Len Deighton's London Dossier, Chapter 6: Self Indulgence

By Kevin Mills Last edited 96 months ago

Last Updated 11 May 2016

Len Deighton's London Dossier, Chapter 6: Self Indulgence

A rough guide to London, circa 1967: a weekly look at Len Deighton’s London Dossier, a guide to modern London published during the height of the allegedly swinging 60s.

Photo by @fotochap in the Londonist Flickr pool

Godfrey Smith: a name that might be familiar to long-standing readers of The Sunday Times. Every week Godfrey Smith would tell his readers about his agreeable luncheons and convivial dinners with charming posh people. He was never far from phrases such as 'the immortal Wodehouse' and 'the venerable Bard'. So the chapter on self-indulgence is a natural for our Godfrey. First though, as is customary, Len Deighton gives his take on what self-indulgence means for him in the London of the mid-1960s.

It means buying stuff, basically. "Hire a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud with driver", Len suggests. "It will cost you about £14 for 50 miles." OK, we’ll buy that. A Roller's the epitome of luxury, after all. What else? Len suggests where to go to buy rare stamps, oriental miniature paintings, ancient coins, Wedgewood ashtrays, Victorian dolls, secondhand umbrellas.… Self-indulgence is clearly a matter of taste.

When not accumulating possessions, he thinks our idea of pampering ourselves rotten might be to visit the Tower of London. "You went where? You appalling sybarite!" Let’s hope Godfrey Smith has a clearer idea of how the average person could indulge him or herself in the London of 1967.

"Luxury starts at Trumper’s in Curzon Street", he begins, "with its mysterious unguents and grave deferential barbers." It becomes immediately apparent that Godfrey inhabited a different London than most of the population. What follows is a roll-call of upmarket shops and restaurants, any one of which would have been a very special treat indeed for most Londoners, but which for Godfrey seem to represent no more than an average day.

So it's champagne cocktails at the Ritz (they’re cheaper at the Connaught Rooms but the ambience doesn't quite hack it, apparently); Tiberio's in Queen Street for Italian cooking "at its best’ (you only ever get Italian cooking "at its best"), and Turnbull & Asser for shirts, although Godfrey prefers Simpson's, "where they’ll make you something wild in mauve or shocking pink for £5 10s" (about a lot in today's money).

The game pies at Fortnum's are OK, but Godfrey recommends calling the chef at Selfridges and getting him to make one for you. "The big one serves a dozen people and is ideal for demolishing with a bottle of Krug before the Oxford and Cambridge game at Twickenham."

Krug and pies. Didn’t Jeffrey Archer claim to have invented that combo?

Godfrey prattles on about the Long Room at Lord's, health clubs in Hanover Square and where to store a hundred Bolivars in a humidor. (The worryingly named Mr Quirk in St John's Wood High Street, since you ask). Even his street directions are pompous: "Stroll eastwards past the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association…".

Then, a miracle. "I am assuming in all this that you have plenty of cash", writes Godfrey. So is he about to tell us where a down-at-heel mod can buy a new mirror for his Lambretta Li 150? Where a cash-strapped office worker can have a drunken night out for less than a pound?

No. "Credit cards greatly simplify life", he advises brightly and without irony. Or you could just open an account somewhere. Ladbroke’s, for instance. "Credit at bookshops is another agreeable luxury", he haughts. And on he goes: "The Oliver Messel suite… Royal Garden… the London Season… 35 guineas… first editions… smoking jackets… most agreeable…"

He's making us angry now. Let’s stop right there and look forward to the next chapter. Fittingly, it’s about Mood.

Other instalments

Chapter 1: Teenagers
Chapter 2: Food
Chapter 3: Drink
Chapter 4: River
Chapter 5: Music