11 FEBRUARY 1938, Page 11

I was tmemployed,, living in lodgings. They were York- shiie

people, and they looked after me and fed me well for t7s.,,which was all I was able to give them ; 175. is all you get on the dole. I could feel them wanting me to get a job ; but I wanted to write, and they thought I ought to walk my feet off looking for a job. And they would talk, and put on the wireless. God, the wireless. I couldn't sit upstairs in my becfroom writing, it was too cold ; so I had to sit downstairs, and then they would talk.

" S' cold t'night."

" 'Tis that."

" See what's on't t'wireless."

They had a canary, too.

They were very kind, and 17s. was cheap because the food was good. They did my washing, too. I didn't mind where I lived as long as I could write ; but you can't write if somebody keeps on talking, and reading bits out of the paper ; and I didn't know where else to go: I thought I would find a room somewhere with a gas fire for about 5a., but there didn't seem to be any about.

Often I went our for walks in the evening to be alone —to think. Walking the' streets I would get ideas, and when I went home I wanted to write them down, but every- body would talk. They would be kind and offer me supper. I didn't want supper ; I only wanted myself, and to write. There were only two people in the bar besides myself. Opposite to me was a girl who, though I judged her to be younger, looked thirty ; and in the farthest, darkest corner sat a shrivelled old woman dressed in black, sipping a glass of stout. I watched her. She took small appreciative sips, making her drink last ; lifting her pointed chin to swallow and making little furtive movements with her lips, like a hen drinking water. I sipped slowly, too, making my drink last ; I could only have one.

Over her glass the girl smiled at me, and feeling lonely, I smiled back. She spoke about the weather. In a minute she came over and sat beside me, uninvited. The old woman, expressing her disapproval in voiceless mutterings, finished her stout in one reckless gulp and shuffled out of the bar.

" You're out of work," the girl said.

" Yes—how did you know ? "

" 0, I can tell 'em. Been out meself: know the look— they all get it."

I knew what she meant.

Her name, she told me, was Norah. She put a two- shilling piece on the table for two drinks. " You get them," she said, " it looks better. Get yourself a pint this time."

I brought the drinks ; hers was a neat gin.

" Cheers."

" Bung 0. Now tell me about yourself," she said, putting down her glass. Her voice was loud and rather rough.

" Not much to tell. Unemployed—no jobs ; and anyway I want to write."

" How d'you mean—write- -books and things ? " 4C yes!, Well, why don't you ? What's to stop you now ? "

I explained about the lodgings ; about the talking ; about the 17s. ; about everything. She seemed to understand, or I thought she did then. She was romantic and had ideas about writers—the Bohemian idea—starving in a garret— silly ideas ; she didn't know really. She was kind though and I wanted to talk then. I talked a lot. We had another drink each.

" Look here," she said suddenly. " Why not come and live at my place ? I've got a small flat not far from here. You could write all day then." She spoke loudly and I looked round the bar afraid that somebody would hear.

" You're very kind," I said, " but — " " Now don't be silly. We can be friends, can't we ? And I can do something for a friend if I like, can't I ? 'Sides, it's nothing to do with anybody else. You can give me ias. of your dole, that'll leave you something for cigarettes and that ; and look how you'll be able to write. I shall be out at work all day, and you'll be able to write all day— you'll like that—that's what you want, isn't it, to have all day quiet to write ? "

I nodded.

" Well, then — ? "

She seemed to have it all planned as though she knew it was going to happen. " Why not ? " I thought, " It might be all right. All day quiet by myself ; that would be good. Yes ; why not ? "

" All right," I said. " If you really mean it ; I'll come."

" Oke. Now that's settled let's have another drink." We had another drink. " She is very kind," I thought to myself. " Why are people so kind ? "

She gave me her address and explained how to get there. " But don't come before seven because I don't get home till then." She didn't tell me what her work was ; I never did know. On the following Saturday I went with my things in a suitcase, and a brown paper parcel of books under my arm. She was waiting for me with the table prepared for supper.

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