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London: Maybe it's because I love freedom and Art

I'm a Londoner, born in East Ham, where my dad grew up.

In the mid 1950s my parents relocated to Basildon in Essex, one of several post-war New Towns, where a job in a factory came with a council house and an indoor toilet.

Three years after leaving Chailey Heritage my dad was dead and I couIdn't take any more of my mother's narcisism and random sex life. I took a green bus to London, leaving no forwarding address.

I had my A-Z. I was free.

London was exciting: The busyness and bustle; the buses and tubes; the big buildings and black cabs. Best of all was knowing that no one was bothered who or where I was or what time I'd be back. I was away from all the barking, the bickering and being bossed about.

With ten pounds in the post office, I was practically penniless, yet I felt neither poor nor pesimestic.

After three days pounding the streets I found a job in a tiny fabric and haberdashery shop off Oxford Street. This meant I could pay the next week's rent on my smelly bedsit in Harringey.

Time passed: College, psychotherapy, and Art. I had a drawing in the 1978 RA Summer Exhibition.

Seven years later I moved to Morden, which is technically London, but with a Surrey address.

Seven years after that I went west, to Berkshire.

Twenty years on I found myself in London again for another seven years. Then, back to Berkshire.

I've just returned from a two-day trip to London to see and write about some arts events, all with a disability connection.

First stop, the Henri Matisse Cut-Outs exhibition at Tate Modern. It was wonderful; interesting, joyful and life-affirming. My review for DAO is coming soon.

Next, the Lilian Baylis Studio at Sadlers Wells for a performance by Stopgap, a dance company that 'seamlessly integrates dancers with and without disabilities'. It was surpising and challenging, in a good way. I hope to blog about it once I've worked out what I think.

I ducked out of going to Chickenshed near Cockfosters yesterday. I'd cocked up on accommodation and couldn't face the treck from my South London digs. Another time, I hope.

Last night I drove to The Yard near Hackney Wick to catch Katherine Araniello's Screw the Taboo in The Moviers & Shakers Club. It's ages since I saw her perform live; I wasn't disappointed. As ever, she was thought-provoking and funny. Again, a blog coming soon.

Getting around London is exhausting. But I'll be be back, very soon. I can't keep away.

Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 16 May 2014

Last modified by Deborah Caulfield, 16 May 2014

A necessary poem about death and survival - inspired by Virginia Woolf.

In the poem: 'He' is my dad. He died March 1st 1968, age 42. He'd had multiple sclerosis for seven years. He was a smiley man with a temper as sharp as his wit.

'She' is my mother. She was, for the whole of her long life, a sad and lonely bully, a narcisist who disliked almost everyone, including herself.

In the 5th verse, 'they' are my siblings. They were not allowed to go to our dad's funeral.

This is not a clever poem, but a necessary one. It just happened. I was reading Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf and was struck by the line 'there she was'. I immediately thought of my mother; her survival and my father's death felt to me at the time like a 'monstrous injustice'.

The photograph (printed on Kodalith) was taken by me in Holland Park, London, one cold bright morning in March 1974.

POEM

On
That day
There she was
Smiling, survived
A hideous curse
A monstrous injustice
One of God’s least funny jokes.

On
That day
There he was
No questions asked
Pain free, unshaven
A lifeform retreating
Laughing no more in the dark.

On
That day
There I was
Baffled, blighted
Beside his coffin
Already missing his
Kitchen sink philosophy.

On
That day
There they were
Hooded and cloaked
Toothless torturers
A gang with no leader
Eager to mess with my head.

On
That day
They were gone
Future removed
By gold-clad demons
And big-booted heathens
Caps peaked and fingers pointing.

On
That day
Earth still cold
All roots busy
In earth-bound silence
And old-world trickery
Promising nothing again.

Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 7 May 2014

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 8 May 2014