Its warmer now (thank God!) and that bitter cold spell has finally retreated back to Antarctica from where it made its most unwelcome visit. Wouldn’t mind, but the cold is so uncomfortable to work in; nights get even colder and that’s mostly when I work.
In fact, I have recently needed to get another title re-printed. My book The Vampyre Syndrome had virtually sold out and so needed another print run to meet constant orders for that. First released in 2000, that has always been a popular title. Maybe its because I detail the involvement of other people involved in the whole Highgate scenario, and I have found people tend to like a more ‘human aspect’ in the books as opposed to merely reiterating sensational newspaper reports and unfounded speculation and claims about the ‘gory Undead’ which really had no place in reality. Of course, re-publishing a work, is not that simple. It has to be revised, maybe the format changed (which this has been), and a multitude of other things to perhaps make a book more physically presentable. And of course to do that, the whole thing has to be re-read afresh, a page at a time, not merely ‘skimmed through’ for the sake of quick sales potential. But re-reading a work can often be ‘fun’: it can remind you of things that even yourself, may have forgotten. It is only a short book (68 pages) but some of the chapter headings I particularly like. “Unholy Deceit” and “And they Served me Dinner”, are two I particularly like. A bit like a Coronation Street syndrome. I suppose. But then, it is these more ‘much more human’ sides of that case that people seem to want.
Which reminds me: Della invited me for dinner recently at her apartment in Knightsbridge. I would have preferred for her to come here because of my travelling difficulty with walking, but I could hardly refuse because of her kind offer. Besides, I really wanted to go, and she’d promised a special meal – although she wouldn’t say what it was; only that it wasn’t lobster again. I think the truth is, she would never be able to bring herself to cook one, which probably puts many other people off. Perhaps that’s one reason why its so expensive.
I arrived at her apartment block about 6 as we had arranged. Found it without much difficulty as she had given me careful directions. I think it was the first time I’d returned to the area since a child, and obviously I don’t remember much from then. I do remember my parents shopping in Harrods now and then, and that huge store which seemed to wind around and go up huge staircases for an infinity. That’s probably why I didn’t like it much. It was too big and indifferent for a young child to comprehend. It was just one of those places (and it was always at weekends) I just didn’t relish being taken to.
Dell’s apartment was just off a main street, and a concierge was still on duty outside. He looked at me a little suspiciously at first, but soon warmed after we had spoken and I told him I was expected. But he still rang her intercom to check, and I gathered there was a high concern over security. Not that I sensed he thought I was any kind of risk, but rather just doing his job in accordance to the letter of his job.
Della greeted me outside the lift, and took my arm as we walked just up the corridor to her apartment, telling me rather embarrassedly ‘not to mind him downstairs’.
She took my coat and shoulder bag and hung these up in the large hallway, then beckoned me through to the lounge and announced she would make us a coffee. I sunk back into a comfortable sofa to wait; really just glad of the chance to relax after a bus trip and three tube changes. But the dusty grime and noise of London suddenly seemed long gone and there was a quiet in the place that really defied description. There were no traffic noises or anything to remind you that you were still right in the heart of busy London. I was dying for a cigarette, but that of course was out of the immediate question. I took the chance to take in my surroundings; Della had described the new place to me, but it was less intimidating in a way than I might have expected, probably because it had the mark of her about it everywhere. There were wall length windows adorned by long damask drapes, cream in colour, which almost reached the polished wooden floor from the top of the high windows. A huge deep pile white rug surrounded the sofa, breaking up the boards’ highly polished cover. There was a large table near one corner laid out with plates and cutlery, with an unlit candelabra in the middle, which was where I gathered she planned to serve dinner. Several thick-framed paintings adorned the walls, although I could not identify these, not being any expert of art. Books seemed to be everywhere, nestling in the recesses which formed part of the architecture of the room. It was one of those unspoiled Victorian apartments, its original coving and features having survived even down to the large marble fireplace, above which was an ornate gilt mirror reflecting the chandelier which hung from the centre of the ceiling; although this was not lit and the lighting came only from sunken wall lights. It was a pleasant light; not too bright, and not too dim. There seemed to be windows all around as well, although he drapes were drawn across them and it was impossible to see any view. I had noticed from the street that many of the apartments had their own small balconies, so I guessed there might be one outside this main room too. I couldn’t tell where it was, although I was just thinking in terms of her allowing me to have a cigarette later on!
While Della was in the kitchen I had a look at her books, some were historical and a lot were about art, but there was a large proportion of religious, paranormal and occult matter mixed in amongst these. Eventually Della came back with the coffee. She was attired in a dark chiffon dress – almost ‘Gothicy’ in its loose fitting appearance – not short but it did reveal her slender knees as she drew up a chair to sit at the table, facing me across the room. The front of this was fairly low cut as well and I noticed a mild lipstick and faint eye make-up as she leaned over to pour out the coffee.
I asked her what she was preparing as it smelled nice, but she just repeated that it was a ‘surprise’ and wouldn’t say much more. Not long after I was to find out. But while supper was cooking she gave me a quick tour of the new apartment. Apart from the bathroom and her own bedroom there were two spare rooms, one of which she explained that she used as an office (‘Don’t look in there, it’s full of junk!’). Actually it was full with rolls of wallpaper, swatches, a desk and a large architect’s drawing board. Her own bedroom was dominated by a large Edwardian brass bed, and another marble fireplace, this one complete with two busts, one of a Greek god adorned with grapes, and another gilt mirror over the mantle.
As we returned to the sitting room, it struck me that apart from the office I had seen no evidence of modern technology at all, aside from her laptop on the coffee table. I mentioned that, and Dell kicked it under the sofa, saying ‘I think we can do with a night away from that old nonsense for once!’ I could not agree more. She lit the candelabra and a couple of other smaller candles, then went to bring the food. She had prepared starters, soup and chicken cooked with onions, garlic and white wine. She served it with asparagus, broccoli and thinly sliced new potatoes with an optional jug of sauce to cover it if wanted. It was a lovely meal, and all the time we just talked, and talked. It was mostly general at first, I asked her if she was worried that the current recession would affect her work, to which she replied, half jokingly ‘Don’t worry about me, there will always be people with too much money, who want me to spend it for them on beautiful things, because they have no taste of their own!’ But soon after we got onto deeper subjects, as we always seem to; this time she brought things round again to asking me about the potential of some magical ceremonies. I reminded her that I was no longer involved; but still she still wanted to question me.
So eventually, we got into it somewhat more deeply. Time seemed to disappear then – at least in recognisable minutes – and she said she knew I had left all of it, but wanted to know what really happened, or could happen. She was really not interested in all the sensationalism or how this had been interpreted by others: she just wanted to ask me, and about my own involvement. I did tell her this was a very deep subject and I hardly ever discussed it because of that very reason. But she had a personal reason for asking as she had come across others and she wanted to compare what I had practiced, and what she had since found out about, and her own formed views on High Magic.
I was hesitant, and it must have showed, but as she lent across to pour me another glass of wine, I couldn’t help noticing the small silver cross between her cleavage. It glittered in the flickering candle light, rays that suddenly made me remember the reality of her true being. She wore that crucifix, not for show, but as a personal item, that she had not even realised I had seen. The contradiction perplexed me for a moment, but then, she has a habit of doing that to me at the simplest of times and I am not really ashamed to admit it. Her eyes glistened in that candlelight. But it was not longer an expression of ‘cold indifference’ as it has been when we first met. It was a mutual communication that penetrated far deeper.
She asked me if there was anything else I wanted, so I decided to confess about wanting a cigarette. She laughed, and said . . . “Yes of course . . . I don’t smoke very often, but just wait, and I will get mine”. She went into another room and returned with a large glass ashtray and an opened packet of her own, for which she cleared a space for on the coffee table. “There’s no need to go out on the balcony”, she said, “we can have one here”. I was surprised, because I would have never even guessed she would approve of smoking; let alone enjoying an occasional cigarette! I recognised her brand of cigarette, black with gold filter tips; well I suppose she is right, if one is going to smoke as a treat why not smoke something special?! Dinner all over, we moved to the sofa, and Della suggested that as we were being ‘wicked smokers’ and talking about ‘wicked things’ we may as well drink something more exciting, it being the weekend after all. She fetched one of the decanters from the marble half table which abutted one of the walls, along with a couple of old fashioned shaped glasses and some sugar cubes, and asked me if I would like some absinthe. The lit sugar cubes she placed on the slotted spoon seemed to flame violet as she prepared the drinks in a way that was quite fascinating to watch, and before long our conversation had got even more animated than usual. It was not something I would usually feel comfortable doing, but in this strange sense of isolation and intimacy, the combination of absinthe and agreeable company seemed to make everything around me easier and even more fluid. Somehow it seemed to make everything seem brighter and more intense, although it was hard to tell the difference really. Della told me more about herself and her early life than I was previously aware of from our earlier meetings, including some information about her family and the ‘troubles’ as she referred to them. She also explained that recent sad events in her family had led to her move from her previous home in Kensington to her present dwelling and that even she herself still felt a bit overwhelmed living there and a bit embarrassed by it although it was her home now and she had no real need to feel like that. And as usual we ended up speaking about many things which would not come to the fore in ‘normal’ conversations, including many subjects that I myself would feel uncomfortable talking about with most others .And it was more than obvious that she understood. Things carried on in this way until the early hours, when the candles had burned down and eventually retirement to bed became necessary. Well, I was a little tired by this time, and didn’t attempt to argue the point that I should try to make my way home. I don’t think I would have succeeded against ‘Della Victress’ at that late stage, and, in any event, I don’t think I could have faced the long journey at that time of the morning. And really, there was absolutely was no need.