There was something vaguely familiar about Robinson. Long after we became friends I remembered I had seen him once before in a pub called the Angel, standing at the bar with another man. I had been struck by his air of persuasion and watched him out of idle curiosity while waiting for a woman who was late. Robinson physically dominated the conversation. I thought he would overstep the mark, but his positioning was faultless. The other man nodded a lot and had on a dark jacket, I remember, because once Robinson, without interrupting himself, leaned over and brushed something from the lapel.

Had I not subsequently met Robinson I would have forgotten the incident (and did until much later anyway). Looking back, I remembered his intimacy and the fact that he was standing, while with me he made a point of sitting. I could not help notice the white cap he wore. It had made me dislike him hugely on sight.

From what I gathered later, Robinson had taken great care to invent himself. He was tall and boyish, with his hair swept back: like Orson Welles as Harry Lime in The Third Man, that same moon face. He cultivated the resemblance, and I fancied I saw in the high shine of his toe caps a vain reminder of that introduction to Lime: ‘ext. vienna night – Close-up, black Oxfords in dark doorway.’ Sometimes too he addressed me with a mocking ‘Old man’.


Dead Faces
Old Man Potchikoo