Pages

Thursday, 2 December 2010

A Sunday Morning in Brick Lane...

You may have read a previous piece of mine on my blog here titled "Mirror in the bathroom." (Find it if you wish in the search bar. It's about my brief time as a runaway, living and surviving out of bins in the West End of London etc... In it you will have read about my battle to free myself from a tyrannical mother and how our relationship changed.

This piece is about a very brief moment in time one Sunday morning years after I ran away and subsequently came back home. It's 1981, I've been married for three years and I have a two year old daughter. I work in the West End as a trendy snotty boutique manager and every day I pass the bins I ate out of when I was a not so snotty broken and put upon 14 year old...

It is a cold Sunday morning in Brick Lane market.  A regular trip for me to grab some  bargains for Christmas. I was brought up in this market, being now not so far away from my own dotage, I can now at last proudly lay claim to being a proper cockney, at the time alas I was not so proud of it at all because of my enviable position as a manager of one of the best fashion houses in the West End, I even retrained my voice with a much more pleasing one that my clientèle expected.  Hiding my bastard heritage was a good thing right?

I caught sight of a familiar face in a heavy shuffling crowd of breath, brollies and winter hats.  It was my little Mam.  The crowd parted as I got nearer to surprise her and only then did the full sight of what was happening fill me with a gut ripping shame that picked me up and threw me back down onto the wet ancient cobbled streets I denied I was even from.


My mother was standing with her little shopping pram, in it were the ornaments I looked at on the mantelpiece all through my childhood, these were the special ones that didn't get thrown at you.  In her hands were the jewellery and trinkets she had collected over the years, she'd draped them over her small cold fingers neatly like a hand model to give maximum selling impact, her face ruddied with the cold. This strong powerful matriarch of my family was quietly mouthing something or other to get the attention of some of the passing throng to notice her.


I didn't speak, I pushed through the crowd consumed with rage and embarrassment to get to her.  My mother.  My one time nemesis.  A woman that could stop a man cold with just a stare was reduced to begging for someone to buy her loved trinkets.  A man was offering her "A fiver for the lot," I pounced on him telling him to fuck off, pushed and watched him disappear into the sea of shuffling wet coats.  I grabbed my Mam by the hand with her small metal grey shopping pram bouncing behind her and bulldozed my way through the browsers of tat.  I now realise it was the first time she had held my hand tight, instead of mine holding hers.

I took her away from the uneven broken ground we were on, a place even today you will find people selling stuff that maybe shouldn't be sold.  We stopped outside the Jolly Butchers Arms pub in Brick Lane and I bought both of us a polystyrene cup of hot steamy tea from a stall. She stared as if in a trance at the pub, it being full now of the merry and the cold.  She then snapped back into reality and looked at me with her bright blue teary eyes and told in her still rich Dublin brogue of the debt she was in and why she was trying to sell her little treasures...


I gave her most of my weeks wages right there and then.  She was promising me she wouldn't do it again, I realised by the look she gave me this probably wasn't the first time she put on her coat and scarf and "Nipped out for a while." I didn't explain to my now ex young wife why I came back empty handed from the market, but on Monday morning dressed in my usual expensive Italian finery I did give myself a loan from the till... a bit more cockney than I was when I locked up this mecca of fashion two days before.  I ran it for others that will always have more money than me.  Fuck 'em I thought as I folded the money into my pocket to feed my kids and pay my bills. Fuck 'em they could afford it...





This is a late edition to the above, I'm reminded about the Jolly Butchers Arms pub in the penultimate paragraph above, I have written about this place before, a long, long, time ago...This REALLY is my beginning, This is about my Mum.  Shall I continue with it? Or let it just fade away...





We have enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.
                                                                                            -Jonathan swift

Chapter one


It's the late fifties, a sterile tiled room, in it was my soon to be Mam...


She was pushing as hard as she could, felt herself tearing from the effort. The room was lifeless and grey. The only colour was the blood on the bed. Sister Mary, the head of the home, was as impatient and still as cold as she was when she opened the door to her 21-year-old sister, whom three weeks ago was kicked out of her home in Ballyfermot, Dublin, with just the fare and an address in north London of her sister to go to. Her mother was not able to face the neighbours and the church, with the sheer shame of it all. Anne was expecting maybe a crumb of comfort when she finally arrived at the St Augustines mother’s home after the gruelling trip across an unforgiving Irish sea, but instead got the vilest look of disgust from her eldest sibling.  The now black robed Sister Mary. After a lecture on how evil my soon to be Mam was to even be here, she was escorted to her room. Her penances for her sins where about to begin.

 Push Anne push said Sister Mary I hope you remember this pain, it will serve you well the next time you want to act like a harlot

Anne wanted to put her sister on the tiled cold floor with her fist and used that anger and adrenaline to push me into this world in one final guttural scream. They fussed and cleaned and one of other nun’s handed Anne the new bundle, Feed him before he goes young Anne tried and succeeded. The papers were signed and the adoptive couple were ready in the next room and excited to take their baby home.  Anne could hear them, it was the first laughter she had heard between the constant prayers she did with the sisters. "I want to laugh" she thought, wrapped me up and quietly and quickly went to her room, My new Mam put her coat and shoes on, opened the window to the crisp April night air, climbed out… and ran.

Sister Mary, despite being young Annes older sister, was a cold heartless servile of God, she went to her bed that night and failed to pray for her frightened and broken little sister, whom was about to get lost and swallowed up by an even bigger bitch, the city of London.

Blood still running down her legs and feeling exhausted, she stood at the bus stop not knowing where she was to go. Twenty minutes later carrying a bag and the new sleeping bundle, she walked down Brick Lane in East London after going as far as three pence would take her. She fell into the Jolly Butchers Arms public house. My step father whom she was yet to meet when awake, picked her and the silent little cold bundle off the floor…

 
I have added this first chapter of a much larger book I have done about my life, no, my family's life... it remains raw and unfinished. My personal rise and fall, the  deaths of my sisters, my parents, and other loved ones. It may be too much emotion to put on a piece of paper, Who knows, maybe one day I'll finish it, put it in a drawer and walk away...



Until next time...