I have a piece in a two volume charity anthology called ‘Dark London’ by Darkstroke Books. It is available here
My story is called ‘The Big Lad’. It is set in Hackney during the late 1980’s and was one of the most enjoyable pieces I have ever written.
In the 80’s, I would visit family that lived there. It is the Irish side of my family, most people from Liverpool have an Irish connection, and I loved ‘going to the smoke’ to see them. It seemed like safer days back then, although it’s probably much safer now. As a teenager I would take the National Express coach – the 550 – or buy an Apex rail ticket for £21.00 !
My dad would always meet me at Euston or Victoria Coach station and we would visit wherever I wanted to go – the usual touristy places. I hated Oxford Street, but loved Soho! Eventually we would end up in Hackney where my family lived.
He and his friends would meet up every Monday afternoon at their favourite pub, and if I was visiting then, he would take me. I was underage, but I drank lemonade… yes really. Sometimes a shandy ( google it )!! He would show me off to his friends. ‘Here she is! Here’s my girl’ – lots of oohs and ahhs – someone even patted me on the head. I should have been insulted, but I wasn’t, they were lovely. I had to put them in the piece!
Each of them had a story to tell about when they first came to England. Most of them had roughed it, and it still irks me when I hear ignorant people (idiots) refer to them as Navvies or Thick Micks etc etc. They seemed to take it though, and would force a laugh at the ‘Paddy’ jokes, but they never forgot those insults. They did like their beer and their horse racing – yes, cliches we associate with the Irish community, but so what? Good on them.
‘The Big Lad’ from my story is based on a real person. A pub landlord who, if you lived around the Mare Street area at that time, would probably recognise him. He was a larger than life character and the Victorian pub he managed was the perfect setting for my ghost story.
I think of my dad everyday, he’s been dead for many years now, and the family is scattered around the globe. I’m so glad my mam trusted me to travel to London – a vibrant, glorious, edgy city – nearly as good as Liverpool! I’m so lucky to have met all the old fellas of the Monday Club and to have experienced Hackney at that time. I visited about four years ago. I didn’t recognise the place, so much had changed which is a good thing I suppose. It was great to revisit those times through this story.
When my dad first came to England – he landed in Liverpool – he was 14 and had ran away from a horrible home life. He worked in St John’s market by day, but slept rough at night. He was homeless – dirty, hungry and terrified – he would never romanticise about that time whenever he spoke about it. It was the kindness of a policeman, who found him sleeping in the doorway of a pub, and who took him to a local bakery that needed someone to start as an apprentice, that saved him.
This is why I was happy to donate my story to this Anthology. The proceeds will go to Centrepoint – a charity that helps homeless young people & The London Community Foundation. Something I know my Dad – and the Monday Club – would be proud of.
Volume Two is available for pre-order right now, published July 2nd.