The Way to Hornsey Rise

Jeremy Worman

An Autobiographical Novel

Sample Passages

  • A Visit from Mother

    The leaves were turning soft yellow.  I had arranged to meet Ma outside the Turkish cafe on Beaumont Road, assuming she made it.  She had told me last week: ‘I’m determined to find my way on public transport; I’d be embarrassed to ask a taxi to take me to that part of town.’  But unlike, say, the floor directions of expensive department stores, tube maps and bus timetables were not her natural territory.  There were few people around and certainly not Ma.  I crossed the road.

    ‘Darling, it’s me.’  An emerald-ringed finger pointed from the opened window of a black cab.

    The taxi stopped.

    ‘I thought this would be the safest way,’ she said.

    ‘Quite right.  You can’t walk for twenty paces around here without being mugged.’

    ‘That’s what I feared.’

    ‘It was a joke, Ma.’

    The cabby jumped out and opened the door for her.  An emblem of Home-Counties style stepped into one of the poorer boroughs of London: well-cut black slacks, dark-green silk blouse, short beige jacket and tartan beret.  Red toenails glowed in brown leather sandals.

    ‘Such an interesting drive, John.’  She gave him a five-pound note.

    He touched his dark crew-cut hair, which contrasted with his ocean-blue polo shirt, and shook Ma’s hand.  ‘Enjoy your adventure, Madam.’

    A Spurs pendant swayed on the dashboard as he drove off.  Ma and I looked at each other.

    ‘Well, what do you wear when you’re visiting your son in a down-at-heel area?’

    ‘You look perfect.’

    ‘You haven’t kissed me yet.’

    I did.

    ‘Fresh coffee back at the flat, and I’ve planned lunch.’

    ‘Perhaps you could get together a team to tidy the place?’ she said when we reached the entrance gates to Welby House.

    I marshalled her quickly across the yard without bumping into anyone I knew.  Fortunately the stairs had been recently washed with disinfectant and she followed me but said nothing.  She went into the living room and sat on the blue armchair.  ‘Very airy space.  Will you get a few friends to live with you?’

    ‘I’ve tried.  Welby House seems to frighten them off.  Traitors!’

    ‘You’ll find someone; I’m sure you will.’

    ‘I’ll go and make the coffee.’

    She got up and looked out of the window.  A few minutes later I carried in the old pewter tray from Egham, and two matching cups and saucers, Staffordshire bone china, unchipped, which I had bought last week from the PDSAs second-hand shop in Islington.  I poured from the cafetiere.

    ‘Help yourself to the baklavas,’ I said.

    She nibbled one.  ‘Lovely.  I’m pleased you haven’t given up all the pleasures of the good life.’

    ‘Why would I?’

    ‘I thought you squatter types rejected everything.’

    ‘Turkish cakes are allowed.’

    She put down her plate.  ‘I was thinking of travelling again, Jeremy; I might stay with people I haven’t seen for years.’  She stood in the middle of the room.  ‘I don’t know how you ended up here.’

    ‘I didn’t want to live a Surrey sort of life any more.’

    Her gaze peeled off my squatting dreams and exposed my fears.  How could I have any vision of my own if she did not approve it?  Was my real terror not that I had rejected her but that she had rejected me?  I saw this place through her eyes: the torn section of flock wallpaper around the chipped door; the semi repainted living room, in a special-offer Dulux Sage Green, from the hardware shop on Holloway Road; the loose floorboards; the stained carpet.

    Where’s the bathroom, darling?’

    ‘Up the stairs; first door on the right.’

    What could I trust if she was not in my life?

    Ma came back from the bathroom. ‘I forgot to give you the champagne; let’s have it now; it’s still quite chilled.’  She took it out of her Liberty-print bag.

    I got two glasses from the kitchen, rubbed them with the drying-up towel, and rushed back.  She pushed out the cork, which bounced off the ceiling, and filled our glasses.

    ‘To your new life,’ she said.

    ‘Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for lunch.’

    The stale smell of the flat followed me to the kitchen.  How had I landed up here?  Why did I want Ma to see this place?  Was I trying to shock her?  Was I saying, ‘Just look how much I have rejected your fucking pretentious Surrey world?’  Five minutes later I carried in two plates.

    ‘Voila.’

    We sat at the table and talked about family things, which seemed to come from a distant world.  The champagne intensified my sense of disjuncture.

    ‘We’re going to grow organic vegetables and sell them,’ I said.

    ‘Here?’

    ‘Yes.’

    ‘How sweet.’

    ‘It’s not “sweet”; it’s changing the way we think about the city.  Do you want to see the allotment?’

    ‘I know what vegetable patches look like, darling.’

    After lunch we looked out at the square.

    ‘Come home for a few months if you want.’

    ‘I like it here.’

    ‘Do you mind if I pop off?  I’ll get a cab to Simpson’s; I need a new outfit for the autumn.’

    ‘If we walk to Archway Road, you’ll find one more easily.’

    ‘No.  I feel quite safe.  It’s not as rough as I expected; if I need help I’m sure the natives will be charming.’  She picked up her bag.  ‘Thanks for showing me your experiment in living.  Come and see me soon.’

    ‘I will.’

    We kissed and she left.  As the door shut, I felt terribly alone and wanted to hear her voice again.  I recalled that day years’ ago at Miss Fish’s when she was late collecting me.  I had been looking out for her at the small landing window and pictured her face but could no longer hear her voice.  The silence made a void in which I was nothing.  Then I saw her face again, and heard different voices speak from her mouth, but none of them was hers.  It was as if she no longer existed.  Perhaps she had found another voice with which to speak to a boy just like me.

Sample Information

Summary

This autobiographical novel explores how Jeremy, a privately educated schoolboy, comes to reject his comfortable rural Surrey background to end up in the squats, drugs and hippy scene of 1970s Hornsey Rise.

The central theme of the book is Jeremy’s need to escape from the intense relationship with his alcoholic, charismatic and mentally unstable mother, her lovers, his ageing, ailing father, and about his romantic relationships.

Foremost among his mother’s lovers is former Indian Army officer, Neville Prideaux, who lives in an apartment in their house.  ‘Uncle Neville’ moves out and commits suicide, but his continued presence haunts the story.

Among Jeremy’s amorous relationships, his bittersweet romance with vulnerable Clara stands out, and has quite an impact on his life.

Besides being an engaging personal story, starting out in 1962, Jeremy coming-of-age makes you really care for him, what makes this book of particular interest is the way it explores how a 1968-style vision of the world collapsed in the 1970s, and its implications for Jeremy and many of his generation. This visionary countercultural world is not going to happen.

The final chapters are set in Hornsey Rise, the largest squat in Europe.  The embers of the counterculture, and its lived reality, are evoked in terms of its victims, drugs use and disillusioning effect on Jeremy.

A journey about discovering what really matters in life. How a growing sense of self-belief can keep someone going in challenging circumstances.

The Way to Hornsey Rise is a moving and very personal story, laced with intriguing observations about society, which all adds to its universal appeal.

A few of these themes have been touched on in Jeremy’s two collections of short stories but in his autobiographical novel he steps out from the  mask and tells it as it was.

You can listen to Jeremy talking about his autobiographical novel on Bookmark at Cambridge 105 Radio 21 min into the recording.

Read also this article Jeremy wrote for the Islington Tribune about his time living in the Hornsey Rise squat.

Enjoy listening to Jeremy Worman reading a couple of excerpts from his book on this page.

Jeremy’s website is www.jeremyworman.com.

ISBN: 9781907320989
Number of pages: 251
Price: £0

Publication Date: 23 March 2023

Reviews

‘A fascinating and candid coming-of-age novelised-memoir, seasoned with phenomenal recall and a perfectly-pitched tone of voice. Wholly beguiling.’ – William Boyd

‘Jeremy Worman’s memoir is a compulsive read. He’s a beautiful writer with an eye for detail and a good ear for dialogue. The memoir really grips you from the start with Worman’s description of his horrifying relationship with his abusive alcoholic mother and her woebegone husband and boyfriends. The memoir rips away the veneer of the British upper-middle classes, showing them to be venal, despairing, corrupt. It’s no wonder that Jeremy seeks answers in the opposite to his upbringing in a commune in north London; his journey is moving and archetypal. We see him triumphing over his conditioning and finding a voice, a meaning to life…Highly recommended.’ – Francis Gilbert

‘Surprising, even shocking, above all beautifully written.  Do read it.  You won’t be disappointed.’ – Christopher Sinclair-Stevenson

‘The Way to Hornsey Rise slips down like a glass of real lemonade on a hot afternoon, its sweet and bitter notes beautifully balanced. A sentimental education without illusions.’ – Ferdinand Mount

‘Taking us from the class-bound stockbroker belt suburbs of Surrey in the 1960s, all minor public schools and gin sozzled adultery, to the squats of North London in the 1970s, reeking of dope and the aroma of slowly decaying hippy idealism, this is a book rich in period detail and atmosphere, and its account of a young man’s painful progress from innocence to experience as compellingly universal as it is highly specific of a time and place.’ – Travis Elborough

‘The raw honesty of this ‘novelised-memoir’ is perhaps what makes its narrative so consistently compelling.’ – Jeremy Page in the Frogmore Papers

‘Packed with emotions and challenges, you feel invested in this from the off and it carries through. Powerful and moving.’ – Emma Hardy on goodreads

‘Beautifully written. And a right page turner. Many congratulations. It’s a lovely piece of work.’ – Jim White

‘an excellent novelised autobiography, a wonderfully readable memoir.’ – Ali Hope  on her HeavenAli blog

‘Worman relies on the engagement of his writing to keep readers on board, a successful tactic.
Jeremy Worman overcomes any resistance to Jeremy the narrator as a well-off, middle class boy by introducing readers to life behind the facade his parents are so desperate to keep.’ – Emma Lee on her blog

‘I’ve very much enjoyed reading The Way to Hornsey Rise. The evocations of (different stages of) the narrator’s boyhood are wonderfully accomplished, as are the related, perspectives of the adults.’ – Beryl Gray

‘This is a tender story of a boy growing up and trying to find his place in a complicated world. With a home life falling apart, he is left to get on and figure it out on his own, with much trying and failing and trying again. This isn’t a story of heroes and epic deeds but the rich detail of people and places in a particular time make this a very enjoyable read.’ – Stephen Cook on Goodreads

‘Some fine observations on the English class system too, particularly in the suburbs of Surrey, which is a place and culture more deserving of literary attention than it usually gets. Recommended!’ – reader on amazon

‘This is a captivating book with moments of lyricism, humour and pathos.’ – Eithne Nightingale on amazon

‘I really enjoyed this. The first person narrator is such a compelling character – his struggles to keep his mother’s love and at the same time to break away and become his own person were beautifully drawn.’ – Anne Cook on amazon

‘His difficult journey to adulthood, including two important relationships with girls, is an affirming story of survival.
There is plenty of humour, witty dialogue and funny passages about girls, pop music, fashion and the stuffiness of teachers and the establishment. The Way to Hornsey Rise is a moving and surprising novel. I highly recommend it.’ – Nicola Horton on amazon

‘This is a tender story of a boy growing up and trying to find his place in a complicated world.’ – Stephen Cook on amazon

‘The author’s richly descriptive and engaging prose brings the narrative to life, capturing both the painful realities of addiction and disappointment, and the hope and energy of a younger generation committed to a better world. Highly recommended.’ – Mark on amazon

‘This is a lively account of Jeremy’s journey from childhood in stockbroker belt Surrey to a squat in 70’s North London. Along the way he has a turbulent relationship with his charismatic but troubled mother and a difficult time in a succession of private schools.
The writing is pacey and vividly brings to life the contrasting cultures of 50s and 60s ‘straight’ middle class Surrey and London’s 60’s hippy movement.’ – Robin Bailey on amazon

‘A thought-provoking novel whose essential message lingers well after the final page.’ – reader on amazon

‘One of those books that leaves you thinking about it long after you have read the last page.’ – reader on amazon

‘The Way to Hornsey Rise is an accomplished combination of memoir, autobiography and social history and I thoroughly recommend it.’ – Emma Letley on amazon

‘He vividly evokes the period with pinpoint detail as he struggles to rid himself of the emotional and class shackles of his upbringing and claim his freedom.’ – Jane Austin on amazon

‘Thought provoking account how “posh” Surrey lead to the London squats.’ – Martyn Williams on amazon

‘I admired the writing mainly for its simplicity in conveying complex emotions.
What comes across most strongly for me is the enduring impact on an only child raised by a mother with mental health problems and alcoholism.’ – Diana Swingler

‘It captures really well the range of worlds and times, from his family background with its particular class location, the prep school and private school experiences, and the world of 70s squats. The exploration of his complex relationship with his mother is very powerful and moving.’ – Tony Martin

‘Read this with much pleasure in two sittings: something of the Patrick Melrose series (Edward St Aubyn) about it, but there is greater equanimity and kinder humour. Jeremy accurately captures quite a sweep of social history. Many will remember it well. Younger others will wonder, was it really like that? A great read.’ – William Chapman on amazon

‘Jeremy’s memoir is a valuable social study of Britain’s rise and decline after the Second World War: the beginning of the breakdown of the class strata, the growth of teenage culture, and a period of greater racial integration. Jeremy’s memoir is a brave and admirable exploration of his struggle to manhood. Highly recommended!’ – Tony Roland Smith.

‘Rare indeed to have a Surrey home and a squat in Hornsey Rise brought to life so authentically. But it’s the author’s relationship with his mother that really moved me: its complexity, the occasional joys and frequent sorrows, the author’s generosity of spirit in the final phase of his mother’s life. I found the book hard to put down.’ – Andrew Wilson

‘A beautifully written, totally absorbing, touching autobiographical novel that explores the journey from boyhood to manhood, from a privileged, leafy London suburb to a 70s squat in Hornsey Rise. The struggles of Jeremy’s alcoholic mother, the absence of his father, the epicurian meals, the dysfunctional suburban life, the disillusion of an emerging 70s London are all vividly interwoven with great sensitivity and tenderness, to create an uplifting story that celebrates life in all its imperfections and ends with transformation. I thoroughly recommend.’ – Anne Naletamby

‘I have read your book The Way to Hornsey Rise with great pleasure. I don’t in the least regret buying the book because I thought it so good – a wonderful evocation of childhood, apart from anything else.’ – Sandra Clark

‘An interesting glimpse into growing up in the 60’s and early 70’s in middle-class suburban Surrey. Worman writes thoughtfully and with humour about his childhood and youth, reminding me a little of my own social history. A really lovely writing style. I flew through this book and enjoyed it to the end.’ – Rabid Reader on amazon

‘I really enjoyed reading The Way to Hornsey Rise. The writing makes you feel as though you are navigating Jeremy’s youth with him. The times of sadness are juxtaposed by the wittiness that follows, making for a very real and honest representation of the curveballs life throws his way. Would highly recommend reading.’ – Agnes Allison