Left St Marys Paddington. What next? Find work? Find somewhere to live? But it dawned on me I don’t know London it’s so Big. Only worked in London… lived in B/bs did nightlife. It’s not the same as being part of London…that was my thinking then all those years ago – 30 plus…
So I knew part of the east end. Walked back. I was near Aldgate East London. Funny how it happened but this guy kinda sensed I was troubled…said “Hey want work?” I was sitting outside a church at the time having a breather…
”yeah ok what is it?”
”Well its putting up market stalls.”
“Oh yeah where’s this then?”
“Just down the street. It’s called Middlesex St” ( brick lane market better known )
“Ok what’s the money like and hours?”
“It’s £10 and cup of tea and a sandwich. Saturday we put them up. Sunday afternoon we take them down. Get finished by 4pm. I will take you somewhere we can eat for nothing later.”
Which I found out was East London Mission in Webber Street…so Friday I stayed in a covered car park near to Middlesex Street. It’s still there. Met a guy who was also sleeping there and had been for some years. He was kinda unpaid security man. Some people used to give him a tip for looking after their cars even though it was a pay and display car park. He shared his food with me that night.
I met Steve the next day. Everybody called him ‘Market Steve’. He was well known in the area. But what I didn’t know was he was homeless himself till later. So Saturday put stalls up. Slept again in car park..cold..wind blowing hard. This aint good but stuck with it. Sunday lunch time slowly but surely, took stalls down. 4pm we finished. Steve good as his word took me down to the mission. What a shock to the system that was. So many people here, a kinda epicentre of poverty. Never seen anything like this before! A real eye opener……
I’m breaking for a moment. To be continued…
Made a mistake in read back, it’s Cavell Street East London Mission and it’s still going today. Pay and display park still going today as well.
Market Steve took me to another place…St Botolph’s church in Aldgate which had crypts. 3 arch tunnels inside which had very long tables which people could sit at on long benches. There we had sandwiches and tea given six to eight at night. Plus had two toilets and showers. The people using this place mostly homeless had a name for it “Bottletops”.
There was a lady called Doris, a volunteer a retired lady, who worked in the city. I remember her standing at the door inside before it opened and place opened at six about 200 in the line filed in she would say ” One sandwich per person “ you don’t take two ! Everyone respected her! Salt of the earth – you don’t upset Doris! I got to know her well over a few weeks and found out where all the long filled rolls were coming from – a chain of shops called Bengys – sandwich shops in the city.
And I got involved as volunteer going out at 4pm with a hand held push trolley going around these shops picking up left overs of the day. Maybe six black bags full plus any end of sell-by in Boots as well. This food was used in the evening centre Monday to Friday (more on this food story in chapter four )…
Now we are in the year 87…Botolph’s has money to build onto the right side on building a day centre. I used to sleep at night under the builders plastic next to a rubbish skip outside stick it from top of skip to bottom make it like a tent…I am starting to get around now…learning the ropes. It’s near Xmas Steve takes me round loads of different centres where free Xmas dinners were. And at most places it was Xmas dinner presents of socks., hats, and 10 cigarettes. Got in the end fed up of eating Xmas dinners. But can’t really complain it was hot food when all said and done.
That year I spent seven days with the Quakers Xmas shelter in Bethnal Green…it was in a church on the high street…..end chap 3