7. Pea soup

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Not the bright green stuff that Nigel Slater creates from frozen peas. But the real Cockney ‘peasoupers’ which could at times restrict my dad’s visibility to a couple of feet beyond his headlights. Dad came home one day in 1958, in my second year, and found soot on my face as I slept outside in the pram, in a terraced suburb of North London. The capital’s infamous ‘smog’ at work. So he relocated us to the Essex town of Hadleigh, where he started a scrap metal business, which at some stage got him involved with the Kray and Richardson gangs.

In June 2016, dad insisted that brother Neil and I drove him back to Nightingale Road, Edmonton, for a last look. The house looked neglected. Crumbling façade, tattered net curtains and overgrown front drive. Uncared for garage at the back. A quick Google check indicated the property might fetch £400,000.

Mum reckoned I regularly awoke in the night, staring silently through the cot bars into the darkness. It worried her, until the doctor said this was a sign of intelligence. Her trust in the medical profession was absolute. I remember nothing of this first home. And have no memories until 26 months old. Sometimes I wonder if that might have been a blissful time, a fuzz of pea soup and warm nappies before my consciousness gradually pieced itself together and sharply separated me from the environment.

Of my conception, I am told only that my parents motorbiked to Lloret de Mar, in southern Spain. Unknowingly, I made the journey back upstream to Lloret in summer 1977, holidaying with three Liverpudlians. Constant lager intake kept at bay the soup of faecal bugs in the sea, Glasgow Celtic fans chanted and fought in the streets at night, and I turned down the sole lifetime opportunity for sex with more than one partner.

 

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