I moved to London in the late Eighties when I was 17. An exciting opportunity had cropped up and I was free at last.
Up until then I’d been working in my parents’ Chinese takeaway since the age of 11. I’d come home from school, prep food, clean floors and serve customers, effectively missing out on a whole chunk of my youth.
At college I studied hard and partied hard. During my last year I met a fella while out clubbing (let’s call him Jez) and we started seeing each other. Things were ticking along nicely when one day something unexpected happened, which unbeknown to me at the time, would be the start of a future that was way off my game plan.
A blaze had started in the shared house I was staying in. It damaged most of my belongings and caused the building to be a write-off, so the tenants had to vacate. I had nowhere else to go, so I moved in with Jez, who was living in a squat in King’s Cross at the time. It wasn’t exactly The Ritz, but it was free and there weren’t as many unidentified stains as I’d anticipated.
I finished my course and started looking for work. Everything was back on track, or so I thought. Coming from a home where foo yung was far more important than family, topics such as contraception just weren’t acknowledged or discussed, so it wasn’t long before I accidentally fell pregnant – surprise! When I told mum about her unexpected grandchild she told me to get rid of it or get out of her life – I chose the latter.
So there I was up the duff, holed up in a squat with a bunch of rough-arse builders. The open-door policy meant that all sorts invited themselves in whenever they liked: drug dealers, drug users, criminals on the run, the mentally ill. Once a fight broke out and I had to negotiate squeezing my expanded gut through a tiny second-floor window in a bid to escape. I knew I couldn’t stay in that madhouse, so I waddled off to the housing office to see if they could help us find somewhere a little more tranquil.