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Scrooge, The Lady In Soot & A Child In A Boarding House.

Gwen, Mum and Paul after leaving the Boarding House

I was born in a hospital in the centre of Manchester. But for me life begins in the boarding house where I lived with my Mum and Dad, and sister Gwen on the ground floor of a crumbling Victorian house in Salford, one of the world's first industrial cities at the heart of the Manchester docklands. Once thriving with the wealth of the slave and cotton trade, it was now increasingly depressed and impoverished.


The landlord was mean, like Ebenezer Scrooge. The buildings he owned throughout the city were neglected, as were the tenants, but for a child of four these things were just the way things were and laid no shadow over what I remember to be a happy life.


The people who lived with us, sharing the kitchen and bathrooms, were like family.

Late one night there was a knock on the door.

My dad opened it.

It was the old lady who lived in the next room. She was usually as white as we were, but tonight she was as black as coal.

Her ceiling had collapsed and she was covered in soot. It was shocking and hilarious at the same time. My mum and dad helped her fix the ceiling, but she left not long after, which was a shame as her granddaughter was my friend.


I first experienced pain in this lovely establishment, when I reached for a pan of boiling water on the stove. I don't remember what they did at the hospital, but my mum wouldn't let me get near the stove for years, and whenever she wanted me to get out from under her feet when cooking she reminded me of the experience.

I learned at a young age that mums can have memories like Elephants.


Our room was on the ground floor with a large window. One night it was very hot, so the window over Mum and Dad's bed was left open. The next morning Mum woke up to find that someone had reached through the curtains and over her and snatched her purse off the nightstand. This shook her up so much that we left soon after.


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