Ambrosia Court is a formidable, white stone slab of twenties’ architecture, looking out of place between a glass and concrete block on the right, and a line of brightly coloured wooden sea shacks on the left. It’s like a genie had uprooted Shell Mex House in London, reshaped it a little by slicing the clock off the top, thinning out the windows, adding a few sconces and flourishes here and there, then carrying the whole thing sixty miles or so to slam it down foundations first by a scattering of footballers, dog walkers and picnickers on the lawns. The building’s under scaffolding at the moment, though, ragged plastic sheeting flapping noisily overhead in the offshore breeze.
It’s quiet inside, though. Plush red carpets, wooden panelling, cool marble. A vista of moneyed lines, leading to a central staircase that starts at a white piano at the bottom and winds up through eight identical floors to an ornate iron and glass canopy at the top.
Mr Cunningham is in one of the penthouse suites, lying in a tangle of sheets on a vast bed, nude and gaunt as an ailing bird stuck in the nest, waiting for a miracle to restore his feathers and his life to him. He has so many health issues – comorbidities, in the lingo – it’s hard to know where to start. In lieu of a tranche of new organs and the technology to install them, it comes down to a few pieces of equipment to help with his mobility, and some nursing follow up.
We chat as I finish the paperwork. He tells me he used to be a property developer, buying old places, turning them round, selling them on.
‘Ambrosia Court, for example’ he says, struggling to sit up.
‘You can’t mean the whole thing?’
‘Yes,’ he says. ‘Seventy flats. Count them! Quite a project, but I think you’ll agree it’s a fine looking building.’
A sudden rush of sunshine spills in through a stained glass window, casting a pattern of reds and golds and greens across everything.
‘It’s quite a place,’ I tell him.
‘Have you seen the piano down in the lobby?’
‘Yes! That’s a nice touch.’
‘Do you play?’
‘I’m afraid not. I took a few lessons once but didn’t carry it on. How about you?’
‘No,’ he says, painfully turning over. ‘I was always too busy. And now look! I’d need scaffolding just to keep me on the stool!’