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Portrait Of Sally Flood

May 18, 2015
by the gentle author

Contributing Photographer Sarah Ainslie took these portraits of distinguished poet Sally Flood


By Sally Flood

These hand have never stopped to rest
nor took the easy road!
The gnarled and twisted fingers bent
have always borne a load.
Yet! The memories I keep
are filled with joy and peace,
This family, that fill me with pride
and Love that never cease.
I long to see the faces
that I left along the way,
These hands that stroked
and fondled the adults of today.
So many stitches gathered
as I hold the thread between,
I see the empty spaces
my hands are like a screen.
From babyhood to childhood
these hands will tell a tale,
The daughter, then the wife
my fingers knew them well.
Now I sit and ponder
to trace the years gone by,
The aches and pain of age
“time”just seems to fly.
By Sally Flood
“Pull out…pull out”
A large red-faced man
Voice booming through high raftered room
Machines crashing! Like flailing whips
Introduction to a man-made hell,
Barely fourteen years old earning a crust,
Outside these walls, London listens for enemy planes,
I was on war work…making uniforms
For boys to fight,
Louis London was geared to win the war,
Just one tiny cog in a world gone mad,
The sweat shop had nothing on this one way system
No one stopped or dared to breathe,
My pockets were grabbed
Barely before leaving the machine,
On the floor at the end of the bench
Khaki trousers were piled high,
Every stitch would be tested
No mistake would be passed,
God help the hapless idiot
Who held up the production belt.
That voice had eyes that missed nothing,
There were no pride in the pockets
That whizzed round and round on my machine,
No let up to the hands that grabbed
And no chance of going on to something else,
As long as I could keep up with production
I had a job! If not someone else would replace me
And I would be out on my ear.
Sally at twenty years old in 1941, working as a machinist making uniforms at the Louis London factory at the corner of Parmiter St and Cambridge Heath Rd
By Sally Flood
Just a child, I remembered
Living in a two up and two down,
So many things to take on
Living in the east end of town,
I remember the talk
When we were in bed
My parents conversed
I heard what was said.
Jews were the target
The bait on the tongue
I remember it well
When I was just young.
Mosley would march
The coming weekend
Leading the fascists
They had to defend?
Just round the corner
We heard the noise
The many feet marching
The angry raised voice,
Down in the cellar
We stayed all day
My father and brother
Were out in the fray.
“They shall not pass”
The slogan they used
To stop Mosleys men
We were being abused,
My father came home
The tale that he told
The Dockers, the Communists
The Jews were so bold.
They faced the enemy
The police on horseback,
Barricaded the streets
They truly fought back.
My brother of twelve
Was up at Tower Hill
Watching with others
He tells it still
When out of the blue
He was struck on the head
He fell to the ground
Among others he said,
Like brothers the east end
Had triumphed that day
Stood shoulder to shoulder
And never gave way.
Sally Flood outside her home in Mount Terrace, Whitechapel, next to the Royal London Hospital
By Sally Flood
This small street is fast receding
Growing smaller, day by day
Over years I watch it crumble
Watch the houses swept away,
Streets that share my childhood moments
Saw the war years, heard the bombs
Proudly held itself together
Now prepares itself to die.
Another monster now emerges
Tower blocks that blot the sky
Helicopter on the rooftops
Needs the space above to fly,
The green of years will disappear
Underneath the cars and muck
Canteens block the sky and hide
Sunlight from the garden path.
My twilight years in noise and rubble
Drown the birdsong that I love
London known for exploitation
Sees pollution rise above,
Takes no heed of past mistakes
Or normal humane needs
Only pound signs line the pavement
Privatising rules this way.
So I watch history crumble
My small voice is barely heard,
A local caught with no defences
Politicians views preferred,
Once again construction gangs
Bulldozers, diggers line the road,
I close my door on this destruction
Peace and progress now explode.
Copies are available at Brick Lane Books, Broadway Books and Newham Books
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12 Responses leave one →
  1. May 18, 2015

    Wonderful words from Sally, her poetry is beautiful. Sad that she has to watch this new and senseless destruction of her street, her London. Valerie

  2. Dianne permalink
    May 18, 2015

    What a joy that was to read about Sally – and to follow the link to learn more about her and then on to Chris Searle. So lovely, too, to read the comments from her children affirming her and her love in many ways. She is an inspiration. Thanks too to you Gentle Author for bringing us these stories – may you write on for much longer than your original intention 🙂 I can’t imagine my day without reading one of your stories.

  3. May 18, 2015

    Very fine Poems from former hard times … But as JOHN KEATS already expressed it:

    A thing of beauty
    is a joy for ever:
    Its loveliness increases;
    it will never
    Pass into nothingness…

    Best wishes for SALLY FLOOD — she will be 90 this year …!

    Love & Peace

  4. May 18, 2015

    What powerful, touching poems, and how good to have those experiences documented in poetry.

  5. Pauline Taylor permalink
    May 18, 2015

    I particularly like Mount Terrace, so poignant, so sad, and it says it all. Well done Sally Flood.

  6. Gary Arber permalink
    May 18, 2015

    A poet with true wisdom

  7. Lucia Oldham permalink
    May 20, 2015

    What a lovely accolade to Sally and her poetry. She has inspired many with her talent and tutelage one of our treasures and mentor to so many.

  8. Brad Evans permalink
    May 20, 2015

    A wonderful portrait about my adorable poet-friend from the East End.

    A real inspiration for me whom I first discovered many years ago (while still living in Newcastle, Australia) in the magnificent working class poetry anthology, ‘Bricklight’.

    Hope to see you soon, Sally!


    Brad (& Mel).

  9. May 21, 2015

    Lovely to see and read this! What a treasure Sally is! Poems that go straight to the guts of the matter – my ‘oldies’ I read poems for love Sally’s work too! Proud to know you Sally – Jan

  10. gkbowood permalink
    November 11, 2015

    Hello! Thanks for providing this lovely profile of Sally Flood and some of her poems. I would like to buy the book “Tales of Eastenders” but cannot locate an online supplier. Any suggestions?

  11. Hilary James permalink
    January 30, 2018

    Great to see Sally still going strong! (Why am I not surprised?) I first met her in the mid 1980s when venturing into a writers’ group for the first time. I’d never had the confidence to read my work to anyone, but luckily I hit on Roger Mills’ very welcoming sessions above the THAPP bookshop in Whitechapel Road, where Sally’s readings were an inspiration. Before I knew it I was at a bigger, public reading and, largely due to Sally’s encouragement, found myself on a stage for the first time, and not only reading but, to my surprise, thoroughly enoying it! Thank you for your poems, Sally, and your spirit that you have enough of to give away!

  12. Marc Wishart permalink
    November 12, 2018

    Sally is my great-aunt, although it’s been nearly 50 years since I met her. She was married to my great-uncle Joso. Such a lovely surprise to read about her and her beautiful poetry. How sad that families fragment and lose touch over the years.

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