friends in the workplace…



Can you believe how exquisite Sue’s handwriting is!!!

Funny thing, I didn’t think that I had any friends when I lived with Ty, as I was so absorbed in him.  I found these old letters from 2 people I do remember from JJ.  We continued to correspond after I left London and went back with my tail between my legs, to Toronto.  The letter above was from Sue B.  She had worked at JJ longer than most.  She was one of 2 head cashiers, younger than me and when I started at JJ, she showed me the ropes.  I thought she was really cool, but she also seemed somewhat cool (read dipped temperature interaction) toward sensitive old me.  She was so pretty, had long blonde hair parted in the middle and was always sweeping one side of her growing-out fringe out of her eyes.  I envied her swaggering walk. I loved her London (not sure which part of London) accent and thought she was so self-assured.  Turns out in reality, she was not so confident (like most of us I suppose), but she always managed to project a ‘what the hell, I don’t give a fuck what you think about, don’t mess me!!’ personna.

As I gradually got to know Sue at work and after work at the pub… sometimes the Argyle (close to the London Palladium) and other times the Phoenix, which seemed to be the JJ local… I realized that she was a really nice young woman with self-confidence issues (What!! her too??) and anxiety about her future.  She had completed school, but did not want to work in a shop for the rest of her life!  She had spent a year in Greece, learning the language as she worked in touristy pubs or clubs.  I told her she was amazingly brave to have been able to work in a foreign speaking country like she did!  Unfortunately we did not keep up our correspondences… (probably my fault, but who knows?)


This letter was from Bill… a (younger than me … it seemed they all were as I reached my 25th birthday working at JJ) young man of about 23, who had hailed originally from Lebanon.  He had been brought up in London, but would occasionally pay a visit to relatives still living in Lebanon.  One day, after returning from a flying visit to Lebanon, which at that time was always in the news for death, bombs, destruction, shelling, smashed buildings…  (I dont remember the cause of the strife back then other than it degenerating into a civil war), Bill handed me a cassette tape and asked me to put it in the tape deck.  Thinking it was music, I did, only to be assaulted by the sound of loud machine guns, explosions and general mayhem!  Of course, Dennis (I think) the manager rushed over and exclaimed ‘what the hell is that??’  Billy, dark and swarthy, was full of male bravado, but once I got to know him, he was really a pussycat!!   Again, I don’t know whose fault is was that our correspondence ended.

You may  notice the self-fulfilling prophecy noted in both letters…………… that no-one from the old JJ days, writes back!

Of course if we had had smartphones back then…..   who knows.

back to London.... 1977

This is me in Otober 1977 standing at the bus stop in Hackney waiting for the bus to take me to Mile End tube station…. the same stop I waited at many a time a couple of years earlier, to go to work at JJ on Oxford Street…My friend Darla took this photo…

September 1977

This time it was a ‘holiday’…. why? because I wanted to see Ty!!! He still lived at the VicPark house, his mum in the basement!  I was working as an RN at HSC, making a good buck, living in a big apartment in Toronto with my brother and his girlfriend.

I don’t think I arranged beforehand to stay with him, because I have a couple of photos of me staying at a B&B. My friend Darla had arranged to fly over with her pal Carolyn about a week after I had arrived in London. Carolyn was staying about 4 days in London, and then would be leaving Darla to visit her relatives who lived in England. So the plan was that after Carolyn left, Darla and I would hook up and do London.

I give Darla credit for wanting to join me for a the rest of the 3 week holiday, bunking up at Ty’s house. Darla and I did London well and I had a really good time. We even went to a punk club called ‘the Vortex’ and survived an evening of pogoing punks!  There were punk bands galore, screaming, cursing, yelling, frenetic energy, vibrating eardrums, flying sweat, lithe young men and women jumping into every body around, booze and probably lots of the other…. For safety of our limbs, Darla and I tried to stay glued to one of the walls, but then we realized that to get to the bar, which was near the stage, we had to make our way through moving walls of hopping limbs… I swear it took us 15 minutes to safely negotiate ourselves from a wall (we tried the other 2 walls, they were all just as bad)… after all, it’s not the sort of place you would want to experience sober..  A straight looking guy, well I suppose I looked straight too, compared to the devoted audience, started to chat me up, and perhaps he got us a couple of beers… I cannot remember too well… except that I had to tell him to sling his hook, as we were headed back to our London host!!!



It took me less than a day to realize that Ty was never going to change…. I think I knew that even before I left Toronto. Perhaps it was ‘closure’ for me… I was never going to have a life with a broken, damaged alcoholic man no matter how much I loved him!  Thank God, I had my return flight to Canada and my own life….

declps…………. checking up on some of my blog entries, I see that some of the photos I added have SHRUNK …….. don’t know why, and I can’t seem to fix them in WP anyway….

the guard at Buckingham Palace


It was a Sunday…….. no work for me, so Ty and I decided to go to the palace.  It was probably January or February as I remember the day being quite cold and grey, and when we arrived there were only a couple of tourists at the gate.  We stood behind the gate and peered at the famous castle (is there a difference between a castle and a palace?).  There was nothing going on in the grounds, save for a single guard with his red jacket, huge black bear hat, and a large rifle tucked under one arm, standing in his sentry.

well hello there...

well hello there…

After a few minutes, that guard, arms still  flat by his side, moved his free hand, and actually made a waving motion!  We looked behind us, the other tourists had left.  Then we looked at each other and burst out laughing.  We started waving back to this brave fella and gave him the thumbs up for his daring break from tradition!  Later we thought, I wonder if he was waving at me, or at Ty, because the urban legend rumours at that time were that (some of) the Queen’s Guard were gay.  No disrespect intended!

What a memorable experience!

Portobello Road Alice mirror

bought this mirror 1976… the mirror shop was on Portobello Road….Ty was with me..  Through the years of kids, the mirror somehow became separated from its frame.  I recently managed to refit it into one of the many old frames I am lucky to own.  I couldn’t find an exact fit, so I had to, as they say, Make Do and Glue and Paint and add beads..

the house on Vic Park

my wonderful Ricoh camera did not need a flash! so I took lots of photos in mirrors..3 different rooms and I hung the silly plastic parrot from a junk store on the window above the lovely cast iron Punch & Judy on the window sill…

Ty’s brother

I had heard a lot about Thomas Brown, Ty’s only brother!  Ivy had often talked about Thom and his connection to musicians.  He had made it quite successfully in some kind of a  rock promotion company.  Supertramp was apparently one of the bands his company handled.


He was Ty’s only brother, unmarried and he was the oldest son.  As often seems to happen in families, Ty looked up to his brother, but he also wanted to be as successful if not more so … which in his downward slide into alcoholism was a difficult goal to attain.  I had met Thom a couple of times at Vic Park, while he was visiting his mother and deigned to pop in on his brother too, and was not particularly impressed by the kind of person he was.

One day …. surprise! Ty and I were invited to dinner at Thom and his partner’s home in some impressive part of London (of course I cannot remember which borough).  Thom’s girlfriend Amber was about my age, 24, 25… and had a sweet little daughter, Berry, from a previous relationship of hers.  Berry was about 6, I remember and was a slight little girl.  When we were at the table enjoying a nice dinner, Berry picked and picked at her food and barely ate a mouthful.  I gathered from the conversation around me, that Berry was a poor eater.  Thom, I could see, was somewhat controlling of Amber as well as her child.  He kept telling Berry she had better eat up!!!  Then he turned to me and said:  Jane is a nurse in a kiddy ward, then he turned to Berry and continued, if you don’t eat your dinner, she is going to give you a big needle that will hurt!!!!!

WAY TO GO BUD………….!!! not just taunting a little girl with threats, but dragging me into it as a bad guy, and not to mention possibly instilling a fear of nurses and hospitals into the mind of a young child….. I wish I’d had enough guts to say something smart, but I hate to say it, I may have sat there and swallowed my words with a gulp!  Needless to say, my opinion of Thom took a further hit downward after this episode!!   Hell! I don’t even remember what he looked like, this brother of my idol!

We barely had any more contact with Thom… Although, I remember coming home one evening to a screeching, lunatic drunken Ty, who was throwing stuff all over the place on the first floor!  Apparently, Ty was downstairs visiting his mum, when she had told him that Thom had wed Amber, and of course had not invited his brother to the wedding!  I don’t think Mrs B would have gone, but apparently all her daughters had been invited!  Hopefully Ty held his rage in until his mum was out of earshot (she was quite hard of hearing)…  There was nothing I could do to calm him when he was in these drunken episodes… I guess I just tried to keep out of his way.  I heard him slam the door, and figured that he had gone over to Bills, maybe to get more soused or God forbid to another pub from which he would no dobt get chucked out and mp doubt be barred!!  Who knows……… I really cant remember!

Of course, a few months later, when Thom & Amber had their own baby, Holly, needless to say, Ty was not invited to her christening either………….

Of course, I cannot say that I blame anyone for not wanting to invite a ticking time bomb to a special event!!!

who you callin’ a whore!!!

Living with Ty…

I remember my first big project was spending hours cleaning the kitchen, which had a lovely ‘pine’ (it was light wood) plank floor, a gas stove, a big square sink, with one cold water tap, a little fridge, a couple of cupboards and a small pine table and 4 chairs.  We spent a lot of time in this room.  We each would take stand-up baths in the kitchen, by boiling big pots of water and pouring them into a tin basin in the sink.  It’s amazing what one can used to!  Ty often helped me wash my long, ‘blonde’ hair, which was so sweet.  His hair was long too, but too often ratty & uncombed when he was in a binge. In the winter, we would keep the stove on, and that would keep us warm.  Of course, it didn’t take me long to realize that I had to keep a supply of 10ps to feed the gas meter, which was located just outside the kitchen on the landing wall.  Pay As You Go…. I guess..

Ty and his wife were great cooks.  Once, early on,  he made a ratatouille, which was delicious.  There was a little fridge in the kitchen.  Somehow there was a tin of cat food on the top shelf (at some point in the new year we adopted a kitten whom we named ‘mousetrap ) and I had the sense that some of dried catfood on the edges of the can had fallen into the leftover ratatouille which much to my horror was not covered and was placed on the fridge shelf below the cat food.  All I know was that at some point after eating leftover ratatouille, I became dreadfully ill with vomiting, and the faecal runs, aches and pains and lost hours.  God knows what bacteria or toxins that I ingested, it probably wasn’t even the catfood.  From then on, I made sure that every foodstuff stored in the fridge was forever covered.

I remember early on when I was still inhabiting Tim’s old bedroom, Ty’s mum had a visit from her daughters (one, two, three,…I cant remember?).  I believe that I stayed out of the way.  I know Ty went down to his mum’s kitchen and at some point I recall his loud drunken rants and his sisters’ screeching voices.  It was late and I was working at Jean Junction on Oxford Street 5 days a week and I had to get up early so I made my way down to my room from the kitchen.  I saw the screeching sisters at the front door and they saw me descending the staircase.  Ty was somewhere and they were screaming at him.  Even though  I had been introduced earlier in the evening to the sisters and it had been a reasonably nice encounter, the words “and take your Canadian whore with you”…………assaulted my ears and actually seared my feelings..

Some whore I thought: I was wearing a ankle length yellow teeshirt dress (with a beautiful Victorian brown haired lady graphic on the front) dress, a thick turquoise fleece floor length dressing gown and brown socks and carrying a hot water bottle AND sleeping in the downstairs bedroom, 2 floors beneath Ty’s bed. It was winter, and the house was fucking freezing.   When I would awake in those winter mornings, I could see my breath!

I never did know what the Brown family dynamics were, but I got the impression that Ty was living in his mum’s council house and the sisters figured his ailing (morbidly obese) mother was carrying him and perhaps me.  HOWEVER, from the moment I moved in to Vic Park, I paid my way and often, his too.  Whatever needed paying, like the gas meter for the cooker or the electricity meter, coal for the fire, I would pay it!  Sure, I was insulted by that ‘fish wife’ comment, but then his sisters did not know me at all, and I knew poor Ty invited a constant barrage of anger from his family.  His mother was always nice to me and I know she always helped Tony out.  Whenever they would be together in her basement, he was always decent to his mother.

more adventures with Ty…

There was the time when I came home from work late one evening (on Thursdays, JJ was open until 8pm) to find Ty completely passed out on the kitchen floor, 2 empty prescription bottles and capsules and yellow pills strewn all over the floor with the inevitable assortment of empty booze bottles.  I could not rouse him, so I went to the corner telephone box (we could not afford a working phone) and called 999.  An ambulance arrived not long after I returned to the house.  They took him to a hospital A & E.  I think I rode along in the ambulance.  Maybe even the coppers came.

I remember when I got to the treatment room where they were working on him I could hear groaning and gross retching.  They let me go in and sure enough they had a red rubber N/G tube down his gullet into which they were no doubt instilling ipecac and or charcoal.  I had brought the pill bottles and later found out it was Valium and Penicillin and Tony had gone to town swallowing as many as he could with ale.  He later told me that he figured if he took lots of Penicillin at one time then he would recover (most likely from a chronic chest infection) quicker!  Now you know and I know that an intelligent man such as Tony (and believe me he was a smart man) would know that taking a fistful of Penicillin at one time, would do nowt.  I know that it was a futile cry for help from a tortured man.  Of course when I told the medical staff what obvious history I knew about this man and that I believed that this was indeed a cry for help, they responded that even though they believed me that was not much they could do to help him as if he wished to he could leave in the morning he was free to do do, which was exactly what he did!  I know that it was not their fault and that it would take a mythical medical team with herculean effort to actually help Tony deal with his demons, not to mention his alcoholism.

There was the time when Ty actually was allowed a 2 day visit at Vic Park with his darling little son Timi, who was about 4 at this time.  I don’t recall how the following all came to be but when I came home from work one afternoon during Timi’s visit, I was met by a couple of coppers who were talking with Ty’s mother.  They asked me if I was Ty’s girlfriend, to which I replied yes!  Tony had been arrested and was in jail for at least the overnight!  I don’t remember what his crime was although it most likely had something to do with drunk and disorderly! ….  and believe it or not, not knowing a thing about me, they asked me if I would be responsible for little Timi!  What could I say, but yes.  So I looked after little Timi until Ty’s return the next afternoon.

He was a very sweet little boy and I thought he perhaps had been witness to his dad’s drunken disorder that day.  Poor little soul!    I had been a paediatric nurse looking after sick babies for a year, but I had never had the total responsibility of caring for a little boy before!  I decided that I would take him to the main local drag, Victoria Park Road, and buy some great nosh and some comics for him.  We went to the local bakery and I told him to pick out whatever cakes he wanted.  This gave me a genuine excuse to pick out some fresh cream tarts that I adored.  We then went to the newsagents and I bought him some comics and sweeties.  I fed him supper of course, we read and then we watched the telly while we munched until he fell asleep.

We got on together very well, even though I was essentially a stranger to him at the start.  Somehow, I got a message I don’t really remember how?  maybe Bill came to the door to tell me??  that I had to meet Ty the next morning with little Timi at Bill’s stall.  I guess he had gotten out of jail and contacted Bill who did have a  home phone.  I remember taking little Timi in a taxi to Petticoat Lane to Bill’s stall to meet Ty (I think Bill must have bailed him out).  The cabby made some comment to me how cute little Ted was and he looked just like me….awww, that was nice and I beamed…

Anyway, I was happy to care for little Timi and felt sad that this dear, little boy had to be witness to ugly, perhaps many, scenes when his father was soused.  He was a real sweety.  I am sure Ty was contrite, but I don’t remember much about that, although he did thank me for looking after his little son.  I also don’t recall the fallout, although I am sure there must have been some, especially from Ivy (and I don’t blame her one little bit)!

my ‘dream’ comes true……….

Yeah, I wanted him so badly from the time I first saw him, through my (exploratory/// there is a better word) early adulthood!

Adventure is not really the word I would describe for life with an alcoholic partner, but for lack of a better word, here goes:

I moved in with Ty after I had written to him and his wife, asking if they could put me up for a while until I get myself settled finding a job at Great Ormond Street.  I received a reply from Ivy I think explaining how she and the kids had left him and moved in with her mother in Cambridge.  She added that Ty didn’t mind if I stayed in the Vic Park house for a bit!   I could not believe it — not that Ivy had left him (that was hardly a big surprise given what she had to put up with), but that he perhaps finally could be mine!!

It was late 1975 and I arrived at Heathrow.  As usual I was struggling with luggage, when a rocker type asked me if I needed any help.  He then proceeded to tell me that he has just returned from Australia where he and his band had been touring.  I had never heard of J McC, but I had heard of Wings.  When his chauffeur came to help him with his bags, he offered to take me to Hackney and I thought to myself ‘why not’?  I had already briefly explained that I was on my way to my digs with a friend in the eastend.  He told me that he lived in Epping Forest, but that he would be glad to drop me off.

The journey was fine.  I cannot remember exactly what we chatted about, but I do remember that there was definitely no spark!  He asked me if I was sure that I did not want to go home with him when we finally arrived at Vic Park Road.  I declined his ‘kind’ offer (a bird in the hand and all that) and thanked him profusely as I bade him farewell.  The chauffeur brought my bags up the steps to the front door and I thanked him and waved as the limo drove left.  I knocked at the door and down came Mr. Ty.  All my dreams & hopes came rushing into a flash of excitement ….. I’m here…. he’s here….omg~

He was really glad to see me and did not seem too drunk.  I told him about my ride from the airport and he told me how he had worked on a commercial for Venus and Mars fairly recently.  I don’t quite know if I believed him, but it was believable, maybe not then, but certainly when his life was more on the game.

He regaled me with tales about ‘wicked’ Ivy and her venture into witchcraft, affairs with assorted men.  Perhaps I nodded, but in my heart I figured that a more likely story was that Ivy had had enough living with an unstable, unpredictable potentially violent alcoholic and could take it no more.  I thought back to my last visits in 1972 when I lived in Woolwich.  Back then I was a student nurse at the Brooke/Memorial Hospital on Shooters Hill Road and Ivy whom I really loved, was his wife with 2 little kiddies living in their house on Vic Park.  I lasted almost a year at the hospital, but depression, loneliness, and lousy marks  finally won out and I left and went back home to Toronto in September, 1972, where I was luckily accepted into a Toronto school of nursing.

rowntreeI know Ivy worked very very hard to keep up a reasonable home for her and her kids and considering, for one thing, that she had no hot running water, probably little money and that Ty no doubt lost one job after another and money would have been sorely lacking.  I know she must have struggled major trying to live with the unreasonable partnership of Ty.  I know she loved him, but with 2 little kids, one of whom was quite developmentally delayed, she was a braver soul than me.  I have never heard from Ivy again.  I hope she knows that despite my infatuation with her husband, I never really acted on it, other than being with her and him and dreaming.  I give dear Ivy all the kudos in the world and hope that she found a better life for her and Tammi and Tim.

I slept in Timi’s old bedroom.  I think they left about 2 or 3 months before I arrived.  That room was on the first floor just by the water closet (with the pull chain and tank high up on the wall).  There was another room by the front door and that was Tys mother’s bedroom.  She lived in the basement where there was a whole other ‘flat’.

In the period of a year that we lived together, I don’t recall the day we first slept together…. or ‘consummated’ our relationship.  I remember that I was very happy to move to the bedroom on the 3rd floor, which used to be the sitting room and was now Ty’s bedroom.  Perhaps it wasn’t all sparks & lightning and the heaven’s opening, but I was very happy to at last be so close to the object of my desire!.

my guardian angel….

Oh, the rigours of being young…. It wasn’t easy, but at 53 and as I confess that I have not been overly good to my body, I wonder what it was like to move with ease, no creaking bones and aching muscles.  Of course, when one has the gift of youth and a strong adult body (even the right leg must have been relatively strong), one would not even notice facile activity.

Anyway, enough rambling on… Here I will recount some lucky strikes.  I can only but wonder at the escape from injury or death!

Back in 1975, when I lived with my drunken amour, and worked down Oxford Street, I had an afternoon off, so rather than go home, I thought I would go to Selfridges which was just a short walk past JJ toward Marble Arch.  I was at an intersection of xxxx (I cant recall) and Oxford Street where the big store was located.  The light was green, but as I was not situated bang on the corner, I crossed between cars (about 3 from the crosswalk (!)).  As I almost reached the pavement I stalled.  Somehow my mid-length blue trench coat had become stuck in the back bumper of the car I was passing.  So I gave my coat a pull…. nothing… a bloody great yank! … Somehow the hem of my coat was well and truly wedged in that bumper.  To my horror, I seemed to notice that the light had turned amber.  I continued with my struggle to free my coat and in those split seconds a few thoughts went through my mind…. I could take off my coat….. I could jump on the back of the car and pound on the rear window, or I could be dragged to horrendous injury or worse.  In those minute nanoseconds, I realized that I actually did not have time to take off my coat as the line of traffic had begun to move.  The next thing I know I had hurled myself onto the back of this car (I have no idea what make, I believe it was big, posh and black) and pounded on the rear window.  An older woman turned and with a mortified look on her face she must have instructed her chauffeur to stop the car.  The uniformed man approached me.  I was on my feet as thankfully the vehicle was stopped.  He gave my coat a tug… nothing!  Then he pried the bumper from its position tucked so tightly against the car, and finally I managed to extricate the offending corner of my coat from this car.  Knowing what a polite woman I am, I am sure I thanked him.  He returned to his front seat and rumbled off.  I, in shock, completed my crossing to the safety of the pavement.

I entered Selfridges and immediately sought out the ladies’ loo where I entered a stall, sat shaking and sobbed.  I did not accomplish my mission to Selfridges, whatever that was.  I made my way home, thinking of how horribly injured I would have been if I had not managed to grab that woman’s attention.  I also thanked my lucky stars that I did.