4th May 2020

Darling Paloma,

I walked over last night to see your grandfather’s house. There was hardly anybody outside on the streets, which made my walk a little daunting. A few foxes were lurking among the trees in the neighbouring squares and on street corners. They focus their eyes. I’m sure I saw one crane its neck even rising on its tiptoes. I, in turn, stepped up my pace and made a slight detour to avoid yet another one on yet another street corner. A certain amount of paranoia has begun to set in. A policeman standing at the end of the mews with a pointed helmet looked more like a witch. He, like the foxes, observed me. It is as if he had been told to keep an eye on me and report back to headquarters if he saw anything suspicious. I immediately felt guilty about something. I am that sort. The type that although innocent walks through customs as if I’m carrying a load of drugs. If stopped (which used to be a common occurrence) I grow so nervous and when asked a question tend to reply in code or should I say in a language that doesn’t exist.

Your brother and I on your grandfather’s terrace.

I walked to the end of the mews, and the policeman’s eyes follow. It is as if he has decided to wait before approaching me until I stopped dead in my tracks. A police car came hurtling out of the mews with siren blaring. I lifted my arms as if in a western and waited to be arrested. But of course, they weren’t interested in me. I heard this morning that they were probably heading to Hyde Park where a body was found. I am not sure if it is true. There are so many rumours flying about at the moment.


The house was looking refreshed. It had had a massive makeover. It is a unique mews house because windows stare out from each side – a good selling point for the estate agents. ‘ Something of a palace!’ One agent used to say. But that wasn’t true. By the time your grandfather died, the house was in desperate need of modernisation: sticking windows, white paint in the kitchen turned to cream, the dining room’s ceiling fading and the terrace which once boasted flowers and plants from across the globe now empty. My father used to show off that anyone who was anyone raved about its beauty. Towards the end of his life, a few friends still mentioned how lovely the house was, if only out of respect for her happier past. One friend described the house as something that had gone to seed like a soprano whose voice has cracked. He was never invited back.

I found the whole experience revisiting the front of house profoundly moving. My reaction surprised me. I had thought that I had been able to compartmentalise those emotions. Even when I watch my movie which I wrote and is set partly in the house, I don’t mourn her past. I think what a great house we were able to find and use to define a time gone by.

The walk home was without incident. Not even a single fox scurried amongst the bags of rubbish. The total silence was daunting. I didn’t know what had got into me. I still don’t. But my nerves were not helped by your mother’s screams as I unlocked our front door. I sprinted downstairs to find her in the kitchen. She was ashen. Unable to move.

‘ What’s wrong!’ I asked.

At first, nothing emerged from her mouth save heavy, irregular breaths.

‘ Come here,’ I said, ‘Tell me what happened?’

‘ A mouse!’ she screamed.

I held her tight and then led her out of the kitchen. I, all of a sudden, felt very brave.

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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