Read Tuppence to Tooley Street Online

Authors: Harry Bowling

Tags: #Post-War London, #Historical Saga

Tuppence to Tooley Street (9 page)

BOOK: Tuppence to Tooley Street
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The young man looked at the girl who stood with him in the dark recess and his face relaxed into a smile. ‘You don’t know ’ow many times I thought about that night since I left,’ he said quietly.
They started walking again, their footsteps echoing along the silent and deserted lane. They were silent as they turned from Shad Thames into a side road and continued on past the huge brewery. The smell of hops hung in the air, and as they came out once again into Tooley Street rain started to fall. Each was thinking about the suddenness and the fantasy of the experience they had shared only a few minutes ago. Danny could not get the picture of Jack Mason out of his head, it hung like a dark cloud over him, and he was tortured by a feeling of possessiveness. Yet he knew that Kathy was not about to become his; he could sense her inner conflict as she walked beside him to the corner of Clink Lane. She held his arm tightly, but at the same time she had become distant and rigid.
Kathy stopped a few doors away from her own house. ‘We’d better say goodnight ’ere. I don’t want ter let me dad know I’ve bin out this late.’
Danny looked skywards and felt the rain beginning to fall on his face. ‘What about us, Kathy? Can I see yer again?’
The young girl sighed deeply and put her hands up onto Danny’s coat lapels. ‘It’s no good, I’m goin’ steady wiv Jack Mason. Let’s leave ternight fer memories. It’s somefink I’m never gonna ferget, really, Danny. It was special ternight.’
Danny’s face darkened. ‘You frightened of ’im?’
‘Who, Jack? ’Course not. All right, me an’ ’im ’ad a bust up, but I don’t wanna worry yer wiv me troubles. It’s not your concern anyway.’
‘That’s just it,’ Danny replied, taking her by the shoulders and squeezing her tightly. ‘It is my concern. Only a little while ago we made love. It was great, we’re good tergevver. We can make a go of it again.’
Kathy resisted his attempts to pull her close to him. ‘Listen, you’ve bin frew a terrible time. You’re gonna find yer feet again soon, an’ when yer do you’ll see this as . . . just an experience. Let’s jus’ remember ternight. We’ll still see each uvver about, an’ when we meet in the pub or in the street, we’ll look at each uvver an’ there’ll be somefing special there. Let’s leave it at that, Danny. Any uvver way an’ it’s gonna be trouble an’’eartbreak fer both of us.’
Danny tried to pull her towards him but Kathy pushed him away. ‘No, Danny. Look, I’ve gotta get in, my dad’s givin’ me a bad time as it is.’
Danny relaxed his grip and Kathy kissed him suddenly on the lips and turned away. He watched her trim figure disappear into the darkness.
Chapter Six
Sunday the 30th of June 1940 dawned clear and dry after the night rain. The sun rose early, and outside the Globe the winkle stall was set up ready for trade. The paper shop in Tooley Street sold out of the
News of the World
early, and all the local church bells remained silent. People gathered outside their tumbledown houses in the backstreets to discuss the progress of the war, while across the English Channel the German High Command were drawing up plans to invade.
The Sutton household was awake early as usual. Frank polished his Sunday best shoes in the yard, and Maggie brought her two children around to see Danny. Both Terry and Reggie tore up the stairs and bounded onto Danny’s bed, demanding to see his ‘soldier’s gun’. Alice was already peeling the potatoes in the scullery sink, and Lucy was on her way round to meet Ben and then on to the Methodist church in Tower Bridge Road for morning service. The Sabbath in Dawson Street was a day when the doorsteps gleamed white, lace curtains looked freshly starched and, weather allowing, old Charlie Perkins put his wicker chair outside number 14 and prepared himself for another day’s hard thinking. Crazy Bella appeared and reappeared at her front door, and the kids were their normal noisy selves–even noisier when the toffee-apple man cycled into the street. In a way it was just like any peace-time Sunday, except that during the previous week everyone in the turning had had a leaflet tucked into their letter boxes, and the street folk now had time to talk about it.
Mr and Mrs Brightman stood at their front door and listened to Granny Bell’s furious outburst. ‘I tell yer, Flo, if I’d ’ave caught the cow-son I’d ’ave given ’im what for. Fancy comin’ round ’ere wiv that leaflet an’ fright’nin’ the bleedin’ life out of us all. All this talk about us bein’ invaded–scaremongerin’, that’s all it is. Them bastards ’ave gotta get ’ere first. D’yer fink our boys are gonna stan’ back an’ let ’em come ’ere? Course they ain’t. Anyway, can yer imagine them Germans walkin’ down this street an’ catchin’ a dekko of ole Bella? She’d scare the daylights out of ’em. They’d soon piss orf.’
Mrs Brightman wasn’t so flippant about the leaflet. ‘Well I dunno, Granny. Me an’ Maurice ’ave bin talkin’ about evacuatin’ the kids, ain’t we, luv?’
Maurice Brightman nodded, and by the time he had thought of a response, Granny Bell was off again.
‘’Vacuation my foot! What d’yer wanna send yer poor little mites away for? Strikes me you people wanna get rid of yer kids. Nobody sent their kids away in the last war, and we ’ad the Zepp’lins ter contend wiv then. They was ’orrible fings, like great sausages floatin’ in the sky.’
Flo Brightman slipped her hands under her apron and pulled a face. ‘Yer gotta understan’, Gran, it wasn’t the same in the last war. Fings are different now. I mean, look ’ow they bombed them towns in Spain. We saw it on the news at the Tower Kinema, didn’t we Maurice?’
Maurice nodded and opened his mouth to speak but Granny Bell started in again. ‘I ain’t bin ter the pictures fer years, not since my ole man died, Gawd rest ’is soul. I read it in the papers though. I can’t make ’ead nor tail of it. Them Spanishers are fightin’ each uvver, ain’t they?’
Maurice had read all about the Spanish Civil War and he was about to enlighten Granny, but she wasn’t finished. ‘I still say yer should keep yer children round yer. Anyfing could’appen to ’em in the country. I remember ole Sadie Murgatroyd tellin’ me years ago about those gypsies who stole a little boy from ’is ’ouse. Know what they done to ’im?’
Mr and Mrs Brightman shook their heads.
‘They broke the poor little sod’s legs, so ’e’d be double-jointed. They was gonna put ’im in a circus as an acrobat or somefink, accordin’ ter Sadie Murgatroyd.’
The Brightmans left Granny Bell sweeping her front doorstep and went into their house to worry some more.
It was opening-time when Maggie’s husband Joe called round for Frank, and the two of them took a leisurely stroll up to The Globe. Danny had promised to pop in later, but first he wanted to see his pal Tony Arpino. Connie had told him that the Arpinos had not been interned because they had taken out British citizenship long ago, but the Lucianis had not been so fortunate. Connie had said how upset Tony was about being parted from Melissa. It was commonly known locally that one day the two Italian families would be united through the marriage of Tony and Melissa.
As Danny walked towards Bermondsey Lane, where the Arpinos had their grocery shop, he was deep in thought. Last night still seemed unreal, it had all been so sudden. He desperately wanted to see Kathy again, but she’d seemed so sure about staying with Jack Mason. Maybe she was right, maybe he should leave things the way they were. Then he remembered he hadn’t written to Alison and he decided to do so today for sure. If Kathy wouldn’t see him then maybe Alison would. But it could be difficult. The Channel ports were out of bounds to normal travellers–it was in the morning papers–so he would have to find out when she could get leave, and maybe meet her somewhere. She might even come to London.
The Arpinos’ shop was open when Danny arrived. Lou Arpino was piling tins of peas onto a shelf, and when he saw Danny Sutton step through the doorway he raised his hands above his head and knocked half a dozen tins onto the floor.
‘Hey, Danny! How’s a ma boy?’ he called out, his olive face breaking into a wide smile.
‘I’m okay, Lou. ’Ow’s the family?’
Lou’s dark eyes shone as he leaned over the counter and grasped Danny’s hand. ‘Hey, Mamma! Tony! Come a see what’s a come in da shop.’
The buxom figure of Sofia Arpino appeared in the doorway at the back of the shop. Her raven hair was tied up in plaits which covered her ears, and she had a white crocheted shawl draped loosely around her wide shoulders. When she saw Danny she came around from behind the counter and took his head in both hands and planted a kiss on his forehead. ‘Danny Sutton! It’s good you come back. Didn’t I say Danny will be okay, Lou?’
Lou Arpino put his arm around her shoulders. ‘We see da papers an’ we ’ear da news. Mamma cried, didn’t you Mamma? She prays for your safety. It’s a good to see you.’
Danny grinned, ‘It’s good ter see you two again. Where’s Tony?’
Lou Arpino leaned his head around the door and called out to Tony. Sofia’s face became serious. ‘You heard about the Lucianis? Tony is very upset, he’s not seen Melissa since they come to take them away. It’s a very sad.’
Tony appeared in the doorway and his eyes lit up. He came over and threw his arms around the young cockney. ‘It’s great ter see yer, Danny boy. We all knew you’d be okay. Your Connie told us yer got wounded–’ow d’yer feel now?’
‘I’m all right, Tony. ’Ere, I’m sorry about Melissa an’ ’er family. Are yer gonna get ter see ’er?’
Tony’s face darkened. ‘I don’t know where they’ve all gone. They’re puttin’ ’em all over the country. Melissa said she’d write, soon as she could. I’ve jus’ gotta wait, nuffink else I can do.’
Danny looked at Lou Arpino. ‘Can yer spare ’im fer ’alf an hour?’
Lou nodded and Danny put his arm around Tony’s shoulders. ‘C’mon, let’s get a drink, an’ I’ll tell yer all about those French girls.’
The two walked out of the shop and Sofia dabbed at her eyes. Lou watched them as they sauntered up the street, and then he went back to his shelf-filling. Sunday customers came and went, and some passed by the shop, preferring to take their custom to the English shop owner further up the street. The war had already touched the Arpino family, just as it had the Lucianis.
In The Globe that Sunday midday the landlord felt uneasy. Eddie Kirkland had been in the business a long time and he had a nose for trouble. He had seen his share of bar brawls and right now he could smell one brewing.
At first he had paid no attention to the strange crowd of dockers in one corner of the public bar. It was not unusual for a strange group to come into the pub, and though there was a lot of rivalry between dockers from various wharves, it was nearly always good-humoured banter. Today it was different, however, and the big docker who seemed to be the ringleader was ranting off about conscientious objectors.
Eddie picked up his ears as the argument got more heated and glanced over to where Frank Sutton and his son-in-law Joe were standing. They seemed to be unaware of what was being said, but the discussion was getting louder.
‘Well you can say what yer like, Bob,’ the ganger was saying, ‘but as fer as I’m concerned, anybody who says ’e’s a “conchie” is a coward. The only people who can say that are vicars an’ priests.’
‘I dunno,’ replied Bob. ‘It’s a free country. If yer got them principles about not fightin’, yer should ’ave the right ter refuse ter put on a uniform.’
‘Cobblers!’ roared the ganger. ‘’Ow long’s it gonna be a free country if everybody said the same? You’d ’ave the bloody Germans walkin’ in. I bet they don’t allow conchies in Germany. They’d lock ’em up or shoot ’em.’
‘Don’t talk silly, Ted, this ain’t Germany. Yer can’t compare us wiv them. You yerself could ’old the same views. ’Ow would you like ter be banged away?’
The big ganger was getting more irate. His bulging neck was red and he began to shout. ‘Yer can fink what yer like, but in my book, anybody who’s a conchie is a bastard coward. An’ I tell yer somefing else, I only wish I was a bit younger. I’d be up that recruitin’ orfice like a flash, never mind about bein’ in a reserved occupation. I’d make ’em take me.’
Frank heard the commotion. ‘Where’s that loud-mouthed crowd come from?’ he asked Joe.
‘They’re from The Surrey. I’ve seen ’em in The Crown a few times. That ganger’s name is Ted Molyneaux. ’E was mouthin’ off last time I see ’im. Yer wanna take no notice of ’em, ’e ain’t werf gettin’ yerself inter trouble over.’
Frank took a gulp from his glass and wiped his wet moustache on the back of his hand. ‘You know what, Joe? I’ve lived in Dawson Street ever since me an’ Alice got spliced more than firty years ago ’an’ I’ve bin comin’ in this boozer for all o’ that time. You could say this was me local, couldn’t yer?’
Joe nodded, wondering what Frank was getting at.
‘I treat this pub like me own ’ouse,’ Frank went on. ‘I don’t abuse the place, an’ I don’t go on upsettin’ the people in it, but that don’t meant I’ve gotta stand ’ere an’ listen to that big, fat, ugly-lookin’ bastard shoutin’ ’is mouth orf, Sunday or no Sunday.’
Joe picked up their empty glasses. ‘What yer ’avin’, Frank? Same again?’ he said, hoping to calm his father-in-law down.
Frank’s face had turned white with temper, and Joe knew there would be trouble. He had worked together with Frank for some considerable time, and had seen him in a rage before. ‘Frank. Ferget ’im,’ he pleaded. ‘What yer ’avin’?’
‘I dunno as I wanna drink ’ere while ’e’s shoutin’ ’is face orf,’ Frank replied, loud enough for the rival group to hear.
Joe was getting worried. He grabbed Frank’s arm. ‘Look, ’e don’t know anyfing about Ben. You’re takin’ it personal. Ferget it. ’Ave anuvver drink fer Gawd’s sake.’
It was too late. Ted Molyneaux looked over and then back at the crowd of faces around him. ‘What’s ’e goin’ orf about? Can’t a bloke ’ave a talk wiv ’is mates wivout somebody pokin’’is nose in? Does ’e fink ’e owns the pub?’
Eddie had seen enough. He leaned over the bar counter and addressed the crowd of dockers: ‘Now listen, I don’t want no trouble ’ere, understood? Any fisticuffs in my pub an’ you’re barred, an’ I’ll get the law in quick an’ all. Now drink up an’ simmer down.’
BOOK: Tuppence to Tooley Street
13.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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