Philip Larkin’s father kept a statuette of Hitler on the drawing-room mantelpiece. Press a button and its right arm shot up in a Nazi salute. Little wonder, then, that Larkin, the poet laureate of provincial melancholy, had grim memories of his childhood home in Coventry.
‘He said it was a very gloomy house, an unhappy place,’ says Peter Walters, who works for Coventry and Warwickshire Promotions, which is hoping to reclaim a bit of Larkin back from Hull, where, as university librarian, the poet famously contemplated the world of bedsits, bicycle clips and bored disappointment. ‘His father had a tyrannical personality. His mother crept around like a ghost. It coloured all his childhood and his subsequent view of this city.’