Former Tatler editor Gavanndra Hodge tells Cally Squires about a wild childhood on the King’s Road, and the tragic death of her younger sister on a family holiday which inspired her book Consequences of Love
When I walk down the King’s Road now, it feels like I’m walking through the history of my whole life. There are lots of powerful memories for me, from where I used to get drunk and misbehave to family lunches at Leonardo’s after mum and dad had been to their NA and AA meetings with the likes of Eric Clapton and Anthony Hopkins.
We lived on Park Walk when I was little, as my dad’s hairdressing salon was on the King’s Road – [Gavin Hodge was hairdresser and dealer to local aristos and celebrities of the day] – he used to call himself the King’s Road cowboy.
I used to sit on the steps of the Royal Court Theatre and smoke after school and go to what is now Colbert in Sloane Square. Around aged 14 I worked at Pucci Pizza, which used to be where Le Pain Quotidien is now. It was a decadent, wild place where George Best, Grace Jones and Simon le Bon would turn up.
The waitresses were teenage girls like me and Amanda de Cadenet, and there was lots of dancing on the tables to the Gypsy Kings. When I was acting editor at Tatler we threw a big party at the Saatchi Gallery once. The area has been a really powerful part of my life actually – even my therapist is based above Lululemon on the King’s Road.
I had always wanted to write [a book] and had tried over the years to write various fiction stories. Themes of childhood and trauma kept coming up, and eventually I decided I needed to write my own book before I could write anything else. The impetus was realising I had no memory of my sister at all, and that realisation came when I looked at my own daughters, and realised the age gap between them is quite similar to the age gap between my sister Candy and I.
I was 14 when she died, and it almost felt like I’d lost her twice by allowing myself to forget her over the years.
“THE AREA HAS BEEN A REALLY POWERFUL PART OF MY LIFE ACTUALLY”
That was partly due to the trauma of the way she died [suddenly on a family holiday in Tunisia], and the chaos of the subsequent years. Writing about her seemed like a way to talk about her and bring her back into our lives, as often people who die do become a sort of tragic secret.
It felt like it should be a straightforward project because I’m a writer and I have a story to tell, but it took about five years because not only was it upsetting and difficult, but I was also raising two children whilst editing a monthly magazine.
I think women sometimes do this to themselves, taking on more and more until they collapse. But even though it was a big undertaking, I’m really glad that I did it. They say if you want something done, give it to a busy woman. And it’s tough but we do somehow manage to find the extra hours in the day. I got my book written by getting up at 5am and writing on the 28 minutes I had on the train going to work. So, you make it work if you really want to.
I’m meant to be getting up at 5am again at the moment to work on my second book, which is fiction and really different, but I can’t quite find the energy. It’s probably because I’m currently reading for a Masters degree in cultural, intellectual and visual history at the Warburg Institute, which is quite a bonkers place but great fun.
We are taking lockdown day by day, I’ve got a 12-year-old and a nine-year old, so we’re home schooling, which was definitely easier in the summer when the sun was shining.
My children taught me about love and family, and it took becoming a mother myself to recognise what childhood should be like. Being a mother was a big part of writing Consequences of Love.
I thought a lot in lockdown about how upsetting it must be to lose someone and not be able to go through the normal grief process of sitting with people you love and having a proper funeral. These processes are really important to help people move through the stages of grief.
When my sister died, I went back to school and nobody talked to me about it. Likewise, when my mum walked down the King’s Road, people would almost cross the street because they were too scared to speak to her and didn’t know what to say. That was one of the reasons I didn’t engage with the grieving process at the time.
But it’s never too late to grieve. If you haven’t got the time or headspace now, it can be parked, and you can come back to it later when you feel able to. When my dad died, even though it was sudden, I felt much more able to cry and give in to the emotions. They may be painful, beautiful, intense – it’s like riding a crazy horse, you can’t control it.”
The Consequences of Love in paperback is published on April 1.