Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Leam and Cable Street

Yesterday was a hugely inspiring day, most of which was spent back in the Midlands. I was up at shit o’clock to do a telephone radio interview about the Em album. I wasn’t sure the presenter had been particularly well briefed, despite my speaking to a researcher for the best part of an hour the day before. She opened by announcing that I’d written a musical about meeting my brother for the first time, and then, when I pointed out that the musical was actually about my Mum’s experience of having a baby out of wedlock in 1965, she said “and I’m right in thinking that your Mum is no longer with us?” I was so surprised I started burbling, “no... she’s here. Very much so. Well not actually here on the phone...” hysterical!

I was in the car by 8.30am and on the road to Coventry in glorious morning sunshine.

I met brother Tim from the train station and we had a lovely baked potato for lunch in a dive of a cafe just round the corner. It was there or the local Harvester (which, it turns out, is no longer a Harvester - my Grannie will be turning in her grave!)

We went to Stoneleigh where we were met by a very lovely film crew from the BBC’s Midlands Today programme. Stoneleigh is the village where my Grannie and Grampa lived for thirty or so years and are now buried. Tim met my (his) Grannie just once. I’m told that she was never aware of his existence. My mother went to Liverpool to give birth in secret. Only her father, apparently knew. Anyway, Tim met our Grandmother for the first time when she was in the latter stages of dementia, and the conversation was apparently going round and round in circles before my Grannie suddenly grabbed Tim’s hand and said “I know who you are, you know...” Perhaps she did know after all.

Anyway, Tim had never seen their grave before, so I took him there and we did a little interview with the telly people. It must have been a very curious experience for Tim, staring at the grave of two people he’d never known but who’d given him half of his DNA.

From Stoneleigh we went to Leamington to look at the house where my Mother was living when she found out she was pregnant with Tim. We then did a longer interview in the square where they filmed the new version of Upstairs Downstairs. I’m told Napoleon also lived on the same square during the winter of 1838/9.

The crew vanished in a puff of virtual celluloid and Tim and I had a wander around the town in the raging sunshine, ending up on a bench by a lovely fountain by the sparkling river Leam.

I dropped Tim off at the station in Cov before driving to Northampton where I met a wonderful old fellow who I’m hoping will appear in 100 Faces. His name is Sidney and he fought at the Battle

Of Cable Street in 1936, when a group of Jewish people, communists and dockers prevented Oswald Mosley and his brown shirts marching through the streets of the East End of London. It is a legendary event and I have a large, framed John Allin print depicting the riot on the wall in our sitting room. I have been searching for someone who was there since starting on the project and always been unsuccessful to the extent that I actually wondered today whether Sidney was the last man standing... Just meeting him was a treat and hearing his stories filled me with great joy. As I left, I grabbed his hand, and thanked him profusely for what he’d done for our country. He seemed genuinely moved. I was overcome with a sense of how tragic my generation is for getting all uptight on Twitter, and thinking we’ve made a massive political statement by signing an online petition, whilst men like him, 80 years ago, were risking their lives apparently just so that we could sit on our arses and whinge about being offended.

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