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Caroline Gilfillan & Andrew Scott’s East End

January 26, 2018
by the gentle author

It is my pleasure to present these poems by Caroline Gilfillan with photographs by Andrew Scott – dating from the early seventies when Caroline & Andrew were squatters in the East End


Spitalfields Street Sweepers

Council issue donkey jackets slung over saggy suits,

the street sweepers get to work,

broom heads shooshing over concrete and tar,

herding paper and peel and fag ends into heaps,


strong fingers grasping the broom handles,

knuckles big and smooth as weathered stones

moving easy in their bags of skin, watchful eyes

on you, your finger-clicks, your lens.



Aldgate Gent

Shoes shined, trilby brushed, ears scrubbed

clean as a baby’s back, he chugs through the

sun drops and diesel clag of Aldgate.

No crumbs in his turn-ups, no fluff in his pockets:

the wife, at home in one of the new flats

over by Mile End, keeps him spruce.


He’s on his way to meet Solly at Bloom’s

for gefilte fish and a chinwag. We flew

past him in a dented van, croaky from

last night’s pints, hair in need of a good cut

and ears a good wash behind. And No,

we didn’t notice him, but he was a good

father to his sons, if inclined to sound off.


His wife went first but his sister cooked for him

after, and the nurses at the London

did him proud when the time came.

Us? We played our gigs and tumbled on,

leaving scraps of quavers and clefs

scattered across the pavement, the kerb,

the bang, rattle and clank of Aldgate East.



Stoneyard Lane Prefabs

Two ticks and the fixer of the Squatters Union

has done the break-in, courtesy of a jemmy.

The door creaks in the fish-mud breeze blowing up

from Shadwell docks. Here you are girls.

Faces poke, glint through curtain cracks.


A man comes back for his hobnailed boots. Stands lit up

by orange street lights, his meek face

breathing beer. We got behind with the rent, he says,

muddy laces spilling over knuckles.

Thought we’d leave before the council chucked us out.


The next morning two hoods from the council break the lock,

bawl through the drunken door, Clear out or we’ll

board you in. Bump-clang of an Audi brings bailiffs.

The fixer flies in, fists up to his chin.

Has words. We hunch on the kerb with our carrier bags.



Mile End Automatic Laundry

Natter chat, neat fold, wheel carts of nets, sheets, blankets, undies, pillow-slips,

feed the steel drum, twirl and swoosh, dose of froth, soaping out the Stepney dirt.

Say hello to the scruffs from the squats off Commercial Road, more of them now,

breaking the GLC doors off their hinges, and I don’t stick my nose

where it’s not wanted, though you can tell a lot by a person’s laundry,

can’t you? That girl with the hacked-off hair, no bras in her bag, and no

fancy knickers, though the boy brings in shirts, must go to work

somewhere smarter than the street where they live and that

pond-life pub on the corner. Speaking of which,

walking home the other night I heard music,

a group, with drums, guitars, the lot,

so I peeped in and there was

the girl, earnest as a nun, singing

You can get it if you really want

and I thought

just you wait

and see.


Poems copyright © Caroline Gilfillan

Photographs copyright © Andrew Scott

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9 Responses leave one →
  1. January 26, 2018

    Moving words and photos. Valerie

  2. Caroline permalink
    January 26, 2018

    Bloody great
    ‘Scuse my french

  3. Paddy permalink
    January 26, 2018

    Wow. Beautiful. Takes you right there, to that moment.

    I flippin’ love this blog.
    Thank you.

  4. January 26, 2018

    What a tidy up there has been? Redolent words and images

  5. January 26, 2018

    A very nice juxtaposition of words and images. Thank you for giving me the chance to use ‘juxtaposition.’

  6. John Barrett permalink
    January 26, 2018

    Very descriptive poems I like, they say its a gift from G. I find poems are sometimes born in one’s mind 2am in the morning I must get it down then or all is lost. John is pleased to see poets are up front again thanks GA. Poets are very emotional and can shed a tear over a beautiful word in poem context; after all we live in a different world one made up of words. John Barrett Poetry Society & Bus Pass Poets Bristol.

  7. Richard Smith permalink
    January 26, 2018

    I enjoyed reading these poems. Thank you.

  8. January 26, 2018


  9. January 26, 2018

    Thanks to GA for posting these, and to all who’ve enjoyed the photos and poems. I’ve written more, and the photographs and poems will be published this year in a book.

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