April 16th, 2017


Gerald Durrell and me: a tenuous link

I’ve just read a review of a new book, The Durrells of Corfu by Michael Haag. The reviewer (Lewis Jones) writes about the various places the Durrell family lived before moving to Corfu and hit me with this:
in 1930 … the family moved to a basement flat in the Queen’s Hotel, Upper Norwood…In Larry’s novel The Black Book … the Queen’s Hotel is cunningly disguised as the Regina Hotel, a ‘tomb of masonry’, ‘crowded with ghosts’, and inhabited by prostitutes, perverts and degenerates.

Well! For a brief time in my teens, The Queen’s was my local. It was conveniently situated on the way home from church or youth club (not as proper as it sounds, heh) and was a regular hangout for a gang of us. It was built in 1854 for tourists wanting to visit the relocated Crystal Palace on Sydenham Hill. A few years ago, I found that it had become a hostel for asylum seekers, criticized for overcrowding and general poor conditions. Full circle? It was perfectly respectable when we went there, with never a hint of ghosts or degeneracy. A Google search suggests that it’s now gone up in the world and lost its apostrophe.

The book sounds fascinating, so much so that I’ve pre-ordered it.