What a wonderful read! Just as some people need a map to get to know an area I cannot settle without a history map. I’ve been living at Dockhead Bermondsey for 6 years now and a variety of autobiographies have helped me get to know my local communities and settle in.
Tommy Steele introduced me to Bermondsey with a sense of fun and with an intelligent insight into the lives of his family and neighbours. I can still see him standing in the queue at Bermondsey Spa with his mum’s washing and having his reward at the pie and mash shop .
Bryan Magee introduced me to Hoxton (Clouds of Glory: A Childhood in Hoxton),
Roberta Taylor to Poplar(Too Many Mothers: A Memoir of an East End Childhood),
The Sugar girls to Silvertown
and Gwen Southgate to The Waterloo area in her autobiography, “Coin Street Chronicles”.
"Coin Street Chronicles" is a tale of real-life drama set in the 1930s and 1940s, on London's South Bank area-now a cultural showcase, but then a grimy, raucous underbelly of the city. Among its many colourful characters are big-hearted, garrulous, chain-smoking Aunt-mum; yarn-spinning, practical joker Grampa Benson; and Gwen Southgate's indomitable mother. The scene changes during World War II, when evacuation from London at the was age of ten opens up wider horizons for Gwen Southgate and her two younger brothers. The story follows her subsequent journeying around England and Wales as she learns to live with the different foibles of many families and encounters bewildering incidents like The Rice Pudding Affair and The Sinfulness of Enjoying a Sunday Walk. The memoir ends as she, finally, escapes the culture of poverty-after a determined struggle spearheaded by her feisty mother.
Gwen now lives in Princeton where her book has been favourably and enthusiastically received. I feel that the book would be well received by the same audience that welcomed the Sugar Girls.