When I moved to London, in 1979, I took over a friend’s flat in Lonsdale Road (one of those cute little streets in the heart of Notting Hill Gate that look like tranches napolitaines, with each house painted a different pastel shade). She was starting a new job with the RSC, in Stratford-upon-Avon, and my coming over suited everyone: she was glad to have someone to look after her cat and her belongings until she could move them to Stratford permanently; her landlord was glad to have a ready-made tenant; and I was glad not to have to live in a depressing bedsit, like on my first attempt at settling in London a few years earlier. The flat was minuscule, but very sunny and convenient (I worked in a publishing house just off Oxford Street, a short bus ride away). I was happy there for a while.
Flash forward to early spring 1983: I had just had a dreadful year battling with noisy upstairs neighbours: a loud Belgian girl and her Middle-Eastern boyfriend who used to play the drums on the floor on their flat, i.e. directly on my head. It had started one Friday evening and had never stopped. The guy had refused all entreaties to be quiet. Finally, because I was a good, reliable tenant, the landlord had agreed to terminate their tenancy and my torturers had moved out.
I had a few weeks of blissful peace, then, one Saturday morning, I was woken up by deafening choral music accompanied by something thunderous that I didn’t recognize. I jumped out of bed and went upstairs. The door was wide open: the carpet had been removed and a young man was sanding the floorboards. When I called out to attract his attention, he looked up and I realized it wasn’t a young man but a young woman. I explained about loud noise, about people like me working full-time in offices and needing their rest on Saturday mornings, about the flats being tiny and very ‘sonorous’, etc. etc. She looked at me with cold unblinking eyes and went back to her sanding machine.
It went on like that for several weeks: she would turn up in the evenings and at weekends to sand and hammer and drill and play music as loud as in a cathedral. At first I couldn’t understand how it was that she could be redoing the entire flat. I wasn't allowed to so much as stick pins in the walls to put posters up. However, when I wrote to the landlord, an old military man who lived in Dorset and had several properties in the area, he told me she was the daughter of friends of his and all became clear.
Her name was Sophie Hicks. At the time she was a fashion editor at Vogue: when she came back from shoots, she used to clutter the narrow lobby of the house with enormous black suitcases bearing labels from all over the world; she drove around in a Jeep, which looked incongruous in that tiny street; she had short back and sides and wore men’s brogues; she stomped around like a spoilt brat.
The previous year I had been toying with the idea of buying a flat, but had shelved it when the loutish couple had gone; after I understood from my landlord that I would never get rid of her, and after he refused to have my water heater repaired (it leaked gas and I could have died because of it), I knew I would have to leave. Which I did, the following year.
Much later I learned she had tried to replace the old bath in her flat with a new, larger one, and the floor had collapsed under the weight. Did I laugh? What do you think?
In the meantime, she left Vogue, trained as an architect and now designs for the super-rich. She’s had three children, but she still looks like an arrogant man who could make someone’s life a misery. I came across an article about her yesterday on the Net and since there is no statute of limitations for slapping I thought I would do it today – 24 years later.