Hilda Kemp and Cathryn Kemp - 'We Ain't Got No Drink, Pa': Part 1 - Orion Publishing Group

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'We Ain't Got No Drink, Pa': Part 1

By Hilda Kemp and Cathryn Kemp

  • E-Book
  • £P.O.R.

Too many children. Too little money. An abusive father too drunk to notice his family is starving. This is the true story of a little girl's struggle to survive against the odds in the slums of 1920s south-east London.

We Ain't Got No Drink, Pa can either be read as full-length eBook or in 3 serialised eBook-only parts.

This is PART 1 OF 3.


'We ain't got no drink, Pa.'
I trembled as I spoke. Then somewhere inside me I found the anger, the courage to answer him back.
'We don't have no grog cos you drank it all!'
I knew he was going for me tonight, so I reckoned I might as well go down fighting after all.

Growing up in the slums of 1920s and 30s Bermondsey, Hilda Kemp's childhood was one of chaos and fear. Every day was battleground, a fight to survive and a fight to be safe.

For Hilda knew what it was to grow up in desperate poverty: to have to scratch around for a penny to buy bread; to feel the seeping cold of a foggy docklands night with only a thin blanket to cover her; to share her filthy mattress with her brothers and sisters, fighting for space while huddling to keep warm. She knew what it was to feel hunger - not the impatient growl of a tummy that has missed a meal; proper hunger, the type that aches in your soul as much as your belly.

The eldest of five children, Hilda was the daughter of a hard drinker and hard hitter as well. A casual dockworker by day, a bare-knuckle fighter by night and a lousy drunk to boot, her pa honed his fists down the Old Kent Road and Blackfriars, and it was Hilda or her ma who bore the brunt of them at home.

This is the powerful and moving memoir of Hilda's childhood growing up in dark, filthy, crime-ridden Bermondsey; a place where you knew your neighbours, where you kept your eyes down and your ears shut as defence against the gangs at war in the streets. It's a time when days were spent running wild down the docklands, jumping onto barges and stealing coal, racing through the dank back-streets of east London like water rats, dodging the milk cart or the rag-and-bone man.

And out of this bleak landscape emerges a brave, resilient young girl whose life is a testament to the power of love and good humour. Moving, dazzling and sombre by turns, once opened this brilliant, seductive book will not let you rest.

Biographical Notes

Cathryn Kemp is an award-winning journalist and author living in East Sussex. She has written across the spectrum of the British press, both tabloid and broadsheet, and online, and for many magazines. In 2002 she won the PETER WILSON AWARD FOR JOURNALISM before running her own highly successful press agency writing for radio and television. She is the author of PAINKILLER ADDICT, published by Piatkus in 2012, which won the BIG RED READ PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION in 2013. This is a personal and lovingly crafted account of her grandmother's life and her legacy.
Follow Cathryn on Twitter @cathrynkemp

  • Other details

  • ISBN: 9781409159803
  • Publication date: 19 Feb 2015
  • Page count: 64
  • Imprint: Orion
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'Oi, Hilda, the sign outside says you're frying today but I ain't seeing nothing done in ere!' The voice cut through my daydream, startling me into remembering where I was: standing in the fish-and-chip shop I worked in. We opened for business at 5 p.m. and already there was a queue of hungry customers on the cobbled street of London's East End. In 1950s and 60s Bermondsey, the fish-and-chip shop was at the centre of the community. And at the heart of the chippy itself was 'Hooray' Hilda Kemp, a spirited matriarch who dispensed fish suppers and an abundance of sympathy to a now-vanished world of East Enders. For 'Hooray' Hilda knew all to well what it was like to feel real, aching hunger. Growing up in the slums of 1920s south-east London, the daughter of a violent alcoholic who drank away his wages rather than put food on the table, she could spot when a customer was in need and would sneak them an extra big portion of chips, on the house. As Hilda works in the chippy six days a week - cutting the potatoes and frying the fish, yesterday's rag becoming today's dinner plate - she hears all the gossip from the close-knit community. There are rumours that the gang wars are hotting up: the Richardsons and the Krays are playing out their fights across south-east London. And the industrial strike is carrying on for a painfully long time for the mothers with many mouths to feed. At home, Hilda's children are latchkey kids, letting themselves in from school and helping themselves to whatever is in the larder until she gets in from her long, hard day at work. Despite tragedy striking her family, Hilda never complained of the loss of her daughter at a tragically young age, nor the tough upbringing she narrowly escaped. With a cast of colourful characters - dirty ragamuffins, struggling housewives, rough-diamond gang members - 'Hooray' Hilda's story is one of grit, romance, nostalgia and British endurance. Told to her granddaughter Cathryn, this memoir is the uplifting sequel to 'WE AIN'T GOT NO DRINK, PA' and is a testament to a woman who lived life to the full, who enjoyed laughter and loved fiercely - even though her heart was broken many times over.

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'We ain't got no drink, Pa.' I trembled as I spoke. Then somewhere inside me I found the anger, the courage to answer him back.'We don't have no grog cos you drank it all!'I knew he was going for me tonight, so I reckoned I might as well go down fighting after all.Growing up in the slums of 1920s and 30s Bermondsey, Hilda Kemp's childhood was one of chaos and fear. Every day was battleground, a fight to survive and a fight to be safe. For Hilda knew what it was to grow up in desperate poverty: to have to scratch around for a penny to buy bread; to feel the seeping cold of a foggy docklands night with only a thin blanket to cover her; to share her filthy mattress with her brothers and sisters, fighting for space while huddling to keep warm. She knew what it was to feel hunger - not the impatient growl of a tummy that has missed a meal; proper hunger, the type that aches in your soul as much as your belly. The eldest of five children, Hilda was the daughter of a hard drinker and hard hitter as well. A casual dockworker by day, a bare-knuckle fighter by night and a lousy drunk to boot, her pa honed his fists down the Old Kent Road and Blackfriars, and it was Hilda or her ma who bore the brunt of them at home. This is the powerful and moving memoir of Hilda's childhood growing up in dark, filthy, crime-ridden Bermondsey; a place where you knew your neighbours, where you kept your eyes down and your ears shut as defence against the gangs at war in the streets. It's a time when days were spent running wild down the docklands, jumping onto barges and stealing coal, racing through the dank back-streets of east London like water rats, dodging the milk cart or the rag-and-bone man.And out of this bleak landscape emerges a brave, resilient young girl whose life is a testament to the power of love and good humour. Moving, dazzling and sombre by turns, once opened this brilliant, seductive book will not let you rest.

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We Ain't Got No Drink, Pa can either be read as full-length eBook or in 3 serialised eBook-only parts.This is PART 3 OF 3.'We ain't got no drink, Pa.' I trembled as I spoke. Then somewhere inside me I found the anger, the courage to answer him back. 'We don't have no grog cos you drank it all!' I knew he was going for me tonight, so I reckoned I might as well go down fighting after all. Growing up in the slums of 1920s and 30s Bermondsey, Hilda Kemp's childhood was one of chaos and fear. Every day was battleground, a fight to survive and a fight to be safe. For Hilda knew what it was to grow up in desperate poverty: to have to scratch around for a penny to buy bread; to feel the seeping cold of a foggy docklands night with only a thin blanket to cover her; to share her filthy mattress with her brothers and sisters, fighting for space while huddling to keep warm. She knew what it was to feel hunger - not the impatient growl of a tummy that has missed a meal; proper hunger, the type that aches in your soul as much as your belly. The eldest of five children, Hilda was the daughter of a hard drinker and hard hitter as well. A casual dockworker by day, a bare-knuckle fighter by night and a lousy drunk to boot, her pa honed his fists down the Old Kent Road and Blackfriars, and it was Hilda or her ma who bore the brunt of them at home. This is the powerful and moving memoir of Hilda's childhood growing up in dark, filthy, crime-ridden Bermondsey; a place where you knew your neighbours, where you kept your eyes down and your ears shut as defence against the gangs at war in the streets. It's a time when days were spent running wild down the docklands, jumping onto barges and stealing coal, racing through the dank back-streets of east London like water rats, dodging the milk cart or the rag-and-bone man. And out of this bleak landscape emerges a brave, resilient young girl whose life is a testament to the power of love and good humour. Moving, dazzling and sombre by turns, once opened this brilliant, seductive book will not let you rest.

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