East London In The 1970s: The Photos of Homer Sykes

From his time as a student living in West London until the present day, Homer Sykes has travelled across the city to take photos in the run down working-class districts of Whitechapel and Spitalfields. These photos were taken during the 1970s.

Photographs copyright © Homer Sykes

The influx of immigrants to the area caused a backlash from neo-Nazi groups. This man is selling a National Front newspaper with a racist headline.

Car trouble outside the tenements.

Two elderly residents of the area.

A local white girl with her Asian boyfriend. It was still quite rare at the time for the communities to mix.

Many buildings were being demolished, or had not been rebuilt after war damage.

Neighbours of different races, a common sight in the area.

The signs show the traditional trade of the area, clothing manufacture.

Immigrants took over many of the shops, operating late opening hours every day.

This lady is selling off her possessions to make money.

Life With Mabel: Part Sixteen

This is the sixteenth part of a fiction serial, in 770 words.

Winifred Finch was the only child of doting parents. But they didn’t spoil her, and made sure she knew right from wrong and was never badly behaved. From her first day at school she decided she didn’t like boys. They were naughty, dirty, smelly, and annoying. So she made sure to sit next to Margaret, the girl with the wavy hair and dimples. If Shirley Temple had been English, she would have been Margaret. Confident, pretty, and as bright as a button too.

When they both went to the girl’s Grammar School, she stuck with Margaret. They became inseparable, and helped each other through the problems of puberty. By the age of thirteen, they had experimented during sleepovers, and Winnie was sure she had found her way in life. But Margaret’s dad was in the Air Force, based near Cambridge. They moved him during the war, and he was sent to Coastal Command, in Kent. Winnie cried for two whole days after she lost her best friend and sometime lover, and her parents had no idea how to comfort her.

Choosing a career in nursing was a lifesaver. They were crying out for nurses close to the end of the war, and she went away to train in Cambridge. Her world was full of women her age, and they shared dormitories, bathrooms, and secrets. Though she never saw Margaret again, she found others to crush on. But there was a real problem. They all talked about men. They wanted to get married to war heroes, and have lots of children. For some years, Winnie was desperately lonely.

Then she went to work at the County Hospital, and met the new matron, Miss Harrison. As soon as she saw her, she knew the older woman was looking at her in a particular way. A way that only women like her understood. It was surprisingly easy at that time. Two women friends were considered to be companions. They could spend holidays away together, see each other socially, go on day trips, and sleep at each other’s houses. Nobody seemed to think that was remotely unusual. They just assumed that the women would marry, when the right man came along. And there was a shortage of men, with so many killed in the war.

Those years with Barbara Harrison were the best years of her life. They kept up the pretence at work of course, but their free time was like paradise. Whenever Winnie became annoyed at their unspoken love, Barbara would calm her down, reassure her, make her feel so special. They could never take it to the next stage of course. Winnie’s mum had died, and there was no question that she would stay at home and look after her beloved father. But Barbara was welcome at her house, and if her dad suspected anything, he never once questioned her.

Then Barbara found a lump on her breast. The doctors investigated, but nothing could be done. The cancer had already spread to her liver and lungs, and the end came quickly. Winnie’s heart was so broken at the death of her one true love, she thought she would never recover. But soon after that her dad became ill, and she had to focus on caring for him, and living on memories.

That was her life until he died. Dedicated, caring, and selfless. By the time her next door neighbour died, and the house went up for sale, Winnie felt that she was due for some happiness.

Then when she met Mabel for the first time, she hoped she had found it again.

It was so easy to deal with Reg. He was obviously inexperienced, and had no idea about being married, or how to act with women. She had told Mabel she would work something out, and she did just that. Asking Reg to help her with a fuse box situation one evening, she discovered she was right. He was so easy to seduce, she didn’t even have to go all the way with him, which would have been her first time with a man.

He was breathing hard after that incident, and red in the face. “Please don’t tell Mabel, she would never forgive me”. Winnie assured him she would never tell Mabel. It would be their secret. But perhaps he could see his way clear to giving Mabel more freedom? She could stop over at her house more frequently, and they could go on trips together? Reg was nodding so fast, happy to accept any arrangement.

The next day, Winnie told Mabel, and they both laughed so hard, they couldn’t speak.

Free Book Promotion – 17th – 21st March

A free book from writer and blogger Stevie Turner. FREE! Check out the link on her post and get your copy of her latest novel! You have until the 21st of this month.
(Please don’t forget to leave a review once you have read it.)

Stevie Turner

I’m currently driving to the Isle of Wight this morning, but just before I left I took part in a free book promotion on BookFunnel. The consequence of this is that my ‘enemies-to-lovers‘ romance ‘Falling‘ will be FREE on Amazon from today until the 21st March.

Falling‘ made the finals of the 2022 Page Turner Writing Award.

Here’s Phil Huston’s rather delightful review:

Last summer I started reading waaaaay out of my usual Reading For Entertainment sphere. Falling was the jumping off point.

4.5 Stars Is it my kind of book? Not really. Is it ambitious and well executed? Yes.

First off, this is a long book. Back in the 80s it would have been in the Jackie Collins Sweeping Saga category. However, unlike Collins, this is an Epic Character Study, not an excuse for the what-a-web-we-weave with sexual indiscretions across multiple generations.


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England In Colour: 1928-1932

These photos were taken by Clifton R. Adams, who was sent to England by National Geographic magazine to photograph life in the country.
(Most can be slightly enlarged by clicking on them.)

Mr Adams, who died in 1934 aged just 44, had instructions to record its farms, towns and cities, and its residents at work and play. He took the images in colour using Autochrome Lumière, which was the most advanced colour photographic process of the day. The plates were covered in microscopic potato starch grains coloured red, green and blue-violet, with about four million per square inch. Light passed through the colour filters when an image was taken, with the plate then processed to produce a positive transparency.

Children on a beach. Isle of Wight, 1928.

A postman in Oxford, 1928.

A fashionable lady posting a letter. Oxford, 1928.

Girl standing outside a cottage in Clovelly, Devon. 1928.

Proud of their sandcastle. Bournemouth, 1932.

Boy posting a letter. Sussex, 1928.

More cottages in Clovelly, 1928.

Boy Scouts on parade in Surrey. Exact date unknown.

A girl outside the Cat and Fiddle Inn, Exeter. 1931.

Passengers ride on ‘Billy’, a miniature locomotive running at the Kent seaside resort of Margate, 1931.

A tradtional thatched-roof cottage in Hampshire. 1931.

A girl harvesting barley. Lincolnshire, 1929.

Yeoman Warders parade at The Tower of London. Exact date unknown.

Kew Gardens, London. 1929.

On the white cliffs in Sussex, 1931.

Life With Mabel: Part Fifteen

This is the fifteenth part of a fiction serial, in 752 words.

It was a long time coming, but Mabel had always known it was going to happen eventually.

On her birthday the following year, Winnie bought her friend an expensive gift. It was a dress watch on a bangle, not the sort you would wear every day, really fancy. And it was gold too. She gave it to Mabel in the kitchen, when Reg was still at work. Reg had left her a birthday card when he went to work that morning, just a small one with Happy Birthday written on the front, and a drawing of a country cottage. Inside, he had written ‘Have a happy birthday’. That was it. No present, and no fuss. Typical of Reg.

She was overwhelmed by Winnie’s present. A gold watch was beyond her dreams. “It’s too much, Win. You didn’t have to spend all that money on me”. Winnie stroked her face. “What else am I going to spend it on? My dad left me well provided for with insurance money, and I have the money from my job. You don’t need much when you’re on your own”.

Mabel hugged her, and kissed her on the cheek. But Winnie didn’t let go, turning to kiss her on the lips. A proper kiss.

Nothing was said. Putting the watch down on the table, she took Winnie’s hand and led her upstairs. She presumed Winnie would know what to do, and hoped she was right about that.

When it was all over, and only twenty minutes before Reg was due home, Mabel watched as Winnie got dressed. The older woman turned to her, a warm smile across her face. “I want you to know I love you, Mabel. I mean really love you”. Without having to even think about it, she replied. “I feel the same, but what can we do? I’m married”. Kissing her cheek, Winnie whispered softly. “We’ll work something out, leave it to me.”

Reg was soon home, and wondering why dinner wasn’t ready. “We’ve got sausages and mash, won’t take long. Winnie popped round to give me a present. Look, it’s a lovely watch, real gold too”. Giving it a cursory inspection, Reg snorted. “She must have more money than sense. I mean, when would you ever go somewhere posh enough to wear that? Might as well sell it, buy something useful”. She snatched it back. “I’ll never sell that watch, do you hear me, Reg Price? And you better not think about selling it behind my back, or there will be real trouble”.

They didn’t say much else to each other that night.

When Saturday night arrived, Reg made his usual move to climb over and get between her legs. Mabel was ready. “Not tonight, I’m feeling a bit sick”. With that, she turned over and pretended to go to sleep. He didn’t try again.

Perhaps if he had known that it was never going to happen again, he would have.

They settled into a routine that no longer involved the Saturday night sex. If Reg was annoyed, he didn’t say so. He was not a man to talk about such things, and Mabel suspected that he might have been relieved not to have to try to perform once a week. He did what a lot of men in such situations did, he found a hobby. The bloke who was a guard on the railway was called Clive and he suggested it one night at the pub. Fishing.

Never having fished, and knowing nothing at all about it, Reg soon became a dedicated fisherman. He loved to spend money, and now he had an excuse to buy more stuff. Rods, reels, waders, nets, hooks, and all sorts. And he had the car, for him and Clive to go all over to fishing places. Once he discovered that Mabel didn’t care where he went, he would set off with Clive every Saturday night for overnight fishing, not getting home until late on Sunday evenings.

That was fine with Mabel. “I’ll stop over at Winnie’s then. I don’t like being here on my own at night”. He had taken that without a murmur. There was some mumbling about fishing seasons, resulting in Reg telling her they would have to drive to the coast sometimes, for sea fishing. “Might be able to bring you back some mackerel to cook for dinner. In the rivers, we have to put them back”. She couldn’t care less about mackerel.

All she could think of was more time spent with Winnie.

World News: 16/03/2023

The only news I am interested in today is that it is my birthday. I doubt that will feature on any BBC broadcasts though.

My cards have been opened, along with some gifts sent in the post. When Julie gets home from work this afternoon I will get presents from her, and then we will go out to a restaurant this evening.

As the old saying goes, ‘That’s all the news that’s fit to print!

Life With Mabel: Part Fourteen

This is the fourteenth part of a fiction serial, in 769 words.

Her job at Woolworth’s was much more relaxed. She wasn’t going to have to work on Saturdays, as most of the staff were part-time, and that shift was covered. She was one of the few full-time staff there, and now she would get every weekend off. It was so quiet too, compared to where she had worked in London. If anything, she found herself getting a bit bored by mid-afternoon.

But Old Man Adams had been right, they valued her experience in London. The manager had only been there for a couple of years, and he seemed happy to let Mabel do a lot of supervisory roles that Adams would never have dreamed of. She mentioned it to Reg over dinner one night.

“If he keeps getting me to do half his job, I’m gonna ask to be made up to supervisor. Can’t see him saying no, he’s so lazy”.

Once the furniture had arrived and they had the place looking like home, life went on happily enough. Reg was getting home much later, having to ride his motorbike from Cambridge, and with the project being regarded as so important, he was working all day Saturday too. On top of his pay rise, he got overtime pay for Saturdays, so they were doing well financially. Just as well, as the payments for the furniture and the mortgage were a lot more than Mabel had expected. And now Reg was talking about changing the motorbike for a small car. The weather was getting him down, he said.

Winnie was happy to show her around. They went for walks along the river, and all over the small town. By the end of the first month, Mabel was confident that she knew her way around, and was on first-name terms with the local shopkeepers too. Reg had said he would take her into Cambridge one Sunday, but working late every night, and six days a week, he always complained about being too tired on Sundays.

So Winnie went there with her on the bus one Saturday. Mabel loved that trip, looking at all the shops, the old buildings, and the historic university colleges. Winnie brought a picnic lunch in a big bag, and they sat on the grass by the river and ate it.

With Reg not geting home until well after seven most nights, Mabel got used to eating alone, leaving his dinner on a low heat in the oven. Then he told her he would get fish and chips on Friday nights, so she took up Winnie’s invitation to eat with her before he got home. She had been right about them being firm friends. Mabel had come to adore spending time with her, and was impressed by seeing her in her nurse’s uniform, looking so smart.

One Sunday morning, Reg casually mentioned that he was going to look at a car. “They will take the motorbike in part exchange, give me a good price for it. Do you want to come and look at it with me? It’s at a dealer’s near Cambridge”. Mabel knew nothing about cars, other than Dennis’s Humber of course. She shook her head. “No need, Reg. If you want it so much, you will buy it, whatever I say”.

Sure enough, he came home in the car. It was a Ford Prefect with four doors, all shiny black. He was dancing around it like an excited child. Get your bag and keys, Mabel, we’re going for a ride”. He drove down the main road to St Ives, then back along the country lanes. “We can go on holiday in this next year, Mabel love. No need to freeze on the motorbike. I was thinking we could get a caravan on the coast in Norfolk. Hunstanton might be nice”.

As much as she wanted to be happy for him, Mabel had no interest in the car, and didn’t even want to think about how they could afford a holiday, the way Reg was spending money. She didn’t ask how much he had paid for the car, and he didn’t tell her. That suggested to her that he had paid too much for it, and there would be costly monthly payments. When they got home, she knocked on Winnie’s door to show her the car. Winnie winked at her. “Ooh, that’s lovely, Reg. You’ll have to let me come along for a ride out one Sunday. Mabel jumped at that.

“Yes, let’s take Winnie out next week. Me and her can sit in the back like classy ladies”.

Then she turned and winked back at her friend.

Life With Mabel: Part Thirteen

This is the thirteenth part of a fiction serial, in 761 words.

She had to admit, Reg had chosen well. The house was at the end of a small terrace, with room at the side for the motorbike, and a small front garden that had a painted wooden fence. Inside, the steep stairs led up from the hallway to the two bedrooms, and the bathroom that would once have been a smaller third bedroom. Because the conversion was very recent, the bath, toilet, and basin all looked brand new, and there was a gas Ascot to run hot water into the bath too. The seller had left the curtains and rugs behind, included in the price.

At the back, the old outside toilet was still there, and there was a little garden running down two strips separated by a path. The most amazing thing to Mabel was that over the back wall she could see no other houses. Close to the edge of the town, all she could see were trees. The lady next door came out to speak to her over the fence. “Hello, I’m Winnie. Would you like to come in for a cup of tea? You must have had a long journey”. They soon found out that Winnie was single, and had lived there with her old dad before he died. She was probably about twenty years older than them, as she seemed quite old-fashioned.

Mabel took to her immediately. There was a warmth about her.

Because the furniture wasn’t arriving until Monday afternoon, Reg had booked them in to a pub in the town for bed and breakfast. He had arranged to take Monday off, to get it all sorted while Mabel was at work. Winnie wouldn’t hear of it. “No need, no need at all. I have plenty of room, you can stay with me and save your money. Reg, why don’t you walk down and cancel the booking, tell them your plans have changed?” Mabel nodded at her husband, and he agreed to do that.

Winnie was very chatty. She said she worked as a nurse at the County Hospital, the main one in the town. “I do the Out-Patient clinic mostly now, just daytimes. But I worked shifts on the wards for years before that”. Mabel asked her if she was married. “No, never had time for that. Mum died when I was still at school, and I looked after my dad until he went. This must be a change for you from London, but I reckon you will like it here. It’s a friendly little town, and you will soon get to know everyone, working at Woolworth’s”.

Reg was gone for quite a while. When he got back, he was grinning. “They were nice as pie about cancelling. I had a couple of pints while I was there, and met some of the lads. One of them works on the railway too, but not where I will be. He’s a guard on the trains”. Winnie stood up. “How about a nice rabbit pie for dinner? It won’t take me long to get it ready, and I’ve got a lovely cabbage to go with it”. Mabel offered to help, but she wouldn’t hear of it. Reg looked tired. He wasn’t much of a drinker, and it had been a long day.

He had dozed off when Winnie came in from the kitchen. “Leave him, he’s okay. You can help me make up the bed in your room. It used to be mum and dad’s room, but the mattress is still good, and we can give the pillows a good plumping. Once we’ve done that, dinner will be almost ready and we can wake him up”. Her third room had also been converted to a bathroom, but longer ago. Everything in the house was spick and span, and Winnie was dressed very smartly, with immaculate hair and make-up. As they made up the bed, Mabel felt like she had always known her. They talked easily, and then sat on the bed as Mabel told her about what had happened to little Denise.

Holding her hand, Winnie was kind.

“That’s all in the past now, you have to look forward to a new life. I am so pleased you bought the house next door, as I think we are going to be firm friends, dear Mabel”.

There was something about the tone of her voice, and the way she was holding her hand. Mabel had only heard about women like that, and had never met one.

But she had to admit, she liked the feeling it gave her.

11 Years Ago Today

On this day in 2012, my mum died in hospital in London. She was 87 years old.

Violet Johnson. 1924-2012

After a long period of suffering, she died in the early hours of the morning. I had been to see her that night, and sat with her until it got late. She didn’t know I was there, as she had not been fully conscious for a long time. The nurse in charge rang me at home around 1:30 AM to tell me the news. I told him I was relieved for her that it was all over, and she was no longer in pain and distress.

It was two days before my 60th birthday, and a few days before I retired from work and moved from London to Norfolk.

She is never forgotten, not for one second.

Life With Mabel: Part Twelve

This is the twelfth part of a fiction serial, in 730 words.

Reg was patient. He waited six weeks before resuming the Saturday night conjugals. After the tearful funeral, Denise wasn’t mentioned. In those days, everyone was used to losing babies, even older children. It was just accepted as the way of things.

When she didn’t fall pregnant again, Mabel knew that it was Reg who was not able to father children. For his part, he never asked, and may have thought that her birth problems might be involved. It was something else that was never discussed, not even by her parents or the in-laws.

Something else came along to change their life. They were intending to electrify the railways on the lines through Cambridge to London, and Reg was offered a course to learn the system. He was going to be away for a month, staying at a bed and breakfast near Cambridge. Mabel had gone back to work long before then, ignoring the averted eyes of her colleagues, who never mentioned the baby.

When Reg came home, she had never seen him so excited.

“It’s the future, Mabel love. And you should see the area around Cambridge. Clean air, lots of countryside, and lovely small towns and villages. New Cross doesn’t compare, believe me. They have offered me a start on the first of the month. I will be based in Cambridge, and the pay rise is almost double what I get now. We can afford to live somewhere nice, even buy our own home. The prices there are half what they cost in London. There’s a lovely little town, Huntingdon. We can buy a place there for the same rent we pay for this awful place. And they have a Woolworth’s, so I reckon you could get a job there. I am going to buy a motorbike and sidecar to get to work. It will be cheaper than a car, and enough for us”.

Mabel had never heard of Huntingdon, so asked him how far it was. “Just seventy-seven miles from here, love. But another world. Your mum and dad can come up on the train if they want, it doesn’t take long. Even quicker once we get started on the electrification. Honest, Mabel, it’s lovely up there, you are going to love it. It’s only twenty miles from where I will be based, so less than half an hour on the motorbike”.

Not knowing what to say, she just nodded. Men made the decisions, and wives didn’t question them. So she was moving to Cambridgeshire, like it or not. And very soon too.

It was surprisingly easy to get a transfer to the Woolworth’s there. Her boss helped, as she knew he would. “They will be lucky to have you, Mabel. It’s much quieter there, and your experience will be invaluable. I’m so sorry to see you go, but I reckon it’s a good move for you, and I am sure you will be happy”. Her parents were also surprisingly positive, urging her to go with no regrets.

A month later, Reg came back from Cambridge on his new motorcycle and sidecar. He told her he had bought a two-bedroom house in Huntingdon, using up every pound of their savings. They would have to buy all the furniture, and everything else that made a home, but he had signed up for three years of hire purchase to cover everything. All they had to pack were their clothes, and he had paid one of his colleagues to take them up to the new house in his small van.

Every decision had been made for her. They would move there on a Saturday, and she would start work in the small town on the Monday. For Mabel, the worst part of it was having to sit on the back of the motorbike all the way.The sidecar was full of stuff they would need until Reg’s mate turned up on Sunday with their personal things. On the Friday, she said goodbye to her parents, acting as if she was going to Australia. Her dad just laughed.

“We will be up to see you, and now you have a spare room to put us up in. I hope Reg finds a decent pub in the town, one within walking distance”.

She couldn’t feel excited about a place she had never even seen. But she knew her life was going to change beyond recognition.