My meeting with Francis took place some time in 1970, but I have no record of the precise date. I was given Francis’ address in Belsize Park by my father, who told me that Francis wanted to find out more about my father’s life and modus operandi.
I arrived, in the early evening, at a large, sombre house in Belsize Avenue, I believe, rang the bell, and was greeted by Francis. He had invited me to supper.
His apartment astonished me. There were large, glass cabinets everywhere, containing artefacts and specimens – anthropological finds. I didn’t look too closely at them. On the walls hung many carved masks; and the floor was covered in sumptous textile rugs.
In the corner, near the galley kitchen, was a round table, set for supper, with two cosy chairs. A comfortable, deep sofa, covered in dull crimson velvet was placed under a window. I could see the leaves of the plane tree outside, flickering green darts in the soft evening light. There was a feeling of warmth in the room. It was gemutlich.
‘Do sit down’, he gestured to the sofa.
‘Tell me about your father’.
I didn’t know where to start. I spoke about his kindness, energy, enthusiasm for life, spiritual beliefs and love of people.
But Francis appeared disappointed in my account of my father. I was perplexed. I was too young and immature – and too close to the subject- to be of much use. I wasn’t giving him the answers that he wanted.
To me, Francis appeared to be a very troubled, dark individual. He looked grumpy and miserable . He hardly smiled, and seemed utterly charmless. But he had the most elegant manners, and was gracious to me, inspite of my short-comings.
‘I’ll make us some supper’, he said brightly, and disappeared into the kitchen.
‘Would you like to hear some music’, he called out to me.
‘Yes, I would’, I replied. Relieved that his mood had brightened.