I am forced to bank in Aldgate. I sit in the waiting room at my building society, watching the great holes in the ground and the bare concrete floors of new buildings rising from the rubble. Aldgate is not a nice place, this has to be conceded. And its horizon is looking decidedly darker. I have been wondering, what kind of a soul or a temperament did Aldate ever have?
I came across this, by Mary Harkness – socialist, feminist and novelist – Aldgate raised in her writings. I thought it particular apposite…
“Captain Lobo turned into the familiar Whitechapel Road, and walked on past the flaming gaslights of the costermongers, the public houses and the street hawkers. An old woman offered him pigs feet; a newspaper man shouted the last ghastly details of a murder, tipsy men and women rolled past him singing East End songs set to Salvation music. He walked past the slum lassies in a public house, and listened at the door while one of them argued with an infidel…”
Situated in the Aldgate of the day was an open slaughterhouse, which Fishman notes saw “blood and innards splattered on the the main and side streets,” (Fishman, 1988, 6).
“Captain Lobo saw a herd of frightened sheep being driven over the sawdust into the slaughter house. Their bleating was so piteous. Men in blue coats drove them along with sticks, callous of their terror and destress. Many people in the East End enjoy these sights. Some will climb up walls to see a bullock stunned with a pike, or a calf’s throat cut. There is in every one of us a deeply seated love of cruelty for its own sake, although the refined only show it by stinging words and cutting remarks. So let no one think the scum worse than the rest. The scum is brutal, the refined are vicious.”
The councillors, it must be noted, have recently spent great sums of money laying smart new paving and granite kerbstones along Aldgate’s main thoroughfares. Would Mary Harkness agree with me that their remains some embarrassment or guilt over faint traces of pigs blood on Tyne Street?