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The Walk - Jimmy McCracklin

I would catch a bus from Upper Street down to King's Cross and then walk up Midland Road every night to get to St Pancras Hospital to see my Auntie Val. The walk took about 15 minutes, but I'd catch a bus if one stopped conveniently, although it wasn't worth waiting for one. One night I was half way down when a young woman in a flashy dark blue track suit and white running shoes said something to me as she jogged passed. I replied "sorry, I didn't quite catch that", so she stopped, turned back and spoke again but I still couldn't hear it as this time a car drove passed just as she was speaking. Thinking she probably was asking me the time or something, I asked her to say it again and this time I heard her yell loud and clear: "Do you want a fuck?". I politely declined, as by now she seemed, understandably slightly irritated "Oh no thanks, thank you very much" type of thing, and we both went on our ways. When I arrived at the hospital, Val was comatose so I had plenty of time to chat to the two nurses on duty and I told them what had happened to me. I was surprised that mixed in with their laughter there were rueful smiles. They explained that up until recently Midland Road was one of London's most notorious places for picking up prostitutes but in the past 6 months as part of the scheme to regenerate the King's Cross area, the police had conducted an intense clean up, arresting or moving on any streetwalkers they found. This had a peculiar result. The punters were still driving up the round looking for action, so the prostitutes worked out that so long as they looked like women with a purpose other than hustling they could get away with being there and be picked by their clients. Hence the woman who was out jogging. The nurses said it was a bloody nuisance for them, as a lot of the women were dressing up in nurse uniforms and pretending they were on their way to work at the hospital which meant that the real nurses, not only on the night shift, but even in the day time, were being approached by dodgy men seeking a quick one.

As I left the hospital at round about 10 pm, I saw a bus coming and sprinted so that I just managed to catch it at the next bus stop. Panting heavily, I sat at the front just behind the driver, and as I slowly regained my breath, I felt goosepimples on the back of my neck as though a powerful unnatural presence was in the bus behind me. I slowly turned around and found myself looking into seven pairs of heavily made up eyes, adorned by bright red lips, blonde perms and colourful knee-length dresses. At their feet and on the seats beside these middle-aged women were Tesco supermarket bags full of lightweight consumables such as packets of cereal, teabags and dry vegetables. They all got off with me at the corner by St Pancras Station (not far from a Tescos) and began walking back up Midland Road towards the hospital as though on heir way home from late night shopping, leaving me gazing after them, musing on one of the most bizarre social manifestations I have seen of the process of regeneration.

From the age of seventeen Jimmy McCracken spent most of his nights play blues and r&b at the Club Savoy in Richmond, California in the heart of city's red light area. And he stayed in the San Francisco area all of his life, performing and programming soul stars such as Etta James and Irma Thomas in the Bay area, right through the sixties and seventies hippy period. Both Marc Bolan and Robert Smith of the Cure admitted to be highly influenced by this fabulous track from 1958 with it's its sassy strut and a vocal that's so urban and nocturnal you can feel the traffic noise seeping through the sidewalk.

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