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Cynthia's big move was a real eye-opener

PUBLISHED: 17:43 08 December 2008 | UPDATED: 09:10 11 August 2010

CYNTHIA Buchanan came to this country as a young woman starting a new married life more than half a century ago. Much has changed in London since 1955, and Cynthia would say that she has changed a lot too. She said: When I first came to Europe, what I sa

CYNTHIA Buchanan came to this country as a young woman starting a new married life more than half a century ago.

Much has changed in London since 1955, and Cynthia would say that she has changed a lot too.

She said: "When I first came to Europe, what I saw I hadn't expected.

"For instance, when I was coming on the train, I saw all the chimneys on the houses and I said to my husband 'What a lot of factories!' and he started laughing. 'They're houses' he said.

"In Jamaica, the only buildings with chimneys were factories and bakeries.

"Nobody lived in rows; you had your own house with a plot of land."

Originally from Hanover in Jamaica, Cynthia and her husband Oswald settled in Stratford upon their arrival in the UK's capital.

It was completely different from anything she had ever seen before and the weather was a drastic change from her sunny Caribbean home.

Now living in Lodge Avenue, Dagenham, Cynthia reminisced about those first few weeks in a strange place, getting lost and getting directions from passing policemen.

Cynthia said: "I arrived from Jamaica on December 6 1955.

"It was a Tuesday and then I went for a job on the Wednesday and the matron said she would take me on and I said 'Oh good I'll start on Monday' and she said 'Oh no you don't - you start tomorrow'.

"By the weekend I was coming home from work and I couldn't find my house, so I found a policeman in the dark, in the smog, and he took me there.

"A couple of weeks after that, the bus inspector had to walk in front of the bus with a gas lamp because of the fog - that's what it was like in them days."

Cynthia started work as a nurse in St Clements hospital in Bow and she and her husband saved money to one day buy their own house.

She said: "When I first started working I paid tuppence ha'penny to get the bus and I was given a wage of £5 14 shillings a week.

"That was a lot of money in those days and eventually Oswald and I were able to buy our own place.

"But pretty soon after that our marriage split up and I left him. I never remarried.

"What do I need a man for anyway? I've always said that if a man can find £5 a woman can find £10!"

Eventually Cynthia moved to a quieter and more residential Dagenham in 1969 and has been living in Lodge Avenue ever since.

Cynthia recalled: "I was living in Bow before I moved to Dagenham and I was the only person in my street to own my house.

"Then some developers wanted to buy the area up and I said to them if you want my house then you find me a new one in Dagenham.

"And they did. It had a bus stop across the road and shops on the corner.

"I was working at St Andrew's hospital then and I had to get up at 6am to go to work in the wind, rain and snow.

"I was a domestic supervisor at the hospital and mostly worked with geriatric patients.

"You have to be very dedicated to do that kind of work because these old people don't know what they're saying.

"I used to get loads of abuse hurled at me and I was even knocked out once by an old man who used to be a wrestler."

Cynthia eventually bought her house in Dagenham from the council for just over £20,000 when she retired from nursing in 1986.

She then went to work for Transport for London until 1997,

Cynthia said: "I was 67 by the time I stopped working.

"I thought to myself, that's enough now. I've worked all my life and I wasn't going to work anymore.

"I remember when I first came to this country from the West Indies.

"There were boats and planes leaving every day for just £75 or £85.

"People would sell their land and houses just to come over here, but it does not happen so much anymore."

Cynthia was recently featured in an exhibition by Allan Williams a Newham based artist who is making a unique record of the London 2012 Olympic site in photographs and paintings.

He has recorded the site as it was using the memories, stories and experiences of older people who have lived or worked in the area, before it changes forever.

The exhibition is being held at The Hub, Star Lane, Canning Town, from September 15 - November 14 2008.


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