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If you told me earlier that I had anything in common with Mick Jagger, Margaret Thatcher, Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin, I might have said you were a card or two short of a full deck. Now I know better, because like these and scores of celebrities, I too have made my home in Chelsea, generally recognized as the only authentic village remaining in the heart of London. Mine is one of those 200-year-old terrace houses, the three-storied whitewashed kind with coloured doors, and roses peering over wrought iron railings out front and climbing high walls of courtyards in the back.

Regrettably I am only a temporary resident of Chelsea. Even so, it's nice that on my second visit to a corner pub I was asked if I would like my "usual." And when a wedding party walked in from the church along the street, they invited me to drink the happy couple's good health. A neighbour smiles "hello" as I walk by. So does the man in the riverside park who plays a one-sided tennis game with his Scottish terrier. Even the Australian nanny stops to talk, now that she knows I am not about to kidnap her two apple-cheeked charges.

I walk everywhere: along the King's Road lined with trendy shops, and Cheyne Walk to read blue and white plaques telling me where writers and artists once lived. I walk to South Kensington tube station in one direction for direct access to Piccadilly and Heathrow, and in the other to Sloane Square for tea at Peter

Jones department store. Yesterday I walked through the Chelsea Royal Hospital, one of Christopher Wren's finest buildings commissioned by Charles 11 as a home for retired soldiers. Its gardens are a joy at this time of the year. Canaletto painted them. Mozart played in them. Thousands of garden enthusiasts flock to the Chelsea Flower Show in them every spring. At night I walk along the Embankment past Chelsea Harbour and past the Albert Bridge dramatically illuminated after dark, and the black and gold pagoda which was a gift from Japan.

Actually I feel a bit of a cheat posing as a local when I am really a stranger. I was steered here by someone at the British Tourist Authority following my inquiries about realistically priced London lodgings.

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