Our Day in Carnaby Street

London was exciting and vibrant to two young Midlands girls. Lots of places to see but for us there was only one we wanted, Carnaby Street. A perfect hot summer day, a place buzzing with excitement.

Excerpt from my memoir Shadow Across the Sun.

Shadow Across the Sun

It’s not so bad, this ride on the tube. This time of the day isn’t peak travelling time and although we are standing we are not crushed. Stations flash by, bright interludes where we stop for moments, punctuating the blackness of the tunnels, then it’s our stop and we emerge once more into the brilliance of the day.
Where to start? There is so much to see and do, but we’re not here to see the sights, we’re here to shop.
“Let’s have a coffee first shall we,” suggests Eloise, “then we can plan our day.”
That decided, we find a small café where we buy cream cakes and coffee and try to form some kind of strategy. The café, like everywhere else, is buzzing with people, some are tourists, you can tell by their accents, and some are people who work in the city going about their everyday life, dressed in smart suits, carrying newspapers and briefcases. Eloise and I decide we’ll look in as many shops as we can on our way to Carnaby Street.
Out on the pavement the atmosphere is as effervescent as an ice cream soda. I’ve never seen so many people all at once, except maybe on a crowded beach sometimes. The tramp, tramp of their footsteps is loud on the still, sultry air. Voices hum and traffic hoots. London is the most vibrant place I’ve ever visited.
We do all of the souvenir shops, buying little nic naks with union jacks on for our families, then at last we arrive in Carnaby Street. This place is pulsating! There are lots of hippy types with flowing hair and kaftans, frizzy heads with beards, people wearing huge crosses round their necks, round, John Lennon sunglasses obscuring their eyes, and Jesus sandals seem to be the almost compulsory footwear. An aura hangs over it like a haze of marijuana smoke and I’m half expecting some hippy to lean in my face and say ‘Peace man,’ but no-one does.
We wander in and out of several boutiques before finding the items that we want. I’ve spied the most gorgeous sky blue satin jacket that I absolutely must have! Eloise has chosen a white mini dress with bell shaped sleeves, and we’ve both selected cheesecloth shirts. I’m in a quandary as to what to get for Emily. Shall I get a cluster of cherries like I’m getting for myself to accessorise the jacket, or shall I get her the large satin rose? Cherries or rose? Cherries or rose? I never have been very good at making decisions. Ah! On further rummaging through the basket of cherries on the counter I spy a cluster of black ones – the ones I’ve chosen for myself are red. I’ll get these for Emily. We march out of the shop brandishing our bags, very pleased with ourselves indeed.
Checking our watches we realise we’re going to have to run for the train. We manage to hail a taxi and as we get out I most generously tell the cabbie, ‘Keep the change.’ Well it’s what you do in London isn’t it, and so what if the change is only ten pence and the cabbie looks at me incredulously in my act of generosity. Ten pence is better than a poke in the eye with a rusty needle isn’t it!
Back at the house we spread our purchases on our beds to admire them.
“I think I’ll wear my dress for dinner,” says Eloise holding it up by the shoulders.
I have to admit it is very pretty but I am more delighted with my blue satin jacket. I pin the cherries on with a loving touch; I have to get them in just the right place on the lapel. There! That looks good. I’m not going to wear it tonight, I’ll save it until we go to the pub.




A Ghostly Excerpt from Shadow Across the Sun

Shadow Across the Sun is my first memoir of a 1960s childhood, idyllic for some years until tragedy struck in the form of breast cancer which took my mum. Grief stricken, when someone at school told me you could talk to dead people by doing a seance my ears pricked up instantly. I could talk to Mum! Talk to her I did but it wasn’t without its scary moments. Here’s a short extract from the book.

Shadow Across the Sun

We’re driving home up Ash Bank after taking some flowers to the crem. It’s late afternoon and an eerie dusk is gathering; that time of day when it’s neither dark nor light. The sky is a heavy, oppressive ochre and mournful grey clouds slide across it, moving ever so slowly in the almost non existent breeze.
I feel a chill, a tingling in my skin; cold prickles in the back of my neck making the hairs stand on end. Emily and I are in the back of the car and something draws my eyes to turn and look behind us through the window. The road is empty of cars, but there is Mum, floating along behind us. Her flowing white robes have tattered edges soiled by the grave, and the hand outstretched towards us is no longer soft and tender, but thin and bony. There is a wildness about her eyes, a hollowing out of them, the sockets large and sunken. I have a strange taste in my mouth, smell in my nostrils, the taste and smell of decay. I tear my eyes away to turn and tell Dad.
“Dad, Dad, it’s Mum!”
He raises his eyes to the rear view mirror and I turn my head to look again through the back window, but the road is empty. The apparition has gone.
We are home, back safely in the lounge, lights on, curtains drawn. There is a tap, tapping on the small window as if by bone. I dare not move the curtain to look out. I think of Cathy and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, of her ghost tapping on the window.
It is Mum, I know it is. She has followed us and now wants us to let her in. She is tapping on the window with her bony fingers. I dare not look but I have to, I must. I move the edge of the curtain and peep. There she is with sunken, expressionless eyes, long, matted hair, ragged robes. She stares back at me, her skin sallow, her mouth a gaping O, her hand raised as she continues her tap, tap, tapping.
I drop the curtain and my eyes snap open. It was a dream. Thank God it was only a dream. I can’t move, my limbs are frozen but my eyes stare through the blackness into the corners of the ceiling. I know why I’ve had this dream; it’s because of the séance and what Dad told me afterwards. I want Mum back, but my mum, the mum that I loved, not a hollow eyed ghost.
I continue to stare as if daring any apparition to appear but none does and slowly, slowly my limbs regain their movement. I stretch my legs down to the end of the bed, ease myself up on my elbows and look around the room. My eyes are becoming accustomed to the dark and I can see through the open door into the hall, lit silver by moonlight.
I sit up and carefully lift the edge of the curtain alongside my bed. My heart is racing after the dream but I have to do this to satisfy myself that there is no ghost. There’s nothing, no-one tapping and as I lift the curtain further I can see the moon, a beautiful, shiny full moon riding high in the Heavens accompanied by a dusting of stars sprinkled onto the backdrop of black night sky.
I love the moon. I love to watch it as it sails up there, bright and bold, sometimes obscured by clouds bowling across it, sometimes not, holding the stage itself in the leading role. What can it see as it watches the earth below? There are sinister tales about the moon, werewolves and things but I can’t think about them now; I don’t want anymore bad dreams.
What was it Mum used to say when I had nightmares as a child? ‘Turn over and think of fairies.’ I lie down, turn on my side and pull the covers over my head.