Chapter One

Prince Max von Hohenlohe-Langenburg, fat and twinkling in his decorations, was sitting on my left at a gala dinner in the south of Spain. The room glittered with crystal and silver, pineapples, lobsters and champagne. People talked about mutual friends and parties in London, Paris and Rome. One side of the room was a semi-circle of colonnaded windows through which bejewelled figures slid out to the candlelit terrace and the music of the band. I gave up toying with a truffle omelette and let my gaze wander across the breathless midnight Mediterranean. Beyond, way beyond, were the lights of the coast of North Africa.
Prince Max leaned over, looked down my cleavage and whispered. ‘My dear, what colour are ….?’ The Princess Bismarck passed our table on her two walking sticks, click-swoosh, click-swoosh, on her way to the lavatory. The Prince managed to stand, sway, and bow. I laughed. She nodded from the crow’s nest of her great height and proceeded fitfully through the wrong door into the Men’s bathroom. ‘Darling, what colour are …?’ Max asked again. ‘Max, do spit it out’ I said. ‘Well, my dear, I was wondering what colour are your nipples. Brown or pink?’
I ran my fingers over my bosom, supported by a band of ice-pink shantung, and replied, ‘The palest, Max, the palest pink.’ He took out a Corona and began to tremble so violently that he set fire to one of his fingers which was wet with brandy. I had to light the cigar for him.
‘Young cherries, sweet rosebuds. Ah! You see that woman over there?’ He indicated an American acquaintance who had inherited a large piece of Ohio and fled with it to Europe. ‘Hers are like dried figs! Chewed up … but you, my dear, pink pips, my treasure, you are high born I think.’
Max had perfect manners. And he was quite wrong about my origins. An elderly friend, Don Pedro tapped me on the shoulder. ‘May I have the pleasure?’ he said. Don Pedro creaked at the waist when he danced. But he had a noble head. We went off to Watutsi on the terrace.
High born! How funny, I thought. I didn’t know what a present was until my eleventh birthday. ‘I’ve got a present for you,’ Mother said. I gripped the table to steady myself and broke out in goose-pimples. ‘But you can’t have it until you get home from school.’
When the afternoon school bell clanged, I ran out of the gates, making a quick sign of the cross as I flew past the church. I was deeply religious at that age. At home Mother was holding a brown-paper parcel. I took it breathing heavily. Out rolled a pair of grey socks.
Conceived one summer on the Isle of Man at the Fort Hotel where my mother was a chambermaid,I was born a boy in the Smithdown Road Hospital, Liverpool, on 29 April 1935. This birthday I share with the late Emperor Hirohito of Japan, which makes us Taureans like Fred Astaire, Catharine the Great, Shirley Temple and Hitler.
Mother brought me home to a black dockland slum called Pitt Street and christened me George. You didn’t get lower than Pitt Street. Even in those days, prior to World War II, the police patrolled in pairs. In terms of social mobility, if you moved at all it could only be up. And we did move, very slightly. When I was two years old the Council rehoused the family on a new estate in Norris Green on the edge of town. Since the rest of Pitt Street moved with us, along with the equally notorious Scotland Road, the neighbourhood continued to enjoy its fair share of fists and brawls.
The family home at 51 Teynham Crescent had an outside lavatory and a bath full of coal. Families like ours stored coal in the bath to stop it being stolen. But we did have the luxury of three bedrooms. The smallest, the box room, was reserved for me alone because, for the first fourteen years of my life, I had a nervous condition that made me wet the bed. As a punishment, my Mother would lock me in the box room without heat or light. More frightening in the early days was to be told and believe there was a ghost in the box room.
My parents were both Liverpudlians. Mother was born Ada Brown, a name I now use when travelling incognito. She was a Protestant and married my father, Frederick Jamieson, when she was sixteen. He was a Roman Catholic and so, in a time honoured tradition, she bore one child a year: Roddy, Theresa, Freddie, Me, Ivor, and Marjorie. Apart from these survivors, there were several who died at birth.
Being a middle child I never had new clothes, just worn hand-me-downs, patched, darned, frayed, and hanging off my scrawny frame. Even my wooden clogs, then ubiquitous among poor Scouse (Liverpudlian) kids, were hand-me-downs. I feared I should never see the end of those inherited clogs, hard wooden shells with steel rims nailed on to the undersides, rims that were always falling off and had to be hammered back on. I felt like a horse.
In her youth Mother was pretty and flirtatious, with fine brown hair and eyes and good teeth. She loved to go out dancing or ‘jigging’ as she called it but this happened rarely as she was always pregnant. My early impression was that she did not much like me. There was little physical tenderness between us.
However, she had a large heart for taking in strangers. My big blue-eyed brother Roddy, who went to sea when I was very young, was constantly bringing back strays. One lad was called Reggie Endicott, half-Indian, good looking and always laughing. He stayed with us for a long time and shook up the house by buying a gramophone and playing Frankie Lane records until the plaster in the ceiling cracked. An Australian, Bernie Cartmell, followed Roddy in through the door one day. He was skinny and floppy, all hands and feet. We called him ‘the long streak of piss’ and wondered when he would leave. And there was a Mexican girl, beautiful Phyllis. Mother had gone to the outside lavatory one morning and found Phyllis in there asleep. In her arms was a baby covered with sores. Of course Mother took them both in. There were always a procession of strays through the house. Usually they slept where they fell.
Father was a cook in the Royal Navy and not often home. When he was, he would hand out bars of chocolate that had gone white with age. While we munched on this delicacy, he would describe exotic seaports and indulge his passion for oysters washed down with Guinness. Father was as short as Mother, slightly built but good-looking, with strong dark eyes which I inherited and a charming, puckish smile. He was also a scoundrel, a heavy drinker and spent every penny on the booze. I was mad about him.
The house was always active, but I don’t recall many other relatives. My only living grandparent, Mother’s mother, was so taken aback by the sound of the first air-raid siren that she had a heart attack and died on the spot. One of Father’s brothers was said to own a Stradivarius, but we never saw it.
Father’s irresponsibility meant that Mother had to work very hard to keep us alive. She heaved sacks of potatoes and boxes of oranges at a grocery shop and during World War II made bombs at the Fazakerly bomb factory. Because of the daily proximity of TNT, she lost most of hair and all of her teeth. Doris Paper, Mother’s best friend from across the road, worked in the same establishment. They would go off together every day in their slacks and overalls, their hair knotted up in turbans. One morning in the factory Doris said, ‘I feel all queer.’ In fact she was literally burning up. TNT can do that to you. An ambulance brought her and Mother home. Mother made a pot of tea and Doris started yelling, ‘I’ve got to go to the lav! I’ve got to go to the lav!’ Ripping off all her clothes she ran out of the back door. Mother found her dead on the toilet seat.
I was a problem child. Apart from the bed-wetting, I was born with a severe calcium deficiency. This led to frequent accidents which left me unable to walk. On a poaching trip, escaping from gamekeepers who were trying to shoot me, I fell off a twenty-foot wall on Lord Derby’s estate. The fall immobilised my legs for three months. Roddy and Freddie constructed a go-cart from an orange-box and old perambulator wheels so that I could be pulled around the neighbouring streets. It was always breaking down, or smashing into walls when they raced it. People kept finding me lying in roads, which became irritating for them.
There were weekly calcium injections at the Alder Hay Children’s Hospital. If I were out of action, Mother would have to carry me piggy-back. She could rest on the tram, then pick me up again and carry me to the hospital. These journeys were made in complete silence, with Mother’s mouth set in an unnerving way.
Roddy didn’t bring back only people. He brought back the first bottle of Heinz Tomato Ketchup I ever saw. And the first post-war banana. It was cut into six pieces, one each. It had such a bizarre taste. I spat mine out and I haven’t touched them since. And when I was seven years old, Roddy brought back a mongrel pointer, Prince. We adopted each other immediately. He would follow me to school and wait outside the gates until I reappeared. He followed me to the Saturday Morning Pictures at the Broadway Regal, running along behind the tramcar, and while I was inside enjoying my favourite series, The Perils of Pauline, he would sit patiently outside surveying the street. As the one person nobody wanted in their gang, I always felt safe with Prince. His only vice was killing cats. He murdered about twenty of them before a big Tom cured him with several nasty blows to his face.
Eating was another problem. I didn’t take to food at all. The family lived on a diet of brown sauce sandwiches but Mother would sometimes tempt me to eat a chip butty (French fries in thick bread and butter) which I did like. Sometimes I stole beetroot from local allotments and ate them raw or carrots which I would clean by scraping them on a wall and share with my dog Prince.
Liverpool had twenty-three miles of docks, the largest dockland in the world at that time, and was bombed heavily during the World war II. When the siren blew at night, everyone was supposed to run into the Anderson shelter. These were made of corrugated iron and were usually buried in the garden and covered with earth. Our shelter wasn’t. It was stuck out the back of the house at a lopsided angle in a few inches of soil. There were three bunks on either side full of fleas and bugs. I detested going in there even more than into the haunted box room. If Father were home, he would allow me to crouch close to him under the hedge while explosions shook the house and the sky over Liverpool turned red. What I most remember is the smell of salt in his uniform.
My schooldays were a torture. The nuns, the priests, the hopeless teachers, my disgusting class mates! Although he never set foot in a church himself, Father insisted we were brought up as strict Catholics. I was sent to St Theresa’s Primary School, a vicious and backward institution run by the clergy where you were forced to your knees four times a day in prayer. It was very rough. We spent a great deal of time cleaning the floors with dusters tied to our clogs and if we were slow the nuns would rattle rulers between our knees. Knees were big at St Theresa’s.
On the whole my education consisted of learning how to run fast. I was the ultimate weed. My head looked far too large for my body and this was emphasised by Mother’s penchant for cutting my hair into a Henry V pudding bowl. If the tough boys weren’t calling me Sissy they called me Chinky, and I was the target of school bullies. Fortunately, after school the staff would inspect all the air-raid shelters because often they would discover me inside one of the shelters, tied down to a bunk. It wasn’t so bad being tied on your back but being tied face downwards left ugly red marks across your cheeks from the bare bunk springs. Once a gang held me to the ground while several more jumped up and down on my feet. This meant another term missed, more piggy-back rides to hospital, and Roddy and Freddie wheeling me about in an orange box go kart.
In an attempt to freshen up my life, Miss Filben, an eager young Canadian teacher with large expansive teeth, decided to make me class monitor with responsibility for distributing books. As I came by with the decomposing red textbooks my class mates lashed out with their iron-clad clogs. I can’t remember what subjects the text books covered, Miss Filben never managed to get very far into instruction. After a fortnight of being rendered black and blue, I had had enough. The next time the breezy Canadian accent sounded over the desks saying ‘The books please, Jamieson’, I froze. Miss Filben tried again. I remained frozen. ‘Jamieson, will you please hand out those goddam books!’ she snapped. By now she was standing in front of me in a bright-yellow blouse, sweating profusely. I was paralysed. She slapped my face. I slapped her back. We were both flabbergasted. Her eyes filled with tears and I lost the job of class monitor.
Composition was a subject that sometimes caught my interest. One week, Miss Filben set a topic: What do you want to be when you grow up? The gist of my essay was that I wanted to be a film star and live a charmed life. You read your essay out loud and my effort got me hooted to the back of the class. At St. Theresa’s Primary School, aspirations for boys were limited to being a train driver or a priest.
Sport was another area where I failed to excel. ‘Can you swim, boy?’ asked the sports master as we stood by the edge of the municipal pool. I’d never tried, so I said, ‘Yes, sir.’ ‘Dive in then, lad.’ he continued and gave me a friendly push. I came up gasping for breath and red in the face but from that moment I was able to swim.
Vincent Patterson was my only friend at school. He was dark and pale like me but a couple of sizes bigger. He didn’t enjoy fighting but was good in a brawl if somebody insisted. We were very religious together and made a pact not to swear. For such a rough environment, Vincent was ethereal and he might well have become a cleric. However, one day he went on an outing to Bromborough in Cheshire and drank from a polluted stream. Three days later he was dead.
I was thirteen years old. Vincent’s death shook me and caused me to commit the mortal sin of missing Sunday Mass. During Confession the following week, the priest asked, ‘Why weren’t you in church on Sunday?’ I replied ‘I wanted to think things over, Father. About God’ The priest bristled. ‘If you have to think about God you’re damned for ever!’ he barked. ‘Get out of this church!’
He had been among a group of priests I had seen drunk in their garden several weeks before and, as a result, I was not unduly concerned. However the incident caused me to lose my faith.
A by-product of this loss of faith was a concomitant loss of guilt about poaching. Thus conscience free, Prince and I hunted rabbits with renewed zeal on the grand estates of Lord Sefton and Lord Derby. These were about half-an-hour’s walk into the countryside from Norris Green, magical spots for a child on a sunny afternoon. However a myxomatosis epidemic that swept across England decimating the rabbit population put an end to this poaching.
Shortly after Vincent’s death, Mother had Father evicted from the house. Father’s behaviour followed a rigorous pattern. He would return from a long voyage at sea, and while on leave, he would get systematically plastered in the local pubs. He favourite tipple was rum with a beer chaser. His drunken binge would continue for many days and, more often than not, his ship would sail without him or he would go Absent Without Leave. Sometimes there were fights in bars, and Father would come off the worse. When he finally made it home, there was another fight waiting for him. This time it was Mother slapping his face. I remember him sitting groggily in a corner waiting for the Military Police to come and take him away. When Father left for good, the family house ceased to be home for me too.
Mother was now getting on well with my brother Roddy’s friend, Bernie Cartmell. After Father’s eviction, she and Bernie lived as man and wife. Father was eventually invalided out of the Royal Navy with shrapnel wounds in his stomach and legs which refused to heal. He worked briefly as a bus driver, then tramped round Liverpool on a tiny pension.
Just before my fourteenth birthday I had another serious shock. The school leaving age went up to fifteen. The most intelligent course of action was to ignore it, but the authorities threatened Mother with prosecution. One day the Headmaster came into the classroom. We stood up in uneasy silence. While talking to the teacher, he suddenly span round. ‘Who was that whispering? It came from over there.’ His long bony finger stretched towards me and I cowered. ‘You! Come up here!’ he shouted. ‘You were whispering!’ ‘I wasn’t, sir.’ I answered. He stood back. ‘Don’t lie!’ ‘I’m not lying, sir.’ I answered. ‘Don’t argue!’ He barked, striking me in the chest so hard that I fell over. Hurt and angry, I yelled, ‘You horrible man, I told you it wasn’t me!’ and ran home sobbing.
Mother was furious. ‘Come along,’ she said, ‘I’ll deal with him.’ When we arrived back at the classroom the Headmaster was in full flood on the evils of insubordination. Mother barged straight in. ‘Did you knock my child to the ground?’ she demanded. Her face was puce and she clenched her fists so hard that her knuckles were white.
‘My good woman …’ the Headmaster said, making the mistake of patronising her. ‘Don’t you My Good Woman me!’ Mother shouted. ‘You bloody Roman Catholic, I’ll kill you if you touch one of my kids again!’ The Headmaster drew himself up to his full height. ‘How dare you swear in my school?’ he demanded.
Mother decided to smack him. However, since she was short and his face was about two feet above her, she was forced to jump. ‘Swear’? she shouted, jumping up and down and striking at him. ‘I’ll bloody well say what I damn well like, you silly bugger! I’m a Protestant. I didn’t want my kids brought up bloody Catholics anyway, I’m sick to death of them spending half their bloody life on their knees praying’. She struck him again, grabbed my arm, and we left. The word went round about ‘Raving Ada of Teynham Crescent’. This kept my tormentors at bay and my final months at school were largely untroubled.
I had another life away from home. John and Edna Lundy ran a grocery shop in the old iron St John’s Market, long since demolished. John’s brother was briefly engaged to my sister Theresa. When I began to drift away from home around the age of ten, it was towards John and Edna. At weekends and during the holidays, they employed me as an errand boy at their shop which was famous in the locality for bacon. I hauled sides of bacon which were taller than me. Working from eight in the morning to ten at night, I made half-a-crown a day plus tips. This was major wealth for a ten-year-old.
If I chose to skip school, which was often, I would put in an extra day of work at their shop. John was large, fair and given to mirth. ‘Hullo, Nugget’ he said. This was his special nickname for me. ‘Another religious holiday? The bike’s round the back, here’s a list of deliveries.’
Edna was dark, with buck teeth and a rich Devonshire accent which fascinated me. I tried to imitate her voice and in doing modulated my own Scouse accent which is a distinctive accent. Later, as a teenager, when I moved to London, it became easy for me to learn to speak with no regional accent at all.
John and Edna turned into surrogate parents and I lived for long periods in their warm flat. For the first time I encountered wine and uncracked crockery and could sneak slugs of whisky from the bulbous cocktail cabinet with a musical cigarette-box on top.
Edna became pregnant, a condition I understood in a nebulous but ambiguous way. Something about sex had been indicated at school via readings from the Bible, but in general the nuns and priests, celibate themselves, circumnavigated the subject by filing ‘Sex’ in a folder marked ‘Sin’ and trying to inculcate to their pupils their own sense of revulsion. At home, we were frightened to touch, even to put our arms round each other, the subject had achieved such a strong taboo.
But you cannot live long in a town like Liverpool and remain ignorant of the facts of life. The red-light district in the port was Sodom and Gomorrah with flick-knives. From my earliest memory of Liverpool, the prostitutes were a feature of the city. Folk myth stated that if a virgin were to walk down Lime Street, the lions outside St George’s Hall would roar. Each Friday evening, wearing red lipstick and red shoes, the working girls would gather on Lime Street Station to meet the trains bringing American servicemen from Warrington for a dirty weekend. We would track the GI’s, making grabs at the packets of chewing gum which went flying across the platform as the carriage doors crashed open. If any girls were there to greet their bona fide boyfriends, the tarts would flay them with handbags, shouting: ‘Piss off, ya lousy free fuck!’
When Edna became pregnant again and gave birth to a second daughter, I returned to sleep at Mother’s house in Teynham Crescent. This meant I had to run the gauntlet of catcalls and physical abuse from the tram stop to the front door. Scarcely a day passed when the local tough boys failed to subject me to some form of assault. This had the effect of forcing on me a sense of my uniqueness.
Through cutting so much school to work in the Market, I was affluent though I rarely bought anything for myself. Post war rationing still prevailed and sometimes, as a bonus at the end of the day, John would push a bunch of tea coupons into my hand. Everyone was keen to acquire an extra quarter pound of tea and I sold the coupons on the black market for a shilling each. I used some of the money to buy Mother presents – scarves, stockings, and imitation jewellery. ‘I’ll put that in my bottom drawer for a rainy day,’ she would say.
After Father was evicted from the family house, he would hang around the Market or the school gates and ask me for a few bob. I gave him what I had, knowing he would make for the nearest pub.
My dog Prince returned to his old ways and bit the head off a cat. The outraged owners prosecuted me and, at the age of fourteen, I made my first court appearance. Prince was found guilty. I was fined ten shillings and paid the fine on the spot.
My one extravagance was shoes. I can still remember the bliss of my first pair of leather shoes. After wooden clogs, it was like walking on air.
On leaving school I went to work for the Lundys full time. I was one of the fortunate young people to have a job to go to. My hair grew out of its pudding bowl cut and, with all the bicycling, I developed rosy cheeks. I came to work one morning, put on my white coat and was about to nip under the counter to collect the orders, when Edna said, ‘Why, Nugget, you’re quite beautiful.’ I experienced a momentary dizziness. Physical references to myself made me feel ill. I had assumed I was ugly, a belief most others seemed happy to confirm.
Later I checked in the mirror and took note of my appearance. I was thin and stunted for my age with crooked teeth. My hair was thick and black and my eyes dark, greenish brown, with long eyelashes and finely arched eyebrows. My skin was clear and I had never been through the ordeal of acne or skin blemishes. The upper part of my face was held in a deep frown, except when it morphed into bewilderment.
One day, returning from the Pierhead on the No.14 tram with Joe, a neighbour from Norris Green, I dozed off. Unexpectedly he knocked me in the ribs. ‘Are we there?’ I asked. ‘No, but you fockin’ wake up’ he said. ‘You look like a fockin’ woman when you’re asleep.’
At fifteen I had no facial or pubic hair, my voice hadn’t broken, and I hadn’t shot up in height. In contrast, many of my contemporaries were now hulking boys, their faces covered with fluff. Although I didn’t play with dolls or dress up in Mother’s clothes, I was constantly taunted for being like a girl and indeed, I knew that I wanted to be a girl. Until my loss of faith I would have long conversations with God each night, asking Him to make me wake up normal, wake up a girl, wake up whatever it was proper for me to be.
I decided to take myself in hand. I recognised that it was no good wanting to be a girl. I would be a man. When nobody was around I croaked away in the lower registers until my voice was forcibly broken or at least roughened up. I couldn’t speak for five days and the local Indian doctor told Mother I had ‘done something mental’ to my voice. More important, I made the decision to go to sea. All the other men in my family had gone to sea, even little Ivor, my brother. The sea seemed to be one of the things that made you a man.
My grocery deliveries took me to the smartest districts of Liverpool. Since these were a long way from the town centre, I would be given cups of tea when I arrived. One of my favourite destinations was the house of Mrs Rossiter. To me she was a creature from outer space, with her elegant hair-dos, long manicured fingernails, Tradesmen’s Entrance and sprinkler on the lawn. Mr Rossiter was an important man at the Cunard Shipping line and, when I confided to his wife my plan to go to sea, she arranged for him to interview me in the Cunard Building.
‘But you are much too young to go to sea,’ stated Mr Rossiter. I was fifteen but looked about eleven years old. ‘But I’m not too young to go to training school, am I? I replied. Mr Rossiter gave me a magnificent letter of introduction on embossed Cunard paper. It cut through all the red tape such as medical tests and parental consent, which was a boon because I had told none of my family or friends about my decision. I had not even told John and Edna who were the most important people in my life in case they raised obstructions.
The night before departure I came home from work and said, ‘Mum, I’m leaving tomorrow to join a cadet ship.’ ‘Well, isn’t that somethin’,’ she said, and finished cutting up a potato and tossed what were destined to be Bernie’s chips into the chip pan.
On a damp November morning I stood at Lime Street Station with a small brown cardboard suitcase, waiting for the train to Bristol en route for the cadet ship S. S. Vindicatrix. My only personal memento were rosary beads. I was superstitious.
The training course was intense and lasted six weeks. ‘What are these, sir?’ I asked looking at various samples of tied rope. ‘Knots!’ replied the instructor. ‘What the bloody hell’, I thought. Knots. I never could do them. I did bows instead.
The first three weeks were spent in Nissen huts. There were about two dozen boys. We were issued with blue serge trousers and a boiler jacket, thick woolly socks, square-bashing boots and a beret to be worn at a jaunty angle. There were no fittings for size. Everything just came out of a big cupboard. All my clothes were far too large and I 1ooked like a vaudeville act.
The first three weeks were highly structured. You were called before dawn. You had to jump out of bed, wash, make your bed, tidy your locker and polish your buttons and boots. If it was your turn on the rota you cleaned the washroom. A parade and inspection followed and then breakfast. Formal classes took place in the morning and then lunch. In the afternoon, duties included potato-peeling and floor-scrubbing and general training. Lights went out at 9 p.m. There was little time for conversation.
The second three weeks were more interesting. We moved on to the S. S. Vindicatrix, a three-masted hulk moored alongside the River Severn, where you learned the practical skills of seamanship. I dashed up the rigging, out along the yard, and shouted ‘Land ahoy!’ with both lungs. ‘Come down, Jamieson.’ said the instructor. ‘We’re putting you in charge of the yacht.’
The yacht was an old cabin-cruiser used for navigation lessons. The Captain shouted ‘Nor’ Nor’ East!’ and, straight as a matchstick behind the wheel, I had to reply ‘Nor’ Nor’ East, sir!’ and turn the yacht in that direction. Every order on the Bridge had to be repeated to ensure there were no errors of communication. At night we fell asleep exhausted, soothed by the creaking of the ship and the sound of water. I loved it all, especially the new experience of companionship, even when the others boys bragged about their girls and I felt peculiar inside. My only regret was having to occupy a bunk when most of the class were swinging glamorously in hammocks.
Shore leave came at Christmas but those unable to afford the fare home were allowed to stay on board. That included me. It promised to be a glum occasion until an extravagant food parcel arrived from John and Edna. Included was a huge fruit cake. I cut myself a slice and passed the rest on. In return, back came a hunk of haggis which I tasted for the first time and found quite palatable. We shared everything, cracked jokes, and in the evening ambled over to the Mission House where the tea ladies in flimsy paper hats made a sense of occasion out of lemonade and buns. On Boxing Day three of us slipped away to the Bristol pubs for a drink: strictly against the rules and therefore essential to do. It was the most delightful Christmas I’ve ever had.
My final report was creditable, apart from a lack of proficiency in knots. The cadets signed each other’s group photograph, pledged eternal friendship, vowed to meet up in Cairo or Rio or Tokyo, and all went home.
A few months later a young man called Colin Shipley, who was a ship’s carpenter and another of Theresa’s fiancés, said, ‘There’s a place going on my ship for a deck-boy. If you want it.’ The next day I picked up my cardboard suitcase, opened the front door of Teynham Crescent, took a deep breath of air and set off to Manchester to join the S. S. Pacific Fortune.
End of Chapter One.

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