Apologies to TT friends and other visitors - will catch up tomorrow.
George Stripple was our neighbour. We'd known him for about ten years and in that time he'd become a friend to us and our children.
An East End Barrow Boy, on his own on the streets from an early age, he'd learned the tricks of several trades, not all legal. The ones we know of (or know a very little of) revolved around the war - the start of a jam making company and the removal of colour from precious, rationed petrol, so that agricultural fuel could be sold as for civilian use. Sold to the police from the station across the road, apparently. The system involved a filter and boot polish, so he said.
He showed us his photos - of his first shop, of life in the forties and fifties but the one that meant the most to him was a group photo of all the barrow boys that he employed as his market trader business took off. All around 12 to 16 I would guess, all under George's wing as he had been in their position on his own. He was out making a purchase when a bomb hit the warehouse and wiped them all out in one go. Sixty years on and it obviously still put a lump in his throat.
Generally speaking, having had to work hard, duck and dive for most of his life, his habits were highly disciplined and he didn't think much of modern society. The prisons, he said, were bloody holiday camps these days. When he heard that some cells even have TVs installed, he was speechless. In his day a TV was a luxury that few had access to on the outside; so, he said, was a roof and a warm bed. Bloody holiday camps.
He would 'go off' the neighbours in turn and when we first met, warned us away from becoming friends with any of them, saying they were all spoilt and greedy and thought they were too good for anyone else. We were alright, he said, because we came from London and had half an idea. "Oh them" he'd say defiantly, "They think their shit don't stink."
We thought the world of him.
The first time I met George and his beloved wife Ellen, I took to them instantly. The dear old lady who was their next door neighbour at the time was enthralled by the local Baptist Church, which had its own bus to collect the elderly members of the congregation and see them safely home again. It was her world, her social life and she would often encourage Ellen to come along with her. George was having none of it.
When I signed up briefly with Dorling Kindersley as a way to meet the neighbours and went to take a party invitation round, his first question to me was "You're not from the Church are you?"
When I replied that I was not he said "Oh thank xxxx for that, that bloody woman next door keeps trying to get us to Church. I told her we were naked sun worshipping satanists."
How could you not love someone like that? God loves an honest man, and I never took that to mean law abiding, so much as straight talking. That makes George about the most honest man I ever met.
I won't be online much today. We're off to his funeral this afternoon.
Rest in peace, George, if the concept doesn't drive you up the wall, and if it does, then I hope Heaven has a place for your sharp mind, slicing wit and tendency to be up at the crack of dawn sorting out the world. I hope theres jellied eels up there too, and petrol lawnmowers and a chorus of barrow boys waiting to get you a pint.
This post written by and property of Cheryl the Mad Baggage