than the frustrating search for a parking space. On one occasion I parked it up in an unmetered zone near to our flat and on returning a few days later found it festooned in stickers advertising a fairly recent innovation, designer clothing. Zandra Rhodes had opened a boutique just around the corner from my place of work called Fulham Road Clothes Shop.

In the weeks after we moved to the new flat we’d noticed these flyers advertising ‘Paddington’s Latest Design Studio’ and we’d seen what Marigold described as an apparition, a woman with bright green hair, exotic clothing, wearing theatrical makeup and with dangling ornaments clanking at every step. Even in bohemian Westbourne Grove she was noteworthy.

We’d first seen her walking through Whiteley’s Department Store, all commerce ceasing as everyone turned to stare, but now saw her almost every time we went out as her Solo Design Studio was at the end of the road. By the time we left the area we were on nodding terms and the green hair was now pink. She obviously liked pink best as the last time I saw her on tv she still had the exact same shade I remembered from fifty years ago.

Finally, G Explains the Reference to the Murderer in the Blog Post Title

I’m not able to talk about certain aspects of my working life, no I wasn't a Police Officer but came across many social undesirables in my working life including a few murderers.  in our early years in London I was occasionally asked to take charge at the London Emergency Centre at a dingy office at Alexander Fleming House, Elephant and Castle, long since turned into a block of flats.

This was a weekend centre for the indigent flotsam and jetsam of London society, open from ten am to ten pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Runaways, victims of crime, people delivered by police officers, they came seeking help, advice or just a government funded ‘handout.’

I had a fund of cash available, delivered to me with great ceremony by a man in a grey uniform, always the same man, from the Treasury who never spoke, not even good morning and insisted on me using only the pen he brought with him for the signature on his clipboard.

My interviewing staff of about a dozen were keen to impress on me at my first day on the job that the vast majority of the hundred or so people an hour who called seeking help were scroungers ‘trying it on’ and I should not be swayed by sob stories. It took only a single morning to change me from a gullible person to a fully formed cynic. Excellent training for life.

I mostly made decisions based on the evidence provided to me by my staff. On the rare occasions I interviewed a ‘customer’ I soon realised my very experienced staff knew what they were talking about. I doled out small cash sums to people whose wallet containing their wages had been lost or stolen and tried to find safe lodging or a place of safety for life’s unfortunates. I would estimate we believed only ten per cent of these tales of woe and yet my staff still shook their heads at my rampant generosity. They weren’t being unkind, the vast majority of callers were indeed trying it on and many of them said ‘oh well, worth a try’ after being refused.

It was never dull. I remember a drunken woman coming in asking for a new winter coat as she was cold. I’d just had a call from a Salvation Army hostel to say they had room for one of my customers and they’d mentioned a large quantity of clothing being available. I told the woman I was arranging for a coat to be provided shortly, but she became abusive insisting she wanted money to go and buy one from Selfridges. I moved on to deal with another matter and within five minutes we had to evacuate the waiting room to put out a fire. The woman had collected a pile of newspapers, set fire to them and was ‘getting warm in front of the fire.’

Over a thirty year period a statistically high number of people fell to their deaths in front of tube trains on the Northern Line. Sadly, it’s a fairly common experience and both Marigold and I heard the station announcer informing waiting passengers of a delay in service ‘owing to a body on the line’ on several occasions.

My route to work at the Elephant and Castle involved a trip on the relentlessly grim Northern Line of London Underground. After cashing up and locking up on Saturday and Sunday evenings I didn’t ever relish a late night trip on the tube with assorted drunks and druggies for company and the Northern Line was pretty grim even in daylight.

One of the Emergency Centre ‘regulars’ was a local rough sleeper who came in fairly often to ask for money to buy ‘just a bit of comfort.’ He was a hardened drinker, well into the stage of imbibing methylated spirit, and inclined to become violent even though he was very short and slight of build, as befitting the jockey he occasionally claimed to have been in his native Ireland.

Alcoholics, rough sleepers, down and outs, I have come across a great many of them over the years. They’re prone to exaggeration, wild flights of fancy and unsubstantiated boasting so I didn’t take the claims of Kieran Kelly to have pushed his best friend under a tube train and repeated the act with strangers on several occasions at all seriously.

I did on one occasion mention his name to a police officer who came to collect a teenage runaway who wanted to go back home to Leeds. It had been a frustrating episode requiring confirmation from the police in Leeds that a 14 year old runaway would be cared for back home as I was about to issue a rail travel warrant. The boy’s parents sent a message back along the lines of, ‘keep him, we don’t want him back’ and it was while I was still trying to resolve the problem that I drew the attention of the police officers to the claims of mass murder on the Northern Line only to be told, ‘oh, he tells everyone that. Ignore him.’

Between 1953 and 1983 when he was finally sent to prison for life, Kieran Patrick Kelly committed at least 18 murders and possibly as many as 24. Kelly, a vagrant alcoholic was well known to the police and had a long history of drunkenness, violence and thefts to support his alcoholism. These murders were all recorded as suicides, often as a result of a helpful member of the public providing a statement saying he had been standing close to the person and seen them leap in front of the approaching train.

Over that thirty year period Kelly would be arrested for robbery or drunkenness, serve a few months, come out of prison, be arrested again and be back in prison within days. Finally, In 1983 he was arrested for stealing a ring and a watch from a 65-year-old man on Clapham Common in south London and while in the cells of Clapham police station he killed a fellow vagrant William Boyd because the other man was snoring.

He readily admitted killing Boyd but claimed he had killed many others by pushing them under tube trains. Computers as an aid to linking events were unknown then and it had never been noticed before that soon after Kelly came out of prison, someone committed suicide on the Northern Line.

Even more remarkable was the evidence gained from British Transport Police files revealing Mr Kieran Patrick Kelly had been a witness at each of the reported suicides.

Murder trials are costly so the Director of Public Prosecutions only tried Kelly on five murder charges. When he was found guilty of murdering William Boyd and Hector Fisher, another vagrant who was found stabbed in a graveyard in 1975, and given a life sentence the DPP decided not to proceed further.

Despite his confessions, later rescinded on legal advice, he was never convicted of any of the 16 Northern Line murders.

My lead receptionist, Harry, a middle aged man who wore half a dozen wristwatches on each arm, part of his ‘stock,’ all available for sale, and ran three market stalls on Petticoat Lane as his day job was the most cynical man I ever met. He would have said he was a realist and any con artists who tried to get a free handout soon realised they’d met their match.

His market trader expertise in the garment industry had been the inspiration behind his friends Ronald Wolfe and Ronald Chesney writing The Rag Trade, a hugely popular tv sitcom starring Peter Jones, Miriam Karlin and a very young Barbara Windsor.

He was also the man behind my introduction to a world I never knew existed, the otherworldly and distinctly seedy area of Whitechapel. It may be trendy now, but like many areas of London* now considered desirable it was a real eyesore.

*Islington? Not a celebrity, fancy restaurant or wine bar in sight in1969. It was one of the many places best avoided after dark, like Brixton or Notting Hill.

One day we traipsed through Petticoat Lane to go and queue at Blooms, the Jewish delicatessen for a lunch meal I will never forget. I had salt beef sandwiches with pickles. I can taste that sandwich even now.

Most customers were Hasidic, ultra-orthodox, with long side curls known as payos below their hats, dressed in black and speaking Yiddish. I couldn’t believe we were still in London. Being with someone who knew everybody else meant listening to a dozen conversations at once. The waiters and serving staff were conspicuously rude, surly and unhelpful. This was said to be their trademark, the USP (unique selling point) of Blooms.

As we left to rush back to work I was still trying to compose myself in readiness for real life again so paid little attention to the fiftieth person who had stopped to say hello to Harry. Very small, very perky with a rather vulgar laugh, that’s all I remember.

After she’d gone I realised it was Barbara Windsor.

If you get this far you’re probably thinking I’ve been rambling on long enough already by now.

Okay, I agree then, I shall bloviate no more, ça suffit !

Weird graffiti from that era. The only link I can find - Valerie Singleton had accompanied Princess Anne on her first solo trip overseas in a Kenyan Royal Safari in 1971.

After 50 Years I Still Don’t Understand This, but It Still Fascinates Me

A Final Piece of Wisdom from Bayswater, 1970. The Bubble Car’s Nice Too.