Sunday, January 18, 2009


The Mystery of Lambolle Road

It staggers me that this has been completely overlooked by the British press -- and indeed by everyone else -- but I hope this gets the word out. One small London neighborhood paper -- the Camden New Journal -- appears to be the only place covering a trove of writings found in the bedsit (below) of Hampstead eccentric John Rhodes:

ON the morning of November 27 last year, a cheap plywood coffin slipped into the flames at the Islington crematorium in East Finchley. No relatives attended; the casket was unmarked... A thin, stooped man who wore slippers whatever the weather and walked with the aid of a fallen tree branch, Rhodes died as he had lived: in obscurity and destitution.

He left no will, only a bewildering array of papers, notes and other writings piled up in his tiny, council-owned basement bedsit in Lambolle Road, Belsize Park. Taking pride of place, in two ancient filing cabinets next to his bed, were thousands of meticulously recorded observations and snippets of conversation spanning more than 40 years, all dated, referenced and typewritten on single-lined cards right to the paper’s edge. Over the decades this Borgesian library of records has acquired almost mythical status among Hampstead’s literary crowd...

He wrote compulsively. Plays, novels, hundreds of poems, and an epic decade-long study of comparative religions from ancient rituals to Marxism were all bashed out on an old Corona typewriter in his kitchen, the gas cooker on for warmth.

An irate letter he wrote to The Spectator when he was barred from The Flask pub for showing the barmaid an erotic poem is believed to be his only published work.

Amid worries that bailiffs will clear out Rhodes' belongings into a dumpster, some Hampstead residents are lobbying for their preservation.

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