New nonfiction from NER 40.1.
Louis MacNeice was a fire watcher during the Second World War. He sat on top of buildings across central London and surveyed the landscape, waiting to report on blazes growing out of control. MacNeice smoked his pipe, watching the shimmering rooftops and the glare of the Blitzkrieg. My nan’s old estate lay to his east, my childhood home resided to his west.
My nan was raised in Fulham, but she used to tell people she was from Chelsea, the same way folks from Peckham sometimes say they are from East Dulwich. My nan admired the grander aspects of London—flash cars, fancy houses, bright-light boutiques—but she never experienced much of that world. She put on a posh accent, mimicking perfect pronunciation, but she would let her vocal mask slip during impulsive moments. Out would pour West End cockney. She sounded like Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion, in a state of perpetual transition.
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