In 1939 Mervyn Peake inveigled his wife-to-be, Maeve Gilmore, to his room in Battersea. It was a damp, run-down place on the first floor with few facilities. But it had a bed, which was the important thing. In the middle of the night, however, they were woken by noises from beneath, and when they lit the candle they saw the floorboards were moving. Peake leapt up, and threw back the rug to reveal a trapdoor. He threw that back too. While they were asleep a circus had moved into the ground floor, and an elephant was scratching its back against the beams. For the rest of the night they fed it buns.
Every fan has their favourite moment of Peake quirkiness, and this is mine. Less for the elephant than the trapdoor: anybody can see an elephant, but only Peake could have done so through a trapdoor. In fact, only Peake could have had a trapdoor in his bedroom in