Readers will be familiar with Gloucester Crescent, that handsome terrace of Victorian villas in Camden Town. It has been much satirised since the 1960s, when it was rescued from decay thanks to an influx of the intelligentsia, clustered in villagey togetherness. They were soon pilloried in a cartoon strip in The Listener by Mark Boxer, who renamed the Tomalins, one of the couples to move there, ‘the Stringalongs’. Later, Alan Bennett’s play The Lady in the Van immortalised Miss Shepherd, the malodorous but genteel tramp he allowed to park in his driveway for fifteen years. Most recently Nina Stibbe, in her book Love, Nina, portrayed the neighbourhood through the eyes, and the blunt Midlands tongue, of a bemused au pair.
In a 2011 memoir by Gully Wells, one of the locality’s privileged children, you might have glimpsed a small menace, ‘that bloody William Miller’, scampering across the gardens and up the back steps of Wells’s house, daring to disturb her stepfather, A J Ayer, in his bath. Ayer’s wife, the