Tangled yarns from London's passers-through

002 : Jayne Newton Chance in Habitat, the furniture shop, Knightsbridge
Born in 20th century in Tavistock, Devon. Jayne Newton Chance currently works as a playwright. Why London? Because she was there. She digs the following London bits: it’s cosmopolitan – you can hear a dozen languages in a moment, the places all have stories and you can be as mad as you like and no-one even looks at you. She is, however, a bit miffed by Londoners can be so up themselves about being Londoners, it’s filthy and you can be as mad as you like and no-one even looks at you. For more info on Jayne Newton Chance you should send an email.

image: nitsrejk

“To my shame, I realise I am crying.”

Habitat[1], Knightsbridge, February 1976.

I have been in London a week. The word Knightsbridge means nothing to me other than shops, a wide street, traffic. Across the road, the arrogant upthrust of grey Bowater House where I don’t want to work. It is raining and colder than I could ever have imagined. I have come by tube from Oxford Circus, tracing the brightly-coloured lines on a map in the back of my diary.

Habitat. I have heard of this place. It is terribly glamorous. Johnny’s sisters buy furniture here. Johnny says we will furnish our house from Habitat: ‘Everything is so well-designed’.

So many shelves. Shelves stacked with chunky glasses, dark earthenware, white china. I don’t know what to look at without drawing attention to myself. I lay my hand as carelessly as possible on a pine table. There is a lot of pine in here.

Emmylou Harris on the radio sings: Here, making each day of the year-

Pine chairs, a pine dresser, stacked with earth-brown cookware and speckled mugs. I am in a farmhouse kitchen. Is this the kind of kitchen I will share with Johnny? He promises he’ll come and join me as soon as he has the money and-

Both of us thinking how good it can be someone is speaking-

- anyway he hasn’t. Will my home be like this? I’m not sure I like the word home, it has uncomfortable connotations. I prefer to say house.

Home = my mother answering the phone.

I pick up a speckled mug and pour myself an imaginary coffee, holding it in two hands, like a woman in a soup ad.

‘I’m not coming home,’ I say, ‘I’m in London’. There is a silence, but then there is bound to be. At this time of night my mother has progressed from sherry to whisky, so her processes are slow. But this silence seems to go on.

An assistant is looking at me. I am dressed for an interview, but not very appropriately (this with hindsight). I am wearing a red chevron-patterned skirt, a grey and red striped poncho with a hood, black suede boots, Biba Petrol Blue eyeshadow. I am seventeen.

It’s not about me missing Johnny. It’s about the familiarity of his face in a city where I know exactly three people.

I am going to be late. Eleven o’clock. Mum and Dad will be having their mid-morning beer now, a barley wine and a bitter respectively. At home. At seventeen it was legal to go. They couldn’t get me back.

I put my mug on the kitchen table. The assistant approaches.

Here, there and everywhere

‘Can I help you?’ I can tell from the look on her face she really doesn’t want to.

To my shame, I realise I am crying. ‘Just looking’, I say, walking out of the wooden kitchen, heading for the big glass door.

Here, there and everyyyyyyywhere.[2]

And that is the story of how I left home.

referenced works

  1. Habitat is a chain of furniture shops founded by respected designer Sir Terence Conran in 1964. Although not as popular as it once was, throughout the ‘60s, ‘70s and most of the ‘80s, it was the best-known UK high street retailer of fashionable furniture and household goods. Its swanky Knightsbridge branch was second only to its original Chelsea outlet in prestige and glamour.

  2. You can find the full lyrics to the song Here, There and Everywhere (originally by Lennon and McCartney) here.

location information

  • Name: Habitat, the furniture shop
  • Address: Knightsbridge, London, SW1
  • Time of story: Morning
  • Latitude: 51.501556820216095
  • Longitude: -0.16058921813964844
  • Map: Google Maps



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