Cow shy

The rain, as predicted came down big. I donned socks and thick trainers, a hoodie and leggings, yoga top and sweatshirt, over which I put a lightweight mac. Zipped up and went clockwise out of the drive.
‘Go with the flow.’ said Cherry Jarrett ‘Go with the flow.’
So I went with the flow. The rain dripping off the leaves, puddles and collar doves. Shrilly singing blackbirds, and lots of rabbits hopping and disappearing into their burrows.
I walked steadily, heard foot steps behind me and it was the next door neighbour..
‘Hello stranger.’ He said.
‘Run – don’t wreck your rhythm.’ I said. And he jogged on.
He disappeared as I walked past the newly dug ditch, past the wood yard that smelt of sweet newly sawn Beech. Up the hill and the rained stopped.
Going clockwise meant down hill was where it was up and up is where it was down. Clockwise is a harder walk.
There are three distinct phases. Through ‘France’ with long low houses and fields, down the avenue, through the rocks, up past the farms. down to frogspawn bend, up to the wood yard where it gets dark. The road winds up hill, it’s shaded by tall, old trees, and the road narrows. One wind turbine to the left a bluebell patch to the right. Then a bright uphill stretch to the pub.
This morning I was reminded of my mother.

My mother was born in the East End a dogs leg away from my father.
Both families were poor, but then so was everybody.
The youngest of four my mother won a scholarship to Raines girls school where she was predicted a career in medicine or words. Both scuppered by her German teacher who was a Jew hating bully.
My father, never went to school on account of six siblings. Refusing to wear his sisters shoes he was kitted out by the Sally Army and hustled the streets of Algate to put food on the table.
My mother was a crossword loving, people hugging survivor.
My father was a jitterbugging, heavyweight slugging hero.
My father watched my mother go to school. He clocked her on the Whitechapel Road, on Commercial Road, down Brick Lane and outside ‘Blooms’. Bernie Gold may have carried her school books, but my father carried a torch.
And then, through no fault of their own countries warred with countries and the East Enders found themselves huddled in tunnels under the road, on the Circle and District line.
My mother reading my father watching. Wearing his new trilby hat and trench coat he made his way to the bookworm. The boxer stood behind her and tipped her head backwards. Kissed her full on the mouth and introduced himself.
On a rainy day as the bombs fell around them, her dress shrunk and her hair re-curled they married on her 18th birthday in May.
Oh but they were happy until my brother came. Hazel eyed and peachy sweet. My father was usurped. I arrived, immaculately I’m told, eighteen months later and my father, wearing his bespoke Moisha Spiel suit, went out dancing whilst my mother fended off the rats and mice in our two roomed slum.
As the damp climbed the walls, my father hustled my mother kept schtum. My asthma got worse, but not so bad that we qualified for a new home.
My father running with me in his arms down the Whitechapel Road to the London Hospital was ecstatic. Joy of joys I had polio, enough points to get us rehoused.
We moved to Watney Street into a brand new flat. The Highway to the left of us The Thames beyond.
Then accusations and fists flew. Heavy weight punches landed, well it was the done thing domestic violence was normal back then.
When the fights got louder we were encouraged to move. Slum clearance, the crazy East Enders moved to a real house in ‘Little Hollywood’ next to the studio that would eventually make ‘Eastenders’.
Da de da de da deedaaaaa – went the theme tune, as the rest of the family thought we had emigrated. No tube, no red buses, no fresh bagels.
After forty-five years of married blitz he finally left her. She stood on the side of the road with a white plastic carrier bag, eleven quid, her cancer cells multiplying.
After her mastectomy she was rehoused in a tiny one bedroom flat. The East Ender living on the road where ‘Eastenders’ is made.
Thirty years ago we moved 77 miles away. She regularly stayed with us.
On one of our walks, as we neared the bluebell patch a herd of cows was led through the honeysuckle hedge across the road.
Cows are big when you are a small woman from Aldgate. My mother gasped. She had read about cows, seen them on the screen but had never been an arms length away. She had dealt with a war, a boxer and the Big ‘C’ but fifteen cows poleaxed her.
‘Oy mummy’ she said under her breath.
You can take the gal out of East End but you can’t take the East End out of the crossword loving, people hugging gal.
As we walked back to the cottage my mother was silent.
It’s started to rain again.

9 thoughts on “Cow shy”

  1. Oh Jeni
    I can’t write my eyes are filled with tears and my throat hurts.
    You painted such a vivid picture of your mother, thank you.
    Much love

  2. Wow my dear! I was really moved! What possessed you go down memory lane? I too come from similar East End roots albeit with a generation gap. My dad’s history closely resembles the picture you painted, causing stirrings of emotion deep down.
    Keep well lovely.

  3. That was wonderful Jeni, you have such a gift to be able to write from your heart to ours. Thank you.

  4. You brought a smile to my face on this dreary dull morning when your warm and embracing voice came through the radio waves!
    So lovely to hear you once again on BBC London. You are so full of confidence which is a trait that helps you cope with the choppy waves of daily life.
    All my luv Jeni.

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