Around the world I'd always find Barking
IN 1943 I clung, spray-drenched and desperate, to an icicle-hung deck rail on a troopship. The wind was a cannon s roar. Shattering waves with evil white tongues hit the vessel like a concrete wall. The sharp end climbed the mountainous waves to an iron
IN 1943 I clung, spray-drenched and desperate, to an icicle-hung deck rail on a troopship.
The wind was a cannon's roar. Shattering waves with evil white tongues hit the vessel like a concrete wall.
The sharp end climbed the mountainous waves to an iron grey sky, and on the downward plunge the sea became my vomitorium.
A fellow sufferer reeled to my side. He was slightly ahead of me in the vomiting stakes and agreed with me that a foot on the dirt was worth two on the drink.
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Later I discovered he worked at Storer's timber yard in Barking.
Soon I was deep in the heart of Sierra Leone, where the air was burning breath, nothing grew under 10ft high and it stank.
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There I met so many men from or connected with my home town, I wondered if Barking had colonised the place.
Once, at an isolated ammunition dump, I gave a piano recital. In the audience was a grinning chap with a multi-hued skin.
We all had yellow skins from our dosage of mepecrine tablets; but his was mustard coloured.
Further it was embellished with red and mauve patches from various skin rashes.
Later, I discovered he too was a Barkonian.
Back in England there was the sergeant major who handed me a leave pass with the order: "When you get to Barking, have a pint in the White Horse. It's my local."
And I spent my last three months of army life in the company of a former Barking school friend.
Incidentally, I am still in the army. In 1945 I was granted industrial leave for temporary employment at my civilian occupation. I am still on that leave.
Back pay? I'm frightened to apply for it lest the army recall me.
In 1971, while driving across the Welsh mountains my engine coughed, shook itself like a wet dog and died.
It was Sunday and Wales was closed.
After a botched roadside repair I eased on until, blessed relief I found an AA caravan.
The mechanic first inspected my membership card, then, in that delightfully deliberate and lyrical Welsh dialect, read my address.
"Here's funny for you now," he said.
"A shop you live in, is it? Is the duck pond still in the park, opposite?"
At an early age, he had been sent to live with an aunt in Glenny Road.
I bet, had Robinson Crusoe asked, he'd have discovered that his Man Friday had been born on a council estate in Barking.