Anthony Powell's  novel 'The Acceptance World', part of the 'Dance of Time' sequence, starts as follows:-

'Once in a way, perhaps as often as every eighteen months, an invitation to Sunday tea at the ‘Ufford’ would arrive on a postcard addressed in Uncle Giles' neat, constricted handwriting. This private hotel in Bayswater, where he stayed during comparatively rare visits to London, occupied two corner houses in a latent, almost impenetrable region west of the Queen's Road. Not only the battleship grey colour, but something at once angular and top heavy about the block configuration as a whole, suggested a large vessel moored in the street.

Even within, at least on the ground floor, the Ufford conveyed some reminder of life at sea, though certainly of no luxuriously equipped liner; at best one of those superannuated schooners of Conrad's novels, perhaps decorated years before as a rich man's yacht, now tarnished by the years and reduced to ignoble uses like traffic in tourists, pilgrims, or even illegal immigrants; pervaded - to borrow an appropriately Conradian mannerism - with uneasy memories of the strife of men. This was the feeling the Ufford gave, riding the sluggish Bayswater tides'.

What an evocative picture of an area which, in the nineteen thirties, had deteriorated to a world of lodging houses: where single people cooked on gas rings,  shown  starkly  in  Bill Brant’s black and white pictures of bed-sitter life. The hidden message in this passage tells us a lot about the period before the Second World War. To the better-off, the streets to the east of Edgware Road were familiar territory, but the streets to the west were 'unknown', a bit raffish, louche, not fashionable.

The Bishop of London’s estate had gone downhill in a mass of vaguely drawn leases and multi-occupation. People who were hardly able to pay their rent were not likely to be able to come together with all the other tenants to pay for the entire building to be painted every five years. Without this regular maintenance the stucco buildings were sure to decay, with leaking roofs, paint peeling, the plaster attacked by acid rain and falling away in black scabs. In 1945, at the end of the War, the estate was a sorry sight.

 

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