Sunday, 8 May 2011

Lord Nelson And Lady Chatterley, Surely Not?

Old Tom and I are standing beside a newspaper stand. He is trying to teach me how to shout out the name of the papers. We are selling the London Daily News and the Evening Standard. I don't want to shout. It's embarrassing. I've never been one to draw attention to myself.
"Right orf you go Johnny boy. Loud as ya can. Go on".
Self consciously I give it a go. "News and Standard".
"Gor stone me. Did yer say somefink Johnny boy? Do it agin, a lot bleedin' louder. Come on, Lord bleedin' Nelson wants to ere' ya".
Lord Nelson was looking down at us from his column in Trafalgar Square across the road. Old Tom and I were situated beside Admiralty Arch in Whitehall. It was a prime spot for selling papers and Old Tom and my newly found older brother Vic were really pleased to have the permit for it.
I grew to really enjoy selling papers here. Even got brave enough to shout out the odd headline or two.
I loved watching all the posh gentlemen in their bowler hats, coming and going from the Admiralty. Lots of them became regular customers and they were very good tippers too. Most would give me an extra penny. Some of them would give me sixpence for a threepenny paper and say, "keep the change young fellow." Sometimes I'd even get to keep the change from a shilling. But that was quite rare.
We also had the concession to sell papers and sweets in the Charing Cross hospital just down the road. It was fun to push the trolley around the wards. People were really nice, and always seemed pleased to see me. So as you can see life was not all misery.
This part of my life's tapestry took place when I was about eleven years old. It was a happy time, because I got to know my brother Vic who was a lot older than me. He was quite a character. Full of fun and confidence. Having him around was fantastic. It was wonderful to have someone on my side for a change.
Vic and Old Tom also had a bookshop in Camberwell and I would help out. It wasn't a very busy place, but I loved books and was happy to be there.
It was in this tiny little back street bookshop that I, at the tender age of eleven made history, when I became the youngest person in the whole world, or so Vic told me, to sell one of the first ever copies of the newly legal, Lady Chatterleys Lover. Which I believe was some kind of instruction manual for gamekeepers. Apparently a lot of readers, mainly male, skipped this bit. It was certainly a book which opened my eyes very wide, and taught me a lot. Though of course it would be some years before I was able to put theory into practice.
These happy times came to an abrupt end when Old Tom ran off with all the money. Vic had to find another way of making a living.
He chose to take the Queens shilling and joined the army. It was a sad time. I didn't see him again for many years.
Vic may have left a big void in my life, but he also enriched it hugely. This short period in my life is something I love to think back on. Me. Making history. Who'd have thought it? I have such a lot to thank my big brother for.
I would also like to take this opportunity to say a great big thank you, to Mr D.H. Lawrence, and Penguin books, for helping me to become such an accomplished and versatile lover.


  1. What a fun enterprise. I and two of my brothers had a newspaper route when I was younger. It helped pick up a little spending money. I always wished I had an older brother. I am the oldest of seven. But then again I had several uncles who were only a couple of years older than me so I didn't lose the experience completely.

  2. I also had a newspaper round when I was even younger. That was tough work before school. There is a story attached to that too. Thank you for your comments Emma. Really appreciated.

  3. They always say "The butler did it". Nope, it was the gamekeeper!
    Jane x

  4. And he did it quite a lot. Thanks for your comment Jane

  5. I remember when I was young, nosily rooting in my mother's wardrobe, and finding a book called Lady Chatterly's Lover buried under a pile of other books in the back of that wardrobe. I passed it aside when I came across my father's western paperbacks.

  6. I think I'd prefer a western these days too Denise.