THE POLNAREFF PILGRIMAGE
S A T U R D A Y, 1 5 J U L Y
Anya and me met at Waterloo. Our mission was the most huge success.
First we got the Underground to Knightsbridge. Found Harrods with absolutely no difficulty, and before we knew it we were at Beaufort Gardens. And then Anya saw it, a yellow sign on the left side of the road saying ‘Knightsbridge Hotel’. This was it. We walked up the right side of the road first, and then down the other side. It is the sweetest hotel, and absolutely tiny – it’s only a private house! Beaufort Gardens is the most lovely street, a row of trees goes down the centre and it looks incredibly French. We kept on putting down all our clobber and getting out our cameras and everything - these workmen gave us the queerest looks. Then we actually dared walk up the steps to the front door which was open. This man came out and said, “Can I help you?” Stupidly I said, “oh, no thank you, we’re just looking,” so he said, “help yourselves.” We weren’t ready to talk about Polnareff then, but we also didn’t feel a bit like going, it was so sunny and peaceful.
We walked back to the station, and on the way saw a phone box - exactly what we wanted. Rang up Pye recording studios; Anya did it. She said nothing for ages. At last, very dramatically, she slammed down the phone and went into a swoon. No wonder, this is what the man said: “phone up the office on a week-day and they’ll put you in contact with him.”
Swooning even more, we got a tube to Marble Arch and realised we were at Hyde Park Corner. And then Anya did a fantastic bit of detective spotting - she realised the rails were the very ones that Polnareff is leaning against in the S.L.C. photos: the proof is in the details in the brickwork. Heavens, it was so thrilling. We both took photos of each other sitting in exactly the same position, getting the same trees in and everything. Feeling utterly pleased with ourselves we crossed over to Great Cumberland Place and found the ATV Studios. It's a huge building. It was 1.30 by then, so we went into a Wimpy Bar opposite and had a wimpy with chips, coke, and a fab waffle with maple syrup. Felt pretty sure we were the most satisfied people in there.
What struck me when we arrived was the size of the place: it’s tiny! More than half the people were French and German (lots of snazzies). You see weirder clothes on the people there than in the shops themselves. Once this chap came up to us trying to sell a magazine. “All on psychedelic music," he said, "it’s great, it really is, it’s called Freak Out.”
Then went to Kingly Street for the Bag O’Nails (Polnareff's ‘boite de nuit’).
Coming back to Beaufort Gardens felt like coming home. I think it’s the most gorgeous place, I really love it. As we approached the hotel we felt less and less like going in - it shocks me now how nearly we didn't go in. Finally decided I'd go in first if Anya did the talking. So I took the plunge. No-one was there. We waited by the reception desk hardly daring to breathe. Then I saw the bell and rang it. Immediately a lady came along. “Yes?” she said, looking at me. I looked at Anya. This was it. Anya began talking. “Er, Michel Polnareff stays here, doesn’t he?” she said. “Yes, said the lady, very pleasantly. “He was last here about six weeks ago. He ought to be here again in about a fortnight.” Then she said the most staggering thing, I could hardly believe my ears: “would you like to leave him a message?” I think perhaps I was in too much of a daze to think straight, so I hesitated. “You’re fans of his?” she said, smiling. She gave us some hotel paper and an envelope, and left us alone. Considering the circumstances, we wrote a pretty marvellous letter. We both sort of dictated to each other. The lady came half way through and told us to leave it on the notice board. I took the chance to ask her some questions; thinking fast, there was so much to ask. “Do you like him?” I said. “Oh he’s a great favourite here,” she said. “What room does he have?” “The group of them usually have rooms 1,2 and 5,” she said. “D’you prefer his hair dark?” “Oh yes,” she replied. “I knew him when it was long and fair too.”
We fell completely in love with the hotel, it was such a peaceful and friendly little place. Before we left we touched the door knobs of rooms 1, 2 and 3 and took in all the details - the “thick flowered carpet” they describe in S.L.C. is red with fern patterns. We were in such a swoon the rest of the day we didn’t look where we were going, even crossing the roads. In a Polnareff vacuum, we managed to find our way back.
There are two Michel Polnareffs now – the one we left a message at the Knightsbridge Hotel (practically a friend) and the pop star. We cannot link the two together. Had supper at Anya’s house, and didn’t get home till 9pm. Whole family wonderfully understanding.