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Home » Books » History » Europe » England

A Fish Supper and a Chippy Smile

Love, Hardship and Laughter in a South East London Fish-and-Chip Shop

By Hilda Kemp, Cathryn Kemp

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Format: Paperback, 304 pages
Published In: United Kingdom, 02 July 2015
'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.

Promotional Information

The true story of a 1950s south London community united by the local chippy and the woman at the heart of it all, 'Hooray' Hilda Kemp.

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About the Author

Cathryn Kemp is an award-winning journalist and author. 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

Reviews

This memoir of married life in post-war Bermondsey will make the contemporary Londoner's eyes boggle. Before the sleek glass apartments there was a grinding poverty and semi-starvation, but a great sense of community and friendship. Hilda survives through the love of a good man and her job at the fish shop. Gut-wrenching. * The Lady * A lovely, nostalgic portrait of a strong woman in a vanished world. * PRIMA magazine *

EAN: 9781409158424
ISBN: 140915842X
Publisher: Orion (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd )
Dimensions: 19.56 x 12.7 x 2.29 centimetres (0.15 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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Annie on
 
I bought this as a gift for my parents for Christmas. Apparently my Dad, who is not usually an avid reader, could not put this book down!

This is recommended particularly for anyone who is / was familiar with the East End of London (where Hilda's married life begins) and the Bermondsey/ Walworth / Old Kent Road area of South East London (where Hilda works at a local fish 'n' chips shop).

It would also be of interest to anyone who would like to know more about working class social history. This is one woman's story, both her struggles and joys. This is an evocation of a close knit community - both the good and the bad. (There is absolutely no ignoring just how some of the men were frequently drunk, abusive and controlling for example)

Coming from a family that hails from this World, it appears to me to give a personal and honest telling of just what that time was really like. If you want rose coloured glasses, then this might not be for you.

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