Wednesday, 10 October 2012

So how have you been, Ray...

...and the simplest answer, and the one I'm inclined to give whenever the question is put to me in person, is, 'I'm all right,' even though the last thing that 'all' is, is right. The problem with trying to say something more profound, or accurate, is that the process of grief, of sorting through the emotions, of recovering from the necessary insanity of Chip's last few weeks, when I had to suppress all that rage, horror and awe, and ignore the sense of loss gnawing and tearing away, is an amphetamine rollercoaster with more twists than a Tory and a tendency to jump the tracks every now and then and plummet into darkness. It is it difficult to say anything cogent, with things changing all the while – not just from day to day, but minute by minute sometimes. Quite a lot of the time, though, I'm rather enjoying the ride – all that LSD I took back in the day has prepped me well for periods of temporary insanity – which is why I say 'all right'.

I intend to keep this blog going with photos and stories about our relationship, while I make a new one about what happens next.  In the meantime, for those who have not seen it, there was an obit of Chip in the Daily Telegraph: .

Here it is in full:

"Pip Granger

Pip Granger, who has died of cancer aged 65, was the daughter of a pornographer and smuggler-turned-mail-order-astrologer and drew on her “bohemian-criminal” childhood in a series of interconnected novels set in working-class Soho in the 1950s.

The novels, which began with Not All Tarts Are Apple (2002), mainly focused around the life of Rosie, the daughter of a prostitute and alcoholic born in the East End of London who is taken in by a couple living over a Soho café, where she grows up surrounded by a colourful cast of low-life characters such as con artists, shyster lawyers, cross-dressers, prostitutes, fortune tellers and thieves — all big-hearted sinners who live on the margins, befriend young Rosie and protect her from harm.
Laced with cockney slang, Pip Granger’s four novels — the others are The Widow Ginger (2003), Trouble in Paradise (2004) and No Peace for the Wicked (2005) — are full of convincing period detail, evoking a picaresque world that largely vanished following the introduction of the 1959 Street Offences Act and the arrival of the “Swinging Sixties”. Not All Tarts Are Apple won the Harry Bowling Prize for fiction.
In Alone, a memoir which became a bestseller when it was published in 2006, Pip Granger showed how close young Rosie’s experience was to her own.
She was born Patricia Jacqueline Priscilla Cliff on July 26 1947 at Cuckfield, Sussex, and was always known to her friends as “Chip”. Both her parents were alcoholics, and her early childhood was marked by blazing rows and drink-fulled accidents. Just after her first birthday her family was evicted from their cottage for non-payment of rent — a pattern that would recur at intervals.
Her parents separated when she was five and, neglected by both, Pip and her older brother Peter were largely left to fend for themselves. They shuttled between homes in overspill estates around Dagenham, where their mother worked as a teacher, and their father’s top-floor flat above the Two Is coffee bar in Old Compton Street.
He had made money publishing pulp fiction in the Second World War, but subsequently lost everything. During Pip’s childhood he sold erotic literature, smuggled in from the Continent, and wrote radio scripts, though he spent much of his time in Soho’s pubs and cafés, snooker halls and more dubious establishments, acquiring friends ranging from The Goons to gangsters such as the Richardson brothers and “Mad Frankie” Fraser (with whom he played poker). A qualified pilot, he also flew light aircraft, in which he would sometimes take his daughter on trips to the French Riviera, returning with the plane loaded with smuggled brandy, tobacco and books. Later he became a mail order astrologer.
As a child Pip was never aware that her father was involved in anything shady or illegal; neither did his bohemian lifestyle make her feel different to her friends: “In Soho,” she recalled, “such people were thick on the ground.” One of her father’s best customers (for the erotic literature rather than the contraband hooch) was the Italian tenor Beniamino Gigli, who would serenade her while he waited to be served. Famous names such as Elizabeth Taylor, Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire, regular visitors to Soho, would stop for a chat ; Annie Ross lived on the floor below; and Pip recalled bumping into Billie Holliday on the stairs.
But her most vivid memories were of Soho’s market traders, shopkeepers, craftsmen and, above all, the prostitutes, whom she recalled as being mostly French and “looking amazing”. “Prostitutes openly plying their trade was a common sight in Soho back then,” she recalled. “In fact it was these working girls that kept the streets safe. They would watch over children if their parents were at work... Before the Street Offences Act of 1959 life was lived far more out in the open and on the streets — there were always children playing and people selling things.”
Pip recalled that very few residents of Soho had a bathroom, so once a week a procession would make its way to the community baths: “We were all a bit grubby, but that was the way it was so it was just accepted.” The sleazy element of Soho, which she felt was much exaggerated in the press, was provided mainly by street traders selling dodgy photos: “They had handfuls of Brylcreem in their hair, so much that it looked like patent leather,” she recalled in an interview. “They’d have trilby hats, big lapelled suits and wide turn-up trousers. They always had great big wodges of folded-up notes and would hiss out of the side of their mouths to would-be punters.”
After leaving school Pip Granger worked in an office for a while and later trained as a special needs teacher. In Westminster she taught children who had been excluded from school. In the 1970s and 1980s she worked in Stoke Newington and Hackney.
Eventually forced to quit teaching due to ill health, she turned to writing, first non-fiction partworks. She began writing fiction in the 1990s when her brother was diagnosed with brain cancer. Her novels were a way of remembering their shared childhood. Yet she remained prouder of her successes in turning around the lives of children with behavioural and learning difficulties than she was of her writing.
Pip Granger observed that the energy of life in Soho in the Forties and Fifties came from people who had endured the war and whose “need to Live, with a capital L, was urgent”. Soho represented a refuge for those who wished to escape the restrictions of a Britain still in the grip of post-war austerity and curtain-twitching respectability. Her last book, Up West, published in 2009, was described as an “emotional history” of the West End, particularly Soho and Covent Garden, during the area’s bohemian heyday in the two decades between VE-Day and the mid-1960s.
Pip Granger’s first marriage ended in divorce, and in 1988 she married Ray Granger, with whom she moved to a house in North Somerset. They shared a love of wildlife and gardening and she wrote most of her books in a shed in a wildlife garden that they created together.
Her husband survives her.
Pip Granger, born July 26 1947, died September 8 2012"

The last pic of Chip and I together and the only one featuring The Scrap