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  • Writer's pictureJack

Under London Bridge

I've have been quite fortunate in the past because although I've been homeless a few times, I've never been on the streets. Whether it's people I've known a while or someone I've just met, I've always had a couch to stay on due to the kindness of others.

I wouldn't last two minutes on the streets, I'm more of a walk off into the woods to die sort of person.

One time, I'd just broken up with my girlfriend and had nowhere to go though. Luckily I was the warehouse manager of a firm I used to work at. The company had just moved premises but we still had the warehouse located under London Bridge station.

Some of the old tunnels under London Bridge are converted into buildings.

There were no windows. Down either side of the building, were two tunnels with roads going through. On one side of the warehouse were two shutters and the tunnel was big enough that we could fit a lorry down there to load and unload.

On the other side was just a small red metal door.

There was a plaque outside stating that fifty two people had died there in the blitz.

When you went through the door and turned the alarm off then flicked the light switch, the whole place would light up like a magical Christmas grotto. It was a Christmas company and we made the lights for streets up and down the country and grottos for shopping centres.

I wish it could be Christmas every day, be careful what you wish for.

I had the keys for all our buildings and because I found myself homeless, I decided to move in.

I got one of the lads to 'borrow' the work's van. We took a detour past my flat, loaded it up with all my stuff and I made my home in one of the now disused offices.

The bosses didn't know about it but I knew they were two preoccupied with new building so were unlikely to come around without letting us know first.

It was scary in there on a night, even though from inside without windows you couldn't tell what time of day it was. The trains would be constantly rumbling overhead, the shutters would make crashing sounds as delivery vans hurtled up the street outside and there would be constant bangs coming from deep in the adjoining tunnels which made up the warehouse. It would sound like things being knocked over, I didn't like it.

I used to go to the South American pool place across the street. This place became quite a popular venue but at the time there'd always just be me and about ten South American guys in there and I'd play pool with them into the early hours and get so drunk that I no longer cared about going back to my tunnel home.

We couldn't understand each other as they didn't speak English and I didn't speak Spanish but they were good to me and we'd have a rowdy old time.

Eventually I'd stagger back and unlock the little red metal door.

To drown out the sounds, I had my computer hooked up to speakers and used to put my music collection on shuffle quite loud and drink and smoke until I passed out.

I'd forgotten that I had a BBC sound effects album on there for when I was making music and one night I woke to the sound of baboons fighting at full blast. It scared the life out of me.

I was close to rock bottom with the drink and drugs but not quite there yet but it wasn't doing any good for my depression, the whole situation was getting me down.

I remember a night where I'd drunk myself almost sober and couldn't face going back to the tunnel, I had bad thoughts going through my head, suicidal thoughts. I'd never had the courage to off myself before but this time a felt a strange calmness and thought I might actually do it.

I walked to the Thames, it was around thee in the morning and I thought it might be nice to jump in and sink to the bottom of the darkness and this whole mess of a life would be over.

I sat on a wall looking down into the dreadful water feeling an awful nothingness.

A fisherman who had been about twenty five yards away was suddenly next to me, he said 'Are you alright there?'

I did the proper English thing and instead of saying 'No, I'm sick, my head is swimming and I want to end it all', I said 'Not bad, yourself?'.

He was looking concerned so I said 'Have you caught anything?' and I got down off the wall.

We walked to where he was fishing and he told me his story.

He fished there a few times a week for eels. I didn't know you could eat things out of the Thames but apparently you could.

He would catch as many eels as possible, sell some to the local restaurants and keep a couple for him and his son who was in a wheelchair and lived with him.

He told me lots of facts about eels, their migratory journey across the Atlantic, that they had four hearts, and other things I can't remember now.

We chatted until the sun came up and somehow by the time I left him my spirits had been lifted.

I went back to my tunnel and got ready for work.

Not long after that I got together with another girl and we moved in together.

Life was about to get a whole lot worse.

This is part of a series of works called 'Strange and Sometimes Troubled Memories'

Each painting has a blog post telling a story behind it. There will be twenty one which will culminate in an exhibition.

Like and subscribe and all that. Thanks. Jack

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