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45 MIN READ TIME

The Kitchen

The winter of discontent was the catalyst for a change of government at Westminster, Maggie Thatcher came to power. Following the Falkland War Maggie wrapped herself in bunting and went back to the country, the English will always support national patriotism, and the landslide that followed produced an elected dictatorship. With a massive majority and no real opposition she was unassailable. The changes that followed some may argue were a necessary evil to shock the UK into the 21st century, but such rapid change was not without its casualties. I was still a fit young man then, and with no encumbrances was free to swing a leg over my motorcycle and head south when work started to dry up in Scotland. I had been offered a job in Bristol and on arrival there it was like entering another world, boom time. The City of Bristol was where people worked but escaped from to the suburbs at the end of their working day. Walking around the streets of the City centre, out with the bright-light quarter, you were walking through a ghost town, the domain of the people that had not been able to embrace the new Young Upwardly Mobile culture that had gripped the country. Doorways would be the home for the many that had been evicted from their sheltered accommodation, free from institutionalisation and into Care in the Community, according to Edwina Curry, the then Health Minister.

In the film Knight and Day, we get the line “Things sometimes happen for a reason” and whether by design or accident I met up with a couple of retired lads Walter Bidicome and Bill Watt. The conversation made its way around to the plight of so many rough sleepers and could anything be done about it, maybe we could open a soup kitchen on a Sunday at least that would provide one hot meal. The idea took wings and Bill, became the brains and go-for scrounger of the outfit, and as it turned out Bill in his new role would have put James Gardener (The Great Escape) to shame. An old Victorian hall was secured that was overrun with rats in the cellar, and rotten floorboards in the kitchen, but the price was right, we acquired it for free, so long as we did the work and paid the cost of getting it up to standard. We three would meet every Friday evening, and over numerous cups of tea and shortbread biscuits made our plans and discussed the materials that would be required to tackle any given task that we intended carrying out over that weekend. Walter would be our rat catcher and took on the eradication of our rat infestation. I started on the kitchen.

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