May 18

Amber pages

Bertrand Russell, born today in 1872. There is a plaque, "1872 - 1970, philosopher and campaigner for peace, lived here in flat no. 34, 1911-1916", at what was "No 3 Russell Chambers" though it's now labelled: "Russell Chambers, Flats 25-36". In Bury Place, Bloomsbury - and yes, the chambers, like the building, like Russell Square itself around the corner, was named for his family - Dukes of Bedford back in the 18th century. Bedford Square ditto.

The area is awash with plaques, the Virginia Woolf crowd especially - I wonder if I might do this as a London travel piece, walking around Bloomsbury and finding out who all the plaques belong to. And Fitzrovia - I walked a visiting friend round there last year to show him all these people who he knew by work and wanted to go pilgrimage: 29 Fitzroy Square, where G.B. Shaw lived from 1887-98, and then Virginia Woolf from 1907-11, with Roger Fry on the corner of Conway St, at number 32, running his Omega workshops there from 1913-19.

Margot Fonteyn, born today in 
1919, wasn't one of that crowd, as far as I am aware. Another name for my list of pseudonyms though (click here) - and understandable that she changed her birthname: Margaret Hookman is nothing like so romantic, so ballerine, as Margot Fonteyn. Something specific must have prompted the Fonteyn (Margot from Margaret is easy).

Pope John Paul II, born today in 
1920. Karol Wojtyla originally. Hard to imagine that I might consider writing a piece about a Pope, given my base principal that I will not go for the wilfully negative unless there is a very good reason. Which leaves Michelangelo's Pope Julius, who gets much credit for his cultural obsession, and there must have been others who did more than serve as Chief Executive of the biggest Ponzi scheme in human history, the world's largest proponent of slavery, forced conversion, ethnic cleansing and genocide... nothing negative, I said, and clearly I need to remind myself. Somewhere I have a piece about somebody of significance who studied with Wojtyla when he was young; and then there is Solidarnosc....

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