21 February 2010

later the evening before

She looked left and right, turned on the spot and looked behind her but nothing, he was gone. As quickly as her saviour had appeared, he had vanished. Pity, she thought, he had looked better than the usual Whitechapel sort, he probably had money too.

Liz Stride shrugged philosophically and set off south on Berner Street for the docks. Immediately a hand gripped her shoulder. Swinging around to face her accoster, she was ready to kick hard and run. A decade of bad experiences had sharpened her wits. But she peered up into a familiar face.

“It’s you again,” she remarked. “Are you following me?”

“No!” Laughed the stranger. “I’m worried for your safety. Here, come inside and eat fruit with me.” He indicated the greengrocer’s door, dimly lit from within by lamplight. “Packer sells quite exceptional grapes.”

The doorbell dinged sharply as Liz entered and the tall man winced, looking both ways along the street before following.

11 February 2010

the evening before

August cooked the East End streets at mid day bringing labourers and market traders to the alehouses for refreshment. A different clientele emerged from the shadows as the late summer evenings shortened and an ominous coolness descended. Tall hats, sailors' caps and high collars, grubby aprons and furtive glances lent Whitechapel a dramatic air. Those who made their living preying on the lost and the lonely flowed in and out of public houses, loitered in archways and slipped barely noticed through lodging house doorways.

In the George the Fourth a tall woman stood over an empty gin glass, sliding two bright pennies on the wet bar. She didn't have the price of a bed tonight and she was still sober. The door swung and a crippled woman lurched in, trailing her club foot. She squinted around in the lamplight then banged out into the gloom. Almost immediately three men crashed in shouting and barging each other with the earnest voices of the drunk.

Liz Stride hawked and spat on the floor. She stowed the coppers in her pocket and pulled her cardigan over her thin shoulders. One of the drunks swayed at her as she passed and she side-stepped him but he turned and grabbed her hand, grunting and leering at her through slit red eyes. His friends slammed their mugs on the bar and crowded round, jeering and mocking. Liz Stride was in trouble.

The door opened slowly and a low voice snarled, “Leave her alone.”

Liz turned to see a tall figure blocking the doorway. In a second he was right beside her pushing the drunk roughly into his mates. The whole trio lost balance, sprawling in the sawdust. She locked onto the stranger’s arm and steered him out onto the street. This life was a game she played by instinct.

08 February 2010

Kathleen Rose

Kathleen Rose joined the world on 6th Feb 2010 weighing in at 7lb 11oz. She's a slight, dainty little baby and seems extremely small compared with her sister. I can't really say yet which of us she resembles but I did catch a glimpse of my paternal grandfather.

She has a calm demeanour and a gentle little cry, all very different from Maisie. We were prepared for Maisie to explode with anger at Kathleen's appearance but she has accepted the new baby's presence with surprising grace. In fact she seems slightly nervous of her, as if aware of her fragility.

I haven't made a secret of hoping for a boy but I am very happy indeed with Kathleen! She's a miniature gem.