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Architecture and Urban Planning - A Memoir \ David Best
I 1950 - 1960
Back in London

      Returning to England for the first time since I had immigrated to Israel was an ambiguous experience; sweet and sad. After visiting my father in Liverpool, I decided to go to London to search for a job in the best architectural office I could find. I still felt the need to learn the craftsmanship of the profession and the organizational process by which architecture was realized. I had not been able to do either in Israel. After discussing it with some of my old friends from University, I finally chose a London based architectural office in which to work;- James Cubitt and Partners, of 23 Gloucester Place. James Cubitt himself was the epitome of an upper class Englishman, married to a Lady from the aristocracy. He drove a vintage Rolls Royce that was about seven meters in length, with only two seats and more interior leather and woodwork that you might find in a Jacobean drawing room. It was a magnificent affair, the pride of the office. It was constantly in the garage being mended. On one occasion it was driven away by a short sighted stranger, an owner of a similar car who miraculously was in possession of the same cut of car keys as James. There was talk of litigation, but eventually everything was amicably settled in the pub, with particular merriment on the part of the main protagonists. James Cubitt was after- all a real gentleman; he was also a delightful human being, and for me even more important than that, he was a fine architect from whom I learnt a very great deal.

  My luck with colleagues was still holding out, they were a group of architects full of good humour and generosity. It was the days of the popular radio commady of the day the'' Goon’s Show" and the atmosphere in the office was decidedly waggish and the conversation almost entirely epigrammatic.  Most of them were my seniors and knew infinitely more about designing buildings than I did. Detailed design was particularly their competence, and one year of working under their supervision, (particular of one architext-, Peter Grey, a supreme craftsman,) enabled me to reach a level of competence high enough to consider myself a professional architect. The conceptual design skills I was able to observe from James himself (no one would dare to refer to him by any other name). He was a good-looking man, meticulously dressed.  He invariably wore a pale blue smock over his clothes in the office, which made him appear like some character out of an amateur stage performance of "La Boheme". He was an itinerant drinker of red wine during office hours, until a serious illness put him on the wagon for the rest of his life. His wife would occasionally join him for a tipple after lunch. They would often both be a trifle inebriated by four o'clock, and sometimes I would notice them through the window, being gently assisted into a taxi by the driver, to be delivered home to their butler by late afternoon. They lived in York Terrace facing Regents Park in a two-story house reputably designed by John Nash. I was once invited there for lunch together with Rina, an unheard of thing; the office was a buzz at the honour conferred upon us.   Rina, an almost Israeli 'sabra', as she refers to herself, was enchanted by the occasion. To this day she remembers the serving of the desert in exquisitely cut glass bowls containing fresh raspberrisand cream' which was the first time she had ever tasted such a delicacy.


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