By Geraldine Du Berry
I remember the weight of my case, heaving it down the stairs that morning, ‘bump, bump, bump’ in rhythm with the excitement in my heart, ‘thump, thump, thump’. I remember the train to Dublin, train to Dun Laoghaire, boat to England. Adventure beckons. Bought return tickets – just in case…..
I remember sitting in the bar on the boat, bound for Holyhead, listening to the accents all around me. North, south, east and west of Ireland and that curious mix that comes after years in England.
I remember the group who sat at the table beside me. Middle-aged fellas who had done this trip many times. Among them, one young man of about my own age. Black curly hair and dark eyes, I remember they called him Sylvie. So shy that when the lads called on him to sing, he sat with his back to the group.
I remember he sang ‘You’ll never be sorry dear God’ in a voice so pure, that when he finished the whole bar was silent before bursting into applause. Thirty years on I still wonder what ever happened to him.
I remember arriving in Euston, my first time to see a lady in a sari, to hear a news vendor calling ‘Evening Standard here’, to smell the odour of a kebab shop. I remember sitting in to a Black cab, I remember paying in Sterling. The names of the streets and pubs and shops flashing by, Prince of Wales Road, The Bag of Nails Bar, C & A. Chippers selling jellied eels and scotch eggs.
I remember landing into Fat Harry’s Pub in Islington, now dragging the case behind me. I was there to meet my future flatmates, among then was my future husband, I just didn’t know it then. I’ll have twenty Pall Mall and a glass of cider. Woodpecker. Trying to fit in.
I remember the tube. District Line, Circle Line, Northern Line, Bakerloo Line. Buskers, beggars, commuters, escalators. Mind the gap. I remember my stop – Piccadilly Circus.
Punk Rockers hanging out around the statue of Eros. Mohican hair-dos, neon pink hair, electric blue, safety pins dangling from noses.