December 4, 2023

A Marianne Faithfull Moment


Once a year or two—if I’m in the neighbourhood—I drop by the Salisbury on St Martin’s Lane, and prop my bones up against the bar. I stand in the same place and stare at the same thing—an empty booth across the way.  In that empty booth sits the ghost of a teenage Marianne Faithfull.  She wears white knee length socks, a simple dress, a fringe and a bob. Her arms open, her legs crossed, she waits for me—for all of us—to transcend time from the living present into the forever young freeze of her past.

Some fifty years ago the photographer Gered Mankowitz walked into the Salisbury on a lunch break with a teenage Marianne in tow. He plonked her in that booth and exposed her to a roll of film. A few days later in a dark room somewhere in London an iconic photograph was born—wedding the Salisbury to Marianne forever in a melancholic past, present, future fold. The fold exists because the Salisbury hasn’t changed a drop. The booth remains the same. There’s still a mirror above it— probably the same mirror which captured the man gazing at Marianne in the photograph as it captures my gaze now.

Jung argues a space has a kind of collective memory, which can be approached through dreams. I don’t know what other dreams or nightmares the Salisbury holds, I just visit Gered’s dream. I step back through Jung time and peel myself off a Bob Dylan album cover. Dressed in winkle pickers and a bum freezer I catch Marianne’s eye, sit with her, smell her hair, and hold her cold clammy hands.  Sixties tambourines, a harpsichord, and waves of violin wash Marianne and me out of the Salisbury and into the street. She can see I want to stay with her. Burnt by the chilly air, we skip along the lane towards a hotel room we will never reach.

A blink, a sip of bitter sweet cider, a cackle from another table, and I am back—back in the present, back in the Salisbury, back in the empty booth.  The heavy brass ornamental Victorian waifs on either side of the booth shine their warm lamplight on me, as they once shined light on Marianne. I touch the red mock velvet upholstery, lean back, cross my legs, open my arms and rest for a moment.

Soon it’ll be time to be somewhere else.

George London

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