My London: Jane Birkin | ES Magazine

Home is… 

Paris, where I’ve lived for the past 50 years. I have a little flat near Luxembourg Gardens on the first floor with a sunny balcony. It’s very cosy — I live there with my British bulldog, Dolly. 

Where do you stay in London? 

I like The Pelham hotel because it’s so unpretentious, and it’s in South Kensington where a lot of French people live, so I feel at home. I also like The Rookery in Farringdon — it has such charm. 

The Pelham hotel

Who do you call when you want to have fun? 

My best friend, Gabrielle, my dear old agent, John Wood, and sweet Anthony Powell, the great costume designer. 

Most iconic Londoner? 

Julie Christie. I saw her 10 years ago coming down her front steps in a nightie, an old raincoat and a pair of metal-rimmed glasses. She was taking her dustbin out, and she looked sumptuous and so typical of London.

Julie Christie (Getty Images)

What would you do if you were Mayor for the day? blob:✕

Oh, god, I wouldn’t be Mayor of London for anything, my goodness me! 

Bus, taxi or Tube? 

I wouldn’t know how to do the Tube! I take a couple of the buses, but usually I get a taxi. I like to sit on the little seat that goes up, behind the driver, because then I can talk to them and find out what’s going on in London.

What’s the best thing a cabbie has ever said to you? 

I told one taxi driver who I was, and he slammed on the brakes and turned around, face flushed, and said: ‘F***ing “Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus”, I had five children to that song!’ He was so splendid.

Favourite restaurant? 

I lived in San Lorenzo in Knightsbridge for about 20 years; I used to go with Serge [Gainsbourg]. They were so welcoming and sweet. 

Where would you recommend for a first date? 

The National Theatre in the summer. All French theatres shut in the summer, so I would see whatever is on there. 

The Royal National Theatre

What do you collect? 

My house is so full of ornaments, you wouldn’t believe it. I just can’t throw anything away. I must do it, so my children aren’t plagued by it all when I’m gone. 

Duck ornaments (Getty Images)

What makes someone a Londoner? 

The greatest thing London has going for it is the Londoners. French people can’t get over the fact that Londoners are kind. When I get on the bus, the driver says, ‘Watch out, love’, and I think, ‘Ah, I am back in England.’

Who are your heroes? 

I recently watched Netflix documentaries about Joan Didion and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — I think they are wonderful women. 

Joan Didion

Biggest extravagance?

Oh, I can spend a thousand quid by blinking. I bought two cashmere scarves in Paris: one for a friend who I was visiting here, and I thought, ‘I’ll have a second one for me.’ I love buying presents. I also buy a lot of shoes that I think are going to be nice, and I actually never wear them.


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