Skip to content

Winter in the bookshop

July 17, 2016

We are very pleased to have been contacted by Sylvia Riley who writes “In the 1960s I worked closely with Pat Jordan and lived at the bookshop. I have written a memoir ‘Winter at the Bookshop’ to commemorate his birthday.”

Here it is as a PDF and the full text of this fantastic memoir is also below.

Winter at the Bookshop  written to celebrate the birthday of Pat Jordan-  Patrick John Jordan, born 17th July 1926(28?), the son of  Marie-Louise and John Jordan.                                      Sylvia Riley

Winter at the Bookshop was a raw, warm, cold experience. Raw with chapped fingers clutching kettles of boiling water from the gas-stove, multiple draughts whistling up and down the stairs; warm and sparkling with friendship and tiny coal-fires and everlasting hopeful activity. We went about heavy with knitted jumpers and perpetually booted, clutching hot water bottles and swathed in blankets when sitting in armchairs in the kitchen. As soon as he saw Pat laying the pieces of coal and firelighters together Tom the Bookshop cat went into a swoon of ecstasy.

”This is human magic, Tom” explained Pat carefully. Once the fire got going and started spilling its ash into the hearth, Tom curled himself round and went to sleep in the warm ash, purring like a dynamo. We kept warm with typing, and with endless huge mugs of tea, warming our hands round the mugs before taking to the typewriter again. Pat used a hefty Olympia typewriter with golfball lettering. I used the machine left over, an Olivetti. To help make the place warmer, John brought round some old red lino his parents had thrown out – it was that sort of place, like the home for Lost Boys –it’s a wonder stove chimneys weren’t poking up from the ground.

The Bookshop kitchen was set in a first floor bedroom, at the back. In the far corner was a small sink. The fireplace wall was a rich terracotta pink, with unusual curved sides- no sharp angles. The tiny bedroom fireplace and mantel was gloss red, painted late one night by Pat and myself when slightly drunk, with the paint we had just used for slogans. Pushed all together- a crockety leather sofa and armchairs which someone had brought round when discarding it, a kitchen table, and a spanking new gas-oven, bought on HP by Pat to impress Lana, and out of kilter with everything else in the place. In the corner by the door the wall curved up in a whirl to the ceiling where the stairs continued their journey to the next floor.

Over the mantel was a small snap of Ben Bella, the FLN and NLF flags, a picture of a panda eating bamboo shoots, and a letter, pinned up like a testimonial, from a museum curator who had been expelled from the Group for being in the BLA(Bureau of Latin America). It accused us of chicanery, treachery, quislingism, adventurism, and political buffoonery. At least, that’s all I can remember, it went on for several pages in like vein and was much enjoyed.

 

On Christmas Eve I went to nearby Central Market to get tangerines, and Julian and Dick went off to steal holly and ivy from a vicarage. We all had food parcels from home, Christmas goodies like plum pudding and cake, my sister called with a cockerel, but would never come in. Jill Westby came round on her bike and left a slab of their Christmas cake, decorated one year turquoise and orange, the colours of the Vietnamese Liberation Front flag.

Pat had the kind of personal hatred of priests and dogma that only a lapsed catholic can aspire to, so he certainly didn’t keep the festival and never sent cards. When the church carol-singers had their collection tin stolen, he rubbed his hands together. “One in the eye for Baby Jesus” he gloated nastily.

When the snow came the lavatory always froze, and we had to go out to it armed with kettles of boiling water, picking our way over the ice. The path to it sloped down in a twist and was particularly treacherous. In the street lamps cast pools of brightness in the dark and snatches of animated Italian floated out, before front doors closed again on the night. In winter the Bookshop was dense with latch-key children from late afternoon onwards, clustered round the paraffin heater, reading comics and chewing sweets and gum. A home from home.     

The shop got warmer and warmer, moisture beaded the dirty dark-pink paper on the walls, and the mist of the night seemed to get inside, under the weak bare bulb. After about seven o’clock people started arriving for conviviality, from work, from university, from school and home. They were ushered past the comic-reading children, into the backroom and up the stairs into the tiny kitchen.

Pat moved about like a whirlwind, he had access to a dynamism and enthusiasm that is rare in adults. His boundless energy fizzed into the air like seltzer. In his youth he had planned to train as a priest and claimed to have had a long and agreeable conversation about the merits of socialism with John Carmel Heenan, when he was a parish priest, years before he became a cardinal.

‘Well, well- you may very well be right. It takes all kinds to make our world’ ended the priest.      By the age of fourteen Pat had become a convinced anti-fascist. Near the end of the war he served as a wireless operator with the British Army in Germany.

The Bookshop chess set had been acquired as a trade-off for a pound of coffee in 1945 Berlin. It was inlaid wood with hand-carved pieces, one of the pawns had chew-marks. ‘They were made by one of those little creatures that are here and then gone’ he said tenderly. ‘It made its tiny mark in the world by chewing this pawn, then it got distemper and pfffft- it was gone. It was a lovely little thing’.

A kid in the shop had stolen the black knight. Another kid had stolen a plastic one from his school’s spare set to replace it.

One of Pat’s favourite expressions was ‘All they care about is their little piggy selves’. He would sometimes apply it to things most people would regard as valid to hanker after, such as a mate, a house, personal possessions. He didn’t care about personal possessions. He only cared about making a difference.

Pat was pushing to be part of the Fourth International. It meant a great deal to him, to be aligned with the organisation set up by Trotsky in 1936, which contradicted the line of the Third International, set up by Stalin, which held that socialism is possible in one country. Trotsky advocated the theory of the Permanent Revolution, which was ceaselessly ongoing, till the end of Time; a revolution which would always have to be fought, even after socialism had become the basis of the state, and even after the withering of the state.

Like War in Heaven, it never ceased. You stopped the Struggle only when you dropped dead.

 

He set up the International Group (IG) in 1962. Pat, Ken Coates and Peter Price were at the inaugural meeting at the Coop in Heathcote Street, and Ken Tarbuck came over from Birmingham. Everyone else was younger, students, apprentices and schoolboys mostly. I wasn’t living in Nottingham then and came over with Richard, a schoolboy member of Derby Young Socialists.

 

In 1963 the Franco government executed the communist Julian Grimau.

‘Every time those bastards kill someone we must ensure they don’t just get away with it, there are repercussions’ said Pat to the group of teenagers around him. At night a bunch of us went with brushes and paint to the Lace Market, where the Spanish Vice Consulate was situated in a gloomy run down building. ‘Grimau Lives On’    ‘Down with Franco’ we painted, and unscrewed the brass plaque ‘Vice Consulado de Espania’, then rang the Nottingham Evening Post to say a bomb had been planted there, as a protest against the execution.

 

John Daniels and Carole went with Dave Ablitt to see ‘ The Legion’s Last Patrol’ a film about the French Foreign Legion, and came away indignant at how it was portrayed. Pat was away so we wrote a leaflet about the brutal role of the Legion in Algeria, how they suppressed the heroic people and raped Algerian girl Djamila Boupacha. Then we gave out the leaflets to the queues of people outside the cinema. When they came back Pat and Ken were pleased. The music was high in the charts for weeks, but the film seems to have disappeared without trace.

Wednesday was the big day of the week; we worked flat out all day. Pat brought out a news-sheet for organising the left generally, and more particularly for those working in the Labour Party. It was called The Bulletin, and as it became more widely circulated the name was changed to The Week. Typed and duplicated, it consisted of small articles and snippets from a variety of sources – the usual papers like the Guardian, Financial Times, and in addition, a wide circle of people built up over time sent in snips from various sources they had come across.. For a period I worked for Charles Butler, who supplied dresses to Marks and Spencer. He was an avid follower of stocks and shares, and part of my duty was to file the information which arrived daily. Of course, anything relating to South African zinc shares or the like I’d take home to the Bookshop and copy, before filing them. Or Pat would give me a list of companies he wanted information on, and I’d find it at work. This duly appeared in The Week, as did all kinds of stuff the readers had sent in.

Hsinhua – the New China News Agency – came in bulky turgid reams every day and was invaluable although you had to plough through masses of information all typed in capital letters. Intercontinental Press, from the Fourth International, on delicate tissue-paper sheets. New Left Review (It was the New Left people who chose the name The Week), International Socialist Journal, etc.

Jean did the student news. I did the American pages, going through I.F.Stone’s Weekly, the (American) Militant, and the Spartacist.

 

On Wednesday evening a whole lot of people came straight from work to help collate and staple the paper together, address envelopes and stamp and stick them. We always finished with only about ten minutes to spare before the final post left at 8 o’clock and two or three people took the sacks to the Main Sorting Office, whilst the rest of us staggered into the alley and across the road to the Bay Horse, completely exhausted.

The Bay Horse was a small packed pub, with two rooms and a thundering jukebox, old 50s style squiggly wallpaper and plastic flowers in sprays on the walls, and old ladies who drank port and lemon. We drank pints or barley wine. On darts nights it was thick with smoke and noise, Nancy the Scottish landlady brought round big plates of free potato fritters.

 

On Thursday afternoons Pat shut the shop for a couple of hours, and went off to see Chanchal Singh in his large dark grocery shop on Union Road. They talked politics fast and furiously for Chanchal was the secretary of the Indian Workers Association. He supplied information about the subcontinent and sometimes translated short articles for the Bulletin from the Asian left wing press.

From the Bookshop kitchen window clustered close housetops and chimney pots in rows of three, like tipsy crowned kings. In the winter everybody was in their houses with the curtains tight shut. But in the house immediately opposite sat a middle aged man on a hard chair, his hand on an oilcloth covered table. He never closed the curtains and he sat there night after night, doing nothing. We looked down and across, reluctant to draw the small curtains on him.          Jean wore a wonderful long tweed skirt to keep her legs warm. In winter I rarely saw my feet, my tights stayed on, black and dusty, when I pulled at the toes dust rose like the smoking feet of a young devil newly come from hell.

One winter Pat could be seen in close conflab with Rod Kreizman, who was preparing to join the IG. Rod was married to Leonora and they had several children. In spite of this Pat still referred to her somewhat coldly as “my wife” – i.e. “My wife I see has turned herself into a baby-machine”.

“Leo still agrees with you politically” Rod assured him. Pat scowled. “And I’m coming round to her way of thinking”.

Pat had left the Communist Party in the cataclysmic year of 1956 and that year his wife ran off with Rod. Pat and Leo and Rod and Lana and her husband Ken Tarbuck had been part of a bunch of young communists then. They had a bond with one another that we didn’t appreciate.

 

In the cold weather Katherine came and dumped her furs in the chair and her diamond rings on the kitchen mantel, then spent an hour cleaning the kettle, rubbing and scouring and fetching it to a pitch of brightness that satisfied her. To tease her Pat said it had just sprung a leak, and she went a little mad.

“Oh! Pat, you old so-and-so, you should have told me….Oh no, get off Tom, naughty cat” – she turfed Tom from the folds of musquash which he had happily settled into, leaving his ashy presence behind.

“Oh really – this place”.

Katherine was John Varney’s girlfriend, she came regularly and sometimes looked after the shop in an emergency. She was very good-natured and took what was dished out on the chin. “When I looked after the shop on Friday evenings Pat told the children I was an Irish girl from Russia, that’s why I wear furs, and if they were very good I’d speak Russian to them”.

“Yes well he does tell dreadful lies. He told the children I was his stepmother”.

(“My father is a very old and very dirty old man, and he’s married this young girl” – he had screwed his face up, for maximum of lurid drama, even seeming to lose his temper about it, the children standing agog. It was impossible to tell whether they believed him)

Once a week Jean or myself made a casserole with breast of lamb or pork hock. Now and again Pat did big fry-ups, throwing in everything in sight – apples, cheese, black pudding, sausages, marrow rings, macaroni, baked beans, peanuts – whatever was around. At weekends Julian came and cooked curry in his old school enamel OTC pans. He had been asked to leave his public school for organising a union. The curries he made were delicious, because he had roomed with Indian students at university and they taught him cooking and gave him silk ties. Dick sometimes came round and cooked sweet potatoes and once, goat. Coming from Jamaica, he had been in St Ann’s during the first race riot in 1958.    ‘A bunch of them were coming down the street- I didn’t wait to find out what they wanted! I ran down an entry and was over that wall into the next street’ he said, laughing and aghast.

On Sunday evenings after everybody had gone home Jean, Pat and myself played Chase the Lady, which shouldn’t really be played by only three people as it leads to acrimony and spite. Of the chain of females Pat mooned over and induced to move in -Lana, Tricia, Caroline, myself, Jean – after some initial spats, they ended up making common cause and turning on him. This really served him right and underneath I think he accepted this too. Nowhere did it express itself more fully than when we played Chase the Lady in the Bookshop kitchen. With great enthusiasm and spite we ganged up. It was possibly a mild form of masochism in him.

Chase the Lady has lots of names, including Black Anne(after A. Boleyn) and the nursery favourite Old Maid. It’s the same game but with inverted perception.

 

One day Pat seemed particularly stressed.

“I’ve just had a phone call from Milt McCoit – he’s coming round, so I shall have to listen to his ravings, I shan’t get a damn thing done”.

  1. Milton McCoit was an American photographer, a follower of Creative Vandalism. He was mad but when you were in his company there was something totally disarming about him.

“I’ve come from Victoria Station” he would announce with an air “and we’ve just painted it pink and silver”. The wonderful fantasy this gave rise to – the neo-Gothic all picked out in fairy-tale colours – was matched by a small piece of reality when you passed by. Milton and his art school friends had painted a single fluted pillar, but somehow the idea got the better of him. Listening to him was often like listening to a small boy telling whoppers, from dazzling Victoria Station to him parachuting behind the lines in Mozambique with Stokely Carmichael.     Although maybe it was true for all I know. He was generous with his time and bursting with ideas and was taking the photos for Ken’s book about poverty.

“Oh dear” sighed Pat after the visit “I couldn’t say anything – he’s just so nice”.  Milton and myself always managed to spat. I liked him but his innocent arrogance irritated me. He’d swan into the Bookshop and say “Just ring the newspaper and say you’re from the St Ann’s Students, Tenants and Residents Association, and read out this statement”.

“I’m not saying students”.

At the time you would never have had students and residents in the same association- St Ann’s regarded them with amused contempt- but it was part of a fantasy he nurtured.

“Okay, Milton, I’m doing as you say for the greater good and not because you’re telling me” I said, dialling the number he handed over. When reading out the prepared statement I left out the word students and he gave me a furious look.

A friend of Milton’s was Ray Gosling, the writer and journalist, a founder member of the Tenants Association. He sometimes came into the Bookshop with a little mongrel on a length of string. He stood for election for Council.

‘Vote for a Madman’ said the election posters and it has to be said, he looked the part. Pat put up the poster in the Bookshop window; I took it down and put up the Labour poster.

“I’m voting for Fishface”. Fishface was Alan Johnson, member of the local evangelical church and Labour Party candidate. He was a well-meaning ineffectual guy and St Ann’s Young Socialist meetings consisted of long rows between Alan and everybody else.

“No, we can’t do that…..”

“We’re doing it Alan”

“No – oh dear, I really don’t think—–they won’t let us, they’ll close us down”.

“Who cares?”.

St Ann’s Ward Labour Party was a cabal of Wee Georgie Edwards, Wee Georgie’s aged father and Wee Georgie’s biker son who only turned up when his vote was required to swing things his father’s way, and Alderman Frank Neale who had a wooden leg and right wing opinions. There’s no pretty way to put this, but Alan was basically a creature of these people. In spite of this, there was something staunch and decent about him.

One day, the poster went up in the Bookshop window and came down half a dozen times. Then we had a row. “He doesn’t live round here, he thinks he can just come and lead everybody, it’s just you and a bunch of art students – all four of them- who will vote for him, and everybody else will vote for Alan because he’s Labour and he teaches at Sunday-school”.

“You’re wrong – most people won’t vote at all because it’s the lumpenproletariat round here, in case you hadn’t noticed”, said Pat.

In the evening Jean came from university and was appraised of the situation. She read the posters and announced straightaway “I’m voting for Fishface”.

Eventually both election posters were left up. Fishface won the election.

 

The night before Jean’s weekly tutorial she would clutch the book she was supposed to have read and take to her bedroom with vast quantities of coffee and fags and panic, to read all night. In the morning she was so tired and so confused she often fell asleep and didn’t go. We cooked up a scheme whereby she read the first half and I read the same book from the middle onwards, to let her know what happened to all the characters. She said the first half of a book was more important because that’s when everybody’s character was established, and the rest of it was the working out of the plot and their development. So, bending back another copy halfway through, I too sat drinking coffee and eating cheap chocolate and plodding through the action. ‘Mill on the Floss’ ‘Middlemarch’ ‘Catch 22’ – I started them halfway through and was thoroughly at sea. About two o’clock in the morning she’d come down into the kitchen and we’d swap notes, sit scoffing quantities of cinnamon toast – a practice instituted by Caroline- and I’d find out who all the people were I’d been reading about.

“Who the hell is Lucy”.          “Oh never mind about her, she’s not important. Or is she? Does she come into it much?”

“Well I think Tom’s in love with her” – between bites of toast running with butter and sugar – “Or maybe he isn’t….anyway, they both die in the end, Tom and Maggie, the Floss bursts its banks….”.

I could hardly care very much as I didn’t know them from the beginning. In any case, I always had an inbuilt suspicion of the main female in Victorian novels, because the author was so anxious to show how innately morally superior she was compared to everybody else. Maggie Tulliver, Lucy Snowe(I excused Jane Eyre for some reason) Dorothea Casaubon, with their lumbering consciences and marmoreal virtue.

 

After the natter and the toast we holed up again in our warrens, to read some more. Jean didn’t dare go to bed in case she wasn’t up in time for the tutorial. Pat made her breakfast and I acquainted her with further doings of the characters, and by the united exertions of all three of us she got through the door.

Later the same day I’d settle myself with I.F.Stone’s Weekly, mind reeling with acres of print, spinning with the change from Dorothea’s marital pleas- “I only want to be of use to you Mr. Casaubon” – to burnings and demos in Wattsville and New Jersey.

Jean became more and more peaky, and nobody was surprised when, halfway through the next term, the university psychiatrist advised she have a year off from her degree course.

 

A Bookshop customer, Bridget was a red-haired bossy girl of eleven, on front row when it came to stating her opinions or shoving in. She was the eldest in a big family; two or three of them were blonde, the others all brilliantly red-haired and for some reason referred to by St Ann’s as the ‘ginger-margarets’.

“It’s another one of them ginger-margarets”, a customer said unenthusiastically, looking down at five year old Marie, who glared back at her from under a thick red fringe. Marie never spoke, she just glared a ginger glare. “This is little Marie, isn’t it Marie?” I said, trying to make the child feel better, not surrounded by blanket hostility. Marie scowled furiously at me and stuck her tongue out as far as it would go.

“Look – there’s Marie” I said to Julian, peering through the afternoon dusk in the children’s playground as we went for a Sunday stroll. “Coooooooeeeee – Marie. Hello dear”. The child didn’t move. Julian’s eyes were sharper than mine – well he wore spectacles “Do you mean that dear little girl who’s standing at the foot of the slide and spitting on the other children when they reach the bottom”.

“No she isn’t. You always see the worst in people. Is she really doing that?”

Julian responded with a guffaw of sarcastic laughter.

 

Then came the last winter that Pat was there. In the New Year he was to move to London. As the Vietnam War intensified, so did indignation. Photos were published of villagers- so poor they wore few clothes- fleeing the bombs dropped by the most powerful nation on earth. Our lives were consumed by the struggle against this brutality. It didn’t look like war, it looked like an ongoing massacre. As it continued opposition was growing and the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign was founded in London. Pat was to work full time for them, organising demos and protests against the war.

“Do you want to come as well”. “Oh yummy, yes”. “There’s a condition. It’s more suitable if I go down there married, it gets things out of the way. So I was wondering if – in the wider interests of the permanent struggle – you’d become Mrs Jordan”.

I was dumb-founded.  ” But you don’t believe in marriage. You’ve always said how idiotic it is”.

“Well but this would just be for the sake of appearances”.

“But I don’t give a stuff about appearances and neither do you. Marriage is linked to petty-bourgeois ideas of sexual ownership. And that’s what you think too’ I insisted. “I have nothing but contempt for it”.

“Yes yes, but if you really had contempt for it you’d do this for the sake of something bigger than yourself” he said impatiently.

” Well I’d marry someone to save them from death, but that’s about all. If you’re so keen on the idea why don’t you ask Jean?”.

“Yes I might do” he riposted.

Later on when I went into the kitchen to make coffee Jean was there and she whispered “Guess what – Pat asked me to marry him – I couldn’t make out why. Something to do with Vietnam”. We stopped whispering and stared at him when the kettle whistled and he came into the kitchen.

“Why don’t you ask Jackie” I suggested.

“I’ve already rung her” he replied airily, “and she says she might do”.

“Goody – I can be a bridesmaid then”. He gave me a snotty look and poured water onto the coffee granules in the mugs.

The Bookshop without Pat would be a very bare place. But he was still going to come back and bring out the news sheet once a week, from late Sunday to Wednesday, varying with the obligations in London.

Jill Westby came round on her bike to duplicate leaflets for a forthcoming CND demo.

“Is Pat  all right?” she asked, a puzzled ruck in her brow.

“It depends what you mean – he’s how he usually is”. “Well it’s just…er…he rang me up last night and asked me to marry him”.

At the next weekend school, as the wedding loomed, Pat and Jackie were incredibly chummy, ragging one another and arguing together. At one point they had an ice cream fight, after Pat took his teaspoon and lobbed vanilla down the front of Jackie’s dress. She immediately retaliated by grabbing the strawberry ice on the dish from which Brian was quietly eating and plastering it on Pat’s bald head. “Can you use your own ice cream please comrade” Brian remonstrated mildly. After that, it escalated, both of them dodged about the table, the other diners guarding their plates and looking over their shoulders as the pair hurtled by with shrieks.

“I’ve come a long way to have a serious discussion with Pat about my document on developments in the mining industry, and he’s spent the entire weekend being silly with Jackie” complained Chris Arthur.

“Just tell Chris Arthur, would you” I said to Julian, “that Jackie has had three love letters from”- pause for effect- “ Chris Gray” I announced grandly.

“Chris Gray?” he repeated, blinking and unbelieving, stunned. Chris Gray is expected to become a doctor of philosophy at Oxford.

Ho boo sucks.

“Why should I tell him? Why can’t you tell him yourself” – reasserting himself.

“Oh he doesn’t take any notice of anything I say. And he thinks Jackie is silly”.

“Yes well I suppose that’s based on the observation that she doesn’t mind people throwing ice cream down the front of her dress”.

“Don’t be so stuffy”.

“Silly?” repeated Pat, when the complaint was reported to him. “Yes, well I haven’t read anything more silly than his bloody document about the mining industry. Just as though you tell workers that their industry should be wound down and their jobs lost because it would be good for their health. I’ve never read such bunkum in my life and I’m supposed to take his drivel seriously? I did the politically correct thing, in throwing ice cream I was demonstrating my total contempt for his document” he said, going onto the absurd and energetic attack.

The wedding was apparently off, neither of them mentioned it again.

 

As the year rolled to its close I was dreading Pat leaving. I didn’t see how we would manage without him. This was further reinforced by the time he had explained the intricacies of running the Bookshop – who would steal and whom I should let steal, either because they brought new stock in or because they were very poor; who to ban completely(and how would I enforce that?) and what books to put aside for which customer. I nodded intelligently and knew I couldn’t cope.

Rocco showed me the different comics, and I tried to remember them. “Gesu, you’re dumb. These aren’t just comics, they’re Marvel comics….”

“Superman” I agreed, trying my best.

“Superman? Aw him, he’s nothing much, he’s for little kids. There’s the Amazing Spiderman, Doctor Strange, the Incredible Hulk….”.

 

“Now this little girl doesn’t speak” said Pat. “She can speak – can’t you”. The child looked back at him and didn’t attempt to reply.

“But she doesn’t want to. So she’ll come in and hand you the book she’s finished reading and you must find her another one. She’ll sit by the stove, and when she wants to go home she’s allowed to take the book. That’s because she’s very good. She looks after the books and doesn’t rip them” he said praisingly. “And she brings them back. No” – he half smiled and shook his head “we don’t bother with money”.

The little girl – I never knew her name but she had a younger brother called Pauly and lots of noisy shoving elder brothers and sisters – seemed remarkably self-possessed. She read books, not comics. She had chestnut hair, cut short with a fringe, and was aged about seven. She never uttered a single word, a laugh a cry or any noise, but she would come up and hand me the borrowed book with a clear intelligent expectation of understanding and of being understood. I wonder what happened to her?

I opened the shop later and later. The customers seemed to take over. “Where’s Pat gone?”. “Where’s old Pat, the old sod?”. The Bookshop ticked over. A customer stole the bell. Another customer – a teenage boy – made us another one, an ingenious arrangement with a bent teaspoon which hit against the metal and tinged. But then it often flew across the shop and customers scrabbled around on all fours to find it.

The gas meter was broken into – the only thing that was worth anything in the entire house. This left us with the money to replace.

“Never mind – we’ll mend it when we get round to it. You can use the same shilling and keep posting it through and catching it” suggested the gas man helpfully, lodging it nearby. Oh yes. What a good idea. The bill got bigger and bigger and there was one shilling there to pay it.

The Bookshop went more downhill than it was already. I was no good at getting new customers. Even Tom found somewhere else to live temporarily, Pat had drummed up business by stencilling leaflets advertising the books, and leaflets advertising a laundrette which paid him for it. So that brought in a little money and custom. Bridget offered to leaflet the streets; Rocco brought comics from home when the shop ran low – Marvel comics, much prized, from America.  The pile of ordinary 1d comics grew rattier and tattier.

 

Spring came. The Bookshop wasn’t as busy in the evenings, the children were out playing. In the  kitchen one day Jean uttered “Oh my God- look- there are children climbing all over the roof of that house”.

“Those children- they live there. It’s a big family, they probably wouldn’t notice anyway if one of them fell off”. I banged on the window but they didn’t hear.

“What a very Malthusian way of dealing with their over production” observed John Daniels, as we sipped coffee and watched them through the window.

 

On the Bookshop front door, behind the glass, was the big famous poster of a young Vietnamese boy making a speech of defiance before his execution. One night, very late and dark, there was a thumping and banging on the front door. Quietly, slowly, surreptitiously, I slid the bedroom window up and peered cautiously over the sill. Two storeys below a youth was staring as though in a trance at the picture, the street lamp shining on it. Suddenly he let out a scream of terrible anguish and threw himself against the door, repeatedly bashing the glass with his fist. I didn’t know what to do, didn’t dare go down to him. Pat would have known what to do, but he wasn’t here.

 

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: