Following the captured boy featured in my last episode I found another reason for a foray into neighbouring premises.
As shown in this very small header picture taken from Wikipedia, Horse and Dolphin Yard is entered beneath an extension of the corner building which spans the De Hems pub and what, in those days was a blue cinema. In the room above, Chinese men played Mah Jongg whilst Michael and his friend Eddie played football in the yard. The window to the room where the men played was usually open, and the clattering of the tiles went on all night. We were quite used to it so it wasn’t a problem. One day one of the boys kicked the ball through the window. It came back slashed. This rather upset me, so, carrying the deflated rubber, I marched round into Gerrard Street, steaming. These buildings are veritable rabbit warrens, so I had to find the room. I did this by entering an open door and wending my way up stairs and through dingy corridors full of doors containing individual yale locks. The clattering of tiles led me to my goal. Football in hand I strode in. The room was bare, with a few chairs against an unpapered wall. In the centre was the games table which contained what seemed a great deal of currency notes piled up by the tiles. It was surrounded by Chinese men who met my question ‘who did this?’ with determined silence. David, one of the oriental gentlemen who was very friendly in the pub remained deadpan when I appealed directly to him. After several repetitions and no alteration in the stony faces, I hurled the ball into the centre of the table scattering both money and tiles. As I turned round and marched away, the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. I realised I had probably been asking for trouble. ‘Don’t turn round. Don’t turn round’, I said to myself. Miraculously I was unmolested, and Matthew and I have been able to dine out on the story ever since.