Recycled / Where John Lewis met John Hurt

Cavendish Square seems, calmer than other London squares - slightly old-fashioned, less hurly-burly, even cleaner than others; almost a film set vision of London as it is supposed to be. So it's the right place to come across John Hurt, that most versatile, most gentlemanly, most British of actors.

Even in London, preferring my bike at every opportunity, I find it pretty impossible to live without a car. On a bike you can't take home a new ironing-board or a case of wine, so you need somewhere where you can park conveniently. What's more, if you live in central London, you quickly discover that the principal occupant of Cavendish Square, John Lewis, is essential to daily life - the ultimate household store where you can get just about anything.

I can't explain why, and now I've probably tempted fate too far, but in 20 years I've always been able to find a space in the Cavendish Square car park, and been out of my car and inside John Lewis within a couple of minutes. It should be busy, a traffic black spot but somehow it seems to have a serenity, a convenience, a quiet Britishness not found elsewhere. Is this, was this, a secret? Have I given it away?

It's strange, the synchronicity bike rides seem to provoke. What an appropriate meeting in an appropriate place. Is not John Hurt the John Lewis of British actors - quality, value, variety, dependability, never knowingly undersold? Is not Cavendish Square the perfect location: not flashy or vulgar, but restrained and traditional, with a modern edge?

I was riding past the car park entrance, towards the post box in the south-east corner of the square, intent on posting my collection of invoices and business letters. I let the clickety-click of my gears slow me gently to a halt and there he was, moving swiftly, urgently, purposefully in that familiar, slightly hunched, ferret-like manner. We neatly and simultaneously co-ordinated our postings and he was gone, leaving me for once, the cyclist, stranded and hesitating.

He has a gentleness in everything that he does. Somehow, he falls between those two types of actor: one that is always himself whatever the role, the other that changes appearance and character completely. His personality does not shine out, but he has an aura of steadiness; he's not a blank canvas but a solid foundation. There is that essential Britishness, some sort of integrity, even when he plays the most sleazy, villainous role. He can provide almost any role. He can be almost all things to all men: the repulsive Elephant Man, the creepiest, nastiest baddie; the most sincere, caring and profound hero.

A reassuring place, Cavendish Square, a place to convince you there will always be an England, that there will always be a Sunday afternoon movie starring John Hurt and tea on china plates from John Lewis.

Peter Reynolds

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
News
UK Border Control
i100
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree have recently been awa...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

WORLDbytes: Two-Day Intensive Camera training and Shoot: Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th March

expenses on shoots: WORLDbytes: Volunteering with a media based charity,for a ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 4 Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: A school in Tameside is currently l...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn