My job here is ghost archaeology. Recovering narrative. Place is vital to the way I work. I need be where he was. Need to earn the vision of him by following his footsteps, retracing his walks.
The trail takes me to the Royal Pavilion, the first and only palace owned by the people. Here I gasp at dragons. Look at myself in the mirrors of kings. Corner my quarry in the tea rooms.
Every day he came to the tea rooms. To write a letter to The Times. Push his mighty mind against any opponent foolish enough to step onto a chess board with him.
This is where he spent the days of his retirement. The smell of the city gone from his nostrils. Replaced by the sea air and giddy aroma of bergamot.
Walks from Paddington to the rookery of Jacob’s
The unparalleled knowledge of the city he gained from his peregrinations, his work, is evaporating. No-one needs to fear him writing a memoir now. The dense
Here, amid sunlight and good china, he had to fight hard to quiet the catching edge of paranoia. The precise, mannered order of Victorian public space turned into battleground as he tried to ward off harsh phantoms. Confederate spies, Russian anarchists, master blackmailers. Past enemies manifesting whilst crockery is clinked and people stare, half-remembering him from an old Faustin Betbeder caricature.
I navigate this displacement of time. This is my ghost. This is his echo.
History is not dust. It makes me cry.