For those who have often wanted to learn more about Soho’s cafe culture of the 1950s, look no further than ‘Which Yet Survive’, the delightful and insightful auto-biography of Ventnor resident, John Mills.
The book (whose title is from Shelley’s poem, Ozymandias) takes readers on a journey from leafy Guildford in the late 1920s to sunny Ventnor in the 2010s, stopping along the way in Singapore, Burma, Ceylon (during the final throes of the British Empire), Mexico, the West Coast of the United States (during the hippie revolution), Soviet Russia and many parts of Europe.
John’s lifelong obsession and love of travel comes across very clearly, but his book also shares wonderful stories of the artistic community he belonged to.
Pioneer in his field
He was a prominent figure and pioneer at The National Gallery (in the Scientific Department) and had many friends from the Slade School of Fine Art.
His circle of friends included British painter, Victor Willing, and to this day John’s still very close friends with the ‘painter of stories’, Portuguese artist, Paula Rego.
Opting for the cafe culture of the 1950s, rather than the pub or clubs, John spent a great deal of time in steamy cafes with the likes of Francis Bacon and Henrietta Moraes. He recounts many stories of those he shared a table with at Legrain’s on Gerrard Street.
The detail of John’s recollections is quite extraordinary and a pleasure to read. You’re transported from the present day to wherever and whenever he is describing in one of the 18 chapters of this fascinating memoir.
Don’t take our word for it, you can find out for yourselves. The hardback version of ‘Which Yet Survive’ can be bought online from publisher, Quartet Books.
Image: © John Mills