I visited Simon's apartment for the first time many moons ago - and fell in love with it. Bustling with people (it was a Christmas party) and the endless top-ups of red wine. A penthouse apartment located in a plush North Oxford locality; with every nook and cranny of the apartment telling a story complemented by the most incredible panoramic view over Oxford.
View from the roof terrace.
What I love most about the flat is the abundance of books everywhere - from great works of literature, poems, books on films and filmmaking, to the monthly wine society catalogue - there's something for everyone.
I hadn't known Simon very long when I'd attended that Christmas party, but once I was there, I felt I'd known him for years. His flat embodies his persona - his various interests, passions, quirks and eccentricities. His plush penthouse apartment is so much more than the real-estate description of it - it's a home.
Tell our readers a bit about yourself.
A descendant of Henry Fielding, I come from a family of writers, including my cousin, Sara Banerji, novelist and sculptor. Always had a writer’s voice droning on in my head, telling me what we were all doing. As a journalist, I got caught up in the Jeremy Thorpe/ Norman Scott affair. In my Fleet Street days, I went off to Africa as a war correspondent, but no war when I got there. Encountered Frelimo, though.
In his bedroom. Photo by Robert Taylor.
What inspires you?
[I have a] huge relationship with India (as seen in apartment): on first visit wrote a million words. Notebooks, novels, short stories, poems came out of it. Masses of photos on subsequent visits. Exhibition at neighbouring college, St Anne’s College, Oxford. Last year I worked with the National Army Museum re-doing the Indian Army Memorial Room at Sandhurst.
Theatre and film huge part of life too. Directed plays and short films, documentaries. Screen writer and script adviser to Oscar-winner, Just Betzer, who produced Babette’s Feast. Current project is feature film Sacrifice – US and Australian co-production.
How would you define your style?
Don’t know how to define my style – but life’s been about observing and noticing a lot. Much observing from the apartment too, as the views are spectacular, especially from the roof terrace.
Why did you choose this apartment?
Known the building since the 70s, as an old school friend lived here. I moved in 22 years ago, after being hypnotised by the views.
Where in your apartment do you spend most of your time - and why?
Spend most of my time in the study – writing, writing, writing! – under the watchful gaze of various Ganeshas. (one on the bookshelf above my head, another on the desktop computer.) But my favourite piece is the Ganesh in the drawing room…And another, which visitors pass under whenever they enter the apartment…
Do you have a favourite piece?
Don’t have a favourite piece in the apartment’s collection, because I see it all as an ensemble (like theatre). Things I’ve inherited, things I’ve acquired on my travels, things I bought when I lived near the Portobello Road.
I’m most proud of the flow in the rooms and on the roof terrace.
Wide angle of the lounge.
If there was one thing you could change about your apartment, what would it be?
The thing I’d change is the shortage of people caused by Covid. I want to party again. It’s always been a party venue!
As a filmmaker and film-buff, I can't not ask you this - depiction of your favourite interiors as depicted on-screen?
My favourite film interiors (and exteriors) are always going to be from Fellini movies – Otto e Mezzo especially. (I saw it when I was 14 and realised that nothing in the world is more important than making great films.)
Fellini on set.
While this year has brought with it its challenges and we haven't had the luxury of travelling - collecting souvenirs and keepsakes from every corner of the globe; we haven't even been able to take a trip to the local antiques shops. You can shop online at shops such as ours for some interesting treasures to display - be it one-of-a-kind Moroccan cushions, throws, rugs, or lamps.
We've never needed our homes as much as we have this year. The key takeaway from this is there's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to making your house feel like a home.