Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Response from Author to P.C.

Patricia Friedberg: When I give talks on 21 Aldgate similar questions are asked. I have written and thought about 21 Aldgate for years. As you have seen from our blog spot I've resided in many places. I left London the day after my marriage to David Friedberg a South African doctor. We travelled a bit before settling in Southern Rhodesia - I mention this because I have written on many different subjects throughout my writing career; children's stories, documentaries, film scripts and a great deal about Africa. I've never been short of a material to fill an empty page. Yet. with all this my roots in London's East End stayed with me, wouldn't go away. I started writing about Aldgate in the late 1970's - actually wrote a musical of the same name. It got quite a long way and then died on the vine ... so I let '21' go for a while. I wrote character studies, I wrote short stories all of the Aldgate 21 period. Still 21 remained unfinished for me. I then wrote the film script only to find out films take forever to produce. I am not the most patient of writers so I wrote the novel of the film which is not the way most books come about. Usually the book comes out after the film, in my case it will be the other way around. I'm happy to say the film is actually happening and being cast.

My grandparents lived at 21 High Street, Whitechapel - just across from Aldgate station. I chose Aldgate for the title because that's where we got off the train to visit my grandparents. 21 was destroyed in the blitz as was most the East End. Maze lived at 14 Cheyne Walk and remains just as it was when Clara worked there.

Clara assisted Paul Maze. Sula had MS. Anna, well she was the grievous collector of the family. There were four brothers - I used them for filling out the characters Bernie and Mannie. Sidney came from an orthodox Jewish family. The Levy clan were traditional Jews more than religious Jews. The turmoil of the 1930's gave me the dramatic background I needed, it was all there, nothing had to be invented. What fascinated me the most was Clara and her ability to alternate between the often anti Semitic aristocratic Chelsea and the working class East End. How did she do it? That's what really spurred me on and the more I read about what was going on in the East End at that time and her involvements in Chelsea the more I realised how 'before her time' she was. It had nothing to do with the fact that Clara character is based on my mother, I took myself out of that equation. And so the story developed. The Levy's were a witty, musical lot. My grandmother, Nelly and my dad Sidney were there for me when my mother wasn't. My grandfather, Henry, had me and my many cousins help him in his somewhat dicey cosmetic and perfumery business...he also taught me to fish in a pond that had no fish in it. The Levy's were an inspiring lot. They helped me feel safe when all was literally falling around us. Their humour and their inclusiveness showed me the way to live my life. I have tried to instill in my children and grandchildren the same strength of dogged purpose they gave me.

It wasn't that I had a strong desire to write a family story. It was more a desire to tell a story of the times. Of your grandparents as well as mine. Of what London endured in the 2nd World War and all that led up to it. Of what it was like to live in two very different worlds. Of how people acted and reacted.


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