Rose Boyt was born in London.
As a child she lived on a three-masted sailing ship taking cargoes round Scandinavia, Finland and Poland, and then in Trinidad, from where the family was repatriated when the ship sunk. She has been living in London ever since. Her previous books are Rose and Sexual Intercourse.

The first time I heard the word punk I came out of my front door and somebody was shouting at me. I was puzzled. The man was young, and his derision was really quite friendly – he just wanted to let me know that he thought I looked harmless. I remembered as a child with my mother and siblings in the early sixties we had been mocked in the street in the same way, although then we were called beatniks; we were unkempt children and she had just left art school, had cut a fringe in her hair and liked to wear black ballet shoes and narrow jeans she bought from the children's department. The man who called me a punk had identified me as a member of a species so new that even I had not heard of it.

The journey home from the Caribbean took four weeks. We shared a low cabin on the ocean liner with some men from the islands who were travelling to England to start a new life. They wanted to know what it was like where we were headed. The idea of London seemed as foreign to me as it did to them. A giant reproduction of Picasso's Guernica decorated the wall of the tourist class dining room, and the intermittent vomiting of the passengers as we sat in rows at the long tables became as much associated in my mind with the nauseating yellow and brown stews slopped into our bowls as with the images in that horrible painting. A canary hung in a cage outside our cabin in the submarine corridor, chirping remorselessly; my mother told us that it had been stationed there to raise the alarm if we ran out of oxygen.

In 1976 I saw the streets and the people of Hoxton with the same wide eyes I had fixed on the women in the market in Port O'Spain with their nameless wares, the vultures hovering over the shanty towns and the soldiers stationed on the ramparts of the Polish dock, their guns pointing at me as I was about to leap off the ship onto their frozen country in my night gown, my hair fastened with ribbons in two plaits to stop it from becoming tangled in the sea breezes, because I had woken up in a new place and wanted to explore it.


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