Autumn 1985. I’d returned home from my eight month stint as a volunteer and I’d got a taste for independent living so it was intended as a temporary solution. I signed on with Cleshar Employment Agency on the Holloway Road and they sent me to Sotheby Mews Day Centre, a service for older people in Highbury. In truth I found it a little dull but it was enlivened by chats with the people using the service. I remember Miss Allen who was in her 90s and spoke German. As a young woman she met Sigmund Frued in Vienna, I’m not sure if she was Jewish but both ended up in England. She was quite useful to have around as there was a German woman who smiled a lot but spoke not a word of English.
Emotionally it was a difficult time for me and I wasn’t sleeping too great. My mission for independence saw me visiting some flat-shares. Capital Radio used to print a weekly list of them so I picked it up a few times from their location on the Euston Road. I also checked out the Evening Standard. But my mission was achieved when I received a phone call from my mate Robert who was flat-sharing above a halal butchers in Portobello Road. Someone was moving out and a room was available for £32.50 per week. I was earning about £55 a week then, working full time. I went and met the landlady, a young and strong woman called Fiona. A few days later, in December I hired an estate car to taxi me from Holloway to Ladbroke Grove with all my worldly possessions. Aged 19 I had left home.
Fiona was from Corby, Northamptionshire. For those of you unfamiliar with industrial history Corby was very Scottish in character on account of a lot of them migrating south during the depression of the 1930s to work in the steel industry. Fiona was in a relationship with a Pakistani man who was in prison in the Isle of Wight and she was keeping his business downstairs going whilst he served time. She employed Jeff who despite his name was also Pakistani and who would greet his West Indian female customers with ‘hello darling’ and a smile. A condition of renting a room from Fiona was that once a week I cleaned the communal areas top to bottom, which I did on a Tuesday evening. I was later to meet her brother Michael, his friend Billy and their father, who managed an employment agency himself.
Nowadays young people leave home to go to university, but often they return after their studies. I’d failed in my endeavour to go to university and I left by another route. It would be truthful to say my mother was upset with my leaving home but I visited once, sometimes twice a week just to make it clear I wasn’t rejecting her. By the time I’d left home my oldest sister had married and had a child so I wasn’t the first to leave. So at the age of 19 I was about to embark on a new adventure though I didn’t know about it at the time.
Things I recommend; the unknown
Things I don’t recommend; upsetting your mum