When the doorbell rings at 4 a.m. in a Marylebone flat one does not normally leap out of bed to answer it – unless one suspects it might be a Bulgarian lover. Dobrinka stood there on the doorstep in a fur coat, holding the neck of a bottle and swinging a luxurious packet on a satin string. The bottle glinted in the harsh lights of the nearby Heart Hospital.
‘I have come for you tonight, my dahlink. I have vodka and the finest caviar!’
‘Oh, I say. Jolly good. Do come in.’
‘But it is always so cold in your flat. Terribly cold,’ she complained as she swayed up the narrow stairs to the first landing.
‘Well, I do turn the heating off at night. It saves money.’
‘God in heaven, you English are boring. Do you never make love in the small morning? Prepare the heat for a sudden surprise?’
‘I had no idea you were coming,’ I replied, struggling with my pyjamas.
‘I knew you didn’t love me. I felt always this ice in you!’ This was viciously thrown over her shoulder as she climbed the stairs.
‘So, where have you been tonight?’
‘Dinner at the embassy, my silly boy. I wore my mini-skirt and tickled the ambassador under the table!’
The fur fell to the floor to reveal no significant outdoor clothes but a distinctly clichéd taste in lingerie. She always wore her heavy silver and turquoise jewellery until she was naked, then flung it across the room, whence it would ricochet from the wall with a loud report. I can show you the marks. This behaviour hugely impressed an Englishman with a taste for the exotic.
I will spare you the remainder of this riveting scene, for this is a book review after all, but I owe you an explanation as to the origin of my interest in lingerie, flying jewellery, things Bulgarian and that area of London within the boundaries of Marylebone, Mayfair and Belgravia. This unlikely baggage merges in a remarkable novel called The Green Hat by Dikran Kouyoumdjian, better known by the less intimidating name of Michael Arlen. The book was given to me in Warsaw while I was working o
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