Welcome to Alex Brown's blog. I will occasionally write about horse racing, horse welfare, social media and other random topics.


More on Missionville

Book excerpt: Missionville: Chapter 4

What do you want to accomplish with Missionville?
I wanted to use fiction to further my passion for horses, and the welfare of horses. Missionville basically illustrates the horse racing industry at its lower-end. I don’t think this has been exhaustively covered in other fiction, with a few exceptions.

But I also wanted to show that not everyone in the industry is bad, nor is everyone good. I hope the interactions that Amanda has, with some of the horsemen on the backside, are a good illustration of this. I also try to show that we are a product of our environment, and it’s our environment, in this case the racetrack and its rules, that helps dictate our behavior.

Tell us more about Missionville, the place.
Missionville is a racetrack, in a town by the same name, which is a small fictional town in rural Pennsylvania. Missionville, the town, used to be a thriving mining community through to the mid-80s. The mining plant has since closed, and many local jobs have gone with it.

The town has its own newspaper, the Missionville Times; its circulation has been hit heavily by the flight of its population to larger cities on the east coast, as well as a result of the internet. The town also has a bar that is popular with the racetrack crowd, Jessup’s. It has a good Italian restaurant, Zucchini’s, a local bank, gas station, and a drug store. Most other businesses have either closed down or left.

The racetrack has steadily declined over the years, despite getting a casino license eight years ago. Not many people attend the races. Life on the backside is tough, with many horsemen barely surviving from pay check to pay check. The racetrack bar, Poker’s, which is adjacent to the paddock, is where the racetrack guys tend to hang out, when at the races.

Missionville is about an hour’s drive from Owenscreek, a market town, which hosts a horse auction each Tuesday afternoon. Sometimes, thoroughbreds from Missionville are sold through this auction.

What inspired your settings in Missionville?
I have worked at Missionville, but it’s not a fictionalization of one particular track I worked at; it’s a combination of Penn National (there’s a bar adjacent to the paddock at Penn National, for example), Woodbine (at least two characters are based on people I met at Woodbine), Sam Houston Race Park, Presque Isle Downs, Oaklawn Park, Keeneland and Churchill Downs.

I have visited Owenscreek on a number of occasions, but it’s not a fictionalization of one particular auction; it’s a combination of Sugarcreek, OH, OLEX, Waterloo, CA, New Holland, PA, and Shipshewana, IN.

The Missionville Times is based off my experience with the Cecil Whig. The local bank, where Amanda works, is based off my own bank in the United States, Cecil Bank. Zucchini’s is oddly a lovely Italian restaurant, just outside of Gweek, in Cornwall, UK.

Who is Pete?
Pete’s a good looking guy, so he’s not me! But there is a piece of me in Pete, in terms of how his character evolves. Like Pete, I was pretty oblivious of the plight of horses, once they were no longer in my care. Like Pete, once I more fully realized their plight, I tried to make a difference. A few of my friends – if they read the book – might see a little of themselves in Pete, that’s not coincidental.

Who is Amanda?
Amanda represents the many people who work on the off-track side, rehabbing or retiring racehorses. There are many organizations and people committed to this work.

Why write the book?
Honestly, I thought writing fiction would be an interesting challenge. Most of my writing, to date, has been non-fiction. So I enrolled in a local course for creative writing, I also joined a local writers’ group. I learned some of the essence of writing fiction, and then embarked on this journey.

Missionville is available on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.ca

Praise for Missionville

Missionville: a horse racing novel

Missionville is available on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.ca

“There are two versions of horse racing in the American narrative: the sunny version where everyone loves their horses like children and a stakes win is just a dream away, and the dark clouds version where every horse is marked for death from the day it is foaled, handled by so-called horsemen who couldn’t care less as long as there’s a pay check. Naturally the truth lays well in-between. In Missionville, racing insider Alex Brown tells it like it is: a deeply flawed industry where even passionate horsemen and women can be dragged down by a tough lifestyle, hopeless options, and sheer hard luck. Unflinching and yet not overwrought, this book lays bare a fractured world of horses, the people who love them, and the people who exploit them, which somehow isn’t yet beyond redemption.”
-Natalie Keller Reinert, Author of Turning for Home

“Alex Brown, a lifelong horseman, takes you on a journey few are capable of providing, to life on the backside of a hardscrabble Pennsylvania racetrack, showing the pressures that bear on both the horses and the humans, and the possibilities for it all going off the track. He takes you to the real underbelly of the sport. He gives you characters you can root for as they face moral dilemmas. He tells a good tale while he’s giving you the tour. A terrific read.”
–Mike Jensen, journalist, Philadelphia Inquirer, winner of an Eclipse Award

“Behind the grandeur and pageantry of American horse racing there is a dark secret playing out. Author Alex Brown transports his readers to rural Pennsylvania, where heart-pounding action and heartbreak intertwine at the Missionville Racetrack. A captivating read, Missionville excels in its narrative of love, life – and death – on the racetrack’s backside.”
–Jordan Schatz, Sports Editor, Cecil Whig

“Alex Brown’s Missionville takes an unwavering look at a beloved sport. You probably remember Brown’s affecting writing about Barbaro, the doomed 2006 Kentucky Derby winner, and here he takes on a portrait of a downtrodden fictional racetrack. Brown writes with a true insider’s understanding of the depth of passion that people have for horses and watching them run. It isn’t an easy read—slaughter, drugs, and real desperation are all here—but Missionville gives readers a compelling look into the simultaneously troubled and beautiful world of horse racing.”
-Eliza McGraw, Author of Here Comes Exterminator!

“Set at the Missionville Racetrack, this novel is a close-up look at the backside culture at a racetrack that lets us in on the worries, triumphs, and concerns for the horses that are at the mercies of their owners. This is a fast-paced read that is educational as well as entertaining.”
–Shelley Mickle, author of Barbaro and American Pharoah

“An intriguing horse mystery written by someone who obviously knows the industry. A great mix of horse knowledge, racing highlights, romance and an inside scoop on the controversial slaughtering of retired racehorses.”
–Christine Meunier, author of the Thoroughbred Breeders series

“While bringing such rich life to the largely hidden world of Missionville Racetrack, Alex Brown turns an unflinching eye on the modern horse racing industry, its flaws along with its many virtues. A must read for anyone with even a passing interest in the sport.”
–Dan Ross, journalist with bylines in Newsweek and the Guardian

“Missionville is a fast-paced read that grips the reader from the start and provides a ride that is both eye-opening and entertaining. It’s not easy to make the seedy underground network that drives horse racing and horse slaughter entertaining, but Brown manages to pull it off with vivid characters and a gripping storyline. In the end, he presents no easy answers for the complexities of the issue, but leaves the reader with hope for the future of the nation’s horses. Highly recommend; a great piece of work.”
–Sharon Boeckle, filmmaker, director and producer, From the Kill Pen

“Alex Brown is a prominent opponent of horse slaughter whose blog posts about Barbaro held the Kentucky Derby winner’s fans in thrall as the colt struggled, and ultimately failed, to recover from a broken leg. Brown’s fans will be glad to see his byline again, this time on a novel that reports from one of Thoroughbred racing’s low rungs: the fictional Missionville Racetrack in Pennsylvania, where denizens of the track confront, and sometimes challenge, their own moral decay in a world where horses are used, discarded, and ‘disappear’ into the slaughter pipeline, even as others try to adhere to their love for the animals and protect them from such a fate. Brown’s first effort as a novelist provides a rare insight into the little-covered nuts and bolts of how horses once considered valuable can end up in a dreadful situation, as well as the thought processes of the people who put them there, the people who come to question those decisions, and those who work to change a world where desperation can lead to serious moral peril. It is a bleak tale, but not without a few happy endings, some human redemption, and an education for the reader.”
–Glenye Cain Oakford, author of The Home Run Horse

Missionville is fiction based on fact, but don’t think Alex Brown’s book in any way exaggerates or distorts the truth to make it more sensationalist, far from it. Brown has worked in the industry and knows at first-hand what goes on. Brown tells it like it is, and tells it very well.”
–Will Jones, author of The Black Horse Inside Coolmore

“I could not put it down. It is a riveting read, a thrilling equine literary ride. Alex Brown illustrates a realistic narrative of the racing world culture and paints a wonderful landscape of the backside dynamics. Brown’s book also provides a clear lens into the equine slaughter pipeline.”
–Kristen Halverson, author of A Horse’s Magical Neigh

“Alex Brown provides an authentic insight into what lies beneath the glamour of horse racing. Brown holds a mirror up to a disturbing side of the horse industry, exposing deep flaws and depraved deeds.”
–Caitlin Taylor, OTTB Designs

Missionville: to be launched in early September

Missionville is now available on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.ca

I am excited that Missionville should be available in about a month, in early September. It will be available to purchase online, via Amazon.

If you would like to be alerted, when the book becomes available, please send me an e-mail at alexbr4cornwall@gmail.com

About Missionville

Pete fell in love with horses, then devoted his career to training racehorses at Missionville, a low level racetrack in rural Pennsylvania where horses and humans depend on each other – just to survive. He quickly learns that winning at the races isn’t easy under ordinary circumstances, and that some successes at Missionville aren’t the result of luck or talent – but flagrant cheating. Thanks to a potential love interest, plus death, deception, and more, Pete opens his eyes to what’s really going on around him to discover he doesn’t want to play the game anymore. A push in the right direction sends Pete on a journey that leads him from Harrisburg to Quebec in an effort to help restore a bit of humanity to the racing world.

Praise for Missionville

“Alex Brown, a lifelong horseman, takes you on a journey few are capable of providing, to life on the backside of a hardscrabble Pennsylvania racetrack, showing the pressures that bear on both the horses and the humans, and the possibilities for it all going off the track. He takes you to the real underbelly of the sport. He gives you characters you can root for as they face moral dilemmas. He tells a good tale while he’s giving you the tour. A terrific read.”

–Mike Jensen, journalist, Philadelphia Inquirer, winner of an Eclipse Award

“Behind the grandeur and pageantry of American horse racing there is a dark secret playing out. Author Alex Brown transports his readers to rural Pennsylvania, where heart-pounding action and heartbreak intertwine at the Missionville Racetrack. A captivating read, Missionville excels in its narrative of love, life – and death – on the racetrack’s backside.”

–Jordan Schatz, Sports Editor, Cecil Whig

Missionville: Facebook Page

I am excited to roll out a Facebook page for Missionville.

I will be using this page, over the next several months, to keep everyone updated with the status of the publication of the book Missionville.

I hope you will join the page, and recommend others to do the same. The book is about life at a low-level racetrack based in Pennsylvania. It is fiction, but is a result of my many experiences working in racing in North America.

Missionville: Cover art for new book


Missionville is available on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.ca

Excited to show the cover art that will be used for my new book, Missionville.

Pete trains racehorses at Missionville, a low level racetrack in rural Pennsylvania where horses and humans depend on each other, just to survive. Winning at the races isn’t easy under ordinary circumstances, some successes at Missionville aren’t the result of luck or talent – but flagrant cheating. When Pete begins to open his eyes to the practices going on around him, he realizes he doesn’t want to play the game anymore. A push in the right direction sends Pete on a journey that leads him from Harrisburg to Quebec in an effort to help restore a bit of humanity to his world.

For details on book launch, please leave a comment or e-mail alexbr4cornwall@gmail.com

Second Auction: a short story

This is one of two pieces that inspired the book, Missionville.

There is a damp musty smell in the air; the smell you normally associate with a cold, neglected barn. This place is not much better, but it is much bigger, with an assortment of pens and a collection of horses, and the occasional mouse scurrying around. Horses were here when I arrived last night, more horses arrived throughout the morning. There are all types of horses: large working animals, smaller trotting horses, riding school ponies, and a few old racehorses. Some horses look like they were just dragged in from a field, still caked in mud. Others, like me, still have their sweat marks around their midriff from their last riding activity. Some horses are fat, many are skinny ribby horses.

This is all very confusing, I am only used to other horses like me and the occasional pony horse; I am a racehorse.

We are standing in corrals, just left to our own devices. I guess I am fortunate, Jake put me in a corral on my own and no one has been added. Quite a few horses are shoved together in their enclosures; this creates a lot of anxiety – squealing and biting. Not because we are mean or anti-social, we are just not used to sharing such close quarters.

Overhead there are boardwalks, people are walking along, and gazing down at us. The more adventurous are on our level, carrying out a closer inspection of what is assembled.

I am tired. It was difficult to rest last night. We don’t need much sleep, but this was just too weird a place. I am stood on a dirt floor, no straw for comfort. Through the night there was an occasional call out from a new arrival and a squeal from an anxious animal; it was impossible to relax. My ankle also aches.

I chatted for a while with my neighbor, Indy, during the night. He was a trotting racehorse, the kind that pulls a cart in his races. He’d raced 74 times, winning 12, which is pretty great. Like me, he has his aches and pains. Indy has actually been at this auction before. After his racing career was over, he was sent here and was bought by a local farmer. He was used as a driving horse, taking the farmer and his family around the local countryside and into town, in a buggy. Two years later, and a few more aches, he is back again. He has a story.

This is a strange place. I now know it’s an auction, but not like the one I had been to when I was younger, before I started my racing career. At that sale, I had an attendant outside my stall at all times. Whenever anyone appeared interested in me – and there were quite a few – my handler would bring me out, make sure I was clean, and trot me up and down for inspection. Conversations would move from my good conformation to my relatives; apparently my half brother, Ace of Spades, was a Grade 2 stakes winner. I sold well for $150,000.

This auction is very different. No one seems interested in me, no one is attending to me.

I was a good racehorse in my youth. My first trainer, Mike, a great guy, was always keen on me. He had his best groom look after me. I won four races for those guys, including a stakes race which seemed to particularly thrill everyone. Unfortunately, I did suffer from a sore ankle in my right front leg; my groom worked very hard to try to keep it pain free. Sometimes a vet would give me some joint injections to relieve the swelling.

I spent two years in Mike’s care, mostly they were two good years.

One day, after finishing second in a race for Mike, someone from another barn collected me after the race. And this started to happen frequently; I was now competing in a claiming system that moved me from barn to barn, from racetrack to racetrack, until I found myself at a small track in Ohio.

Two years after leaving Mike’s barn, he stopped by to see me. He had shipped a horse in to run in a race later that night at our little track; this was far from the big tracks where Mike usually raced his horses.

I remember the visit well, he was my friend. “Hey pal, I hope you are doing well. You look good,” Mike had said to me. He also gave me an affectionate rub on my nose. But I could detect an uneasiness in his voice, a hint of regret perhaps. We can sense this stuff you know, call it a gift. Mike gave me a mint, before he left he called out, “I’ll see you next time.” I remember wondering when that next time might be.

In my last start, which was only three days ago and two months after Mike’s visit, I got hurt, hurt very badly.

I was what they call, “racing sound.” I had my aches and pains, mostly that right front ankle that I first hurt when I was two, but with some drugs I was able to keep running. But now things are different. My right front ankle has blown. They needed to load me into a horse ambulance after the race to remove me from the racetrack. My ankle was painful, I could hardly put that leg on the ground. The vet who attended to me gave me some pain relief and my groom bandaged up the damaged leg.

That bandage is now long gone, the pain however, is not.

Someone enters Indy’s corral and herds him out aggessively, striking him several times on the rump with a bull whip. Indy glances over to me as he scoots out of his corral, “Maybe see you later pal, good luck.” The old guy disappears down the shed row towards the sales ring.

This is not good, my routine has been shattered. Things have not been ideal for me at the racetrack over the last couple of years, especially with my troubling ankle. But I know the racetrack, I know the routine. This is another world, and not a friendly place.

No one is paying attention to me at the auction. But I do have a story; I won seven races, I was a good racehorse. I would have won a lot more races if I had not hurt my ankle early in my career. I was very fast. When I won that stakes race, Mike was so proud; he knew how tough I must have been to beat a good group of horses when I was not 100% healthy. Honestly, I really do think he liked me, a lot. He also had pretty ambitious plans for me, if only he could have fixed me up a little more. I know he tried.

A few horses are being ridden in the shed row in front my corral. I assume that they are being tested to see what sort of horse they are. There’s no chance I am going to be ridden; I can barely limp – it does seem like an odd time to put me up for sale.

A lady enters my corral. She seems nice and talks to me in gentle whispers. “Hey pal, let me look at your lip.” It is a curious thing, but when I went to the races the guy at the entrance of the paddock did the same thing, he checked underneath my top lip. When I was young, someone had placed a mark there, so I assume this is how I am identified.

The lady speaks to a friend, who had remained outside my corral, “Shame, it’s too hard to read, there’s no way that we can identify this guy before he goes up for sale. He does look like a thoroughbred, and that ankle looks pretty shocking.” She slips me a mint.

Yes, my ankle hurts. But this is puzzling to me. Jake, the guy who dropped me off last night who is a pony guy at the racetrack, knows who I am. Surely he let the auction house know. I am a winner of seven races, a stakes winner no less.

I’m also hungry, really hungry! Jake left me here with a flake of hay, but that was nearly a day ago. At the racetrack we were fed like clockwork, three square meals a day, first thing in the morning, after training, and in the evening. A bag of hay is always there for munching. I would eat anything they put in front of me. Where the heck is Jake?

Someone else comes into my corral. He does not try to come to me, but uses a bull whip and a little hollering to herd me out. It’s the same guy who came for Indy. He’s not a horseman, it’s easy to tell these things. Frankly, he seems scared of me. Now I’m freaking out. Not visibly, in fact I act like nothing is unusual, I want to be cooperative. But inside, I will admit, I’m horrified. I also still have those sweat marks on my body from my race three nights ago. Is no one going to clean me up before I’m put up for sale?

Bull whip guy herds me onto a machine that is there to weigh me. I’m not sure what my weight has to do with things, but I guess a good weight can be a sign of health. I do have a great body, always eat well – when I am fed – and always retain a good body weight. Maybe this is a good thing for me.

The horse in front of me is ridden into the ring. He is not weighed, but he is skinny. I overhear some of the bidding; it is all over in a matter of 30 seconds. The skinny horse is sold for $600; this is a far cry from the $150,000 I had fetched at my first auction.

Now it is my turn.

Bull whip guy herds me into the ring, loose. I thought that was odd. The gallery is packed with onlookers, chatting among themselves. I spy Jake, sat in the top left corner, eating a sandwich. He doesn’t seem to show any interest as I enter. Come on Jake, help me out here!

While I do not know Jake that well, he had seemed nice enough. One time he ponied me before a race, I spooked at a black bag that was gusting across the track. Jake jumped off his pony immediately, took hold of my reins and started petting me and whispering to me in a calm, soothing voice. It was a good thing too, my jockey was getting more uptight than me. I won that race. I really need that soothing voice right now.

The auctioneer makes no mention of who I am, he hollers out over the crowd noise, “Does this horse come with a signed paper?” The audience silences, Jake replies, “Yes, I’ll sign.” The auctioneer continues, “Sold with signed paper, 1,100 pounds.” I have no clue what this all means, but I know it’s not good; everyone is now looking at me.

Odder still, the bidding starts at 10 cents. 10 cents? I can’t believe what I’m hearing. “15 cents.” “20 cents.” “25 cents.”

There are three people bidding on me. The lady who had been in my corral was one of them, I really need her to win. There is a guy in a red shirt in one corner of the audience who is also bidding. And a third guy, who is close to the front and center of the gallery. He stares at me, intently, with his dark, soulless eyes. This third bidder barely makes a signal for each of his bids, but is closely monitored by the auctioneer. He lacks basic humanity, we can tell these things. Maybe it’s the same with the red shirt guy, but there is something very unsettling about this guy.

The man with the red shirt drops out of the bidding at 30 cents. The lady’s final bid is 40 cents. The guy with the soulless eyes purchases me at 45 cents and scribbles a note onto a card he holds in front of him. He then turns to chat to his motley group of hangers-on.

The whole thing is over in less than 20 seconds. The audience returns to its buzz of gossip.

Bull whip guy herds me out of the sales ring, I am shoved into a large corral; my ankle is really throbbing now – a sharp stabbing pain shoots up my leg.

The corral is already full of horses. I spot Indy in the corner; he glances over at me with a resigned look, “Things don’t look good, pal.”

Whoever the soulless eyes guy is, he buys a lot of horses. Looking around, the other horses are all different shapes and sizes. The one thing we have in common, we are all of good body weight.

I kind of wish that Mike was around right around now. Not too much makes any sense to me anymore.

An hour passes, a few more horses have been shoved into our corral, but the sale is over now; people are leaving. The soulless eyes guy comes over to inspect his new stock; he is surrounded by his posse of hangers-on, which now includes Jake. The lady is also with them, she appears to be in an animated conversation with the soulless eyes guy and Jake. I wonder if Jake has shared my story.

Horse racing: a Kentucky Derby contestant

This is one of two pieces that inspired the book, Missionville.

It happened again, and I still really don’t understand it. I am now standing here, in an unfamiliar stall, surrounded by unfamiliar people. This usually happens after every three or four races.

The race itself seemed a little easier than the races I had run in lately. While I did not feel like I could run particularly fast, with the urging of my rider – ouch! That whipping stuff does hurt – I moved my tired and sore legs as fast as I could, and managed to finish second, about a neck’s length behind the winner.

The next morning after my race, my new groom feeds me some breakfast and fusses around me as she undoes the wraps around my legs. Having been through this routine for a number of years now, I know what to expect next.

She, or another fella who might be the trainer or assistant trainer, will rub their hands down each of my legs, twist and flex my joints, and try to find my pain points. They will jog me up and down the shed row, and then make some medical decisions, along with their vet.

In the next few days I’ll receive a series of injections, sometimes in the joints that do bother me – my left hock and right front ankle – and sometimes in other joints, for goodness knows what reason. It’s a mystery to me why these folks don’t talk to the last guys that looked after me. One time, a few months and trainers ago, I remember I was injected in my left front knee. That knee had never given me any grief in my life.

It was not always like this.

I was born to be great, or at least I used to be treated as if I would be the best colt of my generation. My youth was spent at a big and lush horse farm in Kentucky. As a baby, I frolicked and played around with other young colts and their mothers; life was full of curiosities and possibilities.

My first inclination that things weren’t always going to be idyllic was when I was put up for sale. I had assumed that all the pampering and fuss I had received as a baby was because I was loved, but apparently it was my monetary value, rather than me, that was loved. I fetched my breeders a tidy sum too, $1.5 million dollars.

I imagine my new owners assumed that I would be a rocket-ship for that price. I learned my trade as a young horse, being “broken in” – seriously that is what they call it, when we allow riders into our lives to train us before the racetrack – in sunny Florida. I was with hundreds of other young horses, all with the same target: to be the next Kentucky Derby winner.

Of course, only one horse can achieve that honor each year, and for my year it was not me, but I was close, which I think is pretty incredible.

I raced three times as a two-year-old, winning my second race in New York, at Saratoga, by several horse lengths. I was lauded upon my return to the saddling enclosure; my trainer, jockey and groom really seemed very thrilled with me and my effort. There was also an audible buzz coming from the large crowd, the type of buzz you get when you witness something special.

In my next and final start as a two-year-old, I won again, this time it was a “stakes race,” which is very prestigious. I remember my groom showing me the Daily Racing Form the next morning; on the front page there was a big picture of me. The story headline read, “Thunder Clouds, (that is my name of course) Storms to Victory in the HillTop.” I remember thinking how clever that headline was, and I will admit, I was pretty proud of myself at the time.

The next spring I raced three times, and won once, and placed the other two times. I was one of the top twenty money earning colts of my generation after three wins, so it was decided that I should take my place in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby.

This was the real big time. Massive crowds thronged the backside each morning for our daily training exercises in the week leading up to the big day. And while I enjoyed all the attention, my right front ankle was starting to nag at me a little bit. The vets had been called out to see me, over the previous few weeks, and I had received a series of injections to try to relieve the pain. Once the pain was gone, I could run just as fast as if the pain had never been there in the first place.

I did not win the Kentucky Derby. Actually, honestly, I was a little over matched at odds of 50-1, and finished 14th in the field of 20 horses. I tried to make a bit of a run at the leaders going into the final turn, but I did not gain too much ground. Deep into the stretch I felt the urging of my jockey – ouch, and ouch again – while also feeling my right leg weakening a little around the ankle.

Anyway, I had my shot at super-stardom. The horse that won the race went on to win the coveted, and often elusive, Triple Crown series. He was sold for $100 million at the end of the year. He was then retired from racing and embarked on a lucrative – and likely quite enjoyable – stud career.

For me, it was a different story.

I had a few months off. During that time, my caretakers also decided to remove my manhood; apparently I was’t going to be good enough to be a stallion, so gelding me was supposed to help me focus on racing. Honestly, I was pretty bummed about my new condition at the time, but like anything, you simply learn to get used to it.

I returned to the races for a fall campaign. My first race was again at the end of the Saratoga meet, this time in a small stakes race, which I won. But then my ankle started hurting again, and it was really making me a little less agile in my training. The ankle was treated, and I raced again and again, each time in stakes races, each time finishing slightly lower down than the last time. You know, it is quite disheartening when you get beaten, not because you are not good enough to win – I was, I was getting beaten by horses I had previously defeated easily – but because you were not a 100% healthy.

My trainer was now getting in newer and younger horses, my turn in his barn was coming to an end.

In my next race, my first race as a four-year-old, I won, and I won easily. At first I was a little confused because before the race I did not feel particularly great; my hock had started hurting now, as well as my ankle. Nevertheless, I was still able to win. The other odd thing, after the race I was collected by someone I did not know, and taken to a horse barn full of strange horses and strange people.

This was then to be my new life, moving from trainer to trainer, every three to four races, and sometimes moving to a new racetrack.

I am now at a racetrack that is quite small. While I spent my youth running around one mile tracks in front of the large boisterous crowds of Churchill Downs and Saratoga, I’m now racing at a bullring track of about 5/8ths of a mile in god-knows-where, West Virginia.

Few people come out to watch our races; we mostly race at night, and sometimes in the dead of winter under floodlights and sleet and hail.

Oddly though, I am a bit of a celebrity on the backside. Everyone seems to know me, and say affectionate things about me as they pass me by going to and from the training track; ‘How’s ole’ Thunder holding up after his last race?’ a rider from another barn might ask. My rider would invariably respond, ‘He’s great; amazing old hoss.’ It did not seem to matter if I did, in fact, feel fine or if my ankle or hock was hurting. I was oblivious to the high stakes claiming game in which I was an unwitting pawn; the game meant that no one reveals my real well-being, in case someone listening is plotting the next claim for me.

So I am being readied for my next race. I have a new exercise rider, as is always the case when I move to a new barn. He seems like a decent chap, he was the leading rider at the track some twenty years ago. He will pet me once in a while, and let me know when he wants me to go slower and faster. Sometimes, though, he does not show up for work; sometimes he comes to work but there’s a stink on his breath that is really overwhelming. I have experienced all this before, in a couple of weeks I will be sent to race again.

But the reality is, I have pretty much had enough. My legs are tired and sore. I have not had a break since after the Kentucky Derby, which is now more than three long years ago. Since that time, I have raced 34 times, winning quite a few (10) and losing quite a few more. During my 34 races, I have been ridden by lots of different riders, none of whom paid too much attention to me. It was the same with the grooms who looked after me temporarily, and also with the vets who kept stabbing me with needles full of drugs.

I am now standing in the starting gate for my next start and wait for the gates to open and the race to unfold. I can’t imagine that I can win this race, but I have felt poorly before and won; they somehow seem to make the races easier, just as I think I can no longer compete. My specialist distance is now 5/8ths of a mile, which is a far cry from the mile and a quarter of the fastest two minutes in sports.

As the race begins and we head out of the clubhouse turn and into the backstretch. I take a bad step – well “take a bad step” is the euphemism they will use to describe my final moments.

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Pavement Artist, London, October 1936


Rosemary Julian Harris, shortly after this experience.

Note: This story was written by Rosemary Julian Harris, prior to entering the Royal Academy of Arts, during the month of October, 1936. The content is from a written notebook of 41 pages, presumably written during the week in which she worked as a pavement artist. The story covers four days, however the first day includes some inconsistencies in terms of setting up two locations. It is possible the first day is actually two days, but appears below as was written in the original story. Rosemary Julian Harris won the Feodora Gleichen sculpture prize at the age of 19.

Pavement Artist, London, October 1936

I have lived in the country most of my life and I began to think that I would like to go to London prior to starting my sculpture course at the Royal Academy of Arts, to see what made it tick.

My mother always said London was a “golden city” with theaters and high life. I am not particularly interested in that sort of life, but am hoping to go to the Royal Academy of Arts in due course. My sister, Deseree, is a student at the London School of Economics, so I was able to stay with her in Bayswater.

Having always been interested in pavement artists since I was a child, seeing old men drawing seascapes and such like, I thought I could do more interesting things with animals and activity. So I have decided to go to Hyde Park Corner, an interesting place with all sorts of traffic, dray horses coming up the hill, and a hospital opposite where I can take my earnings, if any.

I set off by tube first and when I arrived I asked a policeman if it was OK that I set up my pitch. He said “yes” as long as I cleaned up at the end of each day. So I sat down with my crayons and a sack to sit on and started with a picture of lambs skipping about, then horses, then dogs and cats and so on. About six pictures and then I sat down, to rest my knees, and waited for action.

Most people just walked by, some looked a bit surprised but were too busy going to work to stop to speak. It was a fine day with autumn leaves coming down, and no rain, for that would have been the end and a wash out!!

I brought some lunch, which I could eat when I felt hungry.

As the day wore on more people spoke. It was very interesting watching the world go by. One old man came to me with some tips on screeving – as he called it – being a screever himself and told me the best places to strike a pitch. I preferred where I was.

Not many of my friends came to see me, but those who did said I looked rather pathetic.

I don’t care!

I think my appearance caused a great deal of interest. It needs a very brazen mind to walk about London in corduroy trousers. To keep my self possession I convinced myself that I was a girl pavement artist dressed exotically and had a right to be stared at. This ruse was so successful that I felt quite hurt if people didn’t give me a second look.

On arriving at Marble Arch I walked around it once, looking for possible sites, and then went up to a policeman to ask him where I could pitch. He was very short with me. “No Pavement Artists allowed here. If you must go anywhere the Embankment is the place for the likes of you. You can’t come here.”

As I was speaking to him an old lady of the poorer class, possibly a bit weak in the head, shouted at me “Oh put a skirt on ye, for goodness sakes do, with them things on you’re neither woman or man; wear a skirt like a decent body.”

I knew it was hopeless to answer back so I walked along the park railings as fast as I could, she shouting at me ’till I was out of earshot. It was a very discouraging beginning. Prospects that had looked so rosy when I started now seemed to be covered up by London’s murk and grime.

I walked along the empty pavement with Hyde Park Corner vaguely in mind. I walked what seemed an awfully long way, and eventually came to a park entrance, where there were two policemen on point duty. One asked me if I had lost my way; I certainly felt lost. I explained to him that I wanted to be a pavement artist and was aiming at Hyde Park Corner. He went to discuss me with his colleague who came up to me with the traditional “Here, what’s all this about? Want to be a pavement artist? How old are you?” I said “Nineteen”. “Well you ought to be old enough to know what you want so I can’t stop you. Go straight across the park and you’ll come to Hyde Park Corner!”

So I set off. The park was very empty as it was quite early in the day. Hardly anyone else was walking. The only people in sight were a few sinister looking men lurking about under the trees. They had the effect of making my fast walk develop into almost a run. The park seemed to be endless, but eventually the gates loomed into sight. By this time I had developed a most convincing limp due to a blister on my heel.

I saw another policeman in the distance and headed for him. I asked him where I could pitch and what to avoid, and he told me anywhere outside the park gates so long as I didn’t select a bus stop or cause an obstruction. This sounded simple.

I took for my pitch a site between a bus stop, a taxi cab rank and public lavatories. A very strategic position. I asked an old lady at the newspaper stall and she said screevers often came there, she didn’t know whether they were allowed to or not.

I thought I would trust to providence and settle down to draw.

With the sack I roughly swept the paving stones I was to work on and then kneeling on the sack I commenced to draw. From that moment my depression left me and I really began to enjoy myself.

My subject was animals, horses, dogs, lambs, penguins, etc. I roughed the drawings in chalk first and then went over them in crayon afterwards. I had my back to the traffic on the pavement, in fact was quite oblivious of it, until I found coins were being thrown down. So I produced a beret for them to aim at.

Incidently it is quite extraordinary how many people seem to be unable to throw a coin into a certain area, when standing directly above it.

I had just finished one picture and was starting the next when a gruff voice behind me said “Well?” I looked up and was horrified to see an enormous policeman standing over me, at least he seemed enormous from my worms-eye-view of him. I stuttered something incoherently, but he only said, “This is your first day? Well don’t leave too much in the hat or you won’t get any more.” and walked on. My relief was terrific, and the pavement might have been paved with gold instead of the coppers and small change that had found their way into the hat.

I went on drawing with renewed enthusiasm, many passing by came up to watch me. Some said encouraging things to me. The feminine part of my mind began to respond to the flattery and admiration. I was becoming conceited. When some cameramen took up their stand near me I took it for granted I was the object of their study. (Was I out of the ordinary in worthy of fame?) The answer to this came when one of them said “Excuse me miss. Would you pose in front of the drinking fountain? We were sent to photograph it but a figure with it would give it scale.” I shook my head saying, “Sorry, I must get on with my work.”

An ugly stone drinking fountain, a monstrosity, which had hitherto escaped my observation. I knelt down again, finding myself half blinded by the dust arising from my castles in the air having crashed to the ground.

As I was finishing my last drawing, a black cat with white paws jumped down through the pailings out of the park and came up to me greeting me like an old friend. It must have been my lucky day.

Having done a good two hours work and it being long after lunchtime I arranged my sacks as a slight protection from the pavement and sat down, a relief from kneeling.

The cat came back and curled up on my lap, purring like a mowing machine. My hands were hardly recognisable under a coating of pavement dirt and crayons. I tried not to think of all the various germs I was swallowing as I ate a roll. When I had finished my meager meal I was able for the first time to look at the people.

There were many catching and leaving buses. Those who gave me money were not the owners of silver fox furs and cigars, but rather the elderly and middle aged ladies of the middle class and well-to-do businessmen. Several asked me why I was doing this, from necessity or as a joke. I said it was neither but for experience with the hope of opportunity.

My attention was attracted more towards some people than others, especially if passed more than once. In this way I noticed a young man, obviously an artist from his green slouch hat and long hair, to his paint stained plus fours. He had a striking face; a trifle effeminate, but interesting in its seriousness.

Having passed me about four times he stopped in front of me and said, “Do you pose at all?” I said I didn’t being only in London for a short time and during that time working on the pavement. “But I must paint you … I must paint you. I must paint you!” He spoke as in a daze reminding me of a gramaphone needle which had hit a groove. I said it might be managed, if only to give him a mental jog.

This was successful and he gave his address and left me with, “You will come, I must paint you!”

Soon after this my friend the policeman came up and asked me how things were going.

“I’ve been having a spot of bother over you,” he said. “One old dame came up to me, in a proper sour temper she was too. Said you were a disgrace to your sex and oughtn’t to be allowed. What you needed was a good smacking, couldn’t I give you one? Well Madame, I said to her, why don’t you talk to her yourself? It’s no good giving me the dressing down, I can’t tell her to move. She’s doing no harm, not obstructing or anything. So then she changed her tune and said ‘look at those daubs she’s drawn, if she can’t do better than that she shouldn’t do anything at all’. So I said if I could do anything half as good I’d be damn proud of myself. So there you are miss.”

I thanked him very much and he stayed talking with me. He had a week on that beat and was quite pleased to find someone who wasn’t complaining about something or wanting to know how to get somewhere. He was quite the ideal policeman, a round cheerful face, serious but for his eyes which were full of humour. A small moustache and inclination to double chin. Tall yet his uniform was a collection of convex curves. A north country accent and strong sense of humour completed the perfection.

The only other charity seekers were two young street musicians who could only perform when the eye of the law was turned elsewhere. One had a banjo and sang and accompanied his own songs. The other one carried the banjo case. He told me he had an accordian but at the moment a pawn ticket had taken its place. They were blackshirts – one had a black jersey – the other blue. I asked him where his symbol was and he showed me a badge on his lapel. “It only cost two pence cheaper!”

They imparted to me the cheerful information that if I worked for long I would literally wear my fingers to the bone, rubbing the crayon in. I would also probably get pneumonia and rheumatism. I said I didn’t know about that but I seemed to be successfully working up for housemaid’s knee, having worn a hole in my trousers.

“Pavement seat” seemed a probability also, if I sat there much longer. They said they were going to America when they could and I wished them luck, they deserved it.

The policeman didn’t like them, “Don’t you believe a word of it” he said, “They’re real rascals.” Have they been playing when I was out of hearing? Had to admit they had, I am so bad at lies.

An old musician passed me – one of the old school, with bowler hat, long straggling hair and moustache, and a battered coat and tight trousers – clasping his best friend, the violin. I nearly wept when he threw me a penny, which was worth a pound to him, surely. This so depressed me I nearly threw up. What I did not want was misplaced pity. That is when I decided to do it for charity.

Several old ladies stopped and talked to me, causing me several minutes of suspense, as I expected each one to give me the promised smacking – but the majority were very kind. The general impression seemed to be that I was very brave, though I don’t know why. It only necessitates obtaining the right atmosphere to start with, the rest came naturally.

One young man with a black slouch hat – but not in other respects artistic looking – came and asked if I worked at the Slade School. Apparently he himself was a secretary, not an artist, but his sister worked at the Academy School of Art, so he claimed to know something about it. He asked me if I had ever been to a certain pub called the Fitzroy, frequented by artists and their following. As I had not, he suggested that he should take me some evening. I realized that this was being “picked up” but as it did not come into my romantic expectations, I refused. I thought it would be better to fly higher (or lower as the case may be) or not at all for a mere secretary.

My adopter, the cat, decided to leave me and disappeared as rapidly and completely as it had come and with it I imagined my luck would go too – but not entirely. While I was meditating, I noticed another artist looking at my work. He was of middle age, with the traditional black slouch hat, but otherwise not so exotic as the previous one.

He told me that he had seen my work from the top of the bus as he had passed. At the next stop he had alighted and hurried back, afraid I might have packed up. He did portraits etc. in pastel himself and seemed to think my work was promising. I explained my circumstances to him and he was interested and asked me to come and see him at his studio. I must have looked rather dubious for he hastily added, “I’m sure my wife would be thrilled to see you. She is always willing to help any artist.” I thought this might be so, or might not. However he gave me his card, and I promised to come and look him up sometime.

It was beginning to get dark, everybody having gone home to their tea and there was not much more financial profit to be had, so I decided to pack up. The policeman had told me that I must wash off all my work before I left. This I did but it seemed a waste that the work of a morning should be washed away in a few seconds. However one must take the good with the bad and as I had the good in my pockets I had nothing to complain of.

I had heard that a screever made on average half a crown a day. I thought I had made more than that but apart from the weight in my pockets I didn’t know how much. I was amazed and rather horrified to find I had accumulated over a pound. About eight shillings in coppers and the rest in small silver, several shillings and one half crown. That completely decided it. I should do it for charity in future.


Part of the original writing of the story.


The following day I went into the hospital and asked to see the secretary. I was told to wait and was shown into one of the offices. The typists came in and out, they all had streaming colds and I knew I would have one sooner or later.

I waited for nearly an hour and at last my patience gave out. I explained that I must get to work as all the best business was done in the morning, before people had spent their money. I was just going when the secretary came and I explained to her that I was a pavement artist and was collecting money for the hospital; could I have a collecting box? However she explained that noone is allowed to collect openly for the hospital except on rose days etc. This was rather shattering.

I decided to go to the same patch again as I knew the policeman and it certainly seemed a successful place, unless I had just had beginners luck the previous day.

I wanted to think of a notice but I was not allowed to mention the hospital, it rather limited me. I wanted the public to realise I was not what I appeared. But what was that? Not a tart as I had no make-up at all on, then it must have been that of a rather pathetic figure, that of a young girl in very shabby clothes; a sight guaranteed to rend the average heart string. So I wrote beneath the beret the words “Not for myself”. Of course many people asked, “Well who is it for then?” so I explained.

One old lady, when I told her it was for the Hospital, said that of course she herself did not believe in Hospitals. Where did all their money go to anyway? She knew for a fact that the London bus drivers themselves contributed several thousands towards it. Why didn’t I give money to some really deserving case? I realised it would not have been tactful to argue with her, so I meekly smiled and thanked her.

The policeman came up again to talk with me. I asked what I should draw and he jokingly suggested himself. I thought I had better not do quite that so I did a little white dog wearing a policeman’s helmet. This pleased him immensely and he kept on bringing up his colleagues to admire it.

One kindly old woman passed me for the second time, I remembered her by her unusual clothes (the rag bag variety) and her stockings, which ran endless spiral races down her legs. She beamed at me with a friendly, “How are you getting on dearie?” I said I was getting on quite well, thank you. “That’s right dearie, good luck to ye!” A seemlingly trivial incident but a very pleasing one when you are sitting alone on a cold pavement.

The taxi drivers from the nearby rank would come up and talk to me sometimes. One cheerfully told me that if I didn’t get a cold in my kidneys it wouldn’t be his fault that he hadn’t warned me! I got quite a lot of money from people hiring taxis, as they could afford silver.

A young girl artist came up to me and said she had often thought of doing a screeving job but didn’t know how to set about it, so I told her what little I knew about the rules and regulations. She had thought of a pitch near Burlington House but I told her it would be safer to ask a policeman near there. I shouldn’t have chosen that pitch myself, as people coming out of the Academy would probably find a pavement artist rather an anti-climax.

Another elderly lady threw a shilling into my cap and said she liked my work, but it must be a very hard life. I agreed, but I was thinking of the pavement itself.

Of course many dogs passed with their owners – the majority of them running loose, being town dogs presumably. To these the wall behind my pitch seemed to be a dog’s Post Office and many of them came to leave and collect their letters. This was not too good for my art but very good for trade as embarrassed owners came running to retrieve their miscreants, full of apologies which necessitated their putting something in the hat. Quite good trade could be done this way, if carefully thought out.

It was getting near the end of daylight by then so I packed up and took my earnings to the hospital. They benefited by about eighteen shillings, from which I had deducted my day’s expenses, sixpence. They were immensely grateful, and surprised when they heard how I had come by it.


So far I had been exceptionally lucky in my weather, having had two reasonably fine mild days. This was too good to last and the third day it broke into a typical London drizzle, making the pavement wet and greasy, impossible to work on. However I thought there might be some possibility of a fine interval so I went to Hyde Park Corner and sat in the subway, reading the paper and trotting up at intervals to view the sky.

About half way through the morning the rain stopped and prospects looked brighter, except that I found myself with the first symptoms of the promised cold in the head. I went to my pitch and mopped up the paving stones as well as I could with my sacks.

It was most discouraging drawing as the chalk would not mark well, and the colours looked dead. I managed to get down about four very mediocre pictures and sat down for lunch.

Very few people were out. Then simultaneously the rain and my cold came out heavily. This was more than I could bear, so I washed out what little remained of my pictures and came home. A bad day financially, I only made three shillings and ninepence, which seemed very petty after the high standard I had set myself previously.


My last day on the London streets was all that could be desired of autumn. Blue sky and gold trees, wind but no rain. Fallen leaves dressed in the season’s newest shade vieing with each other for first place in the mad race to catch up the departed summer.

I drew with renewed vigour and inspiration. While I was drawing, two pressmen from a daily paper came up and asked if I could spare a few minutes and give them a story. I condescendingly said I would answer their questions if they could come back later, but at the moment I was busy working. They were very polite and said they would come back in the afternoon. This gave me a rather satisfied feeling.

My next visitor was an elderly man of the solicitor type, rather forbidding in appearance. He asked me the usual question, for whom was the money if not for myself. So I told him I was doing it for charity and for the experience. He dropped half a crown in the hat and went on without a smile.

My last picture was, in my own opinion, my best. One of a zebra, which looked alive. While I was drawing this, a young woman came up and said, “Excuse me, but do you ever illustrate books?” I told her I hadn’t so far but that I would like to very much if I had the chance. “I wondered” she said, “because I have just written a book of poems about animals and the man who was going to illustrate them for me has been taken ill, so I thought you might take his place if he is unable to do it. I think you are very talented and quite capable of doing it.” I gave her my address and she said she would let me know. This would be a big opportunity if ever it came to anything. I felt very elated.

After this came rather a contrast in the shape of an ex-pavement artist. A typical cockney, very small with fair straggling hair and a few mishaven bristles on his receding chin. He fixed his rather watery blue eyes on my hungrily. He talked to me for quite a long time, shifting his weight from one shabby shoe to the other, and punctuating his sentences with nervous giggles and long drawn out sniffs. He told me he had done some screeving and used to get his chalks cheaper by going to the wholesale dealers and buying the broken ones. Also he said some screevers used bath brick on the pavement first as it made a better surface to work on. Two tips worth knowing!

Until recently he had had a job in the kitchen of some restaurant. I suppose the chef enforced some standards of cleanliness, for heaven help anyone who ate food prepared by him in his present condition. He said he had been kicked out owing to having a cold. An unconvincing story I thought. He rather reminded me of a cold himself, the way he hung around me. I appeared to be engrossed in my work and he eventually left me. A relief, as the pity I felt for him was easily overcome by the nausea experienced when in his proximity.

When I was packing up in preparation for the afternoon’s contemplation of the pavement passers by, one of the taxi cabbies came up to tell me that the previous afternoon, when I had gone home early owing to the rain, two men, aged about twenty five to thirty, who looked like artists, had been inquiring for me, wanting to know what kind of work I did and any particulars about me. Of course the cabbies were unable to give much information, which caused me all the more annoyance at the thought of having missed an opportunity to possible success. But there was still a faint hope that they might come again.

One young man came and studied my pictures for some time before asking, “Well, and where did you learn to draw?” I replied I was still learning, every day discovering some fresh fault in my work. He said he wished he could do half as well himself. This was satisfying but of no great value.

An elderly man stopped before me, and I recognized him as one of my previous patrons. “You remember me I expect,” he said, “I came this morning. I am going to write a little story about you, in memory of my daughter, the sweetest girl whoever lived. She, like you, was always willing to give money to charity. I am not charitable myself but I admire the virtue in others. I am not going to ask your name and unless you want me to know your Christian name, I shall think of you as Betty, that of my favourite niece.” I thought Betty was as suitable as any except my own name, so I left it at that. I also gave my age and a few particulars but I doubt there was enough subject for a story. Then he continued, “I am going to give you ten shillings for the hospital, because I trust you. I could take it to them myself but I’d rather you did. Good bye and success to you.” And he walked away with hardly a smile, merely a polite hat lift. A kind heart very carefully concealed and protected from the outside world by a suit of coldest steel. I must have an honest face, I decided.

The next face to talk to me was no beauty. A man of about twenty five, with terracotta coloured hair, a pink face and broken looking nose, who said he had been a comparatively famous pavement artist’s model. He was well educated and quite interesting. He told me a bit about his life with the pavement artist. They did not begin work ’till eleven am and went on ’till eleven pm to catch the theatre crowd. He had been given the sack because he didn’t work hard enough and was now studying to be a “masseuse” and was very interested in all the different kinds of medical rays.

But most of it was lost on me as he was literally talking above my head. People do not seem to understand that sound never drops, being inclined to rise if anything. So when talking to a person seated on the ground it is necessary to come down to their level to a certain extent, if an intelligent conversation is to be carried on. As it was my part of the conversation consisted chiefly of “what?” but as the majority of mankind is quite content to talk to anybody who will represent an audience these facts are of no consequence.

Screevers and their following seemed to be rather abundant on that particular day. A marvelous combination of gypsey and tramp came up to me, surveyed my work with a master eye, “You’ll do,” he said, which I gather was praise indeed, for he offered to give me the names of some good screevers’ pitches that he knew of. He gave me an almost complete geographical map of London, on the cover of my sketch book. I let him ramble on, and when he filled up all the available space he went off with that trademark shuffle of a confirmed tramp. So now I have the handwriting of a genuine screever to add to my collection of curious.

Very soon after this, one of the pressmen came along. He said the other one who was to write the story had been unable to come but he himself had been given some questions to ask me. He didn’t know much about the job, being a racing journalist with one main ambition, to own a racehorse. I promised to do a portrait of the first Derby winner he owned.

I gave him a few facts and incidents from my experience of screeving, but would not give my name and address. I did eventually, so that they would be able to send me a copy of the edition with the story in it. Incidentally, after I left London I had a very nice letter from the journalist saying the paper wanted to print my name and address, so as this was against my wishes, there would be no story. This was very considerate, I thought, as, having the necessary particulars they could easily have published the story, got the cash and let my feelings look after themselves, which shows there are always exceptions to every rule, even to the characters of pressmen.

While I was being questioned, my friend of the terracotta hair came up and said, “Excuse me a minute, would you mind signing your name for me in case you are some day famous?” He handed me a notebook quite seriously, so I gave him my signature. He must have been one of the optimists who make this world a brighter place!

It was getting late by then and I would soon be leaving the pitch for good. I had hardly seen the policeman that day, there had been so many people talking to me. I had done a sketch of him from across the road. When he came up I showed it to him and he was extremely flattered and asked to have it. But my sketches are too valuable to me to give away so I said I’d send him one on an Xmas card or something. “Would you give me your name and address?” I said, realizing that it was quite a privelege to ask for this of a policeman. It so much more often happens the other way round.

Soon I packed up and washed out my drawings for the last time. I was sorry to part with the zebra for he had served me well. I took my earnings to the hospital and found I had made over thirty shillings, partly thanks to Betty’s uncle.

I made my way back to my sister’s flat in Bayswater, walking, to think about the last few days. I had seen a bit of what London was made of, the good and the bad. And the hospital was a bit better off for my earnings and I was more than ever looking forward to my life as an art student at the Royal Academy in due course.

This story, originally written by Rosemary Julian Harris, was later transcribed by her daughter, Veryan Leycester Roxby, and then by me, her grandson.