Forty years ago this English summer, Australia was stricken by a cultural catastrophe. The damage to national morale has reverberated down the decades. It has contributed to the implosion of Australian cricket and the loss of the Ashes, now irrevocable. The disaster occurred when the only two intellectuals in the convict settlements both bought one-way tickets to London.
Forty years on, Clive James is marginally the better known. But from the outset, Roxy Beaujolais (née Jean Hoffmann: New South Wales meets New Orleans) has been part of the va et vient. For a time, she ran the front of house at Ronnie Scott’s. She then decided that she wanted to be a salonniere and worked out how to make that precarious career a practical possibility. She became an ale-wife, and now has the perfect premises: the Seven Stars in Carey Street, behind the law courts.
Roxy is a striking figure: the girl who puts the ‘bon’ into embonpoint. She would make an excellent Marschallin, despite the Chernobyl-pink hair colour. One has the impression that Barry Humphries is in charge of the make-up department. The Stars’ real landlord is Tom Paine, a long black moggy with yellow eyes. He would look good on a broomstick, though it might have to be a stout one.
There has been an alehouse on the site since at least 1602, probably under the same name. Inns were called the Seven Stars to honour the seven provinces of the embattled Netherlands, and to attract Dutch seamen. It is pleasant to think that the odd sea-beggar might have enjoyed a dop here after a fight with Spanish warships in the Flanders Roads. Since those days, alas, the architecture is changed, changed utterly. A terrible respectability was born, as the whole area was poshed up during the building of the law courts.