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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.


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

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

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

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

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

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