Sunday, 9 February 2014


Fay and Tom met while they were working at Truman’s Brewery in Brick Lane in the nineteen sixties, when Truman was the last major independent brewery in London. They have been together since then. 

Tom was one of the Bevin boys during the Second World War. The Bevin boys were young men who were conscripted to work in the coalmines. The programme was named after Ernest Bevin, the Minister of Labour and National Service in the wartime coalition government. The work conditions could be as terrible as being in the front, but contrary to what happened to soldiers, nobody recognised their contribution to victory until 1995. In 2007 the British Government decided that these men would receive a Veterans Badge. Tom received his recently and now he wears it proudly on his lapel.

Fay is a very lively woman who sings, dances and performs. She’s also got a great sense of humour. Fay showed me their wedding photo; the smile on her face is unmistakable: Tom was the man of her life. Here you can see these images, together with a poem she wrote herself a few months ago, which ends with these wise words:

“Baby, childhood, teenage years
                                      all gone
   30, 40, 50, 60 70 years, will I
                                      carry on?
                  Bet your life I will.”

If Fay and Tom haven’t changed so much, the brick building which used to be the site of this famous brewery can’t be more different. Truman closed in 1989, but the Eagle that was the symbol of the company is still up there, looking at the groups of young people, tourists and street artists that fill the area every Sunday afternoon. The brewing machinery is not there anymore and the place has been taken over by an exciting street market. 

When you arrive at Brick Lane all your senses become alert. First, you hear the siren songs of the owners of the curry houses that line the street, trying to attract prospective clients by offering them an incomparable culinary experience for only ten pounds. Then, as you approach the brewery, the smell of spices and exotic dishes fills your nostrils. And as you enter the old building, you can feel the heat of the boiling pots in the stalls. All the world cuisine is represented here: Turkish, Vietnamese, Greek, Thai, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, Lithuanian, you name it. 
And all of a sudden you are starving, longing to buy some vegetable stew with noodles or perhaps a combined Turkish plate. It’s hard to choose and you tell to yourself that you will return next Sunday to try what you couldn’t eat today. Everybody here is carrying a tin foil little tray or a paper plate, eating and talking and laughing.

This is a good opportunity to have a conversation with some of the cooks, like a couple of Italians who are about to open their own restaurant in London and who make a mean lasagna, just like the one that la mamma cooks back in Rome. 

Now it’s time to walk around and look at the people who fill the market. The mixture of cultures and races is everywhere, which is one of the beauties of this city. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed.

I decide to stop at a small stall that sells old spectacles and I try on a few. Some of them are really beautiful, like a butterfly frame from the 1950s, but they look fragile and I have to wear very expensive lenses, so getting them is out of the question. A couple of Spanish girls stop next to me and start taking selfies wearing different glasses, ignoring the notice that asks people not to do so. The person in charge tells them something about it, but they just say “Thank you” and ignore what she has said. I pretend to be Russian.

Lorenzo, who has been walking around taking photos, joins me and we walk to a stall that sells second hand clothes. There is a wonderful green leather jacket for ten pounds, which he buys. Carla is looking for a dress for a party.

We leave the brewery and walk round the corner into Rough Trade Records. This is a paradise for me. I put on a pair of headphones and listen to the CDs on display. I write down some names to check out later, like an atmospheric song called Hey Now by a band called London Grammar. As I listen to the music I look at the walls of this shop, covered with old concert flyers. There is also a book section with places to seat and leaf through, another beauty of London (you can do this in most bookshops, something that makes you  feel  really grateful on a rainy day).

We end up drinking some coffee at cafe 1001, which has a different DJ in each room, and finish the day with a short walk. This will bring more surprises, like a man playing a ragtime tune in an old piano in a junk shop.

It’s dark and we walk back to the DLR station. Another dark Sunday evening in London, as dark as the coalmine galleries of the Bevin boys.

Photos: Lorenzo Hernandez                                                


  1. Hi Marta & Lorenzo, You don't know how much I love your post. They are... just beautiful, and help me to travel there and back in time with those sweet brownish pictures. I'm sitting my 4th year exams right now and I don't have so much time, but as soon as I finish I'll read all your posts. It is like a book of gathering memories delightfully knitted. Thanks for this present!!. Lot of kisses. Soluna

    1. Dear Soluna
      How wonderful to hear from you. Thank you very much for your lovely words, they have made blush. I hope you enjoy reading the blog as much as we enjoy making it .
      A big, big hug,

      Marta and Lorenzo XX

  2. Entrañables historias enriquecidas con descriptivas fotos técnicamente perfectas. As usual, ¡un placer!