Angels and Dirty Faces - Eric C Bartholomew

THERE are any number of memoirs of growing up in the East End – playing among the bomb sites, the friendly Dixon of Dock Green bobby, Saturday night singalongs in the pub, and deliveries by horse and cart. All these, and many more, feature in Angels and

THERE are any number of memoirs of growing up in the East End - playing among the bomb sites, the friendly "Dixon of Dock Green" bobby, Saturday night singalongs in the pub, and deliveries by horse and cart.

All these, and many more, feature in Angels and Dirty Faces (�8.99, Kavanagh Tipping), about a boy growing up in Walthamstow in the mid-1950s.

But where Eric C Bartholomew's book rises above many of the others is in the writing.

He has a gift for description, and for dialogue, so that his anecdotes are almost like watching one of those black and white Ealing Studios films with Irene Handl and Stanley Holloway.


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His story of his childhood reads rather like a series of Dennis the Menace adventures; spraying horse dung around a neighbour's living room as revenge for her thrashing him for a minor misdemeanour, selling raffle tickets at school for a non-existent chicken, hiding in a cupboard long enough to be reported missing to said Dixon of Dock Green bobby, and throwing lit fireworks at his enemies.

His grandfather kept fighting dogs, killed and skinned feral cats and sold the meat to neighbours as rabbit, and made the occasional half a crown by bare-knuckle fighting.

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Although life was hard by today's standards, Bartholomew clearly has fond memories of that time.

But the book does start and end with tragedy - beginning with his mother having a nervous breakdown and being carted off to Claybury Hospital and ending with the death of his beloved grandfather.

- LINDSAY JONES

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