Friday Write alternates with Friday Click & Run and Friday Review to help get Indie authors noticed. All you have to do is add a link to your own short story (up to 2000 words please and nothing too explicit), memoir or poem. If you do add your story/poem, please read and comment on at least one other.

I’ll start the ball rolling by adding a short memoir of my days as a street urchin:

MEMORIES OF A STREET URCHIN, by STEVIE TURNER

I was fortunate enough to have been born in the late 1950’s.  Children such as I enjoyed total freedom to roam unfettered by any adult supervision.  Parents had no idea what their offspring were up to, and this was indeed a good thing as far as the London street urchin was concerned, of which I was one.

After surviving 2 years living in a haunted flat located on the busy Commercial Road, to my eternal delight my parents moved around the corner into one of those ‘temporary’ 1960’s prefabs with a garden in Layfield Place, Poplar, the heart of the East End of London, when I was 7 years old.  These prefabs were only supposed to last a year or so until the council could offer us more suitable accommodation, but many fond memories I have of living in this prefab for over 6 years are still fresh in my mind even 50 + years later.

I soon made friends with other children in neighbouring prefabs. Together we would explore old bomb sites, run amok amidst condemned housing destined to become the A102, and play ‘Chicken’ with the cars down by the Blackwall Tunnel.  ‘Chicken’ involved ensuring one was adept at dodging the cars coming out of the tunnel whilst legging it furiously over to the other side of the road.  The advantage of taking part in this game gave one much kudos amongst one’s peers if one actually reached the other side of the road alive.  Luckily for me the number of cars exiting the tunnel in the 1960’s were but a mere bagatelle compared to the present day!

We had no landline phone, and of course mobile phones were many years in the future.  After constantly informing my parents that I had no need of babysitters, I was left alone to do just what I wanted to do during the school holidays.  I knew that if I needed my mother I could walk for 10 minutes to Poplar Hospital where she worked, or I could walk down to St. Leonards Road and use a public phone to call her.  I did try going into a phone box once, but did not have the strength to push 2d into the slot, and so gave that up as a bad job.  Mum had a word with the sweet shop owner on St. Leonards Road, and I was allowed to use his landline phone but only in the utmost emergency.  There was only ever one emergency as I remember, when I was skating along holding a glass bottle.  I fell over and a shard of glass pierced my hand, which bled profusely.  I watched the dripping blood as if in a dream, and wondered what to do for the best.  Eventually I knocked on a neighbour’s door and asked for a bandage because at that precise moment the sweet shop owner’s phone seemed a lifetime away.  Mum’s face was a picture when she returned from work and found out what had happened.

The days were long and it always seemed to be summertime.  The East End was mine to explore at will.  I would put on my roller skates at the beginning of the day and skate to the park with friends and a pile of sandwiches.  The skates only usually came off if we decided to play ‘Death’ in the park’s sandpit.  We would stand on top of a tall concrete block in the middle of the sandpit and inform others of how we wanted to die.  If we chose to die by the gun, then one had to feign death by being shot.  This would involve clutching one’s chest, screaming in agony, and falling

from the concrete block into the sandpit below.  There were a thousand ways to die, but looking back all the resultant death charades seemed surprisingly similar despite the myriad of possible fatal procedures.

My best friend Marie hailed from St. Lucia.  I loved being invited into her prefab because I heard a type of music in there that I had never heard before.  I loved it and asked her what it was.  I was told that the music with the mesmerising beat was called ‘Reggae’.  To this day I still love Reggae, and my CD collection confirms this.  I will turn up the bass at the least opportunity! 

Chrisp Street market was the place to hang out on a Saturday, especially at the second hand record stall.  I would spend my pocket money on sweets, comics and 45rpm records, and then come back home and sit on my front doorstep doing my favourite activity; reading and eating.  I still like to do this now, although more care is taken these days as regards dietary intake!

Layfield Place is gone now, but there is still the indentation in the pavement where Byron Street branched off into our cobblestoned street (those cobbles eventually caused my skate wheels to turn square).  Nowadays a technical college stands on the site of my old prefab, but I don’t go back there very often these days as nothing is how I remember it, which always makes me rather sad. 

Myself and my little gang of children made our mistakes and rectified them all mostly without the aid of an adult present.  It was a different world then, and one I consider myself very lucky to have been born into.  It made me the self-reliant person I am today, and I feel very sorry for the young people now who are supervised and cossetted from dawn until dusk, my granddaughters included.  My grand-girlies will never experience the freedom that I had, and will probably struggle to make even the smallest decision on their own. I thank my parents from the bottom of my heart that they let me out into this big, bad world at a very tender age to find my own way.  They trusted me to come home at the right time, and I always did, knowing there would be big trouble if I did not.  The disadvantage to that is now I cannot ever be late for anything!

Advertisement