footnotes, appendices and apparatus to the anatomy
grouped loosely by subject
11. on Patronage and the Discord of Princes:
Ted Kelley and Tony Dell'Aquila
Ted Kelley doesn’t live in Norbiton, he lives in Canbury in a big house near the park. He came to London years ago and married well, into a family that cut stone for monuments. He expanded the business and runs it still now, although you so often see him wandering about Norbiton with his dogs that you’d suppose him to be retired.
He’s a silver-haired old Spaniard of an Irishman; sixty-years old, tall, charismatic, brawny, controlled. He has about him a sense of access to powerful worlds, a public capital of available mechanism, latent resources. Somewhere or other he could walk into offices, workshops, building sites, and make people jump.
But there is an odd sense of divorce between this bigger world where he is someone – large house, business, football club, who knows what else – and his atom of self, wandering around Norbiton with its electron shell of dogs, as though he has moved beyond wanting power, or needing it, or caring much about it; has moved, even, beyond noticing its weight; but – perhaps this is where the unconscious menace he projects is located – you feel he would most certainly notice its absence, and would know how to go about grappling it back with brutal efficiency if he ever lost it.
In the allotments, after the aborted circumperambulation of Norbiton, I talk a bit about my theory of the Furthest South. No one says much in reply, except Hunter Sidney, who wonders under his breath if we therefore also experience a Furthest North, and what that would look like; and Kelley, somewhat oddly, who tells us a surfing story.
It seems that in the early 1970s he spent time in California, working as a labourer, and that on only one occasion some friends took him surfing. They drove up to Stinson Beach at the end of the summer, and spent a day thrashing about in the waves, or lying on the sand, or eating burgers in the diners up by the road. Not long after that day, Kelley says, he bought himself a ticket for London, and never went back to the States, never surfed again. But there on the beach, in the surf, he did not know that he was about to leave. It was a day of perfect excitment, a day which felt like the beginning of something rather than the end.
Just once, he says, he managed to stand up on the board, for no more than three seconds. ‘There I was,' he says, 'one of the fucking beach boys. I must have looked like a top fool in my lilywhite skin, wobbling about there on that board on waves no more than a foot high. But I loved it. I should have stayed. Surfing, drinking and sleeping, maybe some girls. Just for a while. Because when you’re in all that surf and spray, I think, you are properly happy. Forgetful. Kind of smashed into pieces. Nothing like that ever happens in Ireland. Or here for that matter.'
Kelley’s particular gripe is that Emmet thinks he’s Irish and he clearly isn’t. He has or had a father or grandfather from Cork, the county not the city, but was born in England to English parents. When he sees Kelley he can’t seem to stop himself doing the accent, as though a music-hall brogue between Irishmen must be a sort of Masonic handshake.
Emmet and Kelley know each other through the football club, Kingstonian, of which both are directors. Kelley says Emmet knows as little of football as he does of Ireland.
Emmet Lloyd is admittedly hard to like. He stands too close when he talks to you, and is too dog-like, laughs too easily at nothing. But no one is that stupid, and Emmet Lloyd is not stupid at all. His family made his money for him – they run a series of garden nurseries in the South West of London – and Emmet is of necessity in the family business in some oblique capacity, but he is always trying to establish his own realm.
I don’t know if I like him or not, the question in general seems irrelevant to me until someone does me active harm; but I am quite sure that his social behaviours are strategies developed in response to some damage or other; underneath that servile veneer he is as watchful as the next man.
The Palladian North End graced the ground for a solitary season before they tore it down. It was all somehow tied up with the death of his daughter. His daughter had died and his wife hadn’t left the house since, so the story went, and it was in the middle of this that he had tried to build a football stand in contravention of planning regulations and good sense.
No one I know has a photograph and I cannot find one to publish here. My entire knowledge of it as an architectural structure is derived from hearsay and a glimpse of a single photograph belonging to Kelley which I saw without his knowledge – Kelley doesn’t carry photo albums; the trivia of his past is either stamped out or bolted away.
Hearsay is not much to go on either. People forget detail, whatever they believe to the contrary. Visual detail in particular. The stand is famous locally in the way the Hanging Gardens of Babylon are famous globally, as word of mouth, a symbol of something beautiful, strange, legendary. Norbiton F.C. in its final flowering.
At the games there is still now a rump of old Norbiton fans who stand moodily around on the terraces like Soviet peasants at a May Day parade. Kelley typically comes and stands with them from half time and watches the second half with them in mute solidarity.
In the first half Kelley, if he turns up, is slumped in a corner of the director’s box; he exchanges a handful of words or a bantering nod with his fellow directors, is clearly charming to their wives, their guests; you can see Lloyd hopping up and down in his company, and you can see the tension between him and dell’Aquila, who they say is the real money in the club and certainly represents the old Kingstonian interest.
Kelley, oddly, seems only to tolerate football; in all the time I’ve known him (not very long), I’ve never heard him utter a word about the game. He stands and watches it as he might watch his dogs chase each other around the park.
Tony of course isn’t really a duke. He is a wealthy businessman, semi-retired. He ran a firm of builders and had his commercial finger in a lot of concerns, locally. He and I are going to contract for some work on his garden. I come, evidently, highly recommended – by Kelley or his wife, I don’t know which.
His commercial base is in Kingston but he lives now in Richmond, an expensively dull suburb of London on the other side of the park, far beyond the gravitational reach of Norbiton. I am driving Old Sol’s Mark V Transit. They don’t allow commercial vehicles through the park, so we are going around. It is a day of convalescent sun somewhere on the margins of winter and spring, a mid-week morning, I don’t recall which day. We are – I am – moderately excited because we are driving circuitously away from Norbiton. Neither of us gets out much these days.
Norbiton is an Ideal City, with all that that implies of civic virtue and civilisation, the commerce of great spirits; Kingston is an empirically real town, with all that that implies of trade and pigs to market. Perhaps it pleases me to think of Kingston as sweating under the yoke of an in-bred aristocrat, but the truth is dell’Aquila is a poor immigrant made good. And most of Kingston doesn’t really know he exists.
I don’t know why, perhaps because of his ongoing, almost comfortable feud with Kelley. Clarke relates that it was dell’Aquila who orchestrated the takeover of Norbiton FC by Kingstonian. dell’Aquila was the owner of Kingstonian, as of so much in Kingston, and at the time they played on an insubstantial tract of mud out on the Richmond Road somewhere. It seems he saw the extraordinary Palladian North End go up across town, coveted not the stand, but the space, the planning permission (which had been contravened, as he no doubt discovered, in many respects), waited for a moment of vulnerability in Kelley to develop – lack of liquidity, specifically, coupled with building regulation inspections - and rapidly orchestrated the takeover of the whole club and the Recreation Ground.
Kelley didn’t really know what hit him. Where Kelley’s power is monolithic, conspicuous, vulnerable, dell’Aquila’s is tentacular; it is rooted in his building firm, but he owns by all accounts a lot of property throughout Kingston, and has stakes in other businesses.
Back in the 1980s he suddenly and briefly emerged, like a properly menacing Gatsby, from the shadows. He was a major investor in the creation of the Bentall Centre, and now sat – in his capacity as town councillor - on the planning committees which oversaw the Leonardesque diversion of the London Road from its natural course, and the consequent pedestrianisation of Kingston Town Centre. As a fluorescence it was more low-pressure sodium than Florentine, but it brought about its transformation, none the less.
He is now retired or semi-retired. He makes an appearance at the football once in a while, perhaps to stimulate fading memories of dusty kickabouts in the bombed out streets of Salerno with the other malnourished post-war kids, heads shaven against the lice, as wiry and able and dangerous with a football at their feet as they were in life.
Or perhaps not. Perhaps he is just keeping the sympathies and resonances of his network, his sphere of possession, alive, out of habit, against a rainy day.
Tony dell’Aquila has been paying clandestine afternoon visits to Mrs Isobel Easter. He comes in at the back gate, as I do, makes his way sure-footed, vigilant, across the garden, nods to me briskly if he sees me, and disappears into the house without knocking. Once or twice I see the kitchen door swing open at his approach, moved by invisible hands. He stays for an hour, two hours.
I find myself wondering, leaning on my spade, if it is me who has drawn down this malevolence, as I see it, on to the Ideal City. I am not troubled by Mrs Isobel Easter’s infidelity, dell’Aquila’s concupiscence; I am aware of Hunter Sidney’s potential shadowy pain at this betrayal, radiating from his upper room in Norbiton, but I am simultaneously aware that this is a projection – Hunter Sidney is (I believe) ignorant of the comings and goings in the Kelley garden.
It is a malevolence because narrative is suddenly flowing through the streets of the Ideal City like a turbulence; the unaccustomed warmth of relations across this island of Cyclopes is not invigorating but alarming, it threatens our destruction because we did not want life, blood, vigour; but structure, space, concord.
Moreover, this is a narrative to which I am proximate, a witness; but from which I am excluded. There is, so to speak, a high council of Events in the Ideal City, the doors to which are shut silently at my approach.
One afternoon, half an hour after dell’Aquila has made his appearance, while I am struggling to conceal some guttering among the branches of a dense nameless evergreen bush in order that I can secretly, delightfully, redistribute water around the Rain Garden, Kelley’s dogs appear, sniffing silently at the bottom of my ladder. They do not look up at me, snarl at me; they merely locate me. Kelley himself follows on. He is equally uninterested in what I am doing, seems not to see the guttering that I am doing my best to shove out of view; if he does see it perhaps he dismisses it as an arcane cosmetics of the gardener’s trade.
He asks me how it is all going, I answer evasively (thinking, how is all what going?), and he scarcely listens to my catalogue of activity (an affect of the manager?); the dogs have fanned out over the garden, sniffing at the earth; and then he turns and goes into the house, dogs coming to heel at his barely audible low whistle.
I wait, straddling my ladder, head in the foliage, watching fascinated for dell’Aquila’s exit; I half expect to see the old stag propelled from the house, naked, in terror, pursued like Actaeon from the bower of Diana by Kelley’s hounds, perhaps torn to shreds.
Nothing happens for five minutes. It is just me in my tree. Suddenly it occurs to me that I can be seen from the house, staring like a loon from the midst of the branches. So I leave the gutter tied up where it cannot be seen, lean the ladder against a wall, and hurry from the garden.
The Kingstonian XI has been picked by Tony dell'Aquila, a director of Kingstonian.
Tony was instrumental in that club’s takeover of Norbiton FC in the late 1980s and to judge from the team he selects, he feels no remorse. We are expecting an XI of ancients, beer-guts and rheumatics to complement our own, but instead, it seems, he has emptied the gaols and the prison hulks. We are up against a tribe of rangy skinheads, rotten-toothed degenerates, foul-mouthed hod-carriers. The ball, when they smash it hilariously about in lieu of a warm up, is a hostile swerving unduckable scud of ordinance.
These are actual footballers. This is an empirically real football team. They are going to crucify us.