I knew some college peeps in Tooting Broadway in south London, but their house was full, so I rented a bedsit (one room) nearby in Big Mama's house. She was from Jamaica and although a bit strict, she was fun for a seventy year old. Tooting was a very ethnic community at the time (still is by all accounts) and if you were Irish, you were assumed to be working in construction or terrorism.
I over heard her speaking to her daughter on the phone who warned her Irish people were drunks, smelly and trouble (a stereotype that in fairness wasn't completely undeserved at the time). At least she didn't mention the IRA!
I hated London back then. I had a shit job as an accounts clerk/dogsbody/ tea maker, in a shit construction company, in a city that was not very fond of the Irish (mostly due to the IRA troubles back then). I found out that I replaced a woman who was fired because her and the boss (my new boss) were found 'doing the nasty' on his desk and were caught in the act by the CEO. The bloke that interviewed me did a runner a few weeks later after embezzling a small fortune.
A slot opened up in the college peeps house, so I moved in there and bid 'Big Mama' farewell. It was an hour on the Northern Line tube (subway) to and from work which was like being squashed into a sardine tin which stopped for no apparent reason. Suicide (people throwing themselves in front of the train) turned out to be a common delay factor.
My salary barely covered my rent and expenses, but I was now an independent individual, free from the shackles of eighties Ireland, but not a happy camper in any way shape or form. My cooking skills were non existent but it was a case of learn to cook or starve, so I coped as best I could. Beans and toast was the staple diet!
Many a weekend was spent in the Swan in Stockwell or Biddy Mulligans Pub and followed by the National Ballroom in Kilburn. They were rough and raw spots where fights broke out regularly. Batter burger n' chips was our idea of eating out back then.
.....to be continued!
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