The amazing thing about the Peter Cheyney canon is that every one of his heroes, villains and exquisitely dressed women all live within a three mile radius, Belgravia as its centre. These characters are so densely packed – often living in an adjacent or the same street to each other - that only the fact they exist in parallel universes prevent them from feeling acute claustrophobia. Cheyney, too, shows an obsessive interest in the minutiae of landscape and so the reader is able to follow each character’s journey step by step. It is difficult to get lost. When the pilgrimage to Baker Street tires future tourists might well enjoy the ‘Cheyney walk’.
My daughter and I were on such a walk, exploring the leafy grandeur of Sloan Street. As we passed Cadogan Square I heard a voice; a voice so low as to be subliminal. I heard it again, its oriental accent dispelling the notion that Cheyney was speaking to me. I turned, and a bearded man in a dark suit and turban stared into my eyes.
“You are wise man,” he said.
As chat up lines go it was up there. I warmed to him at once.
He turned to my daughter.
“And you, so beautiful – so lucky!”
This was clearly a man of sagacity and sense. Before we knew it he was breathing on our hands, folding pieces of paper, writing down our answers to various questions – such as for example our favourite colours, our deepest desires -proving without doubt that we were even luckier than he had at first imagined – and immensely wise. And he should know. He was a Swami. He opened his wallet to reveal the picture of his teacher – a master Swami with an even more luxuriant beard, and surrounded by children.
Children that needed feeding.
He said it with Paul McCartney eyes, and looked meaningfully into his still opened wallet.
We fumbled in our pockets, knowing we were no longer wise, or even lucky. A pound coin should do it I thought. He guessed my intention. Maybe he was a Swami
Again the subliminal voice:
Most people put a note in the wallet. The children…
I avoided the eyes, those diffident eyes and dropped a coin in the wallet.
Personally I reckon he was lucky he chose us to wheedle his magic on, and not Peter Cheyney.