Och aye don oo’ Jimmy! If yer Ma canae stitch, yer en fer scar’s! Hid! Troosers, noo!
Mrs. Hudson hits ye olde Victorian London.
If yae canae read, yiz might as wel as no click the pict chur! A jig awaits yae doss cont!
The London I did encounter was so indescribably alien to me, that it may as well have been a city on Mars.
London, through my eyes at least, was a city crammed with man and beast; extreme poverty and unfathomable wealth; so cosmopolitan, and yet still bore the accents of people whose forbears remained unmoved geographically over a thousand years. A place I found myself devastatingly, truly alone; yet standing shoulder to shoulder with some six million people.
Such contrasts had my head filled with enormous yet oddly short lived confusion.
On departing the train in Knightsbridge, I was immediately accosted by some filthy urchins no older than, by appearance to me at that stage at least, eight to ten years of age. Offering their services to me as porters for my single suitcase; guides to anywhere I had a wish to go; willing to stand in the middle of the fast and vast street outside of the Station to secure transport for me. And all done with one hand held out, payment demanded. After glaring at the first, I cuffed the second around the ear for attempting to relieve me of my carpet bag; tripping a third who was doing his level best to run off with my case!
What a splendid welcome for my starting point in London. I was to sadly learn later that the age I had assumed them to be was, as a general rule, grossly under estimated. The urchins I had beaten away appeared as they did as a direct result of a life without the means to continually attain foodstuffs of any nutritional value; mostly however as for the most part, they were starving. Their starvation would then in turn stunt growth, causing Rickettsia, and greatly diminishing life expectancy. They were entirely covered in filth; and of the three, only one was shod. Illness was reportedly rife among them, and louse abundant. Cholera and Typhoid was everywhere. And it was there, staring directly into the face of the ever increasing population of London. The old lady’s population, so I believe, grew from one million inhabitants, to very nearly seven million between the years 1880 to 1890. The strain this must have done to utilities and infrastructure is, at least from my point of view, incalculable. And there I stood; widowed at 19 with no war to blame, no more than just another itinerant mouth to be housed and fed, standing alone and without a roof over my head nor food in my belly.
After swatting away at what turned out to be something of a constant plague of seemingly identical impoverished beasties, I made my way to the nearest hotel in search of temporary accommodation. On opening the door I promptly turned on my after being asked as to ‘what my going rate was’ by a rotund, yellow toothed aged gent. That was the first time I had entered a burlesque house.
Later in the day I did indeed locate suitable enough rooms, and paid a week in advance for them; entirely shocked at the cost of them as I handed over a ten shilling note. From there, key no longer in hand, but now an addition to the necklace I wore, I sought out newspapers.
With The James Gazette, The London Telegraph, The Times of London, and lastly The Daily News tucked beneath my arm; I made my hellos to the Land Lady at the door, and scaled the stairs to my rooms two at a time. After fumbling with my key for what seemed an eternity, I entered, turning up the gaslight as I did so, and began to read.
Never before had I had such a wealth of current information, misinformation, disinformation, utter fiction and falsity; cunningly combined with all forms of propaganda beneath my fingers. These news prints covered everything from crime to unionism; politics to advert’s for marvellous medicine’s; religion to sport. It was all there. However, what I particularly was seeking was advertising specific to employment, accommodation, and education. What a shock I had?! It would seem everyone that entered London with money, were to be quickly relieved of it as quickly as humanly possible, and spat out with nought bar debt, and a man with a large stick hot upon their heels as they fled the city!
Employment, specifically employment that was open to women, seemed to be nigh on non-existent. What I found involved long and arduous hours, and very little pay. Not to be put off, or succumb to the weakness of character that is despondency, I began that very night writing letters of application to every employment position available to me.
I followed this routine for the next few days, and finally the slow trickle of reply to all I had applied to; each reply received came back in the negative, and my frustration began to grow.
On the first night in London, after digesting mass of information from the news prints, I formed a plan and a budget. My funds from the sale of the cottage, and the remainder of my inheritance were secured within the safe at the manor house I had worked within in Glenfinnan; the pays I had saved from my employment there, and employment I had secured briefly in Glasgow I had about my person; inaccessible to even the most aggressive thief.
Not wishing to fork out another ten shillings on accommodation within the same rooms, I searched in earnest for anything respectable, but moreso, cost effective. Again nothing appeared and my anger began to flare. I had flatly made an oath to myself to never return to Glenfinnan, except in the circumstance of retrieving the money I had safely stored there; and it would be a cold day in hell for me to return, tail tucked neatly between my legs, permanently.
Never have I been one to believe in anything as absurd as luck. The notion that favourable circumstances occurred to anyone without grafting first, is ridiculous. Yet, the afternoon prior to vacating my rooms, some relation to luck must have been whispering into that particular ladies ear.
I had been taking tea at a small café across the street from my lodgings. This had become a minor luxury and routine for me. Whilst seated beside a street facing window, cup in hand, and my future an unwanted mystery; an exceedingly sensibly tweed and tartan dressed lady, some twenty years my senior, approached, asking if I would be good enough to share my table with her. Without hesitation I stood, and, in agreement, proffered the empty chair opposite to me. It came to me as some delight when she spoke again, of what I have no recollection, with one exception. Her accent was extremely close to my own, so much so that I blurted out, brain not fully engaged as a result of the thrill it gave me, and asked her without formality “where are you from Ma’am?”
Ha ha!! The plot doth thicken like milf in the sun! Click the picture, who know’s what lurks beyond?
Hamish, the final day of smoking. Bollocks!