I was born in north London into a family of costermongers (street market traders). My relations had various stalls down Chapel Market where my Uncle Alfie was known as the Banana King.
My early days were filled with working on my families market stalls, crying out the wares to the billy bunters (punters).
The Costermongers worked hard and played hard – always ready for a sing song and a good old knees up in the local battle cruiser (boozer), many a time us kids playing outside with an arrowroot biscuit and a coke.
The Costermongers outlook was one of fate – if you fell on hard times you just picked yourself up and got on with it. But they always looked out for one another. Market life was very colourful – the sights, the sounds and the smells are all etched in my memory.
There was great comraderie especially the service the Costers gave to the local community; be it fruit and veg or a listening ear, the sharing of stories good and not so good – all this created a bond and so trust that was built up around the market and surrounding community.
Pie and mash, jellied and stewed eels were part of our staple diet – the first fast food outlets were the pie and mash shops along with the chip shops which sold faggots and peas pudding. Mum would give us two and six to get our pie and mash – lumpy potato with black eyes, the pie crust blackened with soggy pastry filled with meat and the liquor green gooey with parsley, all smothered with vinegar and salt.
They were happy carefree times – and we were able to play out in the streets (not so much traffic then).
Mum and Dad met hopping down in Kent and our annual holiday was always hopping – six weeks of carefree wonderful adventurous times in the lovely Kent countryside. We could fish, climb trees, make camps, explore and any other activity that a child could dream up in the great outdoors.
Staying in the hopping huts on mattresses stuffed with straw, no lights only tilley lamps and candles (Mum always made the huts homely) and staying up late in the dark telling each other ghost stories….what fun we had!
Listening to the old uns outside around the faggot fire telling the stories about their lives and daily happenings, then all of a sudden my cousin getting on the old Joanna (piano) which was outside the huts and banging out a tune with Dad playing the spoons and every one singing and dancing.
Dad’s granddad George Dole was the first Pearly King of St Pancras and great friends with Henry Croft of Somers town – the very first Pearly King.
George’s adopted charity was Great Ormond Street childrens hospital and today the Pearlies of St Pancras still raise fun and funds for them.
I feel blessed to have had such a colourful and community based upbringing.
A few years ago I met my partner who is chairman of the environmental charity, The Bay Trust an Environmental Education Charity in Kent. Amongst many of it’s environmental and sustainable initiatives The Bay Trust provides Outdoor Learning for schools and adults at Rippledown.
In the 1970s Rippledown was the residential centre for a couple of London schools and by coincidence one of the schools was my secondary school Walworth and my former form teacher Chas Matthews became head of Rippledown.
It seems I have come full circle as I am now outreach co-ordinator for Rippledown – enabling children and families to reconnect with our natural surroundings and the Pearlies are now enjoying raising fun and funds for both Great Ormond Street and Rippledown.
I currently live in East Sussex on a Coarse Fishery surrounded by nature.
My coster credentials in the university of life have also been bolstered by training in understaning more about people (I have qualified as both a clinical Hypnotherpist and N.L.P practitioner) and the environment (I have a permaculture design certificate under my belt). Within all this to me attitude is all, and I believe in embracing life.