Art and Life

Dancing at the 5th FloorI bought the 5th Floor because it had some kind of intrinsic beauty, an “onda” as we say here, that transcended the bricks and mortar, the nice stained glass windows or the spectacular staircase. It has only had two owners in its 70 years in existence. The first built it as his own statement about how he wanted to live, the second loved it and it was clearly the centre not only of the familial existence but also of the families professional life. They are a dynasty of eminent psychiatrists and La dueña (the owner as I still think of this regal 90 year old) still actively practices those divan based, Freudian arts. Think of the stories that must have been told here from the boom times of the 40’s to the repressive days of the dictatorship. I like to think that these big airy rooms have always been a refuge from the summer heat for those successful or failing, elevated in society or struggling to fit in as it changed; those that needed a bit of external wisdom to guide them on their paths. Thousands of people must have opened their hearts here over the years.

The truth is I never thought of myself as very arty in London but then I didn’t have much time and didn’t mix in those circles. Yes, I got the invites to the Mayfair gallery openings, but they were always so stuffed with people chugging free champagne that you rapidly gave up hope of seeing the actual exhibition. Here I do have the time, do have the inspiration, and everyone is an artist or musician, if not by profession at least by inclination. I’ve picked up my old fender and started playing a bit of blues. I’ve nearly finished my first novel. The onda gives you energy! So when I met a young Argentine film director, Leonardo Daniel, and he started telling me about his new project it occurred to me that the 5th Floor would provide the perfect backdrop to his story.

5th floor 3


So I gushed on about the glories of this Art Deco space I had just acquired, the light, the colour and of course the onda and I’m a pretty good salesman. Of course he was interested. I’ve raised millions of pounds for companies that were little more than an idea and I was talking to an artist, by definition impressionable. But then I realised this amazing venue was still largely in my mind. The reality was a building site with a thick layer of dust coating everything and all the beautiful doors off their hinges, leaning against the walls. It looked like this;

5th Floor 6


He came round anyway and felt the onda. Of course as a fellow artist I knew he would. Everyone seemed happy in the dirt, other than the clothes designer who was close to tears. Sadly they couldn’t shoot in desert gear or safari suits. I’m sure her next collection will be washable though. And Leo made his trailer despite the place being a wreck.

5th Floor 4


So now the pressures on. They want to start shooting the full film in May. Can I finish in time to show the place in all its imagined glory? I’m doing my best!

5th Floor 5


I’m sure you want to see the trailer now. You will find it here;

Its called Ella and has its own facebook page here;

And by the way, the viejo verde in the first picture is not a man! Intrigued?



Whiskey with Freud

La Dueña! Still a practicing psychiatrist at 90 years old, she could teach the hungriest bond salesman a thing or two about closing a deal.  (Photo: Jacinta Young Photography)

I first met Thilda eighteen months ago. Her grand daughter, Lucia, had invited me round to see the family home, an early 1940’s Art Deco residence, and partake of a late tea. Her granny had bought the place 50 years ago she explained, it was to big for her now and as I was vaguely toying with the idea of settling in Buenos Aires maybe it would suit me. Tea with anyone’s 89 year old granny can be a bit of an ordeal, so I can’t say I was brimming with enthusiasm but I was also intrigued. At that time I harboured the last vestiges of expectation of becoming reasonably wealthy (via the projected value of my environmental technology company) despite the market having reduced the adventure side of the venture capital market to the dry husk of its former succulence. However, I could see still imagine myself living in 40’s elegance, a louche polo playing playboy in the finest location in the city.

That the granny was still a practicing psychiatrist of the divan persuasion, who along with her eminent, analysis inclined husband had spawned a dynasty of mind mechanics, was also intimidating. What would she make of the fact that I was going out with her grand daughter who was half my age?

“Have you had work done? If so it’s very good. You look young for your age,” was Thilda’s conversational opener. She obviously didn’t come from the let’s beat around the bush school of psychiatry. As I was fumbling for a response about healthy lifestyle and balanced diet Thilda lugged over a three kilo crystal ashtray.

“Lucia tells me you smoke, and drink whiskey. Which would you like?” She pulled several bottles from the sitting room bar. “This ones 25 years old, this I think is 30, the other I’m not too sure.”

I looked over at the various offerings. The 2 litre of Johnny Walker Black was unopened, the others had already offered up a few nips. “I didn’t know JW did a 30 year old.”

“No, I think they bottle it at 5, but I was given it by a patient 25 years ago and have kept it for the right occasion ever since.”

Hmm, thought I.

“When you buy my home I will leave you the rest of the bottle,” said she. Damn, she already knew how to ring my bells.

Following a linguistic slip on my part (well we were talking Spanish), the difference between psychiatrists and psychologists was quickly expounded to me. Psychiatrists are medically qualified and thus allowed to prescribe. If the dose of whiskey was anything to go by I know where I’ll be going for my happy pills.

Half way through said half pint of whiskey I was feeling comfortably relaxed. Lucia sadly wasn’t, as her granny eagerly dished out the kind of “relationship” advice guaranteed to mortify a younger relative. These Freudians don’t have many taboos but they do have a sense of humour it seems.

Then glass in hand, I got the grand tour. Improvements were suggested. The previous owner had built the whole building and the two top floors were his personal “Petit Hotel”. “You’ll  have to take out that wall,” Thilda asserted. “And rip up these carpets. It’s all Slovenian oak parquet underneath.”

Glass empty I left with that odd whiskey blurred premonition that both the apartment and its majestic dueña were destined to remain in my life!