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Necessary as Blood

Necessary as Blood

Titel: Necessary as Blood
Autoren: Deborah Crombie
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Prologue

    Umbra Sumus — ‘ We are shadows ‘

    Inscription on the sundial of the Huguenot church, now the Jamme Masjid mosque, on London‘s Brick Lane

    That Sunday began like any ordinary Sunday, except that Naz, Sandra‘s husband, had gone in to work for a few hours at his law office, an unusual breach of family protocol for him.
    Having pushed aside her initial irritation, Sandra had decided to use the time for one of her own projects, and after breakfast and chores she and Charlotte had gone up to her studio on the top floor of the house.
    After two hours‘ work, Sandra stepped back, frowning, from the swatches of fabric she had pinned to the muslin stretched over the work frame in her studio. The carefully shaped pieces of material overlapped, forming a kaleidoscope of images, so that at first the whole appeared abstract, but on closer inspection shapes appeared: streets, buildings, people, birds, other animals, flowers — all representing in some way the history and culture of Sandra‘s particular part of London, the East End, in and around Brick Lane.
    Sandra‘s love affair with fabrics had begun as a child, with the acquisition of a tattered quilt from a market stall on Brick Lane. She and her gran had pored over it, marvelling at the intricacy of the pattern, wondering which bits had come from an Auntie Mary‘s best pinny, which from a little girl‘s Sunday dress, which from an Uncle George‘s cast-off pyjamas.
    That passion had survived art college, and the pressure to join the vogue for shock art. She had learned to draw and to paint, and gradually she‘d translated those skills into what she still thought of as painting with fabric. But unlike paint, fabric was tactile and three-dimensional, and the work fascinated her as much now as it had done when she had haltingly composed her very first piece.
    Today, however, something wasn‘t quite right. The piece wasn‘t generating the emotional impact she wanted, and she couldn‘t quite work out what was wrong. She moved a colour here, a shape there, stepped back for a different perspective and frowned again. The dark brick of Georgian town houses formed a frame for a cascade of colour — it might have been Fournier Street or Fashion Street, with the women parading in their gowns, intricately worked iron cages held high in their hands. The wire cages held, however ; not birds, but women‘s and children‘s faces, dark to light, a few framed by the hijab.
    Late-morning sun poured through the great windows in the loft — a blessing for its warmth in mid-winter, if not in mid-May — but it was the clarity of the light that had drawn Sandra to the place, and that still, even when the work wasn‘t going well, had the power to hold her transfixed.
    She and Naz had bought the Fournier Street house more than a decade ago, when they were first married, disregarding rising damp, crumbling plaster and minimal plumbing, because Sandra had seen the potential of the studio space. And it had been affordable on Naz‘s solicitor‘s earnings while Sandra was still at art school. They had worked hard, making many of the repairs themselves, to create their vision of a home, not realizing that in a few years‘ time they would be sitting on a property gold mine.
    For the town houses on Fournier Street were Georgian, built by the French Huguenot silk weavers who had come to London‘s Spitalfields to escape persecution in Catholic France. The weavers had done well for themselves for a time, their looms clicking in their spacious lofts, the women congregating on the front stoops in their lustrous taffeta gowns, while their canaries sang in the cages they carried as marks of status.
    But cheap calico imports from India had threatened the weavers‘ livelihood, and the invention of the mechanized loom had sounded its death knell. New waves of immigrants had followed the Huguenots — the Jews, the Irish, the Bangladeshis, the Somalis — but none had prospered as the Huguenots had done, and the houses had sunk into a long, slow decay.
    Until now. Despite the recession, the City was moving relentlessly eastwards, encroaching on Spitalfields, bringing a new wave of immigrants. But these were yuppies with fat wallets who were snapping up the houses and warehouses of the old East End, pushing the lower-income residents out as they came in. For the present bled into the past, and the past into the present, always, and to Sandra it seemed particularly so in the East

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