This blog was conceived on the first day of spring, or so it felt, on or around May 1st 2012. The air had that special feeling, temperature up a few degrees, sunlight, pollen in the air, a lazy breeze just chilly enough to warrant a waistcoat and light jacket.
I took a stroll round my neighbourhood, the one I’d grown up in and the one I’d returned to following a decade living in Paris (and before that Aberystwyth and Caen). After passing the plethora of media and creative agencies on and around Great Titchfield Street, the profusion of art galleries that now line Eastcastle Street, several intensely serious interior design shops, the edgy coffee cult that is Kaffeine, and the suave smörgåsbord of Scandinavian Kitchen, I had this sudden realisation:
‘Wow! I live in a really trendy up-and-coming area! I should write a blog about it, drop into various galleries, take photographs, interview them, become, like, really hip myself ‘cos I’d know everyone, be a nexus, a maven, a cool-hunter, like that Facehunter!’
My blog would be named “Fitzrover”, because this is Fitzrovia and I’m a rover, geddit?!
Oh, it was fine material for procrastination, as I registered the domain name, set up Twitter and email accounts, and put off my afternoon’s translation work for a few hours.
Then promptly forgot all about it.
When the idea resurfaced, several weeks later, I smirked disparagingly, particularly at the “hip/maven/cool-hunter” part, not to mention the seemingly pretentious “Fitzrover” moniker. As my father used to say (quoting Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon): ‘Le style est l’homme même’ (Style is the man himself).
But I did want to start writing again, with some kind of regularity, and I wanted to publish in some form. A blog seemed like a thoroughly good idea. And as for “Fitzrover”, well why not? The area has, after all, borne this name for over 70 years. Countless artists of all media and persuasions have been passing through its streets, lodgings, and drinking dens since well before the tables in the Danish furniture shop were even saplings. Rimbaud and Verlaine spent time in digs on Langham Street (down which the BBC now sprawls), Wilkie Collins once lived in a house on the site of my building, and my father recounts in his memoirs an enigmatic encounter with the poet Louis MacNeice at The Stag’s Head pub one night, as the poet ‘swayed out of the saloon bar’ murmuring ‘Where’s the bearing? Where’s the bearing?’ before slipping into the gloom of a 50s night.1
Fitzrovia’s my point of origin.
And I have been nothing if not a rover.
‘That Facehunter’ may have become a globe-trotting phenomenon, but originally this was a guy who simply liked to snap pretty girls in the street wearing outfits he liked (‘a man out and about in London and beyond: eye candy for the style hungry’ – as his blog’s tagline so pithily puts it). I dig that ethos.
So I will write about whatever or whoever takes my fancy.
There may be photographs. There may even be pretty girls.
1 Glasser, Ralph; Gorbals Voices, Siren Songs; Chatto & Windus; London; 1990; p. 27