9th April 2020

Darling Paloma,

Your grandmother at a time I thought she took us to Trafalgar Square.

For today’s daily exercise, I walked to Trafalgar Square. It took around 30 minutes. I hadn’t been there for years not since I was a little boy. The square was completely empty. Social isolation at its very best. Even the pigeons had chosen to move on. No scenes of people and pigeons cooing and pissing over each other. For years, I remembered having my photograph taken there by a man in goggles who disappeared like a deep sea diver under a black hood. Afterwards he developed his negatives in the filthy fountain water. I remember watching the process in fascination. Eventually he handed over the photograph. It was a colour photograph of me and my best friend of the time Keith. We were both in our school uniforms and both holding up colourful large balloons. The balloons were bright and shimmered like hummingbirds in the afternoon sun. We must have been 5 or perhaps 6 years old at the time? I had a fringe and long black hair. I wanted to look like a Beatle.

I remember pigeons were everywhere. The Landseer lions smothered with kids of our age crawling over their manes. Old women were making a fortune selling corn in pocket sized brown paper bags. Nelson from way up on his column frowned and wagged his finger( his left hand of course) at the daylight robbery. My mother gave us some change to buy some corn. ‘ It annoys one to give to them, and it annoys one not to give them,’ I overheard saying to a friend. Well something like that. Keith tried to bombard the pigeons to death with the corn. I remember him laughing as he did it. That distinctive raucous laugh which used to get him into a shedload of trouble. We then before leaving watched a Punch and Judy puppet show lying on our stomachs, our heads cupped in our hands. The whole day was fun. The whole day was memorable. The only problem is that I now don’t think it ever happened. My mother tells me she never took us there. Even Keith has no memory of it. We never bought corn from an old woman. Corn was never sold in Trafalgar Square and there is no record of Punch and Judy shows being shown. However hard I’ve argued with myself, even spending hours trying to find the photograph, I’m beginning to realise it never happened and I have a habit of making up storIes from my childhood.

So today’s visit to an empty Trafalgar Square was my very first made during the worst week in the UK since the virus came to our island. Perhaps this is why I’m writing these letters to you in real time and not next year or even next month. I think it’s important to hear my truth, my fear, my hope in the extraordinary year you will be born.

Te quiero mucho

Papa

Published by Simon Astaire

Simon Astaire was the youngest agent ever employed at ICM starting the Music department and representing a variety of clients before turning to head a PR agency where his clients included brands such as Bulgari, Armani and celebrities and members of the Royal Family. He is regularly quoted in the press and has been described in The London Times as a PR Prince. He had a regular column in the Sunday Telegraph called Station to Station where he interviewed a diverse mixture of high-profile individuals on their imaginary last train journey. He has written six novels and two biographies including soccer star Sol Campbell when he was nominated for best new sports writer. His latest novel The Last Photograph, was made into a film of the same name. It had a US theatrical release in November 2019 and is now available on all platforms. His blog ' Letters to my daughter' began March 19th 2020.

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