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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Memory lane

August 01 2022

Let yourself be transported to the past, as our writer recalls memories of a cardboard city. The names in this story have been changed. Words by David Wishart 

In 1973 as a student teacher, I often visited your pavement, which was on Savile Row, near Scotland Yard, by the River Thames.

A stunningly tidy cardboard city, where I listened to sounds of homeless people, who I shared cider, beer and chips with. I befriended a homeless lady who had run a farm. Every time I went there after a visit to the theatre in my best trousers, she would stare at me with eyes that seemed to be like electric drills. I felt they could see the back of my brain.

                         © Marius Samavicius

“My name is Betty,” she said. “Betty Livingstone.” I told her the stories I was reading at the time, such as D. H. Lawrence and Thomas Hardy. She seemed interested and then she would take the wind out of my sails and say: “You think you’re clever with all your books, but I can read your face, and tell you what you are. You are a vagabond and a scoundrel, am I right?”

I think I was probably exactly what she said.

She had a magnificent face, elderly and the skin with more lines than a map of Sardinia. It’s a long time since I have seen Betty, but I still remember her vividly, sitting on the pavement, telling me about the work she did on the farm.