Two lovely men

I talk about these two men in my biography on this site. However, I recently came upon their obituaries when I was looking through old photos and wanted to celebrate the time I spent with each of them. I loved them both.

I had the good fortune to be personal assistant to John St John at Heinemann in the early 1970s. He had his own list within Heinemann and often allowed me to meet the authors. Some of the stories are in my biography. I felt that finally I had found my niche – Heinemann was in Curzon Street in Mayfair and I was able to walk there from our flat in Ebury Street, Victoria.

I ran past Buckingham Palace, through Green Park and via Shepherd’s Market to work. At lunchtime, I’d rush to Berwick Street market in Soho to buy food for supper – Johnny often went to The Reform Club to meet people for lunch. Publishing was very badly paid but full of interesting people coming and going. I was lucky to have spent time with J St J and I learned a lot along the way.

Our list incorporated Peter Drucker on Economics, an Auguste Escoffier reprint of ‘A Guide to Modern Cookery’, a book on ‘Biofeedback’ (for which I was a guinea pig) and ‘The Thousand Petalled Lotus’ by an Indian monk, which got me into trouble! More on this in my biography …

John St John died suddenly of a heart attack, having recently retired. He had just finished writing a history of Heinemann. By then I had left publishing to have our first daughter. It came as a terrible shock. I still miss him.

As I do Oliver Caldecott, who had been at Penguin. He and a colleague, Dieter Pevsner (son of Nikolaus Pevsner), along with David Harrison, set up a small publishing house in Floral Street, Covent Garden, called Wildwood House. I arrived in 1975 as P.A. to Olly on a salary of £2,300 pounds a year.

joining Wildwood House

We published ‘Alternative London’ written by Nicholas Saunders, who also set up Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden with a wholefood shop. This proved very successful and he then added a dairy, a café and an ‘apothecary’, offering alternative natural remedies. Neal’s Yard continues to survive today – they also have a fabulous cheese shop and the walk-in massage rooms are much recommended by me. Look up more about Nicholas Saunders and Neal’s Yard on Wikipedia.

Other books I remember are ‘The Tao of Physics’ by Fritjof Capra, ‘Radical Technology‘ by Godfrey Boyle, ‘The Drovers’ Roads of Wales’ by Fay Godwin and Shirley Toulson, books by Studs Terkel writing about ordinary working people in America, ‘The Unexpurgated Code’ by J. P. Donleavy and ‘The Tao of Love & Sex’ by Jolan Chang.

Oliver Caldecott – obituaries
a wonderful obituary by Giles Gordonliterary agent
Oliver Caldecott

Whereas John St John enjoyed the Reform Club as his go-to lunch venue – and publishers enjoyed daily lunches in those days – Oliver’s choice was Poons at 41 King Street, Covent Garden – known for such clientele as Mick Jagger and Barbara Streisand.

One uplifting thing about ‘lockdown’ is that I have had time to look back and remember those good times. I hope there will be a few more!

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