Love in London

Love in London tells the story of Flo, living in Brixton, south London in 1957. Flo is scrubbing her front steps. She decides to go out with her boyfriend to the cinema. As they walk home on Shakespeare Road, he picks some hollyhocks from a front garden and proposes to her. She says yes!

 

Love in London is about transformation. It shares fragmentary experiences from the life of a young woman in the mid 1950s. We gain a glimpse of her life seeing:

 

Inside/ outside, from doing the housework to going out

The act of dressing up and “putting on your face”

Crossing the threshold of being single to getting married.

 

Show/hide Flo's Story
Flo’s Story
"I sat next to him. He was showing off. So was I! Smell of Carmel cigarettes - just come from the Middle East. I'd known him for three months when we got married. He proposed to me walking along Shakespeare road. There was this prefab, a garden there with hollyhocks. He pulled them out to propose, and they were full of earwigs. I told him to put them back again!
My wedding. It was a lovely sunny day – July 1955, Brixton Registry Office. It was the Teddy Boy Era and my suit had the velvet cuffs and collar that they wore. I bought the whole outfit from The Grenville Arcade. My shoes were suede and cost me £2. I was carrying a horse-shoe for luck It was “Love at first sight for us!” They were good days. Leonard was posted to Tobruk in Egypt for 5 years I grew up in Loughborough Junction, Brixton but we got evacuated to Woodburn Green, Bucks when I was 3 because of the bombing. There were 4 children and my Mum came too. I was there until I was 10. We stayed with The Jones family, and then we moved to Vine Cottage. I remember seeing the Camberwell Beauty butterfly – it always intrigued me.
Air raid shelters were put up in Ruskin Park at the very beginning of the war, we went down into the underground too but it was so stuffy!
Leonard and I used to go to the Camberwell Green Cinema on a Saturday. We lived in Shakespeare Rd, Brixton and used to walk home after with the Teddy Boys escorting behind us. There was no money then but it didn’t bother us – we just got on with our lives.
I Know Brixton like the back of my hand
"My mum had a singer machine you pedaled. Found old pieces of material that you trimmed. Take an old collar of a shirt; turn it around - good as new. Hole in a sheet; go over and over with the machine - good as new. Darning socks - those wooden mushrooms; didn’t throw them away. “It’s been wonderful thinking back over the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. Remembering things like Biba, Mary Quant, Carnaby St – the old flares, beads, floppy hats – a different era – times gone by, different music too – The Rolling Stones ….. but my time was, Elvis!” 1955 -Me and my friend were the first two to be invited to Marian Whites Jamaican wedding in Brixton. It was in their house. Everyone lined up the stairs. Never guess what I bought as wedding present - a tea pot, blue and white with stripes- First two in London to buy her a Tea pot. Five shillings - it was cheap. Leyton Road. All the floors polished lino, wooden polished furniture - smelt fresh. Geneva Road.


Arrivals and Departures

This is a story of migration. Winston grew up in Barbados. In the early 1960s he came to London to work on the buses. One of his earliest memories was arriving in London during ‘The Big Freeze’ of 1963. It was so cold that he didn’t want to get off the boat. He recalls taking a bus through a wintry Trafalgar Square.

 

Arrivals and Departures is about transportation:

 

  • From there to here: sea voyage from Barbados to London.
  • London Transport.
  • Changing shifts and contrasts.

 

Show/hide Winston's Story
Winston’s Story
Came from a village in Barbados called Orange Hill
I had a sheep when I was a child. She was lovely. Put it out to graze. Drive a stake in the ground and tie them with the rope. Came back one day and the sheep was dead. Someone had killed it. Hurtful thing I had to bury that sheep on the plantation. I had to dig that grave – my sheep; brown sheep, beautiful sheep with black belly. Putting her there and cover her up was the most distressing thing of my life. I always see flashes of that sheep.

Arriving in London
Came from a village in Barbados called Orange Hill; came here when I was twenty-two, in 1960. When I first arrived, felt I could fly and go back home. We were living in this place; hot water for the bath only done on a Sunday. Some people sing in the bath, by then the hot water gone. Used to go to my friend in Green Lanes north London to have my bath there and eat well. Food was cold. If you didn’t get there in time other people would eat it. Had to ring the bell. The landlord wouldn’t give me a key to get in.
Gas heater, had to put money in. Just about warm up, stand right up to the heater. Bed was so cold – jumping up and down, wriggle around to get warm.

On the buses
I was a bus conductor - wanted to be a driver. They said I was too short. Seats were adjustable. When I came to the examiner, I fell to pieces. He was the chief examiner, the oldest one. All the boys in my garage - Wandsworth - looked at how well I kept the bus straight - never passed. Tutor very upset when we came back. For bus and car had chief examiner, if I hadn't would have passed. Reverse was no problem, did the change down, drive bus through Piccadilly and fire engine passed. He said: Take it easy, don't follow the fire engine. Did the exam with hay fever; my eyes were streaming.
All the drivers liked me to be with them. Sundays -Croydon to West Hampstead, one hour and 47 minutes from end to end - bus 59. Days of Teddy boys - pointed shoes, tight trousers, tight jeans. I wasn't scared, walked passed. They got into trouble on the buses from time to time - when there was conductors - one or two who didn't want to pay their fares.
Time of a lot of new people - West Indian: Fellow rubbed my skin to see if it would come off, some people never touched your hands and dropped the money into your hands.”
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