Tell A Tale in 500 Words

A Tale of two Cities By Pete Winters

“What made you want to move here?”

Dad paused for a minute. “We came because there was nothing over there for us. I grew up barefoot most of the time. We’d play hooky from school and collect rags to sell just for a few pence, so there was food on the table. We had nothing

“It wasn’t all that bad.” Interrupted mom, “you’ll have him thinking it was an awful place. The kids were strong over there in those days. We’d go out in the mornings at the crack of dawn and look after ourselves. Not like children today. We were a lot stronger. Isn’t that right Sean?”

“Stronger! That’s only because the weaker ones were all dead. Jaysus, remember going to the hospital to visit all them dying with the TB? The nurses used to tell us to smoke to keep the germs away. At twelve or thirteen! You couldn’t see anyone in the beds for the smoke fumes! Ha! Stronger? Get away. There was nothing there for us. Growing up there gave me nothing - except the Brothers who’d give me a hiding at school. Your Grandad was dead by the time I was seven. Died in an accident at work. Not a penny for me mam. It finished her off, looking after nine children on her own in the tenements.

After the war the big factories in England came over to recruit, offering jobs with decent wages. I thought, that’s for me - get out of this and get a decent living. I picked here - only because I knew some who’d already come here. Of course it wasn’t like they’d said, but it wasn’t as bad as where I’d come from. They didn’t want the likes of us coming over. “Taking our jobs!” they’d say. I remember when I first came over. The place I was working at was mostly Irish and one of the English fellers made a crack about the Irish lads taking all the best jobs. Walked out we did. The lot of us!. Left our machines and just went. We’d been paid up to that day, see and they couldn’t do a thing about it. I was working somewhere else the same day. So were all the other lads.

Things have settled down now. Nobody bothers with us any more. Others to moan about now, see. We’re established; we’re part of the City now. We helped rebuild this City after the war and its been good for us. We’ve got our own house, youse are all well fed, looked after, shoes on yer feet, clothes on yer back and a holiday every year.

We came here with nothing. We’ve had some tough times before youse were all born, but we’ve worked hard and made a good life for all of us. I’d never change that. We got out. We escaped.”

“If you hated it so much over there?” I asked, “Apart from now - how come you still always call it home?”


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